Monday, December 31, 2012

Will Preparation - True Peace Of Mind

Will preparation? Ugly, emotionally taxing, mentally stressful, but necessary. I know this as fact:Preparing a Will is one of the cornerstones to securing your families future. We all have heard the old adage, even Forrest Gump knows this one, S&^t Happens. You can't stop it, I can't stop it or even slow it down, it's called life. It happens to us all, no one excluded. The only thing we can do is prepare for the day said "stuff" happens.

Think back in your life to the time someone left this world unexpectedly? Now, try to think a little bit deeper, and remember what their immediate family went through. Did they have the proper insurance? Did they have the finances needed to cover the costs of a funeral? Did they have a will? If not, how did the family react to that news. I have come to realize death brings out two sides in people. A will can and does protect you and your family from the darker side of human nature, among a great many other things.

Join the millions of people who have discovered this one great truth, It doesn't have to be an arduous task, rather a great relief. The positive repercussions far outweigh the negative aspect of will preparation. Peace of mind is the first one that I think of. To many times I have watched families, close families, being senselessly ripped apart over an unexpected death in the family. They are unprepared, uneducated, and/or not equipped to handle the shock of someone close to them leaving this world. With the mental stress involved compounded by enormous grief felt, and add in all the other emotions, it is no wonder people sometimes act the way they do. I do not, however, blame people per-say. We are not far removed from are base instincts, and one of those at our core is survival. The mentality that we must "take" what is ours at any cost. When confronted with such a mental and emotional blast, such as a death in the family, we tend to let instinct take over. It is for these reasons a Will is such a necessity. It will protect your assets yes, but in looking a little deeper, it may be the one thing that keeps a family A Family.

Choice! It is our given right as creatures of God. We always have choices. What we do with these choices tends to structure who we are and where we go. In a Will, it is your choices, your recommendations, your ideas being carried out even afer death. These choices you make so casually may and probably will effect many lives to come. A suggestion would be to take your time, think about your choices, write them down, and then think about them some more. Talk with your family about the possibilities of an early death and how you, as a family, can and will handle it. All of these things will better educate and prepare you for the curves we dont see in the road of life. Take from this what you will and leave the rest behind as faded memories, that is your choice. One thing I ask of you in kindness, Do not let a family members death be the death of the family. Educate then implement. Prepare then Produce. You will only be helping your family in a time when help is needed.

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Top 4 Benefits of an Uncontested Divorce

Have you already thought about what type of divorce case you'd like to go through? You may want to consider getting an uncontested divorce so you can significantly lessen your legal costs, shorten the process and settle things more peacefully with your spouse. Below are some of the many benefits you'll receive when you choose an uncontested divorce:
Smoother Divorce Process
Since this type of case can easily be resolved between the parties, the process won't be too complicated unlike that of a contested divorce. All you have to do is carefully discuss each issue with your spouse, come up with a fair agreement, complete the necessary documents, submit them to your local court and wait for the results. There is no need for filing counter-petitions, requesting appeals and doing other confusing legal procedures that make the divorce incredibly stressful to deal with.
Quicker Results
Another benefit you can get from this case type is the quick delivery of results. Because an uncontested case does not have to undergo trial, the results can be received only within a couple of months. Now, you don't have to wait for several years until your divorce becomes finalized because the entire process is lot faster and easier to accomplish.
Lesser Legal Expenses
Uncontested cases are also less costly than a contested one because you no longer have to pay for the usual court fees, additional filing costs and other miscellaneous expenses. This type of case is also quite simple to handle on your own, so you can choose not to hire a lawyer and save a substantial amount in your total divorce costs.
Better Settlement Agreement
Finally, the most important benefit you can gain from your uncontested divorce is a better settlement agreement. Remember that the division of properties, determination of child custody arrangements and other issues are all up to you and your spouse, and you can both come up with a decision that's fair and suitable for everyone. Sometimes when a divorce goes to court, the judge makes a decision that the parties don't fully agree with, but with an uncontested case you can make compromises and choose the options that are ideal for you and your soon-to-be ex spouse.
So if you want to experience all these incredible benefits in your divorce, be sure you prefer an uncontested case. However, you must also see to it that your spouse is willing to cooperate with you otherwise this arrangement will be useless and you'll both end up meeting in court.

