What to Expect From Your Initial Planning Meeting

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Whether you’ve met with an estate planning attorney before or it’s your first time, it’s important to understand how working with a Personal Family Lawyer® is different than meeting with a traditional lawyer.

This article will explain what to expect from your initial planning meeting with me and it may even inspire you to meet with us to get your estate planning started or updated. Given our unique approach, an initial consultation with our office is quite different than an initial consultation with a typical estate planning attorney. A typical “initial consultation” would be a meet-and-greet-type of meeting in which the lawyer tells you the documents you need to put in place and quotes you a fee to provide those documents.

In such a meeting, however, it will likely be difficult for you to know exactly what you need for your unique family situation and how to make the right decision, outside of simply considering whether the cost of these documents fits within your budget or not. Unfortunately, deciding what you need based solely on the cost of documents will likely lead you to make choices that won’t actually serve and protect your family and assets.

In contrast, our initial meeting with you is a two-hour working session, called a Family Wealth Planning Session™. Prior to the Family Wealth Planning Session, we’ll send you a personalized package of materials that will guide you in locating and listing each of your assets.

What we consistently see is that surprisingly, many people do not have a clear awareness of what they own or where to find their assets. This is the reason there are more than $58 Billion (yes, Billion with a “B”) of lost and unclaimed assets held by state and federal agencies. Oftentimes people become incapacitated or die, and their family simply overlooks these assets.

We know you haven’t devoted years of your precious time and energy to build your family wealth only for your heirs to lose track of it when something happens to you. That’s one reason the Family Wealth Planning Session is so beneficial. Whether you decide to create a full plan or just redesign the one you have, at the very least your family will know what you have and how to locate it should anything happen to you.

Also during your Family Wealth Planning Session, we’ll guide you through a complete understanding of what would happen to everyone you love and everything you own should something happen to you—whether it’s under your current plan or the plan the state has for you if you don’t have an estate plan yet. From there, you can decide if that plan is how you want things handled or if you’d want a different outcome, in which case we can design a plan to ensure things go exactly the way you want in your absence.

Finally, if you do decide to create a plan or redesign an existing one, you can select the type of plan you want based on the different packages we’ve created, which allow you to literally choose your fee based on what’s most important to you, what’s not important to you, and with a clear understanding of the impact of your choices.

The Family Wealth Planning Session is a true educational opportunity for you to ensure you’re doing the right thing by your loved ones. This investment of your time now will save your family countless hours of heartache and work down the road, while also keeping them out of conflict and out of court.

Unfortunately, death is unavoidable. But you can make it far easier on the people you love by the choices you make now. And facing the reality of this fact today allows you to make choices that will let you enjoy your life even more. Indeed, our clients report a huge level of relief after meeting with us, and they frequently say they wished they’d done it sooner.

We’d love to meet with you for a Family Wealth Planning Session. Simply give us a call to get scheduled and we’ll waive the normal $750 two-hour+ consultation fee when you mention our website. Or if you have a relative or friend who’d benefit by getting their affairs in order, pass along this article and tell them to call us. It’s our mission to keep the families in our community out of court and out of conflict, and it all starts with a Family Wealth Planning Session. Because, really, your family IS worth it.

This article is a service of Susan Hunt, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.

Financial Abuse of the Elderly

grandma-1473080456FLxSome of the most disturbing crimes against the elderly involve financial exploitation. While physical abuse is often easy to spot, financial abuse of the elderly can be more difficult to detect, as victims often have no idea they’re being swindled until their money suddenly vanishes.

Most victims are more than 70 or 80 years old, and involve crimes like fraud, embezzlement, identity theft, along with welfare and insurance scams. If you’re caring for an elderly loved one, be on the lookout for the following red flags of financial abuse:

  1. Unusual financial transactions or spending

The most obvious sign an elderly family member is being exploited is if there are sudden changes to their spending, banking, and/or financial practices. At the same time, the person may start behaving secretively, confused, or otherwise atypical about money matters. A few of the most frequent actions include:

  • Someone who is normally meticulous about their finances suddenly starts seeing unpaid bills, insufficient funds warnings, and/or unexplained credit card charges.
  • The elderly person starts opening, closing, or changing banking and investment accounts, especially without regard to penalties or fees.
  • Someone with consistent spending patterns starts showing a sharp increase in spending and/or investing.
  • The person’s account sees a suspicious increase in ATM use, withdrawals, and/or checks made out to unfamiliar recipients.

2. The appearance of a “new” person in their life

Because they’re often alone and isolated, seniors are particularly susceptible to being “befriended” by strangers who take advantage of their loneliness to exploit them. And it may not be a stranger—relatives who haven’t been around for years can suddenly start spending lots of time with the person.

