estate planning attorneys

Estate Planning Attorneys Explain What to Do with Your Plan Documents

By | Estate Planning | No Comments

estate planning attorneysCreating a comprehensive estate plan is one of the most valuable gifts you can give to yourself and to your loved ones.

Taking the time to create your estate planning documents is obviously the most important first step in creating that estate plan; however, deciding what to do with those documents once they are finished is also an important decision. The estate planning attorneys at Morris Hall PLLC explain what you should do with your estate plan documents to keep them safe and make sure they are accessible when needed.

Common Mistakes

Most of your estate planning documents are legal documents that may be needed during your lifetime in the event of your incapacity and/or at the time of your death. People frequently make the mistake of simply filing their estate planning documents away once they are completed or they lock them up in a safety deposit box. Neither of these is ideal. While it may be fine to file some of your estate planning documents away if the file is clearly labeled and easily located, other documents should be shared with specific people. Locking all your documents in a safety deposit box creates a catch-22 situation.  For example, if your Last Will and Testament is in a safety deposit box at the time of your death, the only person who will have the legal authority to access the box is the Executor of your estate; however, the only way to determine who you named as your Executor is to access your Will. Hence the conundrum – without an original copy of your Will your Executor cannot prove to the Court that he/she is the Executor. The original copy, however, is inside the safety deposit box your Executor is trying to access.

What Documents Should You Share?

Certain estate planning documents are best shared with specific people. Acopy of your Will, for example, should be given to the person you named as Executor of your estate and anyone named as an alternate Executor. You should also give your estate planning attorney a copy. You may also choose to share copies with loved ones; however, that it up to you.  Likewise, if you have included a trust agreement in your estate plan, an original copy of that agreement should be shared with the Trustee, any successor Trustees named in the trust agreement, and your estate planning attorney should retain a copy. If you executed an advance directive, the individual named as your Agent should have a copy and you should also register the advance directive with your state of residency if your state offers that option. Also, make sure your primary physician has a copy. An Agent named in a power of attorney will need that document in order to utilize the authority granted therein.

What Should You Do with Your Copies?

Although keeping your own copies in your safety deposit box isn’t the best idea, you may want to keep them in a fireproof safe at your home as long as someone else has a key or knows the combination. Regardless of where you keep them at your home, it is always best to keep them all together and clearly identifiable. Remember, when the time comes that many of those documents are needed, your loved ones will be grieving and not thinking clearly. Having to hunt all over the house for important estate planning documents when they are already under considerable emotional stress could lead to missing important pieces of your estate plan. That, in turn, could hold up the probate of your estate or could lead to costly mistakes being made.

Contact Estate Planning Attorneys

For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about creating your comprehensive estate planning documents, or what to do with them once they are completed, contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Morris Hall PLLC by calling 888-222-1328 to schedule your appointment today.

Albuquerque estate planning attorney

Albuquerque Estate Planning Attorney Urges You to Choose the Right Executor

By | Will | No Comments

Albuquerque estate planning attorneyA Last Will and Testament serves as the foundation for most estate plans. When you create your Will, one of the most important decisions you will need to make is who to appoint as the Executor, known as the Personal Representative in New Mexico, of your estate. The Albuquerque estate planning attornies of Morris Hall urge you to choose the right person as your Executor when the time comes for you to execute your Will.

Understanding Probate

When an individual dies, the law requires the deceased person’s (called the decedent) estate to go through the legal process known as probate. If the decedent died testate, meaning with a valid Last Will and Testament in place, the individual named as the Executor in that Will is the person who will oversee the administration of the estate during the probate process. Probate can involve many complex legal and financial issues. If an Executor is not well versed in the law and/or the world of finance, he/she could make costly mistakes, resulting in both the loss of assets to the estate and unnecessary delays in distributing to the beneficiaries of the estate. To avoid this outcome during the probate of your estate, take the time now to learn what your Executor’s duties and responsibilities will be and then appoint the right person to the position.

