I recently received an investing magazine that is produced by a well-known brokerage firm. To give them credit, the magazine typically has very good articles – on investing. The same cannot be said for one of their recent articles – on estate planning. Did you notice the difference? Investing and financial planning are completely separate from estate planning. True, they ultimately should go hand in hand but I caution you to be leery of who is giving the advice and they type of advice that is being given.
May I share an example of what I mean from this recent edition of the magazine? There is an article, well-intentioned I am sure, written by a Vice President of this brokerage firm. His brief biography mentions that he is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). His article, among other things, has a subject heading that states, “Protect Your Estate.” Under that heading he correctly points out that if someone does not have an estate plan, that their estate is possibly subject to three not-so-fun things: (1) the determination of where your assets and/or your minor children is subject to the decision-making of a Judge; (2) the estate value might be dwindled due to taxes and attorneys’ fees; and (3) the estate may be subject to probate which is a complex and time-consuming process.
The very first solution that is offered to remedy those three situations is to update your Will. With all due respect to the author of the article, the creation and/or updating of your Will does not protect your estate from any of those three mentioned dilemmas! First, a Will does in fact state where you want your assets to go and who the guardians for minor children should be. But the Will still must pass through the hands of a Judge for that to occur. Second, probate is not cheap and a Will does not protect an estate from having to pay taxes. And third, the term “probate” itself means “to prove a Will,” so by having a Will and over $50,000 of assets (in Arizona) in your name alone you are pretty much guaranteeing yourself a trip to probate court.
Again, to give the author credit, the remaining steps in his article are helpful. Some of the other suggestions include obtaining the proper Power of Attorney documents, establishing a revocable living trust, and making sure your assets are titled correctly for your particular circumstances. I could not agree more with the suggestion to create a revocable living trust, but that is an entire blog article for another day. There may be circumstances where a Will is the best vehicle for a particular client, but let me be clear – a Will does not protect your estate from a Judge, fees, or probate!
For the time being, I simply caution you to look at who is giving advice and the type of advice being given. You will never find me telling my clients how to do their taxes or how to invest their money. That is not my area of expertise. The focus of our firm is solely on estate planning, and I’d encourage you to make an appointment today for a free consultation to determine which estate planning method is best for you and your circumstances.
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, MH 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 two 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 MH. 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.