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Five Estate Planning Strategies in COVID-19’s ‘Brave New World’

By | COVID-19, Estate Planning, Living Will, Preparedness | No Comments

Five Estate Planning Strategies in COVID-19’s ‘Brave New World’

 The sudden shock of COVID-19, social distancing, and sheltering-in-place has forced many individuals to review and address situations rarely discussed or considered, and new unthinkable realities.  While many older folks have dealt with such matters, many of us have been very fortunate in that we’ve never had to deal with sudden traumatic illness, sheltering-in-place, and increased isolation from family, friends, and neighbors. 

Many people are reaching out to us to implement estate plans they put off finalizing in the last year.  Some folks are calling to review and update their existing plans and others are calling to create estate plans they should have started years ago, motivated by the COVID-19 crisis. 

What many people don’t know is that attorneys are actively offering innovative solutions for clients to devise and implement a plan to provide peace of mind for clients and their loved ones.

Here are five things you should know to act now:

1. Use your time wisely

With so many people sheltering-in-place, it’s likely you have time to consider some of the critical issues you’ve set aside, such as who would you want to make financial or medical decisions if you fell ill and were unable to make your own? 

2. You can do estate planning from home

While you might be sheltering-in-place and unable to physically meet your attorney, you can still plan. Many attorneys working remotely are happy to consult via email, telephone, or video.  Attorneys can prepare documents and send them for your review via email, mail, or tracked delivery such as FedEx or UPS.

3. There’s more than one way to sign your estate plan documents

There are flexible and creative options to execute your estate plan documents.  Here are some ways attorneys are providing signing services while protecting clients and their team while following local social distancing guidelines:

  • Where appropriate, clients may execute their estate plan at the attorney’s office by wearing gloves and masks in a designated “clean” room;
  • Execute  estate plan at your home while wearing gloves and masks;
  • “Drive-up” signing allows you to sign your estate plan documents while sitting in your car.
  • Estate plans may be emailed to client to print and sign in their own home in the presence of a mobile notary.

4. Notaries for wills and trusts are not always required

Many state statutes may not require notarization to create a valid will or trust, even though it is common practice.  For example, in Arizona, a ‘paper will’ is valid if it is witnessed by two people.  Arizona also allows ‘holographic wills,’ which are unwitnessed wills whose material provisions and signature are in the testator’s handwriting. Although it is always advisable to have estate planning documents notarized, it is important to understand your options in case of an emergency.

5. Online notarization may be an option

Online notarization is a very new concept. Most states do not allow for online notarization.  Arizona now allows for online notarization, as of April 10, 2020.  In response to COVID-19’s sheltering-in-place and social distancing realities, some states may allow for temporary electronic notarization of documents during the pandemic. Check your jurisdiction for rules governing online notarizations.

Hopefully, this “Brave New World’ is temporary, and we can all get back to our regular lives.  Reach out to your attorney about how you can enact estate planning during this time.  At the very least, your plan’s documents can be ready to sign once sheltering-in place restrictions are lifted.

Bill is admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, and before the United States Tax Court.

The Danger of DIY documents

The Dangers of "DIY" Estate Planning

By | COVID-19, Estate Planning, Healthcare documents, Preparedness | No Comments

In response to fear, anxiety, and the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans are scrambling to create hasty estate plans, including end-of-life directives.  According to a recent online article, several companies have seen a spike in creation of online, Do-It-Yourself (“DIY”) wills, powers of attorney and health care documents.

When bad things happen, fear can motivate us to take action. Although fear is a great motivator,  rushing to put together a hasty DIY plan could result in unexpected consequences.

In 2016, my grandfather was scheduled for surgery and was told by his doctor that his healthcare documents were outdated, and that he would need to execute new documents. Fear and urgency made him rush to put together new estate planning documents and healthcare directives.

Instead of seeking the advice of a qualified estate planning attorney, my grandfather completed fill-in-the-blank forms online. The online “package” consisted of a statutory healthcare directive, a statutory Living Will, Medical Treatment Plan, Special Power of Attorney, and a Last Will and Testament.

To most people this would seem like a pretty straight forward and comprehensive plan. However, by filling out this DIY package, my grandfather completely unraveled his intended estate plan, which caused additional delay and resulted in expensive litigation.

Through the DIY package, my grandfather unintentionally gave the entire estate to his then current wife, which contradicted his previously established trust, letters, notes, and other documents evidencing his intent to distribute 50% of the estate to his wife and 50% equally to his children.

