Vanessa Bryant Asks Judge To Include Daughter Capri In Kobe ...

 

In January, I wrote about how the deaths of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Brianna, demonstrated the vital need for estate planning for people of all ages. At the time, little was known about the planning strategies Kobe had in place to protect and preserve his estimated $600 million estate for his wife, Vanessa, and three surviving  daughters, Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.

Since then, court filings made by Kobe’s widow have shed light on both the successes and failures of Kobe’s estate planning efforts. On the positive side, Kobe created an extensive estate plan, which included the Kobe Bryant Trust to protect his assets, reduce estate-tax liability, and pass on his wealth to his family.

While the contents of the trust remain private (one of the many benefits of this type of estate planning!), the court documents do provide a summary of the trust’s terms. Upon Kobe’s death, the trust was set up to allow Vanessa and her daughters to draw from the principal and income of the trust’s assets during Vanessa’s lifetime, with the remainder going to their children upon Vanessa’s death.

However, while the trust lists Vanessa and his oldest daughters Natalia, Brianna (who died in the crash with her father), and Bianka as beneficiaries, his youngest daughter, Capri, who was born just six months before Kobe’s death, was not included in the document. Reportedly, Kobe and his lawyers simply never got around to amending the trust to add Capri before his untimely death at age 41.

 

A tragic oversight
Seeking to fix this oversight, Vanessa Bryant and Kobe’s best friend Robert Pelinka, Jr.—who were named Co-Trustees—petitioned the Los Angeles probate court to modify the trust by adding Capri as a beneficiary with equal rights as her sisters. Unless the court agrees with the petition, Capri will be ineligible to inherit her share of the family estate held in the trust, which could amount to wealth and assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

 

According to the petition, the trust was created in 2003 after the birth of the couple’s first child, Natalia, and its intent was to provide for the support of Vanessa and all of the couple’s children following Kobe’s death. As evidence of this intent, the petition points out the fact that Kobe amended the trust to add daughters Brianna and Bianka after they were born.

Although it’s likely the court will agree to the trust’s modification to include Capri, the fact remains that Kobe and his legal team made a major error by not updating his plan immediately following her birth. This mistake has undoubtedly cost Vanessa not only hefty sums of money in legal fees and court costs, but it also eliminated the trust’s biggest benefits by failing to keep Kobe’s surviving family members out of court and conflict, as well as exposing many of the estate’s details to the public.

And the most unfortunate part of the whole situation is just how easily this oversight could have been avoided.

 

Stay up to date
It’s a popular myth that estate planning is simply a matter of creating the proper documents, filing those documents away for safekeeping, and only revisiting them upon the creator’s incapacity or death. However, this is far from the truth. Indeed, this oversight by Kobe’s lawyers illustrates why most plans—even those created by multi-millionaires—fail to keep families out of court and out of conflict. And though Kobe’s family can easily absorb these costs, your family probably can’t without significant impact.

As Kobe’s case shows, even the most well-intentioned plan can prove ineffective if it’s not regularly updated. Estate planning is not a one-and-done type of deal—your plan must continuously evolve to keep pace with changes in your family structure, the legal landscape, your assets, and your life goals.

And unfortunately, this kind of thing happens all the time. In fact, outside of not creating any estate plan at all, one of the most common planning mistakes we encounter is when we get called by the loved ones of someone who has become incapacitated or died with a plan that no longer works because it was never updated. Unfortunately, by the time they contact us, it’s too late.

We recommend you review your plan at least every 3 years to make sure it’s up to date, and immediately modify your plan following events like births, deaths, divorce, and inheritances.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

 

 

 

 

Arizona Family Court – Changes During the COVID-19 Pandemic

 

 

 

If you have a blended family and do not plan for what happens to your assets in the event of your incapacity or death, you are almost certainly guaranteeing hurt feelings, conflict, and maybe even a long, drawn out court battle.

 

So let’s start with clarity around what a blended family is and whether you have one. If you have stepchildren, or children from a prior marriage, or other people you consider “kin” who are not considered legal relatives in the eyes of the law, you’ve got a blended family.

 

Bottom line: if you have a blended family, you need an estate plan, and not just a will you created for yourself online, or a trust that isn’t specifically and intentionally designed to keep your family out of court and out of conflict. Period. End of story. Unless you are okay with setting your loved ones up for unnecessary heartache, confusion, and pain when something happens to you.