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

3 Reasons You Should Have an Operating Agreement for Your LLC

Forming an LLC, or limited liability company, is a sound strategy for even the smallest new business. It offers legal protection for your assets, and gives you more options regarding how your taxes are handled than you would have as a sole proprietorship or independent contractor. If these sorts of protections are what prompted you to go the LLC route, an operating agreement is practically mandatory. These agreements can offer you further protections while ensuring you maintain the proper level of control over your LLC management.
Limited Liability Company Operating Agreements Give You More Control of Your Business
When you begin the process of forming an LLC, you will learn that the government has already established a set of general guidelines for how these types of businesses should be governed. What may not be quite as clear in the documentation, though, is that without an operating agreement these guidelines are applied to your business by default.
In essence, your LLC management structure, and even the allotment of your profits, is automatically determined by state and federal guidelines. Luckily, these guidelines tend to have one commonality across the board: the ability to individualize aspects of your LLC management through the use of an operating agreement.
Of course, your agreement may not include any rules that violate the law, but you still have quite a bit of freedom to make your own adjustments, provided you do so in the form of a formal operating agreement.
An Agreement Helps You Solidify Your LLC Management Structure
This aspect is particularly important if you are forming an LLC with one or more partners. An operating agreement detailing each partner's position, responsibilities and even voting rights in regard to major issues can save you from significant hassles down the road.
As any successful business owner can confirm, comprehensive written policies are the backbone of a good company. Consider the agreement your company's very first official policy.
You Can Further Protect Your Assets Should the Worst Occur
Your goal, of course, is to stay on the good side of the law so that you will never have to defend your assets in court. If, however, you do find yourself in the legal situation such as filing for bankruptcy, an operating agreement can help you keep your business and personal assets separate.
If you are the sole owner of your business, this precaution is likely part of the reason you decided on forming an LLC as opposed to a sole proprietorship. While this should be enough to keep your assets legally separated, in some cases the courts will require further evidence of the separation. An operating agreement that lays out exactly which assets and property belong to the business keeps the waters from being muddied, offering you the best possible protection even in the worst-case scenario.
An Operating Agreement is an Essential Part of Forming an LLC
As you can see, there are numerous benefits to writing an operating agreement, whether you plan to be a business of one or 100. Creating more paperwork for yourself may be the last thing that you want, but the control and protections it can provide make it a worthwhile endeavor, if not an essential step in building your limited liability company.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

How to Distribute Funds in an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) In a Divorce Without Tax Penalties

The term "Qualified Domestic Relations Order" (frequently abbreviated "QDRO") refers to a specific type of legal form that used for the purpose of dividing a retirement account or plan in connection with a judgment of divorce. QDRO's are used for the division of pensions, 401K accounts, and any other type of retirement asset that is subject to the federal law known as ERISA.

Because individual retirement accounts (IRA's) are not subject to ERISA, IRA's are generally easier to divide than pensions and other types of retirement assets. The legal forms that are used to dividing individual retirement accounts are commonly referred to as QDRO's even though, technically speaking, the written instruments needed to effectuate the division of an IRA are less technically demanding than what is normally encountered in drafting QDRO's.

When an interest in an IRA is to be transferred from one spouse to another in conjunction with divorce, the Internal Revenue Service has straightforward procedure, with the requirement that there must be a "written instrument" directing the transfer before the transfer actually occurs. Generally, the transferred interest in the IRA is viewed as the recipient-spouse's property and, therefore, this conveyance is tax-free. Sample forms (frequently referred to as QDRO forms) that may be used to satisfy the IRS's "written instrument" requirement are available for download online.

The most common method is the direct transfer. The IRA owner-spouse may order the IRA trustee to transfer the necessary IRA assets directly to the trustee of a new or existing IRA in the name of the recipient-spouse. Another option is to transfer the assets the owner-spouse is entitled to keep to another IRA, leave the necessary amount in the old IRA for the recipient-spouse and change the name on the old IRA to that of the recipient.