At Morris Hall, PLLC we have been helping families plan for life’s uncertainties for 50 years. During this novel time, our entire Morris Hall team remains ready to serve you. We encourage you to take action and create an estate plan that brings peace to yourself and your family. Don’t let fear paralyze you or cause you to make hasty decisions. We want you and your family to avoid the unnecessary costs, delay, and uncertainty that result from DIY estate plans.

Call to schedule a phone or video consultation with one of our qualified and caring attorneys to have your current estate plan reviewed or to establish a new estate plan that accomplishes your goals.

 

Call 888-222-1328 or email us at info@morristrust.com

 

Selecting your Fiduciary

By | Estate Planning, Preparedness | No Comments

When putting your estate plan in place, one of the most critical decisions is naming the person or entity that will make your decisions when you can’t.  Collectively, this role is a fiduciary.

The fiduciary is a person or entity who has a legal obligation to make decisions in your best interest.  This would be the “agent” under a power of attorney.  This would be the personal representative / executor under a last will.  This would be the trustee under a trust.

The role requires many skills.  Foremost is the ability to carry out your wishes in a manner that you have described in your documents.

While you are thinking through the selection process, it is important to know that the fiduciary has a “job” to do.  It is work.  It takes time and effort.

We are here to help you navigate this crucial decision.  We are here to walk you through the pros and cons of selecting your son or daughter, selecting a trusted friend, or having a corporate fiduciary fill the role (such as a bank, trust company, CPA or law firm).

We want your selection of fiduciary work for you and your loved ones.  Call us today to schedule your complimentary consultation with one of our estate planning attorneys.

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

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.

 

Contingency Day Checklist

By | Estate Planning, Preparedness | One Comment

Unfortunately, none of us are getting out of this alive.  Death is a certainty; we don’t know when it will come, but death will occur.  Planning for this certainty is not a pleasant task, but it is a crucial one.

I frequently meet with surviving spouses, children, or friends who, at a time when they are grieving, are left to guess at what must be done.  I’ve been greeted by many of these survivors with boxes of documents: unorganized bank statements, life insurance statements from decades past, and a host of other potential assets that they haven’t the foggiest idea of whether exist or not.

The people we name as successor trustees or executors of our estates are, generally, people we care for.  One of the kindest things we can do for these folks is to leave a “roadmap” of steps to take when the inevitable occurs.  The first step is to have a plan in place; a comprehensive plan deals not with just death, but incapacity as well. This means that all estate planning documents, including powers of attorney, are up to date.

Next, a complete list of assets (and clear detail of asset ownership) is crucial.  It is far more expensive to have an attorney sift through old asset information than it is to simply keep a good, current list of what you own for your successor trustee or executor.  That list should include current assets and titling, along with any applicable beneficiary designations. Remember: before your distribution wishes are followed, the assets to be distributed must be determined.

We live in an increasingly digital society.  To that end, a list of logins and passwords for your successor is extraordinarily helpful.  A password sheet or password service can alleviate quite a bit of headache in wrapping up your matters.

Finally, a personal note as to final wishes (burial and/or funeral services) is helpful.  The folks responsible for arranging services are grieving; any guidance you give regarding your wishes reduces the decision-making burden.

A review of your plan, including your contingency day checklist, is a task that will not only give you piece of mind, but will make things easier for those you care for.  Call our office for an appointment to review your plan and ensure your affairs are in order.

Andrea Claus

Andrea Claus

Contributed by Morris Hall PLLC Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney, Andrea L. Claus.

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.

 

 

Perilous Times in America:

By | Estate Planning, Preparedness | One Comment

We live in perilous times in America today, but don’t worry I am confident.   After listening to all of the current candidates rhetoric, whomever is elected will solve all of our problems. If that were only true. Unfortunately, we have our issues in the United States today. We love to sue each other. There are over 15 million lawsuits filed in our court systems every year. We love to divorce each other. We have the highest divorce rate in the world. There are over 1 million bankruptcies filed each year in the United States. We have generations of children being born with a feeling of entitlement.

Is there a way to protect our loved ones, after we are gone, from some of the stress and hardship that comes with some of today’s issues?  Wouldn’t we all want to offer that protection? We have all worked too hard, scarified too much, spent too much time, energy and effort accumulating the nest egg’s we have.   Don’t have it destroyed after we are gone if something terrible should happen to our loved ones.