This situation is particularly dangerous when the new acquaintance, caregiver, or relative spends time in the person’s home, where they have easy access to the person’s accounts, financial statements, and personal documents.

One sign that something is amiss is if the senior acts unusual when it comes to the new caregiver or friend. They may seem nervous when that person is around, stop participating in their usual social events, or be reluctant to speak about the person with you. This is a red flag the new person may be trying to isolate or control them.

3. Unneeded goods, services, or subscriptions

Outside of loneliness, the elderly are often physically unable to handle household chores and maintenance like they used to. Given this, they’ll likely need service providers to take care of the work for them. But every new person they surround themselves with is a potential swindler.

Watch for unscrupulous door-to-door salesmen and home repair contractors, who stop by offering unsolicited products or services, especially related to home remediation issues. And they don’t have to physically present to perpetrate fraud—there are countless telemarketing and email scams that target unsuspecting seniors in order to make a quick buck or steal their identity.

One fairly common scam involves inviting the older person to a free lunch or dinner in exchange for listening to a “seminar” about a financial product or service. The elderly often feel obligated to “buy something” after getting what they thought was a free meal.

Make sure that another adult relative is present before signing any contracts, and always consult with us if you’re unfamiliar with a new investment or financial opportunity.

4. Changes to wills, trusts, titles, power of attorney, etc.

The worst cases of financial abuse of the elderly can even involve the person making changes to wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents. Other potentially harmful changes can involve deeds, refinanced mortgages, property titles, and/or adding someone to a joint account.

Pay especially close attention if the older person seeks to grant power of attorney to someone out of the ordinary, as this can open the door for massive theft of assets and potentially fatal changes in a senior’s caregiving services.

One major advantage to establishing a relationship with a lawyer during your early years is so we can get to know you while you’re young, healthy, and clear, and then monitor if anything goes awry in your later years.

One reason financial scams are so hard to detect is that the elderly—like all of us—are embarrassed to admit they’ve been swindled, or they may not want to get a new “friend” or relative in trouble by telling others about their suspicions.

However, anyone can fall prey to financial fraud. We can help secure your family’s most valuable assets with robust legal protections to prevent fraud and scams of all kinds. Call us today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session to make the most empowered and informed decisions for yourself and the family members you love.

This article is a service of Susan Hunt, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.

 

 

 

4 Cryptocurrency Risks and Scams and How to Navigate Them — Part 2

pexels-photo-730550Last week, we shared the first part of our series on cryptocurrency risks and scams, and if you haven’t read it yet, you can do so here. In part two, we discuss two more common traps to be wary of when investing in digital currency.

If you are considering using cryptocurrency as an investment vehicle, talk with us first.

3. Pyramid/Ponzi Schemes That Will Trade For You

Because dealing with cryptocurrency can be a complex affair, online scammers have developed complicated cons similar to traditional pyramid and ponzi schemes. People have lost a lot of money in such scams, and unless you’re well-versed in the technology, they can be difficult to spot.

One giant red flag to watch for is giving your money to others who invest/trade for you, or if you only get paid when you recruit new members.

Also avoid buying upfront “packages” (The Gold Package) promising varying returns. And if you see the words “This isn’t a pyramid scheme” in the marketing materials, you may want to look a little more closely!

Unless you get to hold the keys to your private wallet containing your crypto directly or trade via a reputable exchange like Coinbase, you very well could be dealing with a scammer. And while plenty of people will make money in cryptocurrency pyramid/ponzi schemes, many will lose. That could include you or people you care about, if you get involved in crypto this way.

4. Fake ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings)

While new cryptocurrency can be created without any public investment or offering, many use an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) to fund their startup initiative. ICOs are basically IPOs (Initial Public Offerings) for cryptocurrency and a highly effective way to crowdfund vast sums of money extremely quickly. In fact, recent ICOs have raised millions of dollars in mere minutes.

This speed comes from the fact that ICOs are barely regulated—a good thing if you’re looking to raise money quickly and avoid the rigorous and time-consuming regulations involved with traditional capital raising. But it can bad, too, as the lack of regulation is a big neon welcome sign to scammers.

The lack of legal oversight has resulted in numerous fake ICOs being created by crypto con men, who go to great lengths to convince potential investors of their fake coin’s legitimacy. If you’re just getting started with cryptocurrency, it’s probably best to avoid ICOs until you really understand what you are investing in. In fact, that’s a good rule of thumb with any crypto investment, if you don’t understand the technology beneath it, start by learning that—and understand “what this crypto actually does”—before you invest. Contact us if you’d like help with that.

Of course, not all ICOs are fake, and if you’re tech-savvy, they can be quite lucrative. In fact, many tout  ICOs as the future of venture capitalism and fundraising.

