Latest Blog Posts

What the 2016 IRS Inflation Adjustments Mean for You

Posted on: January 18th, 2016
Although the estate tax exemption has been increasing and now generally means that most people don't need to worry about estate taxes, almost everyone still needs a will or a trust to ensure that their assets pass to their intended beneficiaries. ...

Listen Up: These States Will Usher in Changes to Their Death Taxes in 2016

Posted on: November 30th, 2015
In 2015, there are still 20 U.S. jurisdictions that collect a death tax at the state level: Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, and Washington. Even if you don't live in one of these states, the state estate tax may affect you in the future since many people move from time to time. It may affect your beneficiaries, because they may live or move to one of these states....

Early Predictions About 2016 Estate Tax, Gift Tax, GST Tax and Annual Gift Tax Limit

Posted on: November 23rd, 2015
Under current law the federal estate tax, gift tax, and generation-skipping transfer tax exemptions have become unified and are indexed for inflation on an annual basis....

Financial Smarts Peak at 50, Here’s How to Protect Your Older Self

Posted on: October 26th, 2015
A recent study conducted by Texas Tech University concluded that the ability to make smart financial decisions peaks at age 50. This decline was observed in both men and women, making both sexes equally vulnerable to financial fraud as they age....

Even Vampires Need Estate Planning

Posted on: October 12th, 2015
Yes, even the undead need an estate plan. After you stop laughing you need to hear me out. As we've learned from the likes of The Vampire Chronicles, the Twilight saga, and HBO's True Blood, vampires aren't immortal. They do die, and it's usually unexpected and messy....

The Lifetime QTIP Trust: Or (How to Maintain Control of Your Estate and Keep Spouses Happy

Posted on: October 5th, 2015
Estate planning for couples in a second or later marriage who have disproportionate estates can be tricky. One solution for allowing the well-to-do spouse to maintain control of their assets but keep their other half happy is the Lifetime QTIP Trust....

Surprise! You Can’t Easily Disinherit Your Spouse in the U.S

Posted on: September 29th, 2015
Believe it or not, in the U.S. it isn't easy to disinherit your spouse. But the same is not true for other family members - generally, you can use your estate plan to disinherit your brothers and sisters, your nieces and nephews, or even your very own children and grandchildren. ​...

How to Fix a Trust That Isn’t Getting Better With Age

Posted on: September 21st, 2015
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What’s Hot in Estate Planning Right Now May Surprise You

Posted on: September 14th, 2015
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Aging.gov: A New Resource for Older Americans and Their Families

Posted on: September 7th, 2015
More than 10,000 people turn 65 in the U.S. every day according to Aging.gov (http://www.hhs.gov/aging/), a new website recently launched by the Obama administration. The goal of this website is to act as gateway for older Americans and their families, friends and caregivers to locate information about leading a healthy lifestyle, options for health care, preventing elder abuse, and retirement planning. ...

5 Reasons Why Uncle Bill May Not Make a Good Trustee

Posted on: August 23rd, 2015
If you have created a dynasty trust that you intend to last for decades into the future, choosing the right trustee is critical to the trust's longevity and ultimate success....

Skyrocketing Probate Fees – Another Reason to Avoid Probate Court

Posted on: August 16th, 2015
As of July 1, 2015, Connecticut probate courts earned the dubious distinction of charging the highest probate fees in the U.S. Amazingly, the Connecticut legislature voted to completely cut general fund support for the state's probate courts for the next two fiscal years, thereby creating a $32 million deficit. In order to cover the shortfall, the fees charged for settling a deceased person's estate in Connecticut were significantly increased and the $12,500 cap on probate fees was eliminated. To make matters worse, these changes apply retroactively to all deaths dating back to January 1, 2015. As a result, it is estimated that a handful of Connecticut estates will owe in excess of $1 million in probate fees and at least a dozen will owe in excess of $100,000....

What You Need to Know About the Final Estate Tax Portability Rules

Posted on: August 9th, 2015
Recently the IRS issued the final rules governing the 'portability election' as it relates to the federal estate tax exemption. Married couples need to understand how these final rules may affect their existing estate plans, while recent widows and widowers need to understand how these finals rules may affect their deceased spouse's estate....

Financial Firms Roll Out Form Aimed at Stopping Financial Elder Abuse

Posted on: August 2nd, 2015
With cases of financial exploitation of the elderly on the rise, advisors who work with older clients are looking for ways to head off the abuse before it happens. Enter the 'Emergency Contact Authorization Form,' a document in which clients can list a trusted person who should be contacted if an advisor suspects a client is starting to lose their mental capacity or, worse yet, being financially abused or scammed....

How Will the 2015 Supreme Court Decisions Affect You and Your Family?

Posted on: July 26th, 2015
While approximately 10,000 cases are appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court each year, only 75 to 80 make it to oral argument. Of those cases, only a handful grab the media's attention. Below is a summary of three landmark decisions handed down in 2015 that could affect how you are taxed, pay for healthcare, and plan your estate....

