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Asset Protection

How Proper Estate Planning Can Protect What is Important to You

By | Asset Protection, Estate Planning, Uncategorized | No Comments

There is a better way to plan, whether you have no plan, are planning with a Will, or are planning with a Trust, we want to make sure your plan works for you.

One way to plan is with a living trust. A trust is a legal document that not only controls the distribution of your assets after you are gone, but also provides protections to handle your affairs if you are incapacitated. A trust can also shield assets from lawsuits, creditors, it can protect the inheritance your beneficiaries receive in the event of a divorce or bankruptcy.  Not all trusts are created equal. With proper estate planning, the attorneys at Morris Hall, can put a plan together that protects what is important to you.

Morris Hall, has been providing quality legal services since 1970. Our goal at Morris Hall is to make sure our clients have the peace of mind in knowing that their legacies and loved ones are protected.

When you meet with an attorney at Morris Hall, we will discuss your individual needs, address your concerns, and tailor an estate plan custom to your wishes. Our job as attorneys is not to simply be scriveners, our job is to listen and provide feedback and guidance. As counselors, we are trained to listed to our clients, address their concerns as well as provide guidance and help them address risks that they may not have considered.

Let me give you a real-life personal example. My grandfather, had his estate plan written by a local attorney who also happened to be a member of his church. For those who may not know, once you successfully obtain your license as an attorney you can practice in ANY area of law. This particular attorney happened to focus his practice on DUI/DWI cases not estate planning. My grandfather told this attorney he wanted his estate to be split equally between his wife (my grandfather was remarried and his wife was his second wife) and his five kids. Sounds simple enough right? Wrong, since this attorney did not focus his practice on estate planning, he was not familiar with all the nuances that go into a proper estate plan. So as opposed to counseling my grandfather, the attorney acting as a scrivener drafted the plan exactly as outlined by my grandfather. Below is a copy of the portion of the document (names have been redacted to protect the identities of the parties).

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Well, my grandfather’s good intentions to provide for his children and his wife were quickly unraveled. After my grandfather passed away his estate became a nightmare to administer. Since the trust directed that the assets be split equally between the surviving spouse and his kids, his wife now owns her home 50% with her five step children. And not only that, one of the kids is getting divorced and the other one has filed bankruptcy and their soon to be ex-spouse and creditors now can try to attach their claims to this interest in the property they inherited.

Had my grandfather sought the advice of an attorney who practiced in estate planning he could have received better advice to protect what was important to him. An experienced estate planning attorney would have recognized this issue and drafted the trust in a way to provide for the surviving spouse and children in a way that would not have required them to have a 50/50 interest in the residence. An experienced attorney would have also spotted the issues with the children (one who has been divorced 4 times and the other who has filed bankruptcy and has several creditors) and drafted a trust that would have protected their inheritance.

Moral of the story is that anyone can draft a will or a trust BUT only an experienced estate planning attorney can draft a PROPER plan to adequately address your needs and protect what is important to you.  

 

lisa y wynnContributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Estate Planning Attorney, Lisa Y. Wynn.

About Morris Hall, PLLC:
At Morris Hall, PLLC we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 45 years.  Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Carefree, Tucson, Oro Valley, Prescott, Flagstaff, Sedona and Surprise.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

Albuquerque asset protection attorneys

Albuquerque Asset Protection Attorneys Warn about the In-Law Threat

By | Asset Protection | No Comments

Albuquerque asset protection attorneysEstate planning isn’t just about deciding how your estate assets (i.e. all of your stuff) will be distributed after you are gone. On the contrary, a well thought out estate plan will also help protect and grow those assets over the course of your lifetime to help ensure that there are sufficient assets left at the end of your life to pass down to loved ones.  It is for this reason that many people choose to include asset protection tools and strategies in their estate plan. Some of the threats to your assets are well known; however, some are less obvious. The Albuquerque asset protection attorneys at Morris Hall PLLC warn about one of those lesser known threats – your in-laws.

The Importance of Asset Protection

Working hard, saving frugally, and investing wisely are all aimed at growing the value of your assets. Working, saving, and investing, however, won’t accomplish that goal if you don’t also pay close attention to potential threats to the assets you do amass. Most people think to protect against some of the more common threats, such as divorce, business failure, or an economic downturn; however, there are other threats that can be just as devastating to your estate assets if you don’t incorporate sufficient assets protection measures into your estate plan.

How Can Your In-Laws Threaten Your Assets?

