Like most people, you likely think estate planning is just one more task to check off your life’s endless “to-do” list.
You can shop around and find a lawyer to create planning documents for you or create your own DIY plan using online documents. Then, you’ll put those documents into a drawer, mentally check estate planning off your to-do list, and forget about them.
The problem is, estate planning is more than just a one-and-done type of deal.
It will be worthless if your plan is not regularly updated when your assets, family situation, and laws change. Failing to update your plan can create problems that can leave your family worse off than if you’ve never created a plan.
The following story illustrates the consequences of not updating your plan, which happened to the founder and CEO of New Law Business Model, Ali Katz. Indeed, this experience was one of the leading catalysts for her to create the new, family-centered model of estate planning we use with all of our clients.
A Game Changing Realization
When Ali was in law school, her father-in-law died. He’d done his estate planning—or at least thought he had. He paid a Florida law firm roughly $3,000 to prepare an estate plan for him, so his family wouldn’t be stuck with the hassles and expense of probate court or drawn into needless conflict with his ex-wife.
And yet, after his death, that’s exactly what did happen. His family was forced to go to court to claim assets that were supposed to pass directly to them. And on top of that, they had to deal with his ex-wife and her attorneys.
Ali couldn’t understand it. If her father-in-law paid $3,000 for an estate plan, why were his loved ones dealing with the court and his ex-wife? His planning documents were not updated, and his assets were not even correctly titled.
Ali’s father-in-law created a Trust so that his assets would pass directly to his family when he died, and they wouldn’t have to endure probate. But some of his assets had never been transferred into the name of his Trust from the beginning. And since there was no updated inventory of his assets, there was no way for his family to even confirm everything he had when he died. To this day, one of his accounts is still stuck in the Florida Department of Unclaimed Property.
Ali thought for sure this must be malpractice. But after working for one of the best law firms in the country and interviewing other top estate-planning lawyers across the country, she confirmed what happened to her father-in-law wasn’t malpractice at all. It was common practice.
To properly title assets held by a Trust, it’s not enough to list the assets you want to cover when you create a Trust. You have to transfer the legal title of certain assets—real estate, bank accounts, securities, brokerage accounts—to the Trust, known as “funding” the Trust, for them to be appropriately disbursed.
While most lawyers will create a Trust for you, only some will ensure your assets are properly funded. We’ll not only make sure your assets are properly titled when you initially create your Trust, we’ll also ensure that any new assets you acquire throughout your life are inventoried and properly funded to your Trust. This will keep your assets from being lost and prevent your family from being inadvertently forced into court because your plan was never fully completed.
For The Love Of Your Family
With us as your Personal Family Lawyer®, our planning services go far beyond simply creating documents and then never seeing you again. We’ll develop a relationship with your family that lasts not only for your lifetime but for the lifetime of your children and their children if that’s your wish.
We’ll support you in not only creating a plan that keeps your family out of court and out of conflict in the event of your death or incapacity, but we’ll also ensure your plan is regularly updated to make sure that it works and is there for your family when you cannot be. Contact us today to get started.
This article is a service of Michele Hyndman of The Hyndman Group, your Personal Family Lawyer®. We do not 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 Life & Legacy 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 Life & Legacy Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $950 session at no charge.