IRS Announcement: Estate Tax Closing Letters Will Now Only Be Issued Upon Request

Posted on: July 12th, 2015
Due to the increased volume of federal estate tax return filings in order to make the 'portability election,' the IRS has announced that estate tax closing letters will only be issued upon request by the taxpayer. This change in IRS policy started on June 1, 2015....

Dispelling the Top 3 Estate Planning Myths

Posted on: July 5th, 2015
Like any other complex subject, estate planning has its share of myths and misconceptions. Understanding the top three estate planning myths will help you to create and maintain a plan that will work the way you expect it to work when it's needed....

Federal and State Death Tax Updates

Posted on: June 28th, 2015
Death taxes are back in the news at the federal level as well as in Delaware and Minnesota....

Caution: Your Traditional Asset Protection Plan is Set Up to Fail

Posted on: June 21st, 2015
You may be surprised to learn that not only has asset protection planning been around for a long time, but you have already engaged in it at some point during your life. In fact, you probably have one or more types of traditional asset protection planning in place at this very moment. The problem is in many cases the type of planning you have right now won't be enough to protect you and your family....

The Shocking Truth About Asset Protection Planning

Posted on: June 14th, 2015
Some view asset protection planning with a skeptical eye. They believe there is a moral obligation to pay one's debts. They think that asset protection planning is immoral because it prevents a creditor from collecting on a judgment entered by a court....

What Documents Do You Need to Find After a Loved One Dies?

Posted on: June 6th, 2015
After a loved one dies, you need to gather the important documents that are necessary to settle their final affairs. While the documents required will vary depending on what your loved one owned and owed, below is a list of common documents you will need to find:...

Baltimore Register of Wills Can’t Find Her Father’s Original Last Will, Will Your Family

Posted on: May 31st, 2015
While it's not unusual for an original last will and testament to be misplaced, it is when your daughter happens to be the Register of Wills for Baltimore City....

Three Estate Planning Mistakes Farmers and Ranchers Make and How to Avoid Them

Posted on: May 25th, 2015
Farming or ranching is more than a means of livelihood - it is about preserving a legacy and unique way of life. Unfortunately, many farmers and ranchers fail to make an estate plan. The farm or ranch that has been passed down for generations then ends up being sold and converted into non-agricultural use, cutting the legacy short and ending the family's unique lifestyle choice....

Where is the Best Place to Store Your Original Estate Planning Documents?

Posted on: May 17th, 2015
Estate planning attorneys are often asked where original estate planning documents - wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and healthcare directives - should be stored for safekeeping. While there is no right or wrong answer to this question, consider the following:...

Four Steps to Stop Mail Addressed to a Deceased Person

Posted on: May 9th, 2015
One of the first things you should do as a newly appointed executor of a deceased person's probate estate or successor trustee of a deceased trustmaker's trust is ask the post office to forward the deceased person's mail to your address. Unfortunately, along with important pieces of mail - statements, bills, and refunds - many not-so-important pieces - catalogs, solicitations, and plain old junk mail - will end up in your mailbox...

Three Liability Planning Tips for Physicians that Anyone Can Use

Posted on: May 3rd, 2015
Whether you are a physician or not, you probably know that the practice of medicine is a profession fraught with liability. It's not just medical malpractice claims either - employment related issues, careless business partners and employees, contractual obligations, and personal liabilities add to the risk assumed by a physician in private practice. Unfortunately, in our litigious society, these liability risks are not unique to physicians. Business owners, board members, real estate investors, and retirees need to protect themselves from a variety of liabilities too. ...

Caution: Writing Your Own Deed to Avoid Probate Can Lead to Unintended Consequences

Posted on: April 26th, 2015
One common way to avoid probate of real estate after the owner dies is to hold the title to the property in joint names with rights of survivorship with children or other beneficiaries. This is accomplished by adding the names of the children and certain legal terms to a new deed for the property and then recording it in the applicable public land records....

Death Tax Repeal Act Introduced in House and Senate

Posted on: April 19th, 2015
Identical bills have been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate that would permanently repeal the federal estate tax and generation-skipping transfer ('GST') tax....

Is a Revocable Living Trust Right for You?

Posted on: April 12th, 2015
Revocable Living Trusts have become the basic building block of estate plans for people of all ages, personal backgrounds, and financial situations. But for some, a Revocable Living Trust may not be necessary to achieve their estate planning goals or may even be detrimental to achieving those goals....

When is an Estate Subject to State Death Taxes?

Posted on: April 5th, 2015
In the United States, certain states collect a death tax based on the value of the deceased person's estate and who inherits it....

Is a Payable on Death Account Right for You and Your Family?

Posted on: March 23rd, 2015
Payable on death accounts, or 'POD accounts' for short, have become popular for avoiding probate in the last decade or so....

Does Your Estate Plan Protect Your Adult Beneficiaries?

Posted on: March 17th, 2015
If you think you only need to create discretionary lifetime trusts for young beneficiaries, problem beneficiaries, or financially inexperienced beneficiaries, then think again. In this day and age of frivolous lawsuits and high divorce rates, discretionary lifetime trusts should be considered for all of your beneficiaries, minors and adults alike....

