April 15

New Parents’ Guide to Estate Planning

New Parents’ Guide to Estate Planning

New parents are excited, nervous and ultimately, overwhelmed. Oftentimes, it seems easier for them to fret about the smaller things in raising a child, rather than addressing the truly important aspects of providing for a family. Fortunately, there are simple steps that you can make to ensure that your family will be prepared to manage and overcome many of life’s obstacles. Designing an “estate plan” is the first step that allows sleep deprived parents to rest more easily.

What is an Estate Plan?

Generally, an estate plan involves the creation of legal documents such as a Last Will and Testament or Trust, which allows for, among other things, the: (a) the transfer of property upon an individual’s death or incapacitation; (b) the designation of guardians for children; (c) the determination of who may make medical decisions for incapacitated persons; and (d) minimize any tax obligations. Please visit our previous article “When to Start Planning Your Estate” to learn more.

Benefits for Parents

Guardianship: Regardless of whether your plan centers around a Last Will and Testament or Trust, there are common benefits that each has to offer. Perhaps most importantly, parents may appoint the person that will take care of their minor or special needs child in the event of their passing. Otherwise, a judge unfamiliar with the child’s needs, as well as any unique family dynamics, will make the determination without your guidance.

Customization: A significant benefit of an estate plan is that a Last Will and Testament or Trust may specify the specific disposition of the parent’s property. Alternatively, if a properly executed estate document does not exist, the state’s laws will control what happens. This usually results in an undesired, disproportionate outcome. With a proper plan in place, provisions can set forth what should happen in any number of events. For instance, upon the death of one spouse, should all of the decedent’s assets go to the surviving spouse? Should most go to the spouse with the remainder to the child? What if the child is only 14 years old and a minor? Should funds remain in an account until the minor reaches a certain age? Who controls the account? In short, customization of your plan allows for ingenuity and the outcome you wish to have.

Asset Protection: A properly drafted estate plan, ordinarily consisting of a Revocable Trust, can provide for the protection of assets inherited by your beneficiaries. Specifically, Trusts may prevent divorce, lawsuits, and other creditor situations from acquiring the assets you earned and gave to your loved ones. Another important consideration is a child with special needs or substance abuse problems. Estate planning accounts for these circumstances and ensures that assets are responsibly managed and provided to beneficiaries for use in a manner consistent with your wishes.

Other Advantages

There are several other advantages to estate planning. Convenience in the administration of one’s estate is another reason to create a Will or Trust. The time after a loved one’s passing is very difficult for family members. A well-drafted estate plan can prevent many of the unnecessary, time consuming, expensive and frustrating aspects of administering the decedent’s estate in court. A final positive aspect of creating a plan is the potential to minimize any state or federal tax owed upon your death, thereby allowing your beneficiaries to get the most out of what is rightfully theirs.

How to Begin

Estate planning is a nuanced area of law and it is highly recommended that you retain an experienced attorney. The attorneys at Wiley Etter, LLC provide exemplary estate and business planning services in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. Our lawyers are available today to provide no-nonsense, custom tailored advice.

Contact Us Today!

February 11

Make Difficult Decisions in Times of Peace, not Tragedy

Making difficult decisions that affect your family is challenging. When those decisions are about money, the stress could be even greater. Adding a significant amount of emotion to the process of decision making hinders your ability to think clearly and objectively about the consequences, benefits, drawbacks, and opportunities that accompany each choice.

There are factors that influence a person’s ability to make good decisions. Being well rested, having just eaten, and remaining analytical instead of emotional are all important to critical thinking. However, one of the biggest factors is the amount of serotonin in your brain. Researchers say that it’s best to make decisions in the morning, while serotonin levels are at their highest. As the day goes on, we often feel indecisive, or unwilling to make difficult decisions. This is in part why stereotypical 2:00am coffee-induced studying sessions are not effective when it comes to learning new material.

When a loved one dies, our lives are thrown out of balance and our body and mind scramble to cope with the loss. During times of tragedy and sadness, it’s more likely for people to be emotional than analytical, to be tired instead of well-rested, and to generally not be at their best when it comes to their physical and mental health. When people experience grief, their serotonin falls below the typical levels in their brain, rendering them less capable of quick, thoughtful decision making. When we experience loss, many of the faculties that are required to make difficult decisions are hindered.