 

What Will the Law Do?

“Blended Families, once considered “non-traditional” families are swiftly becoming the norm. Currently 52% of married couples (or unmarried couples who live together) have a stepkin relationship of some kind, and 4 in 10 new marriages involve remarriage. So, clearly, this is no longer “non-traditional” but quite traditional, though our laws about what happens if you become incapacitated or die are still very much based on tradition.

 

Every state has different provisions for what happens when you become incapacitated or die, and the laws of California may not necessarily match your wishes.

 

For example, in California, all community property assets would go to your surviving spouse, and separate property assets would be distributed partially to a surviving spouse and partially to children, if living, in amounts depending on the number of surviving children.

 

This may not result in the outcome you want for your loved ones, especially if you have a blended family situation. If you have something different in mind as to how you would want things to go, there is good news. The state of California allows you to circumvent those laws, but only if you have an alternate plan in place BEFORE your incapacity or death.

 

Even within “traditional” families, I want to emphasize that having a full plan is the best way to provide for your loved ones. However, with “blended” families, carefully considered estate plans are often even more vital to avoid massive misunderstanding and conflict, and having your assets tied up in court instead of going to the people you want to receive them.

 

Disputes Between Spouse and Children from Previous Marriage

One of the most common problems that arises in a blended family is that the deceased’s children from a prior marriage and the surviving spouse end up in conflict. The courts are filled with these kinds of cases. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

 

When you’re considering all of this for the people you love, it’s important to have a trusted advisor who can help you look at the reality of what will happen if you become incapacitated or when you die. With the complexities of modern families, it’s far better to know and plan than to leave it up to the law or a court to decide. That way, not only do the people you love get the assets that you want them to receive, but you will also be saving them from years of potential legal conflict.

 

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

 

 

 

 

Right now, huge numbers of people are coming face to face with their own mortality, and realizing they need to plan for the worst. This goes not just for those in the “senior” category, but for all of us, no matter our age. We are facing the reality of our mortality, and many of us are doing it courageously by taking this as an opportunity to learn what we need to do for the people we love.

Recently I heard a tragic story from a colleague whose client lost her fiancé to COVID-19. Because she wasn’t listed on her fiancé’s health directive and HIPAA waiver, she could not get anyone to update her on his condition once he entered the hospital.

Naturally, she didn’t give up trying, and eventually someone told her that he wasn’t in the ICU anymore. She was enormously relieved, but when she hadn’t heard anything else by the next day, she called again for news. Finally, after being transferred several times, she learned that the reason her fiancé wasn’t in the ICU was because he was in the morgue. He’d passed away the day before, and no one had told her. Heartbreaking.

Nobody expects something like this to happen, especially to people who are healthy and making plans for their own futures. But sometimes the worst does happen, and if it does, you want the people you love to be able to grieve properly, without leaving them with a mess of confusion on top of it all.

Now, think about your own situation. What will happen to your loved ones, and the assets you’ll leave behind, if you become sick or die?

Without a doubt, you’d want to ensure certain people in your life are informed if you have to go to the hospital and kept up to date on your condition while you are there. You’d also probably want to avoid them having to go through a drawn-out court process to handle your estate after your death or save them from the fate of not being able to access your assets if you are hospitalized. This article is all about you having the tools you need to make sure everything is in place to do the right thing for the people you love, just in case something happens to you.

Covering the Bases
First, you need to have a worst-case scenario conversation with your family. A lot of people try to avoid conversations about death, but the fact is, we will all die. It’s better to face that with those we love so that when the time comes, we will be as ready as we can be, and so will they.

Create an Asset Inventory
This is something you can get started on right now, by yourself, without the help of a lawyer. It is a great resource to leave for your loved ones so they know where to find everything that is important to you, and will be important to them, if something happens to you.

First, get out your calendar and schedule an appointment with yourself. Set aside an hour or so to put all your asset information in one place (we use a spreadsheet when we do this for clients): real estate, bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance, stocks, bonds, business interests, etc.

Update Your Health Care Directive
This is extremely important if you want your loved ones to avoid the tragic situation my colleague’s client found herself in. Do NOT delay reviewing and updating these documents.

Your Health Care Directive should have three parts:

  • A Living Will/ Medical Directive, which states how you want decisions to be made for you.
  • A Medical Power of Attorney, which states who should make these decisions if you can’t make them yourself.
  • A HIPAA Release that allows medical professionals to disclose information to your Medical Power of Attorney/Agent.