There is a way to offer security to our loved ones after we are gone We can leave their inheritance, our hard earned nest egg, in a trust for them. If properly drafted these trusts can allow them access to the principle and income, if that is what you wish, and can continue on into perpetuity. This allows your legacy to continue on for your grandkids and great grandkids. With these Dynasty Trust’s we are able to offer protection from your loved ones creditors, divorces, and lawsuits they may be involved in after you are gone.

Our loved ones may be facing different challenges that we have going forward, but there is a way to help guard against them with proper estate planning.

dave-eastman  Contributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Arrowhead, Scottsdale and Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney and Partner, David T. Eastman.

 

Morris Hall, PLLC Can Protect You in Today’s Litigious Society:
We live in a litigious society, where over 1 million lawsuits are filed every year in America alone.  Financial predators are looking for ways to take funds from others and often use litigation as their means to do so.  At Morris Hall,  we provide your assets and your loved ones with important protections that can prevent financial predators from taking advantage of you.  We do this through proper and current estate planning techniques.  With an MH living trust, we can also protect your property, assets and loved ones from probate, estate taxes, gift taxes, creditors, Medicaid spend-down, conservatorship or guardianship proceedings, ex-spouses and more.  A living trust also keeps your asset and beneficiary information private and secure to avoid giving financial predators information to use against you and your family.  Without a living trust, this information will be made public.  For those living in Arizona, we serve the areas of Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Carefree, Prescott, Flagstaff, Tucson, Oro Valley and Arrowhead.  In New Mexico we serve the areas of Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment with an attorney in your area!

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.

 

 

 

Too Young to Die

By | Estate Planning, Preparedness | One Comment

A high school friend’s husband died the other day.  I am mad.  Though I am feeling old, I am actually in the prime of life, and people my age should not die.  Unfortunately, what should happen and what actually happens are two different things.

I am mad at my friend’s situation – a forty-two year old with two young daughters and a loving wife should not be taken from this world.  His presence is needed to help shape the minds and values of his young girls, and to give life-long support to his wife, my friend.

I am mad at the injustice, the unfairness of it all – by all accounts he was a truly good man.  He was loved by all those he encountered.  He was not someone who “deserved” this fate.

I am mad at the viciousness of cancer – he fought a valiant fight, and for a time looked to be ahead, but the cancer came back stronger, ripping away the rest of his life.

I am mad that his, and all the other similar stories that we hear, that go unheeded – we all know people who were taken too soon.  As you think of those people, those friends, those loved ones, the one common theme is that “it won’t happen to me.” I know this because of my job.  I know this because very few families put an estate plan in place, in general, even fewer if under the age of 55.

Death and loss are not easy.  There are no actions or magic words that make the pain of loss “all better.” However, by putting together plans, by helping clients prepare for the inevitable, we have the opportunity to make a difficult time easier, more manageable.  We get to help give families the peace of mind they deserve.  We get to help prepare people for one of life’s few certainties, no matter when that may happen.

Although today I am mad, I know the work we do for those who do listen to those stories make a difference in their lives.  It makes me feel good.

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, 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.

 

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish; Doing Your Estate Plan on the Cheap:

By | Attorney David Eastman, Estate Planning, Living Will, Other, Preparedness | No Comments

Most of us work very hard to accumulate our nest eggs. Sacrifice of time and energy, is often made to acquire the assets that we have. To ensure that these hard earned assets will be distributed where we want, how we want, and be managed by whom we want, it is critical to have the necessary legal documents in place.

To save a few bucks, people often look to “do-it-yourself” software programs to create their personal estate plans. Be very careful of these shortcuts. As the old adage states: Penny wise, pound foolish. Don’t work your whole life acquiring your nest egg simply to leave it to chance that everything will work out when you are incapacitated or dead.

A 2011 ConsumerReports.org article described that after testing LegalZoom estate planning documents and other software programs similar to LegalZoom, it was determined that “…unless your needs are very simple - say, you want to leave everything to your spouse with no other provisions - none of them are likely to meet your needs.” Consumer Reports found issues throughout the LegalZoom documents and found them unsatisfactory to use in most instances.

Preparing one’s own estate planning documents through an online legal document service can be a risky proposition. Estate planning has many nuances. It often addresses complex and technical points of law, and covers a broad range of issues even if a person does not have substantial assets. As stated in the disclaimer on its website, LegalZoom and its services are not a substitute for the advice of an attorney; it does not apply the law to the facts of a particular situation, and the information on its website is not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or up-to-date.