A transfer is not considered "incident to divorce" unless it occurs after the final judgment/decree of divorce has been entered by the court. After entry of the divorce judgment, the account owner should transfer an IRA in a timely manner.

Should an individual give IRA assets to a former spouse without receiving a court-approved divorce decree or separation agreement authorizing the change in ownership, the individual will be required to include the amount in his/her income, thus treating the transaction as a distribution to him/herself.

To protect the interests of both spouses, and clearly communicate the parties' intentions to the financial institution/IRA custodian, it is recommended that the parties prepare a domestic relations order setting forth the precise manner in which the IRA will be distributed. As noted above, a template QDRO for dividing an IRA may be found online.

In order to avoid confusion and minimize the risk of adverse tax consequences, it is advisable that parties enter into an agreement, similar to a QDRO (although, technically, not a QDRO) that specifically identifies the IRA and the manner in which it will be divided after entry of a judgment of divorce. QDRO samples, including sample forms for distributing IRA funds in divorce, may be useful for divorce litigants and attorneys alike.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Advance Directives and Why You Need One

You've probably heard of advance directives, but are unsure of what they actually do and how they can help you. The truth is that these are a great way to plan ahead for your future, but they do require a bit of work upfront first. This is a good thing though, since it will save you time and energy later. It's better to have the work done before you actually need to do it so in a time of emergency everything is already sorted out beforehand.

The first thing to be aware of is the medical power of attorney, also called a healthcare proxy. This person is lawfully able to make medical decisions for you in the event that you are unable to. This includes when you are suffering from dementia and when you are not conscious. This is a big shoe to fit into, so to speak, so it is important that you select someone that you trust completely. Sometimes, you may want to select a backup healthcare proxy in the event that something happens to your original choice for POA. This doesn't happen often, but when it does you will want to be prepared. So having another person you trust on deck allows you to not worry about constantly updating your POA paperwork.

You also need to know that your POA will not be able to make decisions that override your decisions. This is to benefit you, of course. If you were to wake up out of a coma, you would then be able to once again make your own decisions and not have to worry about your POA making a decision that you do not want them to.

Some states do not actually honor other states' advance directives. Some do. So it will require a little research, either on your own or with your attorney, to make sure that if you are moving from New York to California, for example, that your advance directive will hold up under the scrutiny of the legal system. The easiest solution to this problem is to have an advance directive made up for each state that you will be residing in. So if you do move into a California retirement home, make sure that you set up an advance directive as soon as possible once you are a resident there.

A final consideration for the State of California is that if you are in a skilled nursing facility and want to set up an advance directive, you must have a patient advocate sign the paperwork as a witness. Again, this is to protect you and your rights.

Basically, the State of California wants to ensure that the patient is of sound mind and that they are not being taken advantage of. This is why an advocate must sign-they look out for their patients' best interests.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

Probate Administration: How It Works

Probate administration is something that many people fail to fully grasp. This is compounded by the difficult times in which such administrative action is necessary, usually after a person has passed on and their last will and testament is acted upon. It is important to understand the basics of probate administration because families often find it difficult to come to agreement about money, property, or other inheritances after a loved one has passed away. The administrator is responsible for the smooth transfer of assets or pieces of the deceased person's estate to their beneficiaries. There are a few basics that are crucial to understanding the process and you don't have to be an attorney or probate administer to see the complexity of such a position.

The first basic tenet of probate administration is the fact that it costs money. This may seem like a simplistic statement, but many families are caught unaware of the potential costs of having their loved one's assets divided up in court. If at all possible, the hiring of a probate administrator is something that should be agreed upon before the deceased person passes away. This ensures that the deceased person's wishes are honored and the family is treated fairly and properly by the administrator. It is not uncommon for administrators to charge fees which can be later deduced from the value of the estate or assets. These costs are usually deducted before the assets are split between the family members and beneficiaries. The executor of the will, or the person who is officially tasked with carrying out the actions described in the will, will work closely with the administrator and the family to make sure the last wishes of the deceased are honored and respected. In many instances, if the estate owes money and has to go to probate court, the executor is required to provide a fidelity bond which acts as a sort of deposit against the possibility that the executor will abuse their power to distribute the deceased's assets.