Name Legal Guardians for Your Kids
A very important thing for all parents of minor children to do is name legal guardians for your children. Think about what would happen to them right now if something were to happen to you, for both the long term and the immediate future. This is the single most important thing parents of minor children should do because it would have the greatest impact on – or leave the biggest hole for – our minor children if something happens to us.

Going Beyond Just the Basics
The goal in setting up an estate plan is, ultimately, to keep your loved ones out of court and out of conflict. To do that, you must make the right decisions during the planning process, retitle assets so they are protected by your plan, and ensure your plan stays up to date for the rest of your life.

Estate planning is all about merging your family dynamics, assets (both material and non-material), and the law into a cohesive plan which accomplishes all that you really want to do for the people you love.

If you are ready to face your mortality courageously and want to ensure your family is protected and provided for no matter what, don’t wait. Get the help of a professional (someone who’s providing virtual planning sessions) and get started now.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, And Economic Security Act Badges: Pile of CARES Act Buttons With US Flag, 3d illustration

It’s the beginning of the month, and bills are coming due. If you are stressed out, it’s important that you know where and how to get access to financial relief. Please consider this not only for yourself, but for your adult children and elderly parents, too, even if you do not need it for yourself.

On March 27, President Trump signed a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill into law that will hopefully provide some relief for many, perhaps including you. The CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) sends money directly to Americans, expands unemployment coverage, and funds loans and grants for small businesses. So, let’s look at how you can access these funds.

Who gets direct stimulus money and how much do they get?
All eligible adults who have a Social Security Number, filed tax returns in 2018 and/or 2019 will automatically get a $1,200 direct stimulus deposit from the government within a particular income bracket. This is true whether you have been laid off, are currently employed, or are currently self-employed or an independent contractor.

To get the full amount:

  • A single adult must have an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less.
  • Married couples with no children must earn $150,000 or less for a combined total stimulus of $2,400.
  • Every qualifying child 16 or under adds $500 to a family’s direct stimulus.
  • If you have filed as head of household, have dependents, and earned $112,500 when you last filed, you will get the full payment.

This payment is not considered income—it’s essentially free money from the government. Therefore, it will not be taxed. It also is not a loan, so if you are eligible, you will not be charged interest or expected to pay it back. As of right now, the stimulus is a one-time payment.

Are there exceptions?
Payment decreases and eventually stops for single people earning $99,000 or more or married people who have no children and earn $198,000 annually. Additionally, a family with two children will no longer be eligible for payments if their income is over $218,000.

If you are an adult claimed on your parent’s tax return, you do not get the $1,200.

What do I need to do to get my stimulus money?
For most people, no action is necessary. If the IRS has your bank account information already, it will transfer the money to you via direct deposit. If, however, you need to update your bank account information, the IRS has posted on their website that they are in the process of building an online portal where you can do so.

An important note: if you have not filed a tax return in the past couple of years, or you don’t usually need to file one, you should file a “simple tax return” showing whatever income you did have, so you can qualify for these benefits.

 You can continue to check for updates on how to make sure you get your payment by regularly checking for updates on their Coronavirus Tax Relief page.  https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus

When will that money come through?
Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin says that he expects most people will get their payments by Friday, April 17th, though other sources say that it could take up to 4–8 weeks.

Loans (and Grant Money) for Independent Contractors
If you have a business, are an independent contractor or are self-employed, you can apply for loans, and get a $10,000 grant from the government via the CARES Act.

These are Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Please note that there are still elements of these loans that are not fully understood, and we are giving our best legal interpretation based on information from the Small Business Administration and the US Chamber of Commerce.

VERY IMPORTANT: If you apply for EIDL right now, you can claim a $10,000 advance that does not need to be repaid. It’s essentially a grant that can be used to keep your business alive. You can apply for it right here: https://covid19relief.sba.gov/ Do it, now. This is applicable if you are an independent contractor, or a self-employed business owner. Basically, if you file a separate tax return for your business or a Schedule C on your personal tax return, you SHOULD qualify. But please see note above that we don’t really know how all of this will be implemented. What we do believe is that you should get your application in for the EIDL grant money.

The PPP applications will be made through your bank, so contact your banker, if you believe you will need the PPP loan, which will be forgiven if used for payroll specifically in the weeks after receiving the loan funds.