How to Easily Integrate Asset Protection Trusts into Your Estate Plan

Posted on: March 11th, 2015
Asset protection has become a common goal of estate planning. Asset protection trusts come in many different forms and can be used to protect property for your use and benefit as well as for the use and benefit of your family....

Five Changes Proposed in President Obama’s 2016 Budget That Could Affect Your Effect Your Estate Plan

Posted on: March 2nd, 2015
The Obama administration recently released its budget proposal for the 2016 fiscal year. As in past years, this budget proposes changes to the laws governing federal estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer (GST) taxes. Several of these changes would raise revenue by limiting the tax benefits achieved by using certain estate planning techniques, while others would decrease exemptions and increase rates. In addition, the fifth proposal discussed below is a brand new one that has raised some eyebrows:...

It’s Not Just About Death and Taxes: The Essential Legal Documents You Need for Incapacity Planning

Posted on: February 22nd, 2015
Comprehensive estate planning is about more than your legacy after death, avoiding probate, and saving on taxes. It must also be about having a plan in place to manage your affairs if you become mentally incapacitated during your life....

How to Choose the Right Agent for Your Incapacity Plan

Posted on: February 16th, 2015
A common misconception is that estate planning equates to death planning. But planning for what happens after you die is only one piece of the estate planning puzzle. It is just as important to make a plan for what happens if you become mentally incapacitated....

Five Things You Need to Know About the Recently Enacted ABLE Act

Posted on: February 12th, 2015
On December 19, 2014, President Obama signed the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act) into law. The ABLE Act will allow certain individuals with disabilities to establish tax-free savings accounts that can be used to cover expenses not otherwise covered by government sponsored programs. These accounts can be a great alternative or supplement to special needs or supplemental needs trusts....

3 Powers to Consider Giving to a Trust Protector

Posted on: February 2nd, 2015
Today many estate plans contain irrevocable trusts that will continue for the benefit of a spouse's lifetime and then for the benefit of several generations. Since these trusts are designed to span multiple decades, it is important that they include a trust protector who will have the ability to adjust the trust provisions as circumstances, beneficiaries, and governing laws change. ...

How Powers of Appointment Can Improve Your Trust

Posted on: January 26th, 2015
Today many estate plans contain trusts that will continue for the benefit of a spouse's lifetime and then for the benefit of several generations. Since these trusts are designed to span multiple decades, it is important for the trust creator to consider including powers of appointment in the trust agreement to allow trust beneficiaries to be added or excluded at each generation. ...

The Wrong Successor Trustee Can Derail Your Final Wishes

Posted on: January 18th, 2015
Today many estate plans contain irrevocable trusts that will continue for the benefit of a surviving spouse's lifetime and then for the benefit of several generations. Since these trusts are designed to span multiple decades, it is crucial to choose the right succession of trustees....

An Estate Plan Checklist to Facilitate Wealth Transfer

Posted on: January 7th, 2015
Studies have shown that 70% of family wealth is lost by the end of the second generation and 90% by the end of the third....

4 Tips for Avoiding a Will or Trust Contest

Posted on: January 1st, 2015
A will or trust contest can derail your final wishes, rapidly deplete your estate, and tear your loved ones apart. But with proper planning, you can help your family avoid a potentially disastrous will or trust contest....

Make an Achievable 2015 New Year’s Resolution – Get an Estate Plan Checkup!

Posted on: December 21st, 2014
With 2015 right around the corner, it's time to start thinking about your new year's resolutions....

Time is Running Out for Certain Estates to Make the Federal Portability Election

Posted on: December 16th, 2014
As a result of a 2010 tax law, a surviving spouse can receive his or her deceased spouse's unused estate tax exemption. This is called a 'portability' election. You may have seen it called the 'deceased spousal exclusion amount' or 'DSUE amount.'...

The Clock is Ticking on Maxing Out Your 2014 Retirement Plan Contributions

Posted on: December 7th, 2014
With the end of 2014 fast approaching, now is the time to take a look at your year-to-date retirement plan contributions to see where yours stand when compared with the 2014 contribution limits....

What the 2015 Inflation Adjustments for the Estate Tax Exemption and Trust Income Tax Brackets Mean to You

Posted on: November 30th, 2014
The Internal Revenue Service has released the official inflation adjustments that will affect 2015 federal reporting for estate taxes, gift taxes, generation-skipping transfer taxes, and estate and trust income taxes. ...

Year End Estate Planning Tip #5 – Make Gifts that Your Family Will Love but the IRS Won't

Posted on: November 22nd, 2014
Don't let the chaos of the holiday season prevent you from avoiding federal gift tax by making 'annual exclusion' gifts, medical payments gifts, and educational gifts....

Does Your Revocable Living Trust Reduce Your Estate Tax Bill?

Posted on: November 15th, 2014
Many people believe that once they set up and fund a revocable living trust, property held in the trust will avoid estate taxes after they die. In reality, this may or may not be true depending on your choice of beneficiaries and the terms written into your trust agreement. ...

3 Asset Protection Tips You Can Use Now

Posted on: November 9th, 2014
A common misconception is that only wealthy families and people in high risk professions need to put together an asset protection plan. But in reality, anyone can be sued. A car accident, foreclosure, unpaid medical bills, or an injured tenant can result in a monetary judgment that will decimate your finances. Below are three tips that you can use right now to protect your assets from creditors, predators and lawsuits....