But no venture capitalist would ever fund a startup without proper vetting, and the same applies to altcoins. Check the background of the people directly involved with the project and those serving as advisors. Use Google and social media like LinkedIn to verify these are real people with stellar reputations, and their advertised skills and knowledge match those found on online resumes and CVs. And make sure you understand what the cryptocurrency proposes to do and that you believe the team behind it can accomplish that goal, as with any business investment you would make.

And as with any investment, beware of deals that promise unrealistically high returns and/or just sound way too good to be true—that’s sign they likely are.

If you’re serious about adding cryptocurrency to your family’s investment portfolio, take the next step in your education by contacting your Personal Family Lawyer®. As your trusted advisor, we’ll help you incorporate cryptocurrency into your family’s financial and estate planning, so you can get the most bang for your crypto buck.

This article is a service of Susan Hunt, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge. 

4 Cryptocurrency Risks and Scams and How to Navigate Them — Part 1

22995486509_36ebd9180e_bIt’s no secret that Bitcoin and other brands of cryptocurrency are one of the hottest new investment opportunities.  And if you’re not already invested, you may be considering how to get in, what exactly is the best way to get in, and you should definitely be considering risks and potential scams that are easy to get caught by if you’re not eyes wide open on the issues surrounding cryptocurrency.

Launched in 2009, Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency, and since then, it has evolved from something only computer geeks and hackers talked about into a global phenomenon that’s transformed how the entire world views money.

Bitcoin is still the most popular—and valuable—digital currency. As of November 2017, a single Bitcoin was worth more than $10,000, with the currency’s total market capitalization at roughly $158 billion.  Bitcoin’s smashing success spawned a legion of other coins, known as “altcoins,” such as Ethereum, Litecoin, and Ripple, and the global market value for all cryptocurrency is currently more than $300 billion.

The huge amounts of money transitioning into the world of cryptocurrency has attracted equally large numbers of investors, looking to tap into this seemingly boundless source of new money. However, because it’s largely unregulated, involves extremely complex technology, and offers significant anonymity, the cryptocurrency market has also garnered the attention of cyber criminals.

Indeed, cryptocurrency’s brief history is filled with stories of people losing major money through hacking and a variety of other traps and scams. As with any new investment opportunity, the key to safety with cryptocurrency is education. While you should always do your own research before investing, here are a few of the most common scams to watch for and how to know whether investing in or using cryptocurrency is right for you.

1. Shady Exchanges

A cryptocurrency exchange is an online platform for trading one cryptocurrency for another or for fiat currency like the U.S. dollar. These platforms are where you buy in and cash out your cryptocurrency, so they’re essential to the crypto market. Exchanges typically charge a fee for each transaction and are based on current market rates or rates set by sellers/brokers.

Bitcoin’s popularity has caused the number of exchanges to explode, but not all exchanges are trustworthy. In the past, major exchanges have disappeared overnight and taken all of the digital currency with them, while others offer horrible customer service, and/or make getting your money out extremely difficult.

Your best bet is to stick with the largest, most popular exchanges like Coinbase, Kraken, and Bittrex. That said, legitimate smaller exchanges are out there and can be used safely, provided you’ve done your research. Indeed, there are numerous websites that rank and review crypto exchanges for quality, security, and customer service. If the reviews are largely negative, note that it’s difficult to cash out your altcoins, or mention the customer service is exceptionally poor and/or slow, steer clear.

2. Picking Your Wallet

In order to store cryptocurrency, you’ll want a digital wallet, as that’s the safest way to hold your cryptocurrency. Exchanges are for buying and selling, but not the safest for storing.

Your cryptocurrency wallet doesn’t actually “store” money like a traditional wallet; rather, it stores passcodes, known as keys, that allow you to send and receive digital currency to and from the wallet. There are many different wallets available, but not all of them are totally secure.

Wallets come in two forms: hot and cold. A “hot” wallet stores your cryptocurrency in a location that’s connected to the internet—exchange-based wallets, desktop wallets, and mobile wallets. Because they’re connected to the internet, hot wallets are the most convenient, but that also makes them vulnerable to hacking. A “cold” wallet, conversely, stores your cryptocurrency in a location that’s completely offline. Ironically, the most secure type of wallet for storing digital currency is a cold “paper” wallet.

Paper wallets involve printing out your keys and storing them in a secure location. While paper wallets are the most secure option, if you lose the codes, it’s the same as losing paper currency—you’re screwed, meaning there is no way to recover your investment. Paper wallets are also inconvenient—you have to send your money back to an exchange to use it—which can be a pain if you’re using cryptocurrency on a daily basis.