You should have the following information on hand to fill out either of the two loan applications:

  • IRS Form 4506T—Tax Information Authorization—completed and signed by each principal or owner,
  • Recent federal income tax returns,
  • SBA Form 413—Personal Financial Statement,
  • SBA Form 2202—Schedule of Liabilities listing all fixed debts,
  • Any profit and loss statements, recent tax returns, and balance sheets.

Here’s a bit more information about both loan programs.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans (Above and Beyond the $10,000 Grant)
Every state has been declared a disaster area due to COVID-19, and therefore your business may be eligible for an SBA economic injury disaster loan (EIDL). This is a low-interest loan that has terms that can last as long as 30 years, and can provide you with capital loans of up to $2 million and an advance of up to $10,000.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) can be used to cover:

  • Paid sick leave to employees unable to work due to the direct effects of COVID-19,
  • Rent or mortgage payments,
  • Maintaining payroll (to help prevent layoffs and pay cuts),
  • Increased costs due to supply chain disruption,
  • Payment obligations that could not be met due to revenue loss.

Whereas the application used to take hours, it now only takes about 10 minutes to fill out. A couple of important notes, however:

  • SBA loan reps have said that they are focusing on processing applications filed after March 30th, so if you have a confirmation number starting with 2000, you should probably reapply.
  • Be sure to check the box toward the end of the application if you want to be considered for an advance up to $10,000 (as I mentioned at the top of the article, this amount does not need to be repaid and so is essentially a grant!).

You can apply for disaster loan assistance here: https://covid19relief.sba.gov/

Coronavirus Emergency Paycheck Protection Loan
The CARES Act’s $350 billion allocation to small businesses is specifically called the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). It specifically incentivizes borrowers who maintain their payrolls, i.e., don’t lay off their employees. This program will fully forgive loans where at least 75% of the forgiven amount is used to pay employees for the eight weeks following the loan. If you lay off employees or cut salaries and wages, your loan forgiveness will also be reduced.

PPP loans can be used to cover:

  • Payroll costs,
  • Group health care benefits during periods of paid, sick, medical, or family leave, and insurance premiums;
  • Interest on a mortgage obligation,
  • Rent, under lease agreements in force before February 15, 2020,
  • Utilities, for which service began before February 15, 2020,
  • Interest on any debt incurred before February 15, 2020.

Small businesses with less than 500 employees (including sole proprietorships, independent contractors, and those who are self employed) are eligible. You can apply through SBA 7(a) lenders, federally insured credit unions, or participating Farm Credit Systems (ie your bank). Other lenders might be on the scene soon as well, but a lot of them are currently being reviewed for approval to the program.

Full details are available here: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/paycheck-protection-program-ppp

You can also see find a Paycheck Protection Application here, and be prepared when applications open on April 3rd to apply through your local bank: https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/2020-03/Borrower%20Paycheck%20Protection%20Program%20Application_0.pdf.

What if I am not eligible or need more money?
If you don’t qualify for stimulus money, all is not lost. There are several other ways that the CARES Act has made it easier for you to get a short term financial boost.

  1. Unemployment
    The CARES Act has also legally expanded unemployment benefits, expanding them for 13 more weeks and adding an additional $600 per week. Some self-employed, freelance, and independent contractors may be eligible, too. These benefits vary from state to state, and you can find how to apply at the Unemployment Benefits Finder site: https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/UnemploymentBenefits/find-unemployment-benefits.aspx?newsearch=true. Be sure to have your Social Security number, the Social Security numbers for dependents you are claiming, and your driver’s license or state ID handy while you apply.
  2. Private Loans
    If you’re in good standing with your bank, you may be able to get a “bridge loan” extended to you in order to cover your bills. Several major banks have set aside money specifically for the purpose of supplying these loans to customers that they deem eligible for them.
  3. Retirement Account
    If you don’t have another rainy-day savings account, the CARES Act waives the 10% penalty tax that you would normally get for withdrawing money early. The criteria is pretty open-ended, and applies to people who experience financial hardship because of COVID-19 in some way.

If you are experiencing fear about affording to pay your bills, remember that you do have options for accessing savings, loans, and stimulus money. Stay up to date on the above resources, and if you need any help navigating your way through this uncertain period, we are here to help.

Bel well and stay safe.