One of the biggest potential threats to your hard-earned assets is one that most people don’t even recognize as a threat – your in-laws. The damage your daughter-in-law or son-in-law could do to the value of your estate, however, is potentially devastating. The reason is simple. Most parents amass assets with the hope and intention of passing at least some of those assets down to their children, eventually. Often, parents start the process of transferring their wealth while they are still alive using lifetime gifting tools and strategies. When done correctly, lifetime gifting can make a significant difference in the amount of federal gift and estate taxes your estate will owe after your death. Whether you make lifetime gifts or wait until after you are gone to pass down assets to your children doesn’t really matter though. What does matter is whether you recognize the risk your child’s spouse poses to those assets.

When you make an outright gift to an adult child, whether as a lifetime gift or a bequest in your Last Will and Testament, the assets gifted become the property of your child… and potentially his/her spouse once the gift is made. Those assets are then subject to division in a later divorce or being squandered by a spendthrift spouse. Imagine how you would feel if you spent a lifetime building up your estate assets just to see them awarded to a son-in-law or daughter-in-law in a divorce, or to find that the same son-in-law or daughter-in-law lost the assets gambling or spent them buying drugs. Sadly, it can and does happen.

Don’t make the mistake either of assuming that because it is an inheritance that the assets are safe in a divorce. If they are kept separate and apart during the course of the marriage they may, indeed, be considered separate property and not be subject to division in a divorce. Often, however, an inheritance is co-mingled, sometimes without even realizing it, and becomes marital property subject to division.

If your son-in-law or daughter-in-law has a substance abuse, gambling, or mental health problem the inheritance could rapidly disappear without your child’s consent. A court order to return the funds to your child won’t change the fact that they are gone.

Protect Your Assets from ALL Threats

The simple fact is that even if you adore your son-in-law or daughter-in-law right now, he/she could pose a serious threat to your assets in the future. The good news is that by working closely with your estate planning attorney you can guard against this threat. One simple asset protection strategy that works when in-laws are a concern is creating an asset protection trust. By distributing your estate assets to your child through a trust, the assets cannot be co-mingled nor can a son-in-law or daughter-in-law get ahold of them to squander them.

Contact Albuquerque Asset Protection Attorneys

For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE event. If you have additional questions or concerns about asset protection, contact the experienced asset protection attorneys at Morris Hall PLLC by calling 888-222-1328 to schedule your appointment today.

 

asset protection attorneys

Phoenix Asset Protection Attorneys Explain How to Protect Your Estate in Case Your Surviving Spouse Remarries

By | Asset Protection | No Comments

asset protection attorneysBy its very nature, estate planning requires you to contemplate possibilities -- and eventualities -- that you probably prefer not to dwell on. At the heart of most estate plans, after all, is a plan for the distribution of estate assets after the death of the plan’s creator.  If you are married, one of your primary estate planning goals will likely be to protect and provide for your spouse in the event that you are the first to go. Have you thought about what your spouse might do with the assets you leave him/her down the road though? Specifically, have you considered what might happen if your spouse remarries? The asset protection attorneys at Morris Hall PLLC explain how to protect your estate in case your surviving spouse remarries.

Have You and Your Spouse Discussed the Big “What If?”

Most couples, at some point in time, broach the subject of the likelihood that one of them will die before the other. If the marriage is one of long duration, the thought of starting a new life with someone new after the loss of your spouse may seem impossible. Nevertheless, the possibility should be discussed. Some people are adamant that they want their spouse to find love again while others would consider it a betrayal of the relationship they had. Either way, the reality is that your spouse could find love again and remarry after you are gone. Because the possibility exists, you need to consider it when creating your estate plan.

Many couples create reciprocal estate plans, meaning that both individual plans call for all assets to be gifted to the surviving spouse upon death. If you have children, the agreement is that the surviving spouse will then pass down those assets to your children upon his/her death. A reciprocal estate planning approach makes sense, as long as both parties stick to the agreement. What happens though, if your spouse ends up remarrying after your death?

How Can Your Spouse Remarrying Threaten Your Assets?

Regardless of how you may feel about the possibility of your spouse remarrying, you need to consider how that marriage could impact your combined assets. Remember, if your assets all passed to your spouse at the time of your death, that means that when your spouse remarries he/she brings your combined assets into that new marriage. The new spouse now has a potential claim to those assets in the event of a divorce. Moreover, the new spouse also becomes a legal heir to your spouse’s estate once the marriage takes place. If those assets were intended to be passed down to your children upon the death of the surviving spouse, the new marriage could threaten that plan in several ways. If your surviving spouse co-mingles those assets, they become marital assets and subject to division in a divorce. If the surviving spouse lives in a state that allows a surviving spouse to take against the Will, the new husband or wife could have a claim to those assets even if your spouse honors his/her agreement and gifts them to your children in a Last Will and Testament.