Another important concept to keep in mind is that there is usually a strict time limitation for the beneficiaries to receive the assets or portions of the estate. Probate administration planning should be incorporated into he last will and testament of the deceased whenever possible. If one is not selected before the time of death, a petition can be filed by the family members that will help to resolve the administration issue and nominate one to take care of such duties. On a related note, real estate or personal taxes as well as lawsuits and settlements can also be levied during the first few weeks or months after a person passes on. These are also time-sensitive judgements or actions and will most often come out of the estate or assets before family even gets to divide them up.

Such an administrator also helps to notify creditors that the deceased person has passed and acts as a middleman of sorts for the family. The administrator will likely help the family notify these creditors and help them to publish or post legally-necessary notices. This allows each creditor to clear out any remaining accounts or settle them with the deceased's assets prior to the distribution to the named beneficiaries. This can be a long, complex process, especially if the person who passed away had lots of credit card debt or loans with banks and other creditors. Just like with taxes or lawsuits levied against the deceased, the beneficiaries are second in line to receive their loved one's assets and estate.

Each state handles probate differently and it is certainly worth your time to research and learn more about the details of the transfer of assets to beneficiaries after a loved one passes. The best way to be prepared and reduce the need for probate administration or even the potential for inter-family legal struggles is to have a conversation with your loved ones about such issues. Make sure their decisions are in writing and hold up to legal scrutiny. Once a person is gone, family members often scramble to be first in line for any benefits or inheritances. It is amazing that when money is on the line, the family's social dynamic can change almost overnight.

If a person passes on without a last will and testament, the spouse or next of kin is usually awarded the estate or assets associated with the estate. Again, these assets are handed over after the Federal and state governments make sure no back taxes or liens are owed and after creditors give their input according to the legal contracts entered by the now deceased. An excellent way to avoid all the probate headaches is to create a trust that allows for a probate-free transfer of money to the family of the loved one who has passed.

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

5 Myths About a Will

There is a great deal of misconception and confusion when it actually comes to understanding what a Will is and why it is utilized. Here is a short list of the 5 myths about a Will.

1. A Will is not required as my estate will be taken care of upon my death by the courts. This is completely incorrect. A Will is a legal document that is used to designate beneficiaries and what assets those beneficiaries are to receive. In the event this document does not exist then there really is not other way for the administrators or the estate to objectively determine the intent of the testator. As a result, the estate will be subject to probate court where the judge presiding there will be given the responsibility of determining the actual intent of testator from the facts and circumstances of the case. If for any reasons there is a dispute among multiple parties that they are entitled to a specific asset then they will have to do legal battle in order to recover what they believe they are entitled to. This will in turn cost a great deal of legal expense and cost.

2. A Will does not need to be signed. Although it is true that a Will need not be typed formally in order to be valid it does however need to be signed. This sort of legal document is not valid unless it is signed by the individual creating it.

3. A Will can be made by anyone even those that have mental conditions. A Will can not be accepted as valid if from the facts and circumstances of the case it seems that the person who created it was not of sound mind.

4. A Will can not be changed once its made so it's a good idea to wait till the very end of life before you make one. This is not true as you can change your Will anytime up until the time you pass one. Many different circumstances warrant the changing of this legal document and one of the most common is divorce.

5. A Will does not allow for the utilization of tax planning strategies. This is incorrect because in fact this legal document allows for the ability to utilize a great deal of tax planning strategies including a credit shelter trust which is one of the most effective ways of minimizing estate taxes.

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Best Time To Make A Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney

A Living Will and Healthcare Power are the most important estate planning documents that you can make. This is for the simple fact that they affect you and have huge ramifications for you while you are still alive. The question that matters most is when is it the best time to make sure that these documents are in place.