As you no doubt already know, on January 26, 2020, basketball legend Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash on a wooded hillside 30 miles north of Los Angeles. Also killed in the tragic accident was his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven other passengers who were friends and colleagues of Kobe and his family. Kobe’s survived by his wife Vanessa and three other daughters: Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.  The exact cause of the crash remains under investigation.

Kobe’s sudden death at age 41 has led to a huge outpouring of grief from fans across the world. Whenever someone so beloved dies so young, it highlights just how critical it is for every adult—but especially those with young children—to create an estate plan to ensure their loved ones are properly protected and provided for when they die or in the event of their incapacity.

While it’s too early to know the exact details of Kobe’s estate plan (and he very well may have planning vehicles in place to keep the public from ever knowing the full details), we can still learn from the issues his family and estate are likely to face in the aftermath of his death. I’m covering these issues in hopes that it will inspire you to remember that life is not guaranteed, every day is a gift, and your loved ones are counting on you to do the right thing for them now.

Kobe’s sports and business empire
Between his salary and endorsements during his 20-year career with the L.A. Lakers, Kobe earned an estimated $680 million. And that’s not counting the money he made from his numerous business ventures, licensing rights for his likeness, and extensive venture capital investments following his retirement from the NBA.

Given his business acumen and length of time in the spotlight, it’s highly unlikely Kobe died without at least some planning in place to protect his assets and his family. But even if Kobe did have a plan, when someone so young, wealthy, and successful passes away this unexpectedly in such a terrible accident, his family and estate will almost certainly face some potential threats and complications.

For example, due to his extreme wealth, Kobe likely created trusts and other planning strategies to remove some of his assets from his estate in order to reduce his federal estate-tax liability. However, because he was so young and still actively involved in numerous business ventures, it’s quite unlikely that all—or even the majority—of his assets had been fully transferred into those protective planning vehicles.

And seeing that Kobe owned the helicopter and the weather at the time was poor (many other flights had already been grounded), there’s also the real potential that the families of those killed in the crash will file civil lawsuits against his estate. Regardless of how extensive Kobe’s estate plan is, it’s doubtful that the lawyers who drafted his plan considered the possibility of so many potential wrongful-death lawsuits.

Here’s the bottom line: the post-death handling of Kobe’s affairs is surely going to be complicated. Though you almost certainly don’t have a Kobe-size estate to pass on, that makes it even more important for you to handle your planning—and really get it done right. Kobe’s family can afford years in court, lawyers upon lawyers, and a loss of some assets to taxes and lawsuits. Your family, on the other hand, probably cannot.

Trusted support when it’s needed most
Since Kobe’s wife Vanessa survives him, and it’s been widely reported that they married without a prenuptial agreement, it’s most likely that she will inherit everything. And due to the “spousal exemption,” those assets will pass to her tax free. Yet despite the protection from estate taxes, if she does inherit everything directly, all the estate-planning, financial-planning, business-management, and wealth-preservation responsibilities for Kobe’s immense fortune will now pass to Vanessa.

That’s an overwhelming responsibility, especially while she’s mourning the loss of both her husband and child, as well as parenting three other daughters who’ve just lost their father and sister. Given the vast scope of Kobe’s estate, ongoing business ventures, and likelihood of lawsuits and other legal complications, Vanessa will need the advice and support of her trusted counsel now more than ever. And I do hope she has that support, and that it was established well before this point in time.

Unfortunately, many estate planning firms do not engage with the whole family when creating estate plans and the associated legal documents, leaving the spouse and other family members largely out of the loop. Though we can’t know if this was the case with Kobe’s lawyers, such situations occur frequently enough that there’s a real possibility this could be true for Vanessa as well.

Don’t let such a scenario be true for your family. There is immense value in not only getting your estate planning handled now, but also in accomplishing that with a family-centered law firm as your partner.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

Both wills and trusts are estate planning documents that can be used to pass your wealth and property to your loved ones upon your death. However, trusts come with some distinct advantages over wills that you should consider when creating your plan.

That said, when comparing the two planning tools, you won’t necessarily be choosing between one or the other—most plans include both. Indeed, a will is a foundational part of every person’s estate plan, but you may want to combine your will with a living trust to avoid the blind spots inherent in plans that rely solely on a will.

Here are four reasons you might want to consider adding a trust to your estate plan:

1. Avoidance of probate

One of the primary advantages a living trust has over a will is that a living trust does not have to go through probate. Probate is the court process through which assets left in your will are distributed to your heirs upon your death.