A Family Wealth Trust Can Help

The good news is that careful estate planning now can protect your assets in the event of your spouse’s remarriage. A Family Wealth Trust (FWT) may be the answer. A FWT is a type of asset protection trust that can protect your assets while still providing for a spouse and/or children. Your FWT can stand alone or as a sub-trust within a larger trust. Your children are designated as the beneficiaries of the trust.  Your spouse can be named as the Trustee of this trust, or you can appoint a close friend or professional Trustee. Your spouse can use or benefit from the property held in trust, but he/she does not own those assets.  Ownership of the property in the Trust is reserved for your children.

Contact Asset Protection Attorneys

For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about asset protection, contact an experienced Phoenix asset protection attorney at Morris Hall PLLC by calling 888-222-1328 to schedule your appointment today.

 

ARIZONA PASSES NEW LAW REGARDING ESTATE PLANNING FOR YOUR DIGITAL ASSETS

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Have you ever wondered who will inherit your digital photos, social media accounts, websites, emails, text messages, or other important “digital assets” when you die?  As the digital world is rapidly changing and progressing, so is the law.  As of August 8, 2016, Arizona adopted a new law called the “Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act” (FAADA).  This new law grants fiduciaries (i.e. power of attorney agents, trustees, and personal representatives)  access to these “digital assets.”

Prior to passage of the new law, if a person became deceased or incapacitated, companies that stored digital assets on their servers, such as Google or Facebook, determined who could receive those items. The company’s terms-of-service agreements superseded wills and trusts potentially preventing heirs or guardians from gaining access to the digital property.  The new law changes this and allows the user to have more control to pass the assets easily to his or her heirs if provided for in an estate plan.

 

What to know about the new law:

 

  • If a company holding digital assets (i.e. Google or Facebook) allows the user to name another person to have access to the user’s digital assets, the user’s online instructions take priority.

 

  • If the user does not name another person, the user may provide for disposition of digital assets in a written instrument such as a will, trust, or power of attorney.

 

  • If the user does not provide for disposition online or in a written instrument, the terms-of-service for the user’s account will control as was the case before the new law was passed.

 

  • If the terms-of-service do not address fiduciary access, the new law requires the custodian of the digital assets to provide only limited access, i.e. a catalogue of the communications showing the addresses of the sender and recipient, and the date and time the message was sent.

 

As a result of this new law, with a proper estate plan, you can now authorize who has access to your digital property and what will happen to your digital property on your death or disability.  However, if it is not properly outlined in an  estate plan, fiduciaries may have limited to no access to these digital assets.   Therefore, it is important to have your estate plan reviewed to make sure that your digital assets transfer according to your wishes.  Please contact our office to set up a time to meet with one of our attorneys to review your estate plan.

 

Jon for attorney pageContributed by Morris Hall PLLC Prescott, Sedona and Flagstaff Estate Planning Attorney, Jonathan C. Linford.

Why Choose Morris Hall, PLLC:
You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall?  First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters.  Also, Morris Hall is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others – which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones.  We are one of only three firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in New Mexico that has been granted membership.  If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with Morris Hall.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

5 Most Common Estate Planning Errors

By | Asset Protection, E-Alert, Estate Planning, Healthcare documents, Living Will, Pour Over Will, Will | No Comments

Most families don’t receive their wealth through inheritance or winning the lottery, but rather through years of hard work and sacrifice. However, it always amazes me that although everyone understands that we are all going to die, a vast majority disregard estate planning completely.

Here are five common estate planning mistakes that can ruin the legacy that you have worked so hard to build.

1.  No Will.  Approximately 70% of Americans do not plan at all, and therefore die ‘intestate’. Depending on which state you live in, dying without a Will could unfortunately cause your estate to pass to people that you wouldn’t have chosen.

2.  Failing to update your estate plan.  Too often, people that have an estate plan allow their plan to collect dust on a shelf. The plan is forgotten. Life changes such as divorce, deaths and births can have a significant impact on one’s original choices. For example, when you create a Will and leave everything to your spouse, you don’t anticipate a future divorce where your hard earned funds could go to the ex-spouse’s new family. Depending on the state, this could happen. An estate plan should be reviewed every 2 years to ensure that your choices are up to date with life’s changes.

3.  Unrealistic view regarding beneficiaries.  Every person should ask themselves if their chosen beneficiaries will be mature enough emotionally and financially to handle a pot of cash. Are they a spendthrift? Do they have a drug problem or gambling issues? If there is any doubt now, your estate plan can take these issues into account and protect your beneficiaries from themselves.

4.  Inadequate estate plan.  Some families begin estate planning with a simple Will; however, as years go on and assets are accumulated, the Will may not be the strongest tool. A properly drafted Revocable Living Trust will allow for the avoidance of a living and death probate, restrictions on spendthrift beneficiaries, and asset protection and a minimization of tax issues.