Duties and Responsibilities of an Executor

An Executor has a wide range of duties and responsibilities during the probate of an estate. Some of the most common of those include:

  • Gathering estate planning documents. Your Executor may be grieving your loss; however, he/she must act quickly to prepare for the opening of probate. An original copy of the decedent’s Last Will and Testament must be located and certified copies of the decedent’s death certified ordered. Any additional estate planning documents should also be located and secured.
  • Identifying, locating, and securing assets. As soon after the decedent’s death as possible, the Executor should start identifying and securing estate assets. A preliminary decision must also be made regarding what type of probate is required – formal, informal,  or an alternative for small estates.
  • Categorizing and valuing assets. Eventually, the Executor must obtain a date of death value for all estate assets. Initially though, he/she must decide if they are probate or non-probate assets because some assets bypass the probate process entirely.
  • Initiating probate. To open the probate of an estate, the Executor must obtain a certified copy of the death certificate, a signed original copy of the decedent’s Will, and a petition to open probate. By this point, most Executors have retained the services of an experienced estate planning attorney who will prepare the necessary petition.
  • Notifying creditors and reviewing claims. Known creditors may be notified individually. Unknown creditors are notified via publication in a local newspaper. Creditors then have a statutory amount of time to file a claim against the estate. The Executor, must review all claims and approve or deny them.
  • Litigating any challenges. If a Will contest is filed, the Executor is required to defend the Will submitted for probate throughout the litigation that will follow.
  • Paying taxes. The Executor must determine if any state or federal gift and estate taxes are due from the estate and, if so, pay the tax debt out of estate assets.
  • Distributing assets. Finally, the Executor must prepare any necessary legal documents to effectuate the transfer of the remaining estate assets to the intended beneficiaries.

Choosing the Right Executor

Although it may be tempting to just name a spouse or close friend as your Executor, consider the following questions to ensure that you appoint the right person for the job:

  • Will this person be grieving your loss? If so, can he/she get a handle on that grief sufficiently to act as Executor?
  • Does the individual have a legal or financial background that might be beneficial during the probate process?
  • Does this person have the time to devote to probating your estate?
  • Does the person live too far away to be the Executor?
  • Is the proposed Executor good at conflict resolution?
  • Will the appointment of this person spark conflict?
  • Does the individual want to be your Executor? Never assume the answer to this question is yes.

Contact an Albuquerque Estate Planning Lawyer

For more information, or if you have additional questions or concerns about choosing your Executor, or you wish to get started creating your Will, contact the experienced New Mexico estate planning attorneys at Morris Hall PLLC by calling 888-222-1328 to schedule your appointment today.

Planning for your frequent flyer miles. How Anthony Bourdain did it.

By | Attorney David Eastman, Celebrity Estates | No Comments






Anthony Bourdain did something most American's fail to do- he created an estate plan and laid out exactly who he wanted to get what when he died. I think that most of us would have imagined that he would have had a larger estate than he did with his success he had later in his life, but it is not about how much you have when you pass on but rather what you do with it when you pass on. He made sure his one and only child was provided for and he did something most of us forget to do - he planned for his frequent flyer miles. Your estate plan should include provisions regarding what you want to have happen to your frequent flyer miles when you pass away. Each airline has different rules and regulations on what can be done with these valuable assets upon the owner's demise so you need to read the contract very carefully, but most of them should allow for you to pass on these miles to your loved ones after you die. Some clients have passed these miles on to some great charities like Make-A-Wish, thereby allowing the charity to grant wishes to children who are terminally ill. There are many planning opportunities with these types of assets. If you have not planned for your frequent flyer miles come in and see us and we can talk about how you can leave these to your loved ones.


You can read the full story about Anthony Bourdain's estate plan here

For more information on estate planning or to find seminars in your area, visit us at or call 888-222-1328.  