During probate, the court oversees your will’s administration, ensuring your property is distributed according to your wishes, with automatic supervision to handle any disputes. Probate proceedings can drag out for months or even years, and your family will likely have to hire an attorney to represent them, which can result in costly legal fees that can drain your estate.

Bottom line: If your estate plan consists of a will alone, you are guaranteeing your family will have to go to court if you become incapacitated or when you die.

However, if your assets are titled properly in the name of your living trust, your family could avoid court altogether. In fact, assets held in a trust pass directly to your loved ones upon your death, without the need for any court intervention whatsoever. This can save your loved ones major time, money, and stress while dealing with the aftermath of your death.

2. Privacy
Probate is not only costly and time consuming, it’s also public. Once in probate, your will becomes part of the public record. This means anyone who’s interested can see the contents of your estate, who your beneficiaries are, as well as what and how much your loved ones inherit, making them tempting targets for frauds and scammers.

Using a living trust, the distribution of your assets can happen in the privacy of our office, so the contents and terms of your trust will remain completely private. The only instance in which your trust would become open to the public is if someone challenges the document in court.

3. A plan for incapacity
A will only governs the distribution of your assets upon your death. It offers zero protection if you become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions about your own medical, financial, and legal needs. If you become incapacitated with only a will in place, your family will have to petition the court to appoint a guardian to handle your affairs.

Like probate, guardianship proceedings can be extremely costly, time consuming, and emotional for your loved ones. And there’s always the possibility that the court could appoint a family member you’d never want making such critical decisions on your behalf. Or the court might even select a professional guardian, putting a total stranger in control of just about every aspect of your life.

With a living trust, however, you can include provisions that appoint someone of your choosing—not the court’s—to handle your assets if you’re unable to do so. Combined with a well-drafted medical power of attorney and living will, a trust can keep your family out of court and conflict in the event of your incapacity.

4. Enhanced control over asset distribution
Another advantage a trust has over just having a will is the level of control they offer you when it comes to distributing assets to your heirs. By using a trust, you can specify when and how your heirs will receive your assets after your death.

For example, you could stipulate in the trust’s terms that the assets can only be distributed upon certain life events, such as the completion of college or purchase of a home. Or you might spread out distribution of assets over your beneficiary’s lifetime, releasing a percentage of the assets at different ages or life stages.

In this way, you can help prevent your beneficiaries from blowing through their inheritance all at once and offer incentives for them to demonstrate responsible behavior. Plus, if the assets are held in trust, they’re protected from the beneficiaries’ creditors, lawsuits, and divorce, which is something else wills don’t provide.

If, for some reason, you do not want a living trust, you can use a testamentary trust to establish trusts in your will. A testamentary trust will not keep your family out of court, but it can allow you to control how and when your heirs receive your assets after your death.

An informed decision
The best way for you to determine whether your estate plan should include a living trust, a testamentary trust, or no trust at all is to meet with a trusted estate planning attorney. Sitting down with your Personal Family Attorney to discuss your family’s planning needs will empower you to feel 100% confident that you have the right combination of planning solutions in place for your family’s unique circumstances.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

As a parent, you’re likely hoping to leave your children an inheritance. But without taking the proper precautions, the wealth you pass on is at serious risk of being accidentally lost or squandered. In some instances, an inheritance can even wind up doing your kids more harm than good.

Creating a will or a revocable living trust offers some protection, but in most cases, you’ll be guided to distribute assets through your will or trust to your children at specific ages and stages, such as one-third at age 25, half the balance at 30, and the rest at 35.

If you’ve created estate planning documents, check to see if this is how your will or trust leaves assets to your children. If so, you may not have been told about another option that can give your children access, control, and airtight asset protection for whatever assets they inherit from you.

A Lifetime Asset Protection Trust safeguards the inheritance from being lost to common life events, such as divorce, serious illness, lawsuits, or even bankruptcy.

But that’s not all they do.

Indeed, the best part of these trusts is that they offer you—and your kids—the best of both worlds: airtight asset protection AND use and control of the inheritance. What’s more, you can even use the trust to incentivize your children to invest and grow their inheritance.

Not all trusts are created equal
Most lawyers will advise you to put the assets you’re leaving your kids in a revocable living trust—and this is the right move. But most lawyers would structure the trust to distribute those assets outright to your children at certain ages or stages.