Year End Estate Planning Tip #4 – Check the Privacy of Your Estate Plan

Posted on: November 2nd, 2014
With the end of the year fast approaching, now is the time to fine tune your estate plan before you get caught up in the chaos of the holiday season. One area of planning that many people overlook is ensuring that their final wishes remain private....

Year End Estate Planning Tip #3 – Check Your Mental Disability Plan

Posted on: October 27th, 2014
With the end of the year fast approaching, now is the time to fine tune your estate plan before you get caught up in the chaos of the holiday season. One area of planning that many people overlook is making sure their mental disability plan is up to date....

Year End Estate Planning Tip #2 – Check Your Beneficiary Designations

Posted on: October 19th, 2014
With the end of the year fast approaching, now is the time to fine tune your estate plan before you get caught up in the chaos of the holiday season. One area of planning that many people overlook is their beneficiary designations....

Year End Estate Planning Tip #1 – Check Your Estate Tax Planning

Posted on: October 13th, 2014
With the end of the year fast approaching, now is the time to fine tune your estate plan before you get caught up in the chaos of the holiday season. One area that married couples should revisit is their estate tax planning. ...

How to Minimize Legal Fees After Death

Posted on: October 6th, 2014
Death is a costly business. Aside from funeral expenses, legal fees can take a big chunk out of how much is left for your loved ones after you're gone. ...

If You Die Without a Will, Does Your Spouse Inherit Your Entire Estate?

Posted on: September 28th, 2014
If you are married and you die without a Last Will and Testament, you may mistakenly believe that your spouse will still inherit your entire estate. Not so fast. Who will inherit your estate depends on several different factors:...

Will Your Revocable Living Trust Avoid Probate? It Depends

Posted on: September 21st, 2014
If you've set up a Revocable Living Trust, congratulations! You're definitely on the right track. But...you're only half way there. Many believe because they took the time to create a Trust, their estate will automatically avoid probate. Unfortunately, this is a false sense of security....

Why Does Probate Take So Long?

Posted on: September 14th, 2014
Probate can be easily avoided, but most estates are dragged through the process. Why? Many people fail to create an estate plan, so probate is required. And - others plan with just a Will, so probate is required. As a result, assets end up at the mercy of a probate judge, open to public scrutiny, and delayed passing to beneficiaries....

Should I Write My Own Will?

Posted on: September 7th, 2014
I'm sure you have heard this less than eloquent phrase before - 'Garbage in, garbage out.' The phrase is typically used in computer programming and scientific research. Unfortunately, it also applies to the law, legal documents, and writing your own Will....

How to Get Organized to Meet With Your Estate Planning Attorne

Posted on: August 23rd, 2014
OK, great! You've finally decided it's time to meet with an estate planning attorney and get your affairs in order. It's time to make sure your family is protected....

Estate Planning Basics for Newlyweds – How to Get Prepared for the Unexpected

Posted on: July 27th, 2014
It's that time of year - the time for beautiful weddings, fun receptions, delicious cakes, special gifts, and romantic honeymoons. While this is a joyous time for everyone, it's also time for you and your new spouse to plan for your future - for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health....

U.S. Supreme Court Rules Inherited IRAs are Not Protected from Creditors

Posted on: July 21st, 2014
On June 12, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court--in a unanimous decision--ruled that Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) inherited by anyone other than a spouse are not retirement funds and therefore are not protected from the beneficiary's creditors in bankruptcy....

Parental Warning: If You Own Your Property this Way, You May Accidentally Disinherit Your Children

Posted on: July 13th, 2014
Owning property as Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship is easy, common, and often disastrous. Sadly, children - both minor and adult - are often disinherited....

AB Trusts – Do You Need to Get Rid of Yours?

Posted on: July 6th, 2014
Are you married and is the last time you and your spouse updated your estate plan more than a few years ago? Then chances are your estate plan contains good old 'AB Trust' planning (also called 'Marital and Family Trusts' or 'QTIP' and 'Bypass Trusts') which, up until 2011, was the only way for married couples to double the value of their federal estate tax exemptions. All of this changed in 2011 when 'portability' of the estate tax exemption between spouses was introduced for the first time....

What if Treating Your Children Fairly Means Unequal Inheritances?

Posted on: June 29th, 2014
When planning their estate, most parents express the desire to treat their children equally out of a sense of fairness. However, sometimes being fair or doing what's right by your children may not mean equal or the same inheritances....

Who Needs an Estate Plan?

Posted on: June 2nd, 2014
If you're reading this, you need an estate plan. Why? The short answer is 'Everyone, age 18 and older needs an estate plan.' It doesn't matter if you are old or young, if you have built up considerable wealth or if you are just entering adulthood --you need a written plan to keep you in control and to protect yourself and those you love....

