The Downsizing Generation: How to Handle a Surplus of Stuff

room-2133173_960_720As the baby boomer generation ages—and downsizes—more and more adult children will be tasked with going through their loved one’s belongings to decide what to do with everything. As more and more people downsize after retirement, china sets, furniture, heirlooms, and other belongings are often left behind and unwanted.  Traditionally, these items have been passed down to the next generation. But today, the next generation has different needs, tastes, and wants. As a result, there is a surplus of “stuff” baby boomers don’t need or have room for, and their adult children don’t want. Maybe that includes you.

This is an all too common problem with a few helpful solutions.

The thought of tossing a lifetime of belongings in the trash is more than many can bear, which explains the advent of the senior move management industry. Today, there are a plethora of professionals who can help your loved one go through each item to decide what should be kept, what should be given away, and what should go to charity or donated.

The cost of this professional service can be up to $5,000 for a large estate, but it eases the burden on the adult children and ensures the loved one’s wishes are listened to and honored.

Bear in mind, as the baby boomer generation ages, charities and nonprofits that typically accept used furniture and other belongings are faced with the burden of too much stuff. The dated styles baby boomers preferred during their prime don’t fit the tastes and needs of today’s generation. The current generation views belongings like furniture and dishes as functional and more disposable, better suited to their urban, fast-paced lives where minimalism and portability are more prized than sentimentality and tradition.

Another way to decrease the time and effort it takes to dispose of all your belongings is to be very clear about what you consider to be heirlooms and valuable items by indicating in your will, or in a separate writing ancillary to your will, exactly what’s important to you and what isn’t.

Most importantly, talk to your children or other heirs to see what they want and don’t want. And to make sure they know what’s important to you, and what isn’t. The more you can communicate about this now with your loved one’s, the better.

You may be surprised to discover that most family fights that break up families aren’t over money at all, but over the personal property of mom and dad that the kids fight over because there was not clear instructions.

As more baby boomers age and non-profits turn away dated donations, the need for thoughtful estate planning is greater than ever. A comprehensive estate plan can ensure your belongings either go to those who will cherish them or to charities that will benefit from them.

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.

Making a Plan for Natural Disasters

Cyclone_Catarina_from_the_ISS_on_March_26_2004Making a plan for natural disasters is more than just stocking up on canned food and water. In a natural disaster, food and water will keep you alive, but how will you rebuild your life if your home and community are devastated? Here are some simple tips that will help you get back on your feet should disaster strike.

Make sure you have enough insurance. Basic homeowner’s insurance typically won’t cover damage caused by natural disasters like floods or earthquakes. You might need to purchase additional insurance to cover these types of events. If you’d like an objective review of the types and amounts of insurance you have, contact us, we can help.

Keep a thorough inventory of what you own. Having up to date information on your personal belongings—especially valuables—will make getting them replaced using your insurance claim easier. Pictures of your belongings stored in the cloud is one great way to handle this in advance of any natural disasters.

Create a financial plan. Natural disasters can be financially disastrous as well. You may not be able to return to work and could face the expense of repairing—or rebuilding—your home.

Plan well to ensure you can meet your expenses and make a financial recovery. Account for your insurance deductibles, which can be 10-20% of the total damages and have six month’s salary in savings to cover any gaps in your ability to earn an income.

Protect important information by making digital and hard copies. Put a copy in a fireproof/waterproof safe and give copies to your financial advisor or a friend or family member who resides outside of your area for safekeeping.

It’s also a good idea to work with us. A Personal Family Lawyer® has unique tools that can safeguard your information to make recovering from a natural disaster easier even when you’ve lost everything.

Follow standard safety recommendations. Keep enough non-perishable food and water for your family for 3-5 days. Consider investing in a generator. Build a first-aid kit, and learn CPR as a family.

Keep a comprehensive emergency kit with contact information, survival tools, and a change of clothes for your family members. Designate a meeting place all family members can get to in case your home is wiped out. And talk with your family about what to do in different scenarios.

Families who have someone watching out for them can recover more quickly from natural disasters. Working with us can ensure you have someone waiting to assist you when you face tragedy. A Personal Family Lawyer® can help you with the legal, financial, and insurance issues you face after a natural disaster and help you properly account for losses on your tax return.

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. 

The Pitfalls of DIY Wills

DIY wills are becoming more prevalent as legal services can now be accessed easily online. For better or worse, more and more people are turning to online services to meet their legal needs.  If you’re one of them, you need to understand the pitfalls of DIY Wills.

Here’s what you need to know before you decide to create your own will, using an online service, or even a cheap lawyer for that matter.

While these online companies are making legal services more accessible, they’re also doing their customers a disservice, as evidenced in the recent case of In re: Estate of Aldrich heard in a Florida appeals court.

Ms. Aldrich created her will using a downloaded template from E-Z Legal Forms without the advice and guidance of an estate lawyer. It appears that she wished to leave specific assets to her sister, and then to her brother, if her sister died before her. Her sister did die, after which Ms. Aldrich did not properly update her will.

The assets named in the will went to Ms. Aldrich’s brother, but the template she used did not include a residuary clause, which establishes where unnamed assets should go. There was no way for Ms. Aldrich to know that this was missing from the Will because she was not a lawyer, nor was she truly educated about such matters. Most people are not, nor should they be.

As a result and without a residuary clause, the unnamed assets Ms. Aldrich acquired after the creation of the will passed under Florida’s intestacy laws and into the hands of her nieces, children of another pre-deceased sibling, instead of to her brother, as she seemed to have wanted.

