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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.

Tragic loss at All Ages

By | Celebrity Estates, E-Alert | No Comments

This weekend demonstrates that Death treats us all equally.  Death does not care if you are rich or you are poor.  Death reaches out and takes you when it feels it is your time.  As a sports fan, I was impacted by last weekend’s loss of Arnold Palmer and Jose Fernandez.

At 87 years young, Arnold Palmer, one of golf’s legendary figures, passed Sunday evening waiting for cardiac surgery.  Though he was approaching his 9th decade, his passing was still a shock.  He was the epitome of sportsmanship, and can always be seen at the golf course.  Greatness could not save Arnie.

Contrast that with the loss of Jose Fernandez at the age of 24.  Forgive me, but a 24 year old shouldn’t die.  It is not right.  But Death cares not.  Age is not a hurdle that Death has to clear.  The news shocked his home country of Cuba – he was more than a ball player, he embodied freedom.

With Arnie, we can celebrate a life lived.  We can celebrate the accomplishments and accolades.  We can revel in all that he gave to golf and the rest of us.

With Jose, it is pure loss.  It is the loss of opportunity.  The loss of his joy.  The loss of his future.  And our loss to be able to watch his accomplishments amass.

We have always said everyone needs an estate plan – what that plan entails varies with age, wealth and goals.  And this weekend’s sports losses is a striking example as why this is so.

Make sure you have a plan, and that it has been reviewed to ensure it does what you need it to.  See one of our estate planning attorneys today.

west-hunsakerContributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Carefree and Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney and Partner, West Hunsaker.

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, Green 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.

Children over 18? Parents Can No Longer Make the Decisions

By | E-Alert, Estate Planning, Living Will, Other, Uncategorized | No Comments

Does a parent have the automatic right to make the decisions for their children over eighteen (18) years of age?

In the past two weeks, I met with two families to assist them in their estate planning options. There was a common theme – each family thought that their children (all over 18) didn’t need their own individual planning because the parents would be able to  be in charge should the need arise.

Let’s take an example to illustrate:  Betty’s eighteen year old son, Sam, was involved in a motorcycle accident which left him unconscious and in a coma.  Can Betty legally make Sam’s healthcare and financial decisions now that he is unable to? No, Betty would legally be unable to do so just because she is Sam’s mother. If Sam had created Healthcare or Financial Powers of Attorney nominating Betty as his primary agent, then Betty would have the appropriate authority. However, the fact that Betty is Sam’s mother doesn’t give her an automatic right to make Sam’s decisions when he is unable to do so.

In our example, if Sam had not created Powers of Attorney, Betty would have to initiate a Guardianship/Conservatorship at the courthouse. This type of proceeding is called a Living Probate, and is very expensive, time consuming and can be humiliating.

And yet another more common example:  Susan and Bill’s eighteen year old daughter, Jill, is about to graduate from high school, and heading off to college in a few months. Will Jill’s parents be able to get access to her medical records should Jill end up at the hospital while away at school? Will they be able to tell the doctor which procedures to do on behalf of Jill? The answers are “No.”

In this common example, Jill is considered an adult, and must designate in writing who can step in and receive her health information or make her health decisions. If she does not do so, and becomes incapacitated, her parents will have to go to court to initiate a Guardianship/Conservatorship.

We can avoid this unnecessary cost and humiliation during our life. How? If you are over eighteen years of age, you need a properly drafted Healthcare Power of Attorney, Mental Healthcare Power of Attorney, Living Will, and Authorization to Disclose Health Information (HIPAA) which nominates an individual(s) chosen by you, not the court, to get access to and handle your medical decisions should you become incapacitated.

 

Wendy-Harn-Photo  Contributed 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. 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.

 

Morris Hall Ranked Number One Estate Planning Firm by Ranking Arizona

By | E-Alert, Other | No Comments

Phoenix – The law firm of Morris Hall, PLLC (MH) has been ranked by Ranking Arizona as number one for 2016 in two categories, Estate and Trust Law Firm in Arizona and Law Firm with Twenty or Fewer Attorneys.

 

Ranking Arizona is Arizona’s largest opinion poll, with categories of services determined by the staff of Arizona Business Magazine. The ranking is determined by voting throughout the year by the general public for outstanding performance in a variety of services and industries.

 

MH has dedicated its practice to estate planning for over 40 years, and for the last 20 years has engaged exclusively in estate planning and supporting areas of the law.  The firm is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.  As a result of this membership and its exclusive estate planning practice, MH takes pride in providing the best estate planning strategies, documents and service available.  