How to Minimize the (Voluntary) Federal Estate Tax with Portability

Posted on: May 21st, 2014
Surprising to most people, the federal estate tax is a voluntary tax. Estate planning attorneys used to say, 'You only pay if you don't plan.' Now, portability provides both an alternative and a back up plan to lifetime tax planning. This means you might be able to minimize or even eliminate federal estate taxes even if you didn't plan. Here's how....

The Three-Year Review and The Three-Year Plan

Posted on: May 4th, 2014
Review your life's circumstances from three years ago. Think about what you knew and what you didn't know about managing your wealth. What were the top five lessons you learned? How have your views about money and wealth changed? Given all that, where do you want to be financially in three years? Think about how you will get there and how to do so efficiently....

Learning from Your Mistakes Can Become Your Teaching Moment

Posted on: April 27th, 2014
Everyone makes financial mistakes. The key is to learn from them, try not to repeat them and then pass on this hard-earned wisdom to your loved ones as an element of your financial legacy....

Three Social Security Traps

Posted on: April 13th, 2014
What you don't know about Social Security benefits can hurt you and your spouse for the rest of your lives. Here are three traps to avoid when taking your benefits....

Five Tips to Remove Financial Hassle from Your Life

Posted on: April 6th, 2014
Everyone faces hassles in life. We can't escape them completely, but if we can minimize them, our quality of life improves. There are hassles in managing your finances and wealth, too. Here are five tips that will help you get financial aggravation under control....

Taking Care of a Valuable Asset (You)

Posted on: March 31st, 2014
The combination of your talents, experience and skills represents an asset. Like any asset, it should be managed and protected. This includes keeping yourself healthy, having sufficient insurance protection, planning for both the near term and the future, investing in yourself, and having contingency plans if a sudden turn occurs....

What’s On Your Worry List?

Posted on: March 24th, 2014
A comprehensive financial plan that is effectively executed delivers dollar savings in improved investment returns, lower taxes, lower fees, more efficient wealth and more stable income. However, an important outcome of this process addresses what may be on your worry list: running out of money, family strife, unexpected losses and making financial mistakes....

Aligning Insurance Products within a Planning Structure

Posted on: March 17th, 2014
We use a variety of insurance products to manage risk in different areas of our lives in order to protect our wealth from losses that can come from property damage, businesses we own, disability, retirement and death. Instead of considering these products as separate items, make them part of an integrated, overall risk management plan....

Understanding Losses: Liability Exposure

Posted on: March 10th, 2014
We live in a litigious society. Lawsuits abound, whether deserved or not. If you own property or stock that was purchased at a low price and has had high appreciation, it is at risk to litigation and creditors--even if you are not in a high-risk profession. Others may be in a private business such as medicine or law that bring with it additional exposures to monitor....

Understanding Losses: Compounding Interest

Posted on: February 24th, 2014
Most investors are familiar with the magic of compounding interest but they often fail to realize that when the portfolio loses money, the math of compounding works against them. That's because when a dollar is lost, it is not just a dollar but a compounded dollar that is lost, so the investor must regain more just to break even....

Wealth Protection: Avoiding Losses

Posted on: February 17th, 2014
You can't create wealth until you preserve it first. Each dollar lost unnecessarily isn't just a single dollar lost, but a compounded dollar lost. A dollar not lost allows wealth to compound from a higher floor. Losses can occur from many places beyond investments: property, income, taxes and fees. It is well worth paying for the expertise of professional advisors who are able to prevent or reduce losses in all of these areas....

Understanding Losses: Property

Posted on: February 10th, 2014
Property insurance provides protection against most risks to property, such as fire, theft and some weather damage. However, if property has appreciated and there isn't sufficient insurance for replacement value, any losses must be paid out of pocket. To protect your wealth from these kinds of losses, it is important to determine replacement values so you will have adequate insurance....

How to Stop Worrying About Running Out of Money in Retirement

Posted on: February 2nd, 2014
Many retirees today worry about having enough money for their retirement. But there are some things you can do now to help manage your shortfall risk and protect your assets....

Recovering Emotionally from Past Financial Errors

Posted on: January 27th, 2014
Most of us will admit to having made some financial mistakes we regret--running up credit card debt, impulse buying, or making a bad investment or business decision. While there can be significant devastation, the key is to move beyond regret into productive action. What, then, are some strategies that can restore a person's self-confidence and avoid financial failures in the future?...

Passion Investing as a Spark to Your Life

Posted on: January 20th, 2014
Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and over 50% of the Fortune 400's The Richest People in America list have decided to give away their wealth for charitable pursuits. Of course, not many of us have that kind of money or are inclined to give away all we own. However, giving to charitable organizations is something that anyone can do, and we can all derive a similar satisfaction by investing in causes that light our passion....

Are You Wasting Money? Part Three: Taxes, Insurance, Not Bidding and/or Negotiating

Posted on: January 12th, 2014
So far in this series on wasting money, we have looked at how people may overpay for housing, interest, transportation, food, clothing and entertainment. In this last part, we will look at a few more areas in which we may pay more than necessary--taxes, insurance, not obtaining bids for services, and not negotiating for large purchases....