The simple answer is that the best time to make a Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney is before you need them. After you need them it is too late to go back and make them or change the fact that you did not make preparations. Healthcare documents are meant to be in place to make sure your wishes for medical treatment or lack of medical treatment are honored when you can no longer speak for yourself. You are considered to be no longer able to speak for yourself when you become incapacitated through disability such as a coma or stroke. Advance directives also take the stress and potential difficult decisions out of the hands of family members that may be grieving or unable to think rationally. Leaving a family member with a difficult choice of whether to keep you alive or pull the plug is never something that you should do. It is better to take this decision out of a family member's hands and make sure that your healthcare wishes are clearly stated in writing.

The best way to do this is to plan ahead and make sure your documents are in place before you need them.

This will be before you are in a hospital or nursing home and when you have a clear head and enough time to make an informed decision. If you are already in a hospital or nursing home you might be under stress or pressure to make a decision. If you are already admitted in a hospital or nursing home then you may still make a Healthcare Power of Attorney without additional steps, but to complete a Living Will in some states you will need someone from the state Ombudsman's office present. This additional step may take more time and interfere with your wishes. While nobody wants to think about the possibility of their own mortality or possible incapacity, it is a reality that adults that have people that care for them and depend on them must face. Having advance directives in place can take worry from your mind now and prevent worry and stress from loved ones later on.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Establishing Your Own Corporation

You want to set up a new business in California and you want it to be a corporation. Establishing a corporation will be no simple task, though. There are forms to fill, concepts to think about, and positions to fill. Below are things to remember when you are looking to incorporate in California.

Name your business

Be sure the name you chose for your corporation is not the same as others in the files of California's Secretary of State. Avoid any similarities with those names as it can bring about copyright infringement lawsuits on your corporation.

The board of directors

The next step is the creation of your corporation's board of directors. California law states that a corporation needs at least three board directors, except when there are only one or two shareholders. The number of directors should be in the Article of Incorporation or the by-laws.

California does not have a minimum age or residency requirement for the people who will comprise your board of directors. You and the others looking to incorporate in California can recruit or appoint someone in New York to be a member of your board.

Filing with the Secretary of State

You can now see California's Secretary of State and file the articles of incorporation (sometimes called a "charter" or a "certificate of incorporation") with that office. Some of the common information in the charter includes the company name, the company's legal address, its incorporators, the purpose of the business, and the names of the board members. There is a fee for the filing, around $100.

The corporation's bylaws and statement of information

In California, incorporation needs the would-be corporation's bylaws. The state does not set any rules for the content. You should just include the rules and procedures you want for your corporation, definition of roles and responsibilities for its offices, the size of the board, and other important details. You do not have to file the bylaws with California's Secretary of State, but you should always keep a copy.

Next, you have to file a Statement of Information with the Secretary of State. This has data similar to the bylaws, but also includes complete address of the corporations' board of directors and its upper management, the name of the Agent for Service of Process (the person who will accept lawsuits in behalf of your corporation), and other important details.

Meetings, stocks and taxes

You must hold an organizational meeting that includes the owners and the directors. Here, you appoint the corporate officers, approve the bylaws, authorize stocks, set the accounting (or fiscal) year, adopt a stock certificate form, designate a bank, and choose a seal.

This is where you issue stock certificates to the owners of the corporation. The board is the one that sets the amount received for each stock, unless otherwise stated in the articles of incorporation.

Finally, you must know what tax and other regulatory obligations your corporation has. This will include requesting an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRA), and the state of California if you will be paying $100 to an employee or several of them in the quarter.

Once these procedures in the California incorporation are done, open a bank account for the business. Depending on the bank, you might need your EIN, a copy of the articles of incorporation and a resolution that states who the authorized signees are.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

How To Quickly And Effectively Transfer Your Property To A Family Member

One of the most common ways to transfer property from one family member to another is with the quitclaim deed commonly referred to by the misnomer "quick claim deed". The quitclaim deed is usually the best way to "add" a family member or spouse to the title of a property.