And if you’ve used an online do-it-yourself will or trust-preparation service like LegalZoom®, Rocket Lawyer,® or any of the newer options frequently coming online now, you will most likely be offered only two options: outright distribution of the entire inheritance to your kids when you die, or partial distributions when they reach specific ages and stages as described above.

Either of those options leaves their inheritance—and your hard-earned and well-saved money—at risk. Indeed, once assets pass into your child’s name, all the protection previously offered by your trust disappears.

For example, say your son racked up debt while in college, which can sometimes happen. If he were to receive one-third of his inheritance at age 25, creditors could take his inheritance if it’s paid to him in an outright distribution.

The same thing would be true if your daughter gets a divorce after receiving her inheritance, only it would be her soon-to-be ex-spouse who would claim a right to the funds in a divorce settlement. And despite what you may have heard about an inheritance remaining separate property, once it’s in your child’s hands, outright and unprotected, those assets are at risk.

There’s just no way to foresee what the future has in store for your kids—these kind of events happen to families every day. And that’s not even taking into consideration that your kids might simply blow through the money and spend it all on unnecessary luxuries.

Airtight asset protection—and easy access
Lifetime Asset Protection Trusts are specifically designed to prevent your hard-earned assets from being wiped out by such risks. And at the same time, your children will still be able to use and invest the funds held in trust as needed.  

For example, even though the assets are held in trust, your kids would be able to invest those funds in things like stocks, a business, or real estate, provided they do so in the name of the trust. Plus, if your child needs to pull money out to pay for college, a new home, or medical bills, they can do that by asking a Trustee—who’s chosen by you to oversee the money—for a distribution.

Or, as will cover next week, you may even allow your child to become Sole Trustee at some point in the future, allowing him or her to make decisions about the trust’s management.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

When you think about those loved ones who’ve passed away, you probably don’t think very much—or even at all—about the “things” they’ve left you. And when they do leave something behind, what you likely cherish most about the object are the memories and feelings it evokes, not the thing itself.

Preserving your intangible assets
We recognize that estate planning isn’t just about preserving and passing on your financial wealth and property when you die. When done right, planning allows you to share your family’s stories, values, and life lessons, so your legacy carries on long after you—and your money—are gone. 

“Priceless Conversations” is part of a process that’s designed to not only ensure these intangible assets never get lost, but also to make the process of documenting them as easy and convenient as possible. In this process, we guide clients to create a customized recording in which they share their most insightful memories and life lessons, not just for their children and grandchildren, but for generations to come. My favorite part about this process is that most of our clients tell us that going through it helps them surface things they would have never thought about regarding how they want to parent differently or things they want to share now, during life, not just leave behind a lasting legacy of love.

To help inspire clients, we’ve developed a series of helpful questions and prompts, which makes the process not only easy, but enjoyable. And this isn’t something you have to do on your own, which you’d probably never get around to doing, despite your best intentions. Instead, this is something we include as an integral part of our planning services—and it’s included at no extra charge with each plan we create.

In the end, your family’s most precious wealth is not money, but the memories you make, the values you instill, and the lessons you hand down. And left to chance, these assets are likely to be lost forever.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

What if you could leave your wealth to your children knowing it would be protected, for the rest of their lives, from their own bad decisions as well as any malicious intent by outsiders? Well, you can.

There are proactive estate planning solutions designed to safeguard your adult children’s inheritance. And these planning protections aren’t just for the extraordinarily rich—even relatively modest amounts of wealth can be squandered or taken if not adequately protected.

Indeed, the planning strategies we describe here can safeguard your child’s inheritance from being depleted by events such as a divorce, a catastrophic medical expense, an at-fault accident, or even a simple mistake. You just never know what life has in store for your heirs, and our planning protections can ensure their inheritance is protected from practically all potential threats—even those you could never possibly imagine.
 
Big money can cause big problems
“Big” money is relative.  What might be a modest inheritance to a 50-year old could be an enormous windfall to an 18-year old.  And there are stories upon stories of heirs being negatively impacted by inheriting too much money at a young age. These cases occur quite often, and no matter how well adjusted your children or grandchildren may seem, there’s just no way to accurately predict how their inheritance will affect them.

One unique planning vehicle designed to prevent the potential perils of outright distributions is a Lifetime Asset Protection Trust (LAPT). These trusts last for the lifetime of their respective beneficiaries and provide them with a unique and priceless gift. With an LAPT, for instance, the beneficiary can use and invest the trust assets, yet at the same time, the trust offers airtight asset protection from unexpected life events, such as a lawsuit or serious debt, which have the potential to wipe out their inheritance.