Are You Wasting Money? Part Two: Food, Clothing and Entertainment

Posted on: January 6th, 2014
In Part One of this series on wasting money, we looked at housing, interest and transportation--areas in which you or your loved ones may be wasting larger amounts of money. In Part Two, we will look at how money can be wasted in everyday areas of life--specifically food, clothing and entertainment....

Are You Wasting Money? Part One: Housing, Interest, and Transportation

Posted on: December 26th, 2013
Most of us are guilty of wasting money in one way or another. Often we are so busy that we pay too much for convenience, and we don't comparison shop or look for bargains. Sometimes we waste money because we just stay in the same routines--shopping at the same stores, eating at the same places, using the same services. And sometimes, especially if we don't keep good records of how we spend our money, we may not even realize how much money we are wasting....

Protecting Against Financial Fraud in Charitable Giving

Posted on: December 16th, 2013
Americans are very generous when it comes to charitable giving. In addition, lower earners give more proportionately than higher earners. Perhaps this is because lower earners understand how easily a family can slip into financial crisis through the loss of a job or medical expenses. The thought of 'that could be me' makes people very sympathetic to helping others in need, and many cheerfully give their hard-earned money to try to help people. People of faith tend to be generous and faithful givers, and Americans, in general, are quick to help whenever tragedy or devastation strikes anywhere in the world....

Long-Term Care Planning, Part 2: Your Funding Options

Posted on: December 9th, 2013
The first part of planning for long-term care is realizing that, a) most of us will need this kind of care for at least some time before we die and b) the cost of this care can be financially devastating for a family if it is not planned for in advance. This was covered in Long-Term Care Planning, Part 1....

Long-Term Care Planning, Part 1: A Central Requirement

Posted on: December 5th, 2013
Health care has been the topic of discussion lately, but the greatest threat to your financial health is long-term care. This is the kind of care you need if you are not able to perform normal daily activities (such as eating, dressing, bathing and toileting) without help, and it is expected that you will need this help for an extended period of time, often for the rest of your life....

The Truth About Personal Risk Management, Part 2: Using Trusts in Estate Planning

Posted on: November 10th, 2013
Paying insurance premiums to protect against potential losses frees us mentally to enjoy driving a car, leave our house empty while on vacation and receive medical treatment for an injury or illness. In the same way, the use of trusts acts like insurance and can shift anxiety to comfort, turmoil to peace, and complexity to understanding....

The Truth About Personal Risk Management, Part 1: Insurance

Posted on: October 28th, 2013
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Budgeting, Part 3: Instilling Money Values in Children and Grandchildren

Posted on: October 19th, 2013
Money values can be a guiding light that is a component of your legacy. If communicated frequently and purposefully, these values can be an important reference for your loved ones as they learn to handle money....

Strategies for Those Awkward Financial Discussions

Posted on: October 13th, 2013
There may be people close to you (spouse, parents, children) who are practicing financial behaviors that are unproductive or destructive. You want to help them get back on track, but you don't want to come across as judgmental or condescending, or put them on the defensive....

Budgeting, Part 2: A Fulfilling Method for Setting Spending Priorities

Posted on: October 7th, 2013
Setting spending priorities will allow you to process your income in a rational way, while giving you the satisfaction that your wealth objectives are on their way to fulfillment....

Budgeting, Part 1: Budgeting as a Friend and not a Foe

Posted on: September 29th, 2013
Budgets do control spending behavior. However, budgets also allocate resources to the areas of highest impact or interest. When a budget is structured based on priorities and values, much of the controlling element is removed....

How to Make a Family Meeting a Successful Part of the Estate Planning Process

Posted on: September 22nd, 2013
You've made the hard decisions, your documents are signed, your trust is funded, a business succession plan is in place. Congratulations, you've finished your estate planning. But have you, really? Have you explained your planning to your family? Will they understand how your plan will work and what they may need to do if you become ill or when you die? Will they wonder why you made certain decisions?...

The Value of Having a "Plan" in Estate Planning

Posted on: September 16th, 2013
All too often, estate planning is viewed as a transaction: a will, a living trust, powers of attorney, etc. But the best planning happens when the professional can get to know the client on a deeper level, to uncover hopes, dreams and aspirations. It becomes more about family and values, and it becomes a process instead of a transaction....

How to Choose a Trustee

Posted on: September 9th, 2013
When you establish a trust, you name someone to be the trustee. A trustee basically does what you do right now with your financial affairs--collect income, pay bills and taxes, save and invest for the future, buy and sell assets, provide for your loved ones, keep accurate records and generally keep things organized and in good order....

Why Does a Living Trust Cost More than a Will?

Posted on: September 2nd, 2013
It will probably cost more initially to set up a well-drafted living trust than to have a will prepared. A true cost comparison should include not only the expense to establish the will or trust, but also what it will cost should you become incapacitated and after you die...

Organize Information for Your Family

Posted on: August 26th, 2013
Think for a few moments about what would happen if you suddenly became incapacitated or died. Would your spouse or family know what to do?...

Providing for Your Parents in Your Estate Plan

Posted on: August 18th, 2013
If you are part of the baby boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964), you may also find that you are a member of the sandwich generation, with responsibilities to both your parents (now or in the future) and your children. This should change the way you think about estate planning....