An experienced estate planning attorney adds significant value to the process to help ensure that a costly mistake, which may not be discovered until a crisis develops, doesn’t occur. A qualified attorney stays current on developments in the law, which helps ensure the plan is current and drafted effectively, and meets the individual’s objectives and needs.

Developing a relationship with a good estate planning attorney allows you to have a trusted advisor who can provide guidance on your most important lifetime decisions and to assist your family when you are gone.

dave-eastmanContributed by Phoenix, Arrowhead and Scottsdale Estate Planning Attorney, David T. Eastman.

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.

Why You Need a Living Trust

By | Estate Planning, Other, Preparedness | No Comments

This will be the first of a four-part series on why you need a living trust.  I recently read an article from a well-known business publication that provided four reasons why you don’t need a living trust.  In this four-part series, I will identify the reasons provided by the article and examine why those reasons are severely misguided and flawed.

~ You don’t need a trust to protect assets from probate ~

The article states that you can arrange your assets using alternative methods to transfer outside of probate. Common methods include: holding jointly owned property as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, beneficiary designations, “POD” (payable on death) or “TOD” (transfer on death) accounts, and beneficiary deeds, to name a few.

These planning methods are risky and should not be offered as sound estate planning advice.  Here are a few examples to illustrate:

  • If an asset is owned jointly with a right of survivorship, and the joint tenants die simultaneously, it will need to be probated.
  • If a surviving joint tenant died without funding the asset into a living trust, or failed to find another joint tenant, it will need to be probated.
  • If the designated person on a TOD, POD, or a beneficiary designation predeceases you, and you fail to update the account, the asset will need to be probated.
  • If your designated beneficiary is a minor, or is declared mentally incapacitated at the time of distribution, the asset will need to be probated to determine a conservator and guardian for the beneficiary.
  • If you use a beneficiary deed to transfer a piece of real estate upon your death, but the deed doesn’t get recorded properly or on time, or you live in a state where beneficiary deeds are not recognized, the real estate will need to be probated.

The above examples are only a few of the things that can occur when using the first method directed by the article.  Please consult a qualified estate planning attorney to help you determine the best approach to your estate planning needs.

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

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.

Trusts: Not Just for Estate Tax Avoidance

By | Attorney Andrea Claus, Estate Planning, Other, Preparedness | No Comments

It is true, a trust can be used to safeguard assets from estate taxes, however, that is not the extent of what a trust can accomplish. The two primary purposes of a trust are to manage assets during life and control their distribution at death.

During life, a trust can address issues encountered in the event of incapacity.  A properly drafted trust, used in conjunction with other estate planning documents, can eliminate the need for court involvement during a period of incapacity.  There are also types of irrevocable trusts that can help protect you from the cost of care if you need nursing or home health care via the State’s Medicaid program.

At death, properly drafted trust can address remarriage or blended family concerns.  For instance, in the event a surviving spouse remarries, a trust can ensure that, at his death, his assets pass directly to his children rather than to the children of this new spouse, even though Arizona and New Mexico are community property states.

I’ve only mentioned a few things beyond estate tax mitigation that a trust can achieve.  A properly drafted trust can achieve many other things.  It can protect beneficiaries, can be used as an income or capital gains tax planning tool, and it can even be used to incentivize certain achievements. .  Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss your unique situation is the first step to putting a proper plan in place.

andrea-clausContributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Phoenix and Prescott Estate Planning Attorney, Andrea L. Claus.

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.

Take Control – Make a Plan

By | Estate Planning, Other, Planning Ahead: One Week at a Time, Preparedness | No Comments

The biggest issue that I hear about “why” people don’t but their estate plan in place is that they don’t want to have face death.  The fear is that by talking about it, it will happen.  Our mortality is a humbling proposition, but talking about it, or avoiding it, does not change our ultimate outcome (or timing thereof).

But it does not have to be viewed in such a negative lens.  Though estate planning has a component dealing with death, it is more about taking control while you are alive.  Estate planning is about getting your thoughts, your hopes, your intent onto paper so that your loved ones have an easier go at this emotional time.

Estate planning is not a sterile, cold draining experience.  It is full of life.  It is securing your present so that you can better enjoy your future.  Estate planning is a couple of steps now, to save thousands of steps later.

And when estate planning is done properly, you will have the peace of mind that you deserve.  The peace of mind that allows you to rest assured that when the time comes, your loved ones will be able to work through the estate as easily as possible.

Take control of your life and of your plan.  Come in and talk with one of our estate planning attorneys to get your plan in place.  That conversation will lead you to a much better state of mind.

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.