A Quitclaim Deed is a deed that transfers to a Grantee whatever claim or interest in the property that may be held by the Grantor. The Grantor might be a legal owner or the Grantor might never have formally been identified on a deed describing the property.

The Grantor of the deed makes no warranties regarding the quality of their interest in the property or even if they have any interest at all. Specifically, in a Quit Claim deed, no warranty is provided regarding liens, encumbrances or other claims against the property.

A Quitclaim Deed is most often used in gift transactions, transfers to as spouse, or transfers to an entity owned by the Grantor. But they are also very common as part of a divorce settlement.

If a married person holds title to a property as sole owner or perhaps he or she acquired the property before marriage, the spouse not in title might be asked to sign a quitclaim deed when the property is sold to a third party, just to make sure the spouse who was not on the deed does not later come back and lay claim to the property.

To "add" a person to a deed, may seem a little more tricky, but is really quite simple.

Example: Jill wants to add her husband Jack to the deed of the property currently owned solely by Jill. If Jill grants a Quitclaim deed to Jack, Jill is left with nothing. However, and this is the part that seems a little odd, If Jill gives a quitclaim deed to Jack and Jill, she has effectively added Jack to the title. In the transfer Jill will be both a Grantor (the person giving property) and the Grantee (the person receiving property). All that is left is to make sure the deed is properly signed, witnessed, and recorded.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Frequently Asked Questions About Power of Attorney

What is a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney is a document that helps you deal with the issue of managing your finances when you are unable to do so, for example, if you become mentally incompetent. Alternative exist, such as living trust, but this is the most common way of handling this life situation.
How do I choose my Power of Attorney agent?
Pick someone who you really trust. They can be either a close relative or someone you have known for a long time. Don't trust your affairs to anyone who you think might not follow your wishes. If you choose an attorney or accountant as your agent, there is usually a fee. Family members will usually perform agent duties for free. Choose someone with financial smarts - your financial affairs will probably be better managed by someone who manages their own financial affairs carefully and effectively. Discuss the issue with your potential agent first and express your values and wishes with regard to how your affairs should be handled. This also gives the agent an opportunity to consider and communicate to you whether he or she is willing and able to handle the responsibilities.
What if my agent doesn't act in my best interests or follow my wishes?
A number of agent provisions are included. These provisions clarify issues related to how the agent handles your affairs including: accounting of the agent's actions, compensation and misconduct.
Am I allowed to change my agent?
You may change your mind about the agent you selected. You can revoke a signed POA document at any time, regardless of the reason. If you are unsure about the person you selected as your agent, you may choose to revoke the POA and select a different agent. This should be done in writing should using a Revocation of Power of Attorney document, and you must provide notice to the agent under the POA that you are revoking.
What different types of Powers of Attorney exist?
General: Your agent will have very broad authority to manage your financial and personal affairs. Your agent will have the legal authority to make gifts, operate a business, grant a disclaimer power, make living trust transfers and handle a personal residence.
Health Care: If you employ this type of document, another person you legally authorize will be able to make decisions about your medical care when you unable to.
Special: With this type of document, your agent will have powers limited to the specific areas you designate. For example, you might designate only the ability to access your safety deposit box or to manage your checking account.
Durable: A "durable" POA is effective even if you become mentally incompetent. Some states allow you to make your document "durable".

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wills, Living Wills and Health Care Power of Attorney - What Is the Difference?

Many people don't know what all of these are, and, with my experience in health care field and consulting for legal services, I thought I'd elaborate on the differences and needs. Wills, also known as last will and testaments, are VERY different than living wills and health care power of attorneys. The main similarity is they all have to do with what YOU want under difficult circumstances. They all let family know what you want, as well as hospitals, courts, etc. know your desires.

To begin with, a will is a legal document stating what you want happening to your assets and children after you die. This document is very involved and having the help of an attorney is definitely preferable to doing it yourself, especially if you can get it done at low cost or no cost. For parents, having a will is essential especially so you can have one of your most precious responsibilities accounted for. Since all of us will die at some point, having a will is crucial to ensuring that your desires are enforced. The last will and testament is a way to voice your opinions when you no longer have a voice to let others know what you want.

