(1) Do I Really Need a Will?
In almost every circumstance you do need a will. It is essential if you have kids as a will is necessary to appoint guardians for them, as well as the property you leave them. If you have a positive net worth exceeding $50,000, you need a will to decide who inherits from you. If you do not have a will, a state statute will decide for you and, if you are like me, you’re not excited about the government deciding who gets your stuff.
(2) Is a Do It Yourself (DIY) will right for me?
In a few cases, yes, a DIY will is the right answer. If you are single, with no kids, and just starting off on your capitalist journey toward the middle class, you can get away with a simple will from an online provider, or maybe even no will at all. However, if you are married or have been married, if you have kids, own a home, or have retirement savings, you would be wise to avoid the DIY will.
(3) Can any old lawyer do my will for me?
Sure, and I bet a veterinarian could remove your appendix in a pinch, but you probably wouldn’t feel your best afterward, and you’d likely have unanticipated complications down the road. At GuideOn Legal Services, we have more than two decades of specialization in estate planning, probate administration, and trust administration. Our attorneys have worked in large bank trust departments and/or hold advanced degrees in estate planning and elder law. More important than any of that, estate planning is our main practice area and specialty. We also practice in small business law and cryptocurrency law, both of which are closely related to estate planning. If you want top-quality estate and business succession planning that aligns with your lifetime and legacy goals, contact us now to protect and preserve your family’s future.
(4) Are trusts just for rich people?
There are two compelling reasons to get a trust. The first reason is to preserve your hard-earned life savings for your children (and/or spouse) while, at the same time, protecting them from creditors, claimants, divorce, addiction, or other personal problems. The second reason is to avoid the estate tax. The first reason applies to anyone with kids (and/or a spouse); the second is for rich people as the estate tax only applies at high levels of net worth. There are a few other specialized types of trust that can be necessary in certain circumstances, but what what I said above applies to most people. Be warry of lawyers who try to sell you on trusts for reasons like “avoiding probate” or “gaining privacy.” These are more icing-on-the-cake reasons to get a trust, not reasons in and of themselves. If you’d like an assessment as to whether you should have a will-centered plan or a trust-centered plan, contact us for a consultation and we’ll be happy to walk you through the analysis.
(5) What is a Medical Power-of-Attorney and is it really necessary to have one?
Absolutely, yes. A medical power of attorney (MPOA) appoints someone (i.e., an agent) to act on your behalf if you are temporarily or permanently incapacitated. It will only take effect if you can’t make decisions for yourself (BTW, if you can blink or tap a finger, you can make decisions for yourself). While it’s important for everyone to have this document in place, it is especially important for our seniors and aging parents. Why? To execute this document, you must have the legal and physical capacity to do so. If the MPOA is not in place before the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s, it could be too late. And when it’s too late, you must go through a lengthy court proceeding called a guardianship to have someone appointed to care for your loved one. This process costs thousands of dollars and involves multiple attorneys who are all paid for by your estate (isn’t that great? No, it's not). Instead, you could spend a few hundred bucks on a MPOA and you’re all set. At GuideOn Legal Services, we’ve designed an Advance Medical Directive, which combines both a medical power of attorney (MPOA) and a living will into one document. Expert planning at its best!
(6) What about a Durable Financial Power-of-Attorney? Need One?
The difference between a medical power of attorney (MPOA) and a durable financial power of attorney (DPOA) is that under the DPOA you are appointing someone to take care of your financial affairs, rather than your medical decisions. If you do not have one in place, you will have to spend thousands of dollars for a conservatorship: a legal arrangement where a judge appoints a person to take legal responsibility for someone else’s financial affairs. Don’t let this happen to you. Keep in mind, though, that a DPOA provides your agent with enormous power over your financial affairs, which can also be dangerous. In one example, the wife of a military member used a financial power of attorney to sell everything he owned while he was deployed overseas, took out a new mortgage in his name, piled up credit card debt, and ran off with his best friend (power of attorney not needed for that last part). To avoid being “cancelled,” I suppose I should point out that men can be gold-diggers too. In any case, crafting an appropriate durable financial power of attorney requires expertise. Proper tailoring/limiting of the powers within the instrument, selecting the right agent, and controlling access to the document can go a long way toward avoiding this kind of risk. Let us help you put this document in place in the safest way possible – click here to schedule your appointment.
The author is Grimes Legal Services founder Jack Grimes, a military veteran and JAG Corps Reserve Officer with over 16 years of experience in estate planning. He is among a limited number of attorneys in the country with an LL.M. (Masters of Law) in Estate Planning and Elder Law. Jack and his partner, Leah Henschen, J.D., have developed unique estate planning products (wills, trusts, powers-of-attorney, advanced medical directives) tailored to address the great diversity of American family makeups and personal life situations. The GuideOn Legal Services motto, Live Long, End Strong™ epitomizes the full life-cycle approach GuideOn Legal Services takes to estate planning. It starts with the end in mind, and then builds a lifetime and legacy plan, culminating in the peace of mind that comes with protecting your family's future by preserving assets from taxes, probate costs, legal issues, and unnecessary financial risk.