If you primarily use cryptocurrency as a long-term investment, you should store all of your crypto in a paper wallet. If you’re receiving, spending, or trading frequently, however, you should use both a hot/online and paper/offline wallet. Like real-world wallets, store the money you need for the day in your hot/online wallet, but keep the majority of your funds in a paper/offline wallet for safekeeping.

In all cases, whether you have crypto in a hot wallet, paper wallet, or directly in an exchange, make sure you’ve given the details of where it’s stored and how to access it to the people who need to know in case you’re incapacitated or when you die. Otherwise, it’s completely lost. If the people you love don’t know how to find and access it, it’s the same as it not existing at all. Please talk with us about this if you have any cryptocurrency now that may not have been included in your estate plan, or if you do obtain any in the future. Remember: if your family doesn’t know how to access it, it will be lost if you become incapacitated or when you die.

In addition to safety, investing in cryptocurrency comes with an array of other legal, financial, and tax issues you’ll need to consider. The good news is, as your Personal Family Lawyer we can guide you through these challenges and help you incorporate cryptocurrency investments into your family’s overall financial and estate-planning strategies. Contact us today to get started.

In our next blog/newsletter, we’ll continue with part two in this series on cryptocurrency risks and scams.

This article is a service of Susan Hunt, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge. 

Want to Be an Awesome Parent? Stop Stressing and Spend More Time on Self-Care

All parents have ubaby-20607_960_720ndoubtedly felt guilty at some point for not spending enough time with their children. A large part of this guilt comes from our culture. American parents are pressured to dedicate superhuman levels of time and energy to caring for their children to ensure optimal development.

This notion is so prevalent, it’s even garnered names like “helicopter parenting” and “intensive mothering.” Trouble is, this style of child rearing is extraordinarily taxing on one’s mental and physical health. Not to mention, many believe such obsessive control not only doesn’t work, but may actually harm a child’s development.

If you’re nagged by such guilt, there’s good news. Recent research suggests that worrying about the amount of time you spend with your kids is totally unwarranted. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that for children aged 3 to 11, there was no statistically significant association between the amount of time they spent with their mothers and their outcomes in terms of behavioral health, emotional health, or academic performance.

The study did find that teens experienced less delinquency when they spent more time with their mothers. However, this outcome occurred with teens who spent an average of six hours a week with the family—not exactly a massive commitment. What’s more, the study found when parents are stressed, anxious, and guilty, spending time with kids can even be harmful. Perhaps becoming aware of this now can let you off the hook and free up your time for self care first.

“Mothers’ stress, especially when mothers are stressed because of juggling work and trying to find time with kids, may actually be affecting their kids poorly,” study co-author Kei Nomaguchi said in an interview with the Washington Post.

As with everything in life, successful parenting involves finding a healthy balance between caring for your kids and caring for yourself. If you want to be an awesome parent, it’s vital—for you and your children—to develop a self-care routine that allows you to devote regular periods of time each day to relaxing and recharging your mental, physical, and spiritual resources.

There are countless self-care methods, but one of the easiest, least expensive, and most effective practices is mindfulness meditation. Although the word often conjures up images of monks, monasteries, and mountaintops, meditation is no longer the sole domain of celibate yogis and wandering ascetics.

Today, meditation is practiced by millions of Americans, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof. And it’s not just childless hipsters who meditate. Even the busiest parents are sitting quietly each day to reduce stress and cultivate mindfulness—the ability to maintain non-judgemental awareness of one’s moment-to-moment experience.

The reason meditation has grown so popular? It works. Dozens of clinical studies have shown that meditation offers myriad benefits: stress reduction, decreased emotional reactivity, increased relationship satisfaction, enhanced memory, sharper focus, and expanded cognitive flexibility.

Some of you are probably thinking you can’t possibly add another item to your daily to-do list; however,  meditating for just 10 to 15 minutes a day is enough to generate results. And once you experience meditation’s benefits, you’ll likely wonder how you ever got by without it.

Just ask Shana Smith, mother of two and author of Meditation for Moms and Dads: 108 Tips for Mindful Parents and Caregivers. Her book intimately details how meditation made her a better mother and kept her healthy and sane during parenthood’s most trying stages. Indeed, she believes meditation is not only possible for busy parents, it should be mandatory.

“If I forget to meditate, I’m much more likely to be overwhelmed by parenting’s physical, mental, and emotional demands,” she said. “With meditation, these demands are more easily kept in perspective within life’s bigger picture.”

Maintaining perspective on life’s big picture is a critical part of estate planning as well. During a Family Wealth Planning Session, as your Personal Family Lawyer®, we’ll help you assess what’s most important for your family’s well-being and security and protect those assets in a comprehensive estate plan. To this end, estate planning—like meditation—can reduce anxiety and stress over your children’s future, allowing you to take better care of both your kids and yourself.

This article is a service of Susan Hunt, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.