death

9 Signs It's Time to Update Your Estate Plan

9 Signs It's Time to Update Your Estate Plan

You finally took the plunge and created an estate plan. Wonderful. Awesome. High five. But now that you have a plan, how often do you need to revisit or update it?

Rather than updating your estate plan every X number of years, we recommend revisiting and (potentially) revising it whenever you experience a significant life change. A will or trust you signed years ago might no longer reflect what you care about.

Consider reviewing and/or updating your estate plan if you have experienced any of these changes:

Ghostbusters: Preventing Identity Theft After Death

Ghostbusters: Preventing Identity Theft After Death

Each year, approximately 2.5 million Americans have their identity stolen... after their deaths. These stolen identities are used to borrow money, purchase cell phones, fraudulently open credit cards, etc., all of which can dramatically impact the liability exposure of the decedent's estate. Criminals may even file tax returns under the name of the decedent and collect refunds (totaling $5.2 billion in 2011) that rightly belong to someone you.

Welcome to the world of "ghosting": the theft of a deceased individual's identity.

How does "ghosting" happen?

Your identity as a deceased individual is perhaps more vulnerable to theft than your identity as a living individual. Suppose you pass away today. It can take six months or more for credit-reporting agencies, financial institutions, and the Social Security Administration to register your death records and share information that lets other governmental agencies and financial institutions know you are deceased. During that time, you aren't regularly checking your credit score or other financial information because, you know, you're dead.

Legal Briefs: What is a transfer-on-death deed?

Legal Briefs: What is a transfer-on-death deed?

Most people are familiar with deeds. Though they come in many different varieties, deeds convey (transfer) interests in real estate. Generally speaking, a conveyance is effective as soon as a deed is signed. With a transfer-on-death deed, however, the conveyance is effective only after the grantor (the person conveying the real estate) dies.

What are the benefits of a transfer-on-death deed?

The main benefit of a transfer-on-death deed is that the conveyance can avoid probate. Let's say Joe wants to leave his house to his son, Dan. If Joe provides in his Will that the house should go to Dan, the Will must still go through probate before Dan can get the house. But if Joe signs a transfer-on-death deed, all Dan will need to do is file an affidavit (and a death certificate) with the county clerk to obtain title to the house.

Has Your Family Had a Fire Drill?

Has Your Family Had a Fire Drill?

Remember fire drills when you were in school? An alarm goes off. There’s a certain sense of panic, but you walk — in an orderly fashion — to the exit and meet your classmates outside. The teacher takes attendance, the coordinator makes sure everyone is accounted for, and then you go back inside.

Most students probably think fire drills are a waste time, and surely teachers would prefer to not have their lessons interrupted while their students go outside. So why do we have fire drills? Obviously, to make sure we know what to do if a real fire occurs. Because if there is a real fire, there can be dire consequences if you don’t have a plan.

What is an estate planning fire drill?

For similar reasons, we encourage our clients to conduct a “fire drill” regarding their estate plan. In other words, pretend you have died and walk your family through the process of what they must do to set your affairs in order.