 

“We are honored to once again be ranked #1 by our clients and the communities that we serve,” stated Dan Morris, senior partner of MH. “There is no greater privilege than being selected to help ensure the happiness and well-being of clients and their families and beneficiaries. It is a responsibility that we take very seriously.”

 

With 10 attorneys and 40 paralegals and support staff members, MH offers a very personal level of trustworthiness, reliability, compassion and concern.  With estate planning there is no such thing as a typical client; MH structures its documents and services to the particular needs of each individual, The desire and focus of the attorneys and staff at MH is to provide peace of mind and security for every client, that they know that their estate plan will protect them while they are alive, and will support their beneficiaries when they are gone.

 

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.

 

Estate Planning: You can Leave More than just Money

By | Beneficiaries, E-Alert, Estate Planning, Other | No Comments

How do I leave more than just money to my children or grandchildren?  This is a question that comes up more often than you think.  Each generation views the world in their own unique way; and my clients are realizing that they can do more than just leave them money.  I recently had a couple express their desire to show their family what was important to them by planning their estate with a component that gives back.  These, and many clients like them, want to show their future generations that there is more to life than they realize.  The bigger question they asked themselves was “How can I leave a true legacy for my family?”   What is your legacy?  What would you like it to be?  Have you even asked yourself these questions?

I recently attended the global conference for Make-A-Wish (A charity started in Arizona).  The conference was hosted by Disney in celebration of the 100,000th wish that Disney granted to a child through Make-A-Wish.  I have been incredibly fortunate to be involved with an organization whose entire mission and purpose is to give Strength, Hope & Joy to children with life threatening illnesses.  My family is witnessing the development of my legacy throughout my life.

There are thousands of charities in our communities and across the country that serve very important purposes.   Think about the causes or organizations that you have a tender spot in your heart; charities that have touched you or your family in different ways.  Many times, charities are included in estate plans simply for tax reasons. However, involving those special charities in your life and in your estate plan can help create and cement your legacy in the minds of those that mean the most to you. Creating an estate plan is much more than just deciding who gets what. This is one of the many reasons that helping individuals and families is not just our practice, it is our passion, it is our privilege.

west-hunsaker  Contributed by Morris Hall PLLC Carefree, Sedona, Flagstaff, Scottsdale and Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney and Partner, West Hunsaker.

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 Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Carefree, Tucson, Oro Valley, Prescott, 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.

 

Asset Protection 101

By | Business Planning, E-Alert, Estate Planning | No Comments

A big part of estate planning is asset protection.  I don’t think that the concept of asset protection is readily understood, because if it was we would all be working to put asset protection plans in place.

So, here is an asset protection primary.  First, let’s break down the term.  First word is “asset.”  An asset is the items you own – bank accounts, brokerage accounts, house . . . We all have assets, though we each have more or less than others.

The second word is “protection.”  Protection is the act of safeguarding.

So together it is the safeguarding of the stuff you own.  Don’t we all want to safeguard the stuff we own?

If I told you that your estate plan can protect what you leave to your loved ones (i.e. the inheritance) from lawsuits, a divorce, a bankruptcy, would you want that?  The answer is “yes.” We can do that, we can put that kind of language into a basic estate plan.

If you need protections now, there are - many options that can be utilized based on the particulars of your situation.  The key thing with any asset protection technique is to have it in place before the “bad thing” happens.  There is no “back dating” when it comes to asset protection – you must have it place now, for the protections from some potential future issue.

Call us today to discuss what technique 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.

Why You Need a Living Trust

By | E-Alert, Estate Planning, Estate taxes | No Comments

In this third installment of my four-part series on why you need a living trust, I will look at the third reason why a well-known business publication declared that you don’t need a living trust.

~ You must transfer property to a trust ~

The article states that transferring property to a trust can be a hassle. That is the third reason provided by the article – it can be a hassle!  The article neglects to point out that it is a hassle to file a probate; it is a hassle to file a guardianship and conservatorship; it is a hassle being on the probate court’s schedule; it is a hassle to pay probate attorney fees and court fees; it is a hassle to have multiple probates if you have assets in other states; and, it is a hassle to lose money unnecessarily because your will does not contain asset protection provisions.

A revocable living trust requires retitling assets to the trust. This process is referred to as “funding” the trust.  It does require some time to properly fund the trust. However, to suggest that you don’t need a trust because it is a hassle to fund the trust is severely misguided.

I think we can all agree that it is worth spending a little bit of time to ensure that your loved one’s inheritance will be protected and properly administered after you’re gone, free from the hassle of probate.  Funding a trust doesn’t have to be a hassle.  A good estate planning law firm will you help you through the process of funding to make it easier and more efficient.