Secondly, a living will is most recently known as advanced directive. This is a legal document to let your family know what you want while you are still living. What do I mean? If you are only able to breathe with a machine, do you want to live on a ventilator, or do you want them to pull the plug? Personally, after working with people on ventilators, I would choose to live on one, but many people do not, since it can cost $30,000 a month. Many family members struggle with pulling the plug, feeling that if they do, they killed their loved one. However, if they know that's what you wanted, in many cases it would be an easier decision for them to make. There are also things called full code and DNR. If you want to be full code, that means that you want health care professionals to do anything they need to in order to keep you alive. DNR, Do Not Resuscitate, means that if you are not breathing and don't have a pulse, you don't want health professionals to try to continue to keep you alive. These are very different interests and family members need to know what YOU want.

The last of the three I will explain is a Health Care Power of Attorney. This is the person you want deciding where you go if you can no longer make the decision. The health care power of attorney will decide whether you need to stay with a family member, go to a nursing home, assisted living facility, have home health come to take care of you, have a live-in caregiver live with you or the like. The good news is that you can choose a person you trust to make these decisions for you should your health drastically decline. This is a hard decision to make but one that, if you can, you should tell family what you want if you cannot decide anymore.

There are many choices that are yours to make regarding your care toward the end of your life and after you are gone. You get to choose how you want things, while you're still healthy. However, you don't have to do it alone. You can get help from attorneys to help you know the pros and cons to each decision you make regarding legal matters. If you don't know what choices to make, get informed to know what you want. Find help to help you make the best choice for your family by letting them know what you want or not.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Should I Put My Life Insurance in a Trust?

There is no easy answer as to whether a life insurance policy should be put into a trust. The best answer is that it depends on your individual situation, the size of your estate, and what type of trust you are considering.

For example, if you're single, and your net estate, which is your assets minus debts, is less than $1 million dollars, you may not need a trust, or you may want to put your life insurance into an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT). If you're married and your net estate is less than $2 million dollars, you may choose either a living trust, an irrevocable life insurance trust, or no trust at all.

There are two types of trusts that I will discuss; a living trust or an irrevocable life insurance trust. There are benefits and drawbacks to both trust instruments.

A living trust is an estate planning tool that allows you to manage your assets while you are alive and pass them down to your family upon your death without the need for probate proceedings.

A living trust has a Trustor (also called Grantor), which is the person who owns the trust and transfers property into it. A trustee is the person who receives the assets on behalf of the Trustor. It is possible with a living trust, to be both the Trustor and the Trustee. There is also a beneficiary which is the person or persons who benefit from the terms of the trust. Since this is a living trust, you can be the primary beneficiary during your lifetime, therefore making you the Trustor, Trustee, and the Beneficiary.

In addition, living trusts normally have instructions for managing the assets during your life, and instructions on what happens when you die.

A living trust is revocable. This means that you can change, amend or end the living trust at any time during your life.

Because right now there are no estate taxes on an estate worth less than $1 million if you are single, and less than $2 million if you are married, a living trust may be a good place to put your life insurance policy. But there is another option.

An irrevocable life insurance trust is an estate planning tool designed specifically for life insurance polices. If you have a substantial net estate that is going to be subject to estate taxes, an irrevocable life insurance trust might be a good option. Because a life insurance policy placed in an irrevocable life insurance trust no longer belongs to you, it can not be included in your taxable estate.

There are some major drawbacks to an irrevocable life insurance trust. For example, once an irrevocable life insurance trust is created it cannot be changed, amended, nor ended during your lifetime.

Secondly, you cannot change the beneficiary of your life insurance proceeds in an irrevocable life insurance trust. So, for example, if your spouse is the named beneficiary in your irrevocable life insurance trust, and you got divorced, your ex-spouse would still be entitled to your life insurance proceeds.

Also, if you have an existing life insurance policy and place it in an irrevocable life insurance trust, but die within 3 years of the transfer date, the trust will not be protected from estate taxes.