Help your heirs handle their inheritance

When drafted properly, an LAPT can be used to educate your beneficiary on how to handle their inheritance. This is done by allowing the beneficiary to become a co-trustee with someone you’ve named at a specific age or stage of life, and then the beneficiary can become the sole trustee later in life, once he or she has been properly educated and is ready to take over.

The LAPT is discretionary, which means that the trust would not only protect your heir from outside threats, like creditors and ex-spouses, but also from their own mistakes. The trustee you name holds the trust’s assets upon your death. This gives the person you choose the power to distribute its assets to the beneficiary at their discretion, rather than requiring him or her to release the assets in more structured ways, such as in staggered distributions at certain ages.

Your direction and guidance are paramount
Many of our clients choose to provide guidelines directing the trustee on how the client would choose to make distributions in many different scenarios, such as for the purchase of a home, a wedding, the start of a business, and/or travel. Some clients choose to provide guidelines around how their successor trustees should make investment decisions, as well.

Meet with your Personal Family Attorney to see if a Lifetime Asset Protection Trust is the right option for protecting your family wealth and loved ones from situations and circumstances (no matter what they may be), which are simply impossible to foresee. Don’t have a Personal Family Attorney? Contact us today to get your questions answered.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

Marc

Like me, you probably spent lots of time with family and friends over the holidays. And I hope, like me, that time reminded you of just how important and special these relationships can be.

Though you might not realize it, estate planning has the potential to enhance those relationships in some major ways. Planning requires you to closely consider your relationships with family and friends—past, present, and future—like never before. Indeed, the process can be the ultimate forum for heartfelt communication, fostering a deeper bond and sense of intimacy, and prioritizing what matters most in life.

Here are just a few of the valuable ways estate planning can improve the relationships you cherish most:

1) It shows you sincerely care
Taking the time and effort to carefully plan for what will happen to you in the event of your incapacity or death is a genuine demonstration of your love. It would be far easier to do nothing and simply let you family and friends figure it out for themselves. After all, you won’t be around to deal with any of the fallout.

Planning in advance, though, shows that you truly care about the welfare of your loved ones. Such selfless concern and forethought equates to nothing less than a final expression of your unconditional love.

2) It inspires honest communication about difficult issues
Sitting down and having an honest discussion about life’s most taboo subjects—incapacity and death—is almost certain to bring you and your loved ones closer. By facing immortality together, planning has a way of highlighting what’s really important in life—and what’s not.

In fact, our clients consistently share that after going through our estate planning process they feel more connected to the people they love the most. And they also feel clearer about the lives they want to live during the fleeting time we have here on earth.

Planning offers the opportunity to talk openly about matters you may not have even considered. When it comes to choices about distributing assets and naming executors and trustees, you’ll have a chance to engage in frank discussions about why you made the choices you did. And that may just be the first step in actively addressing and healing any problems that may be lurking under the surface of your relationships.

3) It builds a deep sense of trust and respect
Whether it’s the individuals you name as your children’s legal guardians or those you nominate to handle your own end-of-life care, estate planning shows your loved ones just how much you trust and admire them. What greater honor can you bestow upon another than putting your own life and those of your children in their hands?

Though it’s often challenging to verbally express how much you love your family and friends, estate planning demonstrates your affection in a truly tangible way. And once these people see exactly how much you value them, it can foster a deepening of your relationship with one another.

4) It creates a lasting legacy
While estate planning is primarily viewed as a way to pass on your financial wealth and property, it can offer your loved ones much more than just financial security. When done right, it also lets you hand down the most precious assets of all—your life stories, lessons, and values.

In fact, the wisdom and experience you’ve gained during your lifetime are among the most treasured gifts you can give. Left to chance, these gifts are often lost forever. Considering this, our planning process includes a means of preserving and passing on these intangible assets.

We guide clients to create a customized video in which they share their most insightful memories and experiences with those they’re leaving behind. This not only ensures our clients are able to say everything that needs to be said, but that their legacy carries on long after they—and their money—are gone.

The heart of the matter
Estate planning doesn’t have to be a dreary and depressing affair. When done right, it can put your life and relationships into a much clearer focus and ultimately be a tremendously uplifting experience for everyone involved. Contact us today to learn more.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,