Barbara Bush

Former First Lady Barbara Bush Shines Spotlight on End of Life Planning at the End of Her Life

By | Estate Planning | No Comments

Barbara BushNo matter where you fall on the political spectrum, you undoubtedly mourned the recent loss of one of America’s First Ladies. In death, as was the case in life, Barbara Bush has unobtrusively influenced the American consciousness.  Throughout her lifetime, her influence could be felt in the men she helped form. In death, that influence can be found in a very personal and private decision that was made public because of who she was and the public’s desire to know. The former First Lady made the choice to seek “comfort care” only in her final days, a choice that has ignited a national debate on the topic of end of life medical care. With the issue on the American agenda, now is a good time to make sure your own wishes will be honored at the end of your life by updating your estate plan.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush

You would be hard-pressed to find a woman who has had more influence on American politics and government over the last century than Barbara Bush, yet she never held office herself. Her husband, George Bush, served as a Congressman from Texas, and Ambassador to the United Nations, and Director of Central Intelligence before becoming Ronald Reagan’s running mate in the 1980 Presidential election. After Reagan’s win, Barbara served as the nation’s “Second Lady” from 1981-1988. When her husband was subsequently sworn in as President in 1989, Barbara ascended to the role of First Lady. Barbara is also the mother of George W. Bush, Governor of Texas from 1995-2000 and the nation’s 43rd President, serving from 2001-2009, as well the mother of Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida from 1999-2007.

The Former First Lady’s Last Days

The former First Lady passed away at her home in Houston on April 18, 2018, at the age of 92. She had been suffering from congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for some time prior to her death, according to family spokesman Jim McGrath. A family spokesperson also announced that Bush had made the decision “not to seek additional medical treatment and will focus on comfort care.” The former First Lady’s decision caused a media frenzy as “experts” and advocates fought for the spotlight. It also came amid a national effort to define and document patients’ wishes, and consider alternatives, before they are placed on what has been described as a “conveyor belt” of costly medical interventions aimed at prolonging life. Bush’s announcement brought the very personal issue of end of life medical care out of the proverbial closet and into the spotlight.

“It makes perfectly good sense at her age, with her failing health, that she would say at some point, ‘Life’s been good, and while you always want more, it’s enough,’” said Dr. Joanne Lynn, director of the program to improve elder care at Altarum Institute. Lynn worked with Barbara Bush years ago, when she was a congressional spouse volunteering at the Washington Home for chronically ill patients. Bush helped with the founding of the hospice program there. “We have so few examples in visible leadership positions” of public figures promoting palliative care, she said.

Defining “Comfort Care”

What exactly does “comfort care” include and exclude? Dr. Haider Warraich, a fellow in cardiovascular medicine at Duke University Medical Center and author of the book “Modern Death,” also applauded the Bush family for putting the phrase “comfort care” into the public sphere so that other people can consider it “a viable option at the end of life.”  He added, however, that the statement also creates confusion about the meaning of “comfort care,” by suggesting that it entails stopping medical treatment. “Comfort care” usually refers to palliative care, which focuses on managing patients’ symptoms to keep them comfortable and retain their dignity, Warraich said.  “One of the common myths about palliative care is that they are being denied medical help,” Warraich said.  For heart failure patients, he said, “comfort care” usually means opting not to use a breathing machine or CPR. But patients do continue to receive medical treatment, including morphine to ease shortness of breath, and diuretics to remove excess fluid from their lungs, he said.  “By bringing this into the sphere of discussion,” Warraich said, “we can start thinking about comfort and palliation long before they are in the clutches of death.”

Making Sure Your Wishes Are Honored

The only way to be certain your choices, beliefs, and wishes regarding end of life medical treatment will be honored is to incorporate advanced directives into your estate plan. In the State of Arizona, a Health Care Power of Attorney lets you name an adult, called your Agent, to make decisions about your health care, including full power to give or refuse consent to all medical, surgical, hospital and related health care. You may also decide to execute an Arizona Living Will which allows you to make important decisions about treatment you do, or do not, consent to in the event you are unable to provide consent at some point in the future because you have a terminal condition, are in an irreversible coma, or are in a persistent vegetative state. Both of these advance directives are legally binding and can be legally enforced if necessary.