Imagine that you are back in school and have a big exam coming up, but a tragedy occurs the day before the test. If you are caught up with all the reading required for the class, and have studied the material thoroughly before the tragedy, while the circumstances aren’t ideal, you’d likely be able to navigate your way through the exam because you prepared prior to your loss. However, if you hadn’t studied and were completely unprepared for the exam, and then a tragedy occurred, it would be extremely unlikely that you’d be able to put aside your grief to study and learn all the new material to receive a passing grade.

Wiley Etter, LLC supports clients in making difficult decisions, not just during times of tragedy and loss, but well before that. We provide clients the chance to check a difficult item off the list of situations that must be taken care of after a death in the family. We can provide stability and a plan moving forward during a time of disarray. We encourage our clients to not wait until they’re sad and distracted to make difficult financial decisions, but rather to consider all available options while they’re healthy and clear-headed.

November 30

Fight Anxiety with Preparation

We live in an anxious society. Many of us worry about our families, our jobs, and whether we can make ends meet. Anxiety can manifest itself physically, cognitively, or emotionally – and sometimes, all three. Stress is common, normal, and part of navigating through life. While everyone experiences anxiety for different reasons, these five situations are when it may be the most prevalent:

  • When the outcome is perceived to be important
  • When the situation is new
  •  When there is unpredictability
  • When you feel like you have no control over the outcome
  • When you are dealing with other life stressors at the same time

Think about the most exciting ventures we partake in. Consider events such as starting a family, starting a new job, or traveling. All the best parts of life come with an undertone of anxiety because it’s important to us, it’s new and unpredictable, we don’t always have control over the outcome, and we are always trying to balance everything happening at once.

The key to overcoming anxiety is confidence, and the key to confidence is preparation. Being prepared for life’s unpredictability and making sure your family is taken care of would alleviate your stress on a day-to-day basis. Having a financial game-plan for your family for all scenarios puts you back in control of the most important aspects of your life.

Zack Etter (of https://www.mymentalplaybook.com, Master of Education focusing on sports Psychology and also conveniently Attorney Etter’s little brother) recently worked with a baseball player who was having difficulty hitting a curveball. Would it be sensible to have said, “We better hope the pitchers only throw fastballs?” Of course not. Having a plan in your back pocket for the worst-case scenario, and knowing that when it comes, everything is going to be okay – that’s the best way to minimize anxiety in an unpredictable world.

Wiley Etter, LLC provides clients with the opportunity to ease their anxiety. By preparing for life’s curveballs, we can ensure that your family remains protected! Wiley Etter, LLC focuses its clients to accomplish their strategic goals. Concerned about a partnership dissolution? Sign an operating agreement. Concerned about an unexpected death or disability? Prepare a Revocable Living Trust.

Whatever is causing you anxiety, we believe that meeting with a qualified planning attorney will help reduce your anxiety and help your family thrive! Taking care of your family and finances in a thorough, responsible way, provides unmatched comfort. Let’s turn one of life’s biggest stressors into a positive, freeing experience. You can take the first step to taking better control of your finances today.

Check out, Zack Etter’s new book https://www.mymentalplaybook.com/ and ask yourself, how will sports analogies help you gain control of your financial future!

August 24

What Happens When I Die Without a Will?

There is a common myth that if you die without a Last Will & Testament, or another estate planning device, that the government will take all your assets. With the exception of rare circumstances, the government does not simply gain a decedent’s assets. Rather, each state has devised its own set of rules that govern where your property will go.

Dying “Intestate”: The Goods News

When someone passes away without a Last Will & Testament, it is said that they die “intestate”. In comparison, a person who dies with a Will is said to have passed away “testate”. In sum, each state has enacted it’s own “intestacy” laws that provide what happens to a person’s property when they die without a Will or other estate plan.

An example of an intestacy law is New York’s EPTL 4-1.1, which provides that if the decedent dies intestate with a spouse and no children, the spouse inherits everything. In the alternative, if there were a surviving spouse and children, the spouse inherits the first $50,000 plus half the balance of the estate assets and the children inherit everything else. In sum, the statue provides different rules for different situations.

Dying “Intestate”: The Bad News

Some may say that the intestacy laws seem to work well for their situation. What if I just have a wife and I want everything to go to her anyway? For a few this might be fine but ordinarily individuals are mistaken and unaware of some of the repercussions of dying intestate.

First, there are potential state and federal tax issues when a person with significant wealth does not properly plan their estate. Similarly, there is limited protection from any possible creditors who may try to make a claim against your assets once they are disclosed in the probate court process.