 

darren-richardsonContributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney, Darren L. Richardson.

 

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 Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Carefree, Tucson, Oro Valley, Prescott, 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.

What Makes Up an Estate Plan?

By | E-Alert, Estate Planning | 2 Comments

One question that many people ask is: What exact documents make up an estate plan?

There are several documents that each person over the age of 18 needs in order to handle issues that arise on incapacity or death:

  • Will – is a must if you have minor children. It will nominate guardians for your minor children. It will also lay out your wishes on how to distribute your property at your death.
  • Living Trust – unlike a Will, a Living Trust lays out your wishes on how your property should be managed during your life should you become incapacitated. The Living Trust also details how to distribute your property at your death.
  • Financial Power of Attorney – appoints individuals to make financial decisions either now or triggered by your incapacity.
  • Healthcare documents – there are 4 important documents -
  • Living Will, which is end of life decisions (ie. do you want to be kept alive artificially);
  • Healthcare POA/Mental POA, which appoints individuals to make medical decisions on your behalf should you be unable to do so; and
  • HIPAA, which gives the ability for those named to be able to retrieve your healthcare information in the event that you can no longer give your permission.

Because an estate plan is not a ‘one size fits all’, it is important for anyone over the age of 18 to sit down and start establishing a basic estate plan. Please contact one of our experienced estate planning attorneys for a no-cost consultation to begin this important conversation.

Wendy-Harn-Photo   Contributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Tucson and Oro 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. 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.

 

Fraudulent Tax Returns Filed Under Your Name

By | E-Alert, Estate taxes | No Comments

I recently received an official letter from a state that I have never lived  nor preformed business in.  This letter was from the state’s tax department informing me they needed more information before they could respond to my request for a tax refund.  The next day I received another letter from a second state.  Then one from the IRS.  I learned from the second state that this request had been done using my wife and my names in six states. The good news is the states taking measures to catch these false claims simply by asking for more information.

 

In my case, the individuals were not trying to receive a tax refund since no taxes had been paid.  They were trying to get benefits from each state. It is not known what specific benefits, but trying to collect whatever benefits they can from each state.

This is very troubling and of significant concern.  What is happening?  What is at risk?  I contacted our banker and accountant to discover  that this is not an unusual event any more.  This article by Money Magazine, http://time.com/money/3709141/stolen-tax-refund/, gives a great deal of information about what is happening. More importantly,  article provides  very helpful advice on what to do and how to handle the situation.

The article outlines steps that are imperative for situations such as this.  It is a priority to follow the outlined steps to ensure the records in those states are corrected.  Additional steps will be taken to protect us from  impact to our credit as well as possible  tax fraud.

As a side note,  our federal tax return is on an extension. In those other states, a tax return has not been, and will not be filed. You have to stay alert; as you never know how someone is accessing and then using your personal information to defraud you.  In my case, I have no idea how they found our information and do not believe we will ever know.

As our client you are very important.  We will continue to provide you with information that will protect you and your family today and in the future.

dan-morrisContributed by Morris Hall Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney and Senior Partner, Dan R. Morris.

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.

 

What Happens to your On-Line Presence when you Die

By | E-Alert, Estate Planning, Other, Planning Ahead: One Week at a Time | No Comments

My great aunt Barbara is now on FaceBook!  She is the sweetest, nicest and best person you can ever hope to have a part of your life, but never in a million years would I have expected a “Friend” request from her.  Just about all of us are on-line in some way or another.  From printing your photos at Walgreens, or storing your frequent flyer miles, to all the social media sites to your basic e-mail account.  Our on-line portfolios are growing each and every day.

But what happens if you are not there to deal with your on-line presence? Who can fill your shoes, so to speak?

In many instances, getting access to these “digital assets” is critical from an information standpoint – there could be the e-mail that can show where the life insurance policies are stored.  It is also critical from an emotional standpoint – there are so many pictures, movies and other media that helps tell the story of “you”.

But access to these digital assets can be difficult, if not impossible – the number of hoops that someone has to jump through.  FaceBook and Google have worked to put some solutions in place.  But these are just two companies (though they are extremely large!).  What about everything else you have on-line.

 

We have worked to solve this problem with language that will give you trusted agent, the person you want to handle your affairs when you can’t, the power to deal with your on-line portfolio.  This allows access to the person that you trust to gather the information, close accounts as appropriate, and get the digital asset to your loved ones in accordance to your overall plan.

Please make sure you have this ever growing asset class covered in your plan.  Contact us, and make an appointment to have your plan reviewed to see if your Digital Assets are covered.

jim-plitzContributed 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, 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.