Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Why Estate Planning Matters in 2022 and Beyond

With large estate tax exemptions (in excess of $12 million) some suggest estate planning is no longer matters. Since estate planning was never just about estate taxes this is false. In fact, estate planning is more important now than ever. Here are several reasons why:

Estate planning protects your family and beneficiaries.

Normal people care about their families. They care about their spouse, kids, grandchildren and other family members.  Protecting family from risk, expense, probate, predators, creditors and taxes has always driven estate planning. When you drop estate taxes from that list, there are still many risks to protect against.

Where clients have no family they seek to protect their causes and charities. In over 45 years of being an estate planning attorney, I have never had a client who asked to give their estate to the government.

Estate planning protects you.

Any proper estate plan contains protections for you. Whether in a trust, financial power of attorney, health care power of attorney, HIPAA authorization or final disposition instruction, it is you being protected. The wisdom of this is unaffected by tax exemptions and has increased as a result of the pandemic.

Estate planning protects your voice.

Your estate plan speaks for you. It represents how you want to be treated during illness, incapacity and your death. Your plan is your voice protecting your loved ones to the extent you deem appropriate.

Your estate plan represents your voice in legal form, making sure that what you want to happen does. Your plan cannot vote for you but does speak for you in other respects.

Proper estate planning will always matter.

The discussion above shows the importance of estate planning in 2022 and beyond. Here is how we describe it to clients: if you or your family are important than you protect them and yourself with an estate plan.

Note: this article is general information about estate planning. Every client's estate plan is different. Reading this article does not make you a client of our firm. To learn about estate planning or how to become a client of our firm, call 303-688-3535 for further information.

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Top Reason to Avoid DIY Estate Planning

DIY is popular these days. There are YouTube videos showing you how to do just about everything including your own will and estate plan. Is this approach wise?

As you read through articles here you will find a common thread that is always repeated. The answer to the above question is always NO!

Instead of repeating the numerous reasons  that DIY planning is bad let's just focus on the top reason you should always avoid this approach.


That's right. Whether you write it yourself, use legal zoom or just grab a form off the internet your DIY plan will always cost more than working with an estate planning specialist. Because DIY plans don't work and are filled with mistakes and hidden traps it will cost you and your family more to fix that disaster than to do it right the first time.

Read the articles below for more reasons to avoid DIY estate planning and be careful out there!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Lessons from the Front Lines: Specialization Matters. 3 Things You Need to Know

When it comes to your family, your money, your property and your life specialization really does matter. Here are three things you must know to protect yourself, family and property.

1. Estate Planning Should be Left to the Specialists.

The field of estate planning is deceptive. It seems simple to those unfamiliar with its intricacies. Many non-specialists believe they can just copy a form or fill one in and then sell it to you as an estate plan. Others take a DIY approach and believe the internet can be their source of estate planning documents.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Here are examples of actual cases where clients lost significant property and money by not using a specialist.

A. Man does his own trust, names children from a prior marriage as trustee for a child from a later marriage. Result: court case and thousands of dollars in legal fees. In this case, an estate planning specialist would have not drafted this trustee provision or created a safety valve to eliminate the problem.

B. Woman hand writes her own will in writing that no one can read. Result: a court has to decide the terms of the handwritten will and after long court battle the entire will is thrown out by the judge. Again, an estate planning specialist would have saved the family thousands of dollars.

C. Man owns farm property with his sister in a corporation. Man dies with a will created by his attorney friend who is not a specialist. This simple form (which should never had been used) meant his surviving spouse inherits his share of the farm corporation even though  surviving sister thought she would own the farm. Result: surviving wife wins after protracted court battle.

There are many other examples of this same principle. Either pay at the beginning to do things right or pay us later to go to court and solve the problems created by the DIY solution.

2. Check and Recheck Beneficiary Designations.

Even a properly designed and drafted estate plan can be derailed by not reviewing and revising old beneficiary designations. Here is an example:

Woman creates a trust to protect her husband and children. She fails to change a prior beneficiary designation that left a Fidelity account to her children outright. Result: Her trust fails since NONE of the Fidelity account will pass to her trust.

An estate planning specialist would have advised this woman to revise the beneficiary designation on this account so her trust would have received the account proceeds.

3. Be Cautious of Family Member Trustees.

In example A above naming a family member trustee was a disaster. Whenever a client considers a family member trustee it is necessary to pressure test that provision under a variety of possible scenarios. Here are the issues family members can create:

A. Not knowing what their job is.

Most family member PR's and trustees do not understand their fiduciary duties and responsibilities. This can lead to numerous inadvertent violations.

B. Failing to act where action is required.

Often a family member is reluctant to act as a fiduciary out of ignorance or fear. Failing to act when action is required is as much a violation as taking the wrong action.

C. Family members are difficult to sue.

When a PR or trustee messes up sometimes a court can make them answer for their conduct. However beneficiaries are often reluctant to sue a family member costing themselves benefits they are rightfully entitled to.

The lesson here is to exercise caution before naming a family member as PR or trustee.

Here are the three lessons from the front lines that can help you protect yourself and your family:

1. Leave estate planning to the experts.

2. Check and recheck your beneficiary designations.

3. Exercise caution in naming a family member as a PR or trustee.