Estate Planning for Second Marriages

Posted on: August 12th, 2013
In first marriages, the couple generally has the same goals when it comes to their estate planning: take care of the surviving spouse for as long as he or she lives, then whatever is left will go to the children. They may own many of their assets jointly and, at the death of the first spouse, more than likely everything will go to the surviving spouse just as they had planned....

Who Should Be Your Successor Trustee?

Posted on: August 5th, 2013
If you have a revocable living trust, you probably named yourself as trustee so you can continue to manage your own financial affairs, but eventually someone will need to step in for you when you are no longer able to act due to incapacity or after your death. The Successor Trustee plays an important role in the effective execution of your estate plan....

Estate Planning for Women

Posted on: July 29th, 2013
While estate planning is important for everyone, women especially need to understand estate planning and have a plan of their own in place. Here are some issues that are of particular interest to women and their estate planning....

Estate Planning for Unmarried Partners Part One: Planning for After Death

Posted on: July 22nd, 2013
Unmarried partners do not have the same protections and benefits under the law that married partners have. An estate planning attorney who has experience working with unmarried partners can help you navigate the issues and make sure your after-death plan will work the way you want it to work when it is needed....

Estate Planning After Divorce

Posted on: July 15th, 2013
One area that is often overlooked in the divorce process is the need to update estate planning. Most people would agree that their ex-spouse is the last person they want to inherit their assets when they die--or to have that person make life and death decisions for them. But that is exactly what can happen - and often does - when these documents are not updated....

Young Adults Need Estate Planning, Too

Posted on: July 9th, 2013
Once a child turns 18, parents lose the legal ability to make decisions for their child or even to find out basic information. Learning you cannot see your college student's grades without his/her permission can be mildly frustrating. ...

Estate Planning for Young Families

Posted on: July 1st, 2013
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Naming A Guardian For Your Minor Children

Posted on: June 24th, 2013
Parents with minor children need to name someone to raise them (a guardian) in the event both parents should die before the child becomes an adult. While the likelihood of that actually happening is slim, the consequences of not naming a guardian are great....

Ensuring Income Tax Deferral for Retirement Plan Beneficiaries

Posted on: June 10th, 2013
Some of the most generous provisions of the tax code are those that permit beneficiaries of IRAs and other qualified retirement plans to defer income tax on the plans until time of withdrawal. This allows the IRA or qualified plan to grow significantly more than if it were subject to tax on gains each year. ...

The Value of Having a "Plan" in Estate Planning

Posted on: June 3rd, 2013
All too often, estate planning is viewed as a transaction: a will, a living trust, powers of attorney, etc. But the best planning happens when the professional can get to know the client on a deeper level, to uncover hopes, dreams and aspirations. It becomes more about family and values, and it becomes a process instead of a transaction....

Estate Planning Today Must Include Digital Assets and Social Media

Posted on: May 27th, 2013
It wasn't very long ago that we had only paper for financial and tax records. We could simply point to a file cabinet or drawer and tell someone, 'Everything is in there when the time comes.' But now we have computers and the internet, and so much of our lives is online. Unless we include our digital assets and social media in our estate planning, our family or administrator may not be able to find critical documents....

Online and DIY Estate Planning

Posted on: May 20th, 2013
With the number of online and do-it-yourself (DIY) legal providers continuing to grow, some of individuals may be wondering if they could do their estate planning themselves. The advertising is seductive: attorneys use similar forms, the cost is significantly less than hiring an attorney, and many of these websites and kits are created by attorneys. In addition, most people think their estates are not complicated, and many think they are just as smart as (or smarter than) professionals....

Estate Planning Opportunities for Affluent Families

Posted on: May 13th, 2013
With the $5.12 million per person exemption from federal estate tax ($10.24 million for married couples), most of the estate planning 'talk' recently has been on the planning opportunities available to affluent families. However, the need for estate planning remains for everyone....

Create successful wealth transfers with open communication

Posted on: May 6th, 2013
A recent Forbes article claims that '70% of intergenerational wealth transfers fail,' discussing a new Williams Group study examining the long-term effects of wealth transfers in 3,250 families. 'Failure,' according to the study, means situations where the heirs dissipated wealth, often with the family assets becoming a source of friction and dispute....

Family Values and History Are Still the Best Inheritance

Posted on: May 1st, 2013
According to a recent study, family values, traditions and history still mean more than money as an inheritance....

Should You Disinherit a Child?

Posted on: April 23rd, 2013
Most parents choose to leave their estates equally to their children. But sometimes, parents intentionally choose to not leave anything to a child. There may be what the parents consider to be a legitimate reason: one child has been more financially successful than the others; not wanting a special needs child to lose government benefits; or not wanting to leave an inheritance to an irresponsible or drug-dependent child. Sometimes a parent wants to disinherit a child who is estranged from the family, or to use disinheritance as a way to get even and have the last word....

National Healthcare Decision Day 2013

Posted on: April 16th, 2013
April 16th is National Health Care Decision Day. Advanced Health Care Directives and Living Wills are key components in any effect Estate Plan. If you do not have these documents in place we strongly encourage you to use today to remember to do so. Also, if you have documents in place are they current and up to date? In July of 2011, the State of Illinois made major changes to the Statutory State Health Care Power of Attorney. If your documents are dated before then you may want to consider updating them as well....