This, of course, after a long, expensive and unnecessary court battle between the nieces and Ms. Aldrich’s brother.

Services like E-Z Legal Forms do not provide personal legal advice or ongoing legal support. Had Ms. Aldrich worked with an estate lawyer to craft—and then update—her planning, she would have left her brother an inheritance of love, rather than a nightmare of time, money and heartache.

This is an important lesson to learn because people too often create their will without having a lawyer review it and then forget to update it as loved ones pass on and new assets are acquired. In the end, their wishes aren’t honored because they weren’t clearly defined, leaving the matter in the hands of the probate court.

If you’re ready to develop a sound estate plan that will leave a legacy of true love, start by sitting down with us. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can help you with your legal planning needs. Our Family Wealth Planning Session guides you to protect and preserve what matters most. Before the session, we’ll send you a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment to complete that will get you thinking about what you own, what’s most important to you, and what you can do to ensure your family is taken care of.

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 get this $750 session at no charge.

Planning for Unmarried Couples

marriage.pWhile the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision to legalize same-sex marriage in the U.S. making it possible for people of all sexual orientations to marry, many modern couples (of all genders and sexual orientation) still choose against marriage.

If you are thinking about whether or not to legally get married, be sure to consider these important factors:

Unmarried couples need financial and legal protections in place, to ensure you and your loved ones are taken care of if you become incapacitated or when you die.

Imagine this: your partner is hospitalized and you can’t help make medical decisions or even get in to even see him or her because you aren’t married; or your partner needs a family member to make important legal or financial decisions, but it can’t be you because you aren’t considered a relative without marriage. If you decide you don’t want to get married, call us right away to get the legal documentation you’ll need to validate and protect your rights.

Do you and your partner own property together?  Have you considered what would happen if you and your partner don’t own your home with right of survivorship or if your partner is on the lease or the owner of the home and he or she becomes incapacitated or dies?  In the midst of grieving your loss, you could also lose your home!  But you don’t have to! Legal documents can remedy this.

While legally married partners need many of the same financial and legal protections in place, the law does provide some defaults that will provide protection and access to a “legal” spouse that are not given to an unmarried partner.  While these default provisions are insufficient and probably not what you’d really want, it’s better than nothing at all.  Unmarried partners don’t even get those basic default provisions.  You could actually lose not only your home, but your “joint” furnishings, appliances and other belongings.

Here’s the bottom line: if you are committed to your partner, and want your partner to make legal and financial decisions for you and to have access to some or all of your assets in the event of your incapacity or at the time of your death, whether you are a married couple or unmarried couple,  you need legal and financial planning that ensures your partner has easy access to everything you choose.

We can help protect you.   That’s what we do for you and your family.  We provide strategy, protections and solutions for our clients!

If you’re ready to ensure your loved ones have the legal benefits and financial protections they deserve, consider sitting down with us. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can help you with your legal planning needs. Our Family Wealth Planning Session guides you to protect and preserve what matters most.  Before the session, we’ll send you a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment to complete that will help you get financially organized.  We’ve even had a client tell us she found money that she forgot she had just by going through our process.

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.

 

Planning Pays Off: An Illustrative Look at Carrie Fisher’s Semi-Failed Estate Plan

2104227176_f8c6b6a9e6_zWhether your estate is modest or movie star worthy, the value of a good estate plan, properly handled, cannot be underestimated. A comprehensive plan can mean the difference between an expensive and unnecessary “time spent in court headache” for your loved ones or an easy “in your lawyer’s office” transition that allows your family time to grieve in peace.

When a high profile celebrity passes away, we can learn a lot about the value of careful planning when using their estate plan as a case study.

Carrie Fisher is one of the celebrities whose proactive, yet faulty, planning gives us an excellent example to illustrate some key points that are important for you to understand for your family.

Even though Carrie Fisher worked with some of the best (read: most expensive) lawyers in Los Angeles, and she had created a trust to hold her assets, her estate plan failed, in our opinion, because it didn’t keep her assets out of court and passing privately to her heir, Billie Catherine Lourd.

Instead, Fisher’s lawyer created a Trust, and never ensured Fisher’s assets were transferred into the Trust. And while you may think this is malpractice on the lawyer’s part, it’s actually common practice.

We see this all the time when clients come to us with prior prepared estate plans — they’ve got beautiful documents that will not work when their families need them because their assets were never properly inventoried and transferred.

Fisher’s death brings this major issue in estate planning to light. As a result, Fisher’s Trustee, Dennis King, had to file a petition in probate court seeking to have Fisher’s assets transferred into her Trust.

The whole point of creating a Trust is to keep your family out of court and keep your affairs totally private.

Because Fisher’s Trust was not properly funded (the legal terminology for making sure your assets are transferred into Trust so you can keep everything private and out of court), all of her assets and who will receive them have been made public.

As a result, we know that Fisher left her estate to her daughter, Billie Lourd, and that it included cash accounts, several LLCs, real estate, a life insurance policy, personal belongings, and intellectual property rights. Having this information public leaves Lourd at risk. Unscrupulous parties now have access to details they wouldn’t otherwise know.

This is exactly why a key part of our planning process is a thorough inventory of your assets, ensuring your assets are transferred into your trust (if you choose to keep your family out of court) and then a review of your assets and planning documents at least every three years, if not annually.

Proper estate planning can keep your family out of court and  save your family precious time and money in the process. If you’re ready to create a comprehensive estate plan, start by sitting down with us, your Personal Family Lawyer®. And, if you already have a plan in place, contact us to have it reviewed.

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.