5.  Failure to change Personal Representative and/or Trustee.  Sometimes those we name in fiduciary roles may no longer be the best choice. Our relationships with these folks may change over time, or they may move out of state. Reviewing your plan every 2 years is essential to ensure that your choices are the best they can be.

Wendy-Harn-PhotoContributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Tucson, Oro Valley and Green Valley Estate Planning Attorney and Partner, Wendy W. Harn.

About Morris Hall, PLLC:
At Morris Hall, PLLC we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 45 years.  Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects.  We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. We have offices throughout Arizona and New Mexico.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

Asset Protection – It Works

By | Asset Protection, Bankruptcy, Estate Planning, Estate taxes, Trust Administration | No Comments

If I told you an inheritance can be left to whomever you want, without the fear that it could be taken by a lawsuit, bankruptcy or even divorce, would you want that benefit included in your plan? In today’s litigious society, asset protection is a critical component in anyone’s estate plan.

Our clients make sure the inheritance they leave their loved ones is protected. With a properly drafted trust, you can rest in peace knowing that the money you left behind will be used by your loved one, and not unintended people who could possibly take it from them.

We recently won a case for the son of a client because our client had the right language in his trust. I first met our client several years ago to review and update his estate plan. He did not think, at that time, that any of his children were going to be in any financial trouble. After our conversation, he made clear that the assets (his home and some savings) were to go to his children, and not to any future creditor (either a plaintiff in a lawsuit or bankruptcy trustee) because we discussed that risk and the need for assets protection. These were not current issues, but proper planning is using foresight to plan for life’s uncertainty.

Unfortunately, we had to utilize his plan a little sooner than we had hoped. Our client passed last year. After we were hired to assist with the administration of the trust we learned that one of our deceased client's sons was going through a bankruptcy. The trust we drafted was going to be put to the test.

We were asked by the son's bankruptcy counsel in another state to appear in the bankruptcy proceeding and defend the language in the trust document we had drafted for the bankruptcy debtor's father. We prepared our oral arguments and drafted a brief explaining to the judge how the trust works, and that the bankruptcy trustee was not entitled to any of the inheritance. The judge ultimately agreed. Every single penny of the inheritance was protected from the bankruptcy because of language we included in our trust document. And once the bankruptcy is settled, our client’s son will be able to use the inheritance to rebuild his financial life; because it is available to him, just as his dad intended.

And asset protection is not only for the rich. We frequently hear clients refer to their estates as "modest," but as the case we just went through tells us, even a modest inheritance of $50,000 can be worth protecting. Especially when you consider your heirs potentially losing the inheritance you leave them to an unintended third-party, it might seems more valuable, and perhaps worth more effort to protect. But to have this kind of asset protection in place, you have to plan ahead of time.

Come and talk with one of our estate planning attorneys and see how we can make asset protection a cornerstone to your plan.

james-plitz

 

 

 

Contributed by Morris Hall Attorney and Partner James P. Plitz

 

What the Attorneys of Morris Hall, PLLC Can Do For You:
The attorneys at Morris Hall have 100’s of years of combined experience ensuring that families’ assets are protected from probate, unnecessary taxes, creditors, ex-spouses and Medicaid spend-down. Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Carefree, Tucson, Oro Valley, Green Valley, Prescott, Sedona, Flagstaff and Arrowhead. Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

Asset Protection Tools and Techniques

By | Asset Protection, Business Planning | No Comments

I recently wrote on the basics of asset protection.   If we get sued, if we go bankrupt, what happens to our assets?  For many of us, this the asset protection concept is important – we want what we have worked for to be there for us and our loved ones.

You already utilize some asset protection techniques without even realizing it.  There are laws on the books that provide certain protections for your primary residence and for your retirement savings (i.e. IRA).  You have insurances, such as home owners, car and general liability, that add further protections.  But can more be done?

The “law school answer” is: “it depends.”

Depending on your particular situation and your goals, there are additional legal solutions to bolster your asset protection.  The attorney’s toolbox is full of trusts and business structures that further limit your risk of loss should something bad happen to you.

Some of the devices include:

  • Limited Liability Company (LLC)
  • Family Limited Partnership (FLP or FLLLP)
  • Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT)
  • Irrevocable Trust (IT)

Call us today to discuss the techniques that would work best for your situation; or if you want to, at the minimum, make sure what you leave to your loved ones is protected.

 

jim-plitz Contributed by Morris Hall PLLC Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces Estate Planning Attorney and Partner, James P. Plitz.

About Morris Hall, PLLC:
At Morris Hall, PLLC we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 45 years.  Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects.  We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Carefree, Tucson, Oro Valley, Prescott, Sedona, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.