Treating Children Fairly Does Not Necessarily Mean Equally

Posted on: April 8th, 2013
Most parents want to treat their children fairly in their estate planning, and many assume that means having their children inherit equally. But fair does not necessarily mean equal. There may be special circumstances to consider....

What and When Should You Tell Your Children About Their Inheritance?

Posted on: April 1st, 2013
Not many parents like to talk to their children about their wealth. How much money people have is usually considered a private matter, something it's not polite to talk about. But not talking to children about how much they may inherit can leave them unprepared to handle even a modest amount...

How To Leave Assets to Minor Children

Posted on: March 25th, 2013
Every parent wants to make sure their children are provided for in the event something happens to them while the children are still minors. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and other relatives often want to leave some of their assets to young children, too. But good intentions and poor planning often have unintended results....

How To Leave Assets to Adult Children

Posted on: March 17th, 2013
When considering how to leave assets to adult children, the first step is to decide how much each one should receive. Most parents want to treat their children fairly, but this doesn't necessarily mean they should receive equal shares of the estate. For example, it may be desirable to give more to a child who is a teacher than to one who has a successful business, or to compensate a child who has been a primary caregiver....

The Many Needs for Life Insurance in Our Lives

Posted on: March 11th, 2013
The main reasons most people have life insurance are to pay final expenses (medical, funeral, burial, etc.), replace an income stream and/or create wealth for our dependents after we die. Life insurance can also play an important role in business, estate planning and charitable giving....

Life Insurance: How Much and What Kind?

Posted on: March 4th, 2013
Life insurance can be an affordable way to provide for our children, spouse, a sibling, aging parents and others if we should die while they are depending on us. Life insurance proceeds can provide extra income to help pay ongoing household bills and child care; pay off a mortgage, credit cards and other debt; pay for college; and pay funeral costs and other final expenses. (Life insurance also plays a vital role in business succession planning and it has numerous applications in estate planning.)...

Planning For Incapacity and Long-Term Care

Posted on: February 24th, 2013
With people living longer due to advances in medicine and changes in lifestyle, odds are that most of us will become disabled for some time before we die and may need long-term care. Unfortunately, too few plan for an event that is more likely to be a probability than a possibility--and the consequences of not planning can be disastrous for all involved....

Potential Problems with Beneficiary Designations

Posted on: February 18th, 2013
Many clients use beneficiary designations, and for good reason. Some significant assets, including life insurance policies, IRAs, retirement plans and even bank accounts, allow a beneficiary to be named. It's free, it's easy, and, when the owner dies, these assets are designed to be paid directly to the individual(s) named as beneficiary, outside of probate....

The Most Important Love Letters You’ll Ever Write

Posted on: February 11th, 2013
Many Americans have the misperception that estate planning is simply preparing for one's death and is only necessary for the affluent. To the contrary, estate planning is as much about passing values to loved ones as it is about passing material possessions....

The Advisory Team Approach to Estate Planning

Posted on: February 4th, 2013
Estate planning is not simply the documents prepared by an attorney, nor is it the insurance and financial plan recommended by a financial advisor. Properly done, estate planning encompasses at least the legal and financial elements, but it may include more, as estate planning often points out the need to plan in other areas....

Estate Planning in 2013 and Beyond under the New Tax Law

Posted on: January 28th, 2013
The recent tax legislation dealing with the 'fiscal cliff' included significant revisions to the estate tax law that will affect estate planning for the foreseeable future....

Four More Common Estate Planning Mistakes

Posted on: January 14th, 2013
Here are four more common mistakes in estate planning. If your plan is in place and current, this will serve as more validation that you are on the right track. Feel free to share this information with friends and family members, especially those who may not have a plan in place....

5 Common Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid

Posted on: January 7th, 2013
From time to time, it's good to review why having a complete, up-to-date estate plan is so important. In addition to confirming our own actions, it can provide us with valuable information to pass along to friends and family who, for whatever reasons, have yet to act. So, here are five common estate planning mistakes to avoid....

New Taxes in 2013

Posted on: January 1st, 2013
Now that the health care law has been declared constitutional, several significant provisions will become effective on January 1, 2013....

Time is Running Out to Save Unprecedented Amounts in Taxes

Posted on: December 17th, 2012
For the rest of 2012, every American can transfer up to $5.12 million free of federal gift, estate and generation-skipping transfer tax--and estate planners are doing everything they can to motivate their clients to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity....

10 Things To Do Before the End of This Year

Posted on: December 6th, 2012
The end of the year will be here before we know it. But there is still time to meet some major estate planning goals. Here are ten things to do before the end of 2012....

Taxes that will Effect Business Owners

Posted on: December 6th, 2012
There has been a lot of media coverage about the Bush tax cuts that are set to expire on December 31, 2012 and whether they will be extended for all taxpayers or if they will be discontinued for top earners. But not nearly as much has been said about the current estate and gift tax rates that are also due to expire on December 31....