Second, there is a lack of privacy for anything admitted to probate including a will. However, in many instances a properly constructed “pour over will” and trust can keep your assets out of probate and the public eye. Pour over wills and trusts will be the topic of an another article.

Third, the cost and amount of time spent during the probate process can be exhausting. In most states, there are various fees associated with the admission of intestate or testate estates to the probate court. Further, the role of the court appointed administrator of an intestate estate or an executor of a testate estate oftentimes becomes time consuming, complex and frustrating depending on the amount and nature of the estate property as well as the decedent’s family.

Fourth, in most instances the decedent would like to control where their money and other personal or real property goes and when. Even if you express during your lifetime how you would like your property distributed, it will have no effect because the statements were not made in writing and in conformity with the law. For instance, if a father tells his daughter “I want you to have this antique cabinet” and there was a room full of witnesses, the law still controls where that antique will go.

Lastly, and the most common concern, is that a distant family member comes out of the woodworks in an attempt to stake their claim. Sometimes the law is on their side and the intestacy scheme directs money to an estranged brother, sister etc. Other times, the law is not on their side yet the estate may have to be defended in court, which can cause further costs and complications.

What Can Be Done?

Fortunately, there are several simple ways to make life easier for surviving family members when you pass on. The lawyers at Wiley Etter, LLC are here to assist in the utilization of varying legal devices to ensure that each client can rest easy knowing that their estate and ultimately their loved ones are taken care of now and down the road.
Call us today! (203) 301-8722
Jerome L DiMenna III, Esq.
Wiley Etter, LLC
August 24, 2018

August 24

Estate Planning: When to Start

Many mistakenly believe that they do not need an estate plan. Some assume that they are too young, or that they do not have enough money. However, this could not be further from the truth. Anything can happen, for better or for worse. For this reason, the lawyers at Wiley Etter, LLC are here to assist in the preservation and proper allocation of your property in the present as well as in the future.

What is an Estate Plan?

An “estate plan” is a broad term that essentially entails the preparation of property/asset transfers in anticipation of the incapacitation or death of an individual. The most common device utilized in an estate plan includes a Last Will & Testament or Trust, which in its most basic form instructs an individual “Executor” or “Trustee” how to distribute property to which person once its owner passes on. There are also certain trusts that instruct how property should be allocated during the lifetime of the owner of that property. For instance, a father may create a trust fund for their child that is protected from creditors and will be used for a specific purpose such as a college education. Or, an elderly or disabled individual may place their home “in trust” to become eligible for Medicaid while preserving equity. The topic of trusts and the variety of purposes in which they serve will be the subject of another article.

Another common estate planning device would involve what is commonly known as a “Power of Attorney” which appoints someone to take care of an incapacitated individual’s financial affairs while they are unable to do so. Similarly, an “Advance Directives” allows someone to make medical decisions on behalf of someone not able to do so themselves.

It does not take long to realize that a plan for your financial and medical well-being can become quite complex. Nevertheless, there are tools available to ensure that you, your family and your property are taken care of. Whether it be a simple Will providing for a small family, or a complex asset protection and tax matter, Wiley Etter, LLC is available to help.

Why Everyone Needs a Plan

Assuming that you own too little or that you are too young is a common mistake that oftentimes leaves surviving loved ones confused, anxious and overwhelmed. Firstly, everyone owns something. Whether it be a savings account, 401(k), a pet dog, or a million-dollar piece of property, chances are you own something you care about. Secondly, anything can happen. What if you suddenly get sick, win money, have a kid, two kids, three kids? Without a plan, the state and/or judge will determine what happens to you, your property and potentially your family.

If you die without a will or trust, your state’s “intestacy” laws will determine where your property goes and a judge will decide who administers it. For most, this is less than ideal. There is also the concern of “guardianship” over any children that you may have. When there is no testamentary document specifying who you wish to care for your child, it could be left to the courts.

Without providing an exhaustive list of disaster scenarios, it should become apparent that a little time spent planning now can prevent a lot of hardship down the road. The point of this article is not to alarm you, but rather to inform you of how a simple meeting can alleviate stress now and later.

Contact Us Today!

We are licensed to provide estate planning services in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. Our lawyers are available today to provide no nonsense advice custom made for each situation. Call us now! (203) 301-8722

Jerome L DiMenna, III, Esq.
Wiley Etter, LLC
August 24, 2018