Contact an Arizona Estate Planning Attorney

For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about ensuring that your end of life wishes are honored, contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Morris Hall PLLC by calling 888-222-1328 to schedule your appointment today.


What Is Business Succession Planning?

By | Business Planning | No Comments

business succession

Are you a small business owner? If so, the odds are good that you put a significant amount of time, money, and thought into getting your business off the ground. If it is finally showing a profit and appears headed in the right direction, it is now time to ensure that all that hard work and sacrifice is protected, both now and in the future. You likely have insurance that covers all kinds of losses that could negatively impact your business; however, have you planned for what would happen to your business if something happened to you?  Including a business succession component in your comprehensive estate plan is the best way to protect your financial, and emotional, interest in your business.

Is Your Business Really Protected?

. You have probably purchased all kinds of insurance policies in an attempt to protect against every conceivable loss your business might suffer. What you may have forgotten though is to protect against the biggest loss of all – you. It is time to shift your focus to ensuring that your financial interest in the business is protected in the event of your incapacity, retirement, or death. To illustrate the necessity for a business succession plan, ask yourself the following questions:

  • If you are incapacitated tomorrow in a tragic accident, who will take over the immediate day-to-day control of your business?
  • Is it clear to your employees, business associates, and family who will take over?
  • Does the individual designated to take over have the legal authority to do so?
  • Will your family continue to benefit from the business’s success in your absence?
  • If you become permanently disabled, or retire, who will take over your business?
  • Will your business be included in the probate of your estate?
  • If your business will be part of your estate, what will happen to the value of your interest in the business if it is sold?
  • If your business is a family owned business have you prepared the next generation to take over?
  • Have you set up the proper legal structure for the business to facilitate the transfer to the next generation?
  • What will be the tax implications for your business should you die?
  • Does the business have sufficient liquid assets to cover any tax debt that might be owed when you die?

Unless you can answer every one of those questions without hesitation, it is time to sit down with a business planning attorney.

What Is Involved in Business Succession Planning?

Business succession planning involves making provisions for the possibility of your incapacity, death, or even retirement, to ensure that the business continues to operate successfully or that your loved ones receive a fair price for your interest in the business if it is sold.

One thing you want to avoid is simply gifting your business to children, or other family members, in your Last Will and Testament because such action will trigger a lengthy and expensive probate.

The business succession plan you create will be as unique as your business; however, there are some common options/strategies, including:

  • Gifting by a Last Will and Testament or a Living Trust – although this is an option, it isn’t usually recommended for several reasons.  First, if you utilize a Will, there will be a probate.  A Living Trust can avoid probate.  But even with the much preferred Living Trust, business assets could be lost to gift and estate taxes if your estate lacks the necessary liquidity to cover the tax bill. In addition, gifting your business leaves many questions about the management and profits of the business unanswered and strips you of all ability to control, or even guide, the business in the future.
  • Family Limited Partnership – if you plan to keep the business in the family, a family limited partnership, or FLP, may be best for you and your family. You can maintain majority control and day-to-day management of the company for as long as you wish; however, your successor can also begin to learn the business while you are still around to provide guidance and advice. In addition, there are typically some significant tax advantages to creating an FLP.
  • Buy-Sell Agreement -- this option is often used when there are partners involved who are not family members. A buy-sell agreement allows you to determine ahead of time what your interest in the business is worth or, in the alternative, provides an agreed upon method of valuing the business when the time comes. Your partner(s) agrees to purchase your interest in the business should certain events occur. This ensures the continuation of the business and a fair price for the sale of your interest in the business, the proceeds of which will then become part of your estate or will go directly to your loved ones.

Contact a Business Succession Lawyer

For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about incorporating business succession planning into your estate plan, contact the experienced business succession planning attorneys at Morris Hall PLLC by calling 888-222-1328 to schedule your appointment today.