The truth is once you have an irrevocable life insurance trust you are committed to it for life, there's no turning back. If you're not sure you want this life insurance policy the rest of your life, than an irrevocable life insurance trust may not be the way to go.

The bottom line is this: if you are thinking about putting your life insurance policy into a type of trust instrument, you will want to consult with your accountant, financial planner, and/or an experienced attorney. The laws regulating certain trusts vary from state to state, so you might want to make sure you have all the facts before entering into such a document.

Each individual's financial situation is different, so it might be wise to gather all the information you need to make an informed decision and then decide if you need to speak with a qualified professional.

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

HIPPA Disclosure Documents Can Save Your Family in a Medical Emergency

Are you aware of the medical privacy laws?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rule, the Privacy Rule, a Federal law, gives you rights over your health information and sets rules and limits on who can look at and receive your health information. These laws definitely protect your privacy, but they can as well keep your family from getting medical information on you in the event of an emergency. Even a spouse or eighteen year old child, without proper paperwork in place can leave you in the dark as far as their medical condition.

An example of a situation would be a spouse traveling on business to another city in the state, with a three hour drive from your home. He gets in an auto accident on the way home and is transported unconscious to the nearest hospital and is being attended by the best medical personal.

You are notified by the police that your spouse has been taken to their local hospital. You are very upset and want to know your spouse's condition; you call the hospital to ask what is happening to him. The nurse in the hospital cannot release any medical information to you unless you have a HIPAA disclosure document executed by your spouse allowing you to know his medical information.

Now you are very nervous and you do not know anything about your spouse's condition. You decide to drive to the hospital, a three hour drive, and the entire drive you do not know anything that is going on. Fortunately, when you get to the hospital your spouse is out of surgery and conscience. You spouse can now authorize you with the doctors to allow you to know their medical situation.

HIPAA protection protects everyone over the age 18 (your son or daughter even while in college) from disclosing your medical information. Please consider getting the appropriate paperwork in place before you your family members have a condition that can because you stress during medical emergencies. Get a HIPAA disclosure document executed on each family member at minimum if they want to have you know about their medical condition.

For a more complete protection there are three documents that can be easily executed for each family member that can properly protect your family for most common situations.

1. HIPAA Disclosure Document - Specifies who can be disclosed your medical information.
2. Medical Power of Attorney - Specifies who can make medical decisions on your behalf.
3. Living Will - Specifies your wishes regarding prolonging life medical treatments

The safe way to generate these three documents is work with your family lawyer to have them drawn up properly for your state. Please keep an electronic copy of the executed document in your email to ensure that you can get access to it when you need it or are not prepared to use it.

Avoid undue stress during an emergency, make sure you understand the HIPAA laws and prepare your family to work with the laws by having your documents in place.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

6 Common Misconceptions About The Advanced Healthcare Directive

You may have heard a lot about the importance of creating an advanced healthcare directive whether in the form of instructions or appointing a person, so that the desired line of treatment can be followed if you are not in a position to take your own decisions at a future date. However there are a number of misconceptions surrounding this concept which can put doubts in your mind.

The following will address some of the more common myths about an advanced healthcare directive.

Myth 1 - Only older people need to make an advanced directive

Illness and accidents can happen to anyone old or young; in fact the advances in the medical field may end up keeping a younger person alive for years without any improvement. Ideally any individual above the age of 18 must make a directive or appoint an agent.

Myth 2 - A directive is meant to stop treatment

An advanced directive is prepared to express your wishes and can include directions to stop treatment as well as those to carry on a specific treatment in certain cases. Also you can customize it in a way where invasive treatment may be stopped but certain pain relievers may be administered to ensure comfort.

Myth 3 - Appointing an agent takes away the right to make personal decisions

This is a common fear faced by many and is completely misplaced. Remember that such a directive comes into effect only when you are not in a position to decide for yourself due to a certain health condition. Furthermore when you regain capacity to make decisions you can override the agent's decision and also modify the rights or revoke them completely.

Myth 4 - It is best to wait if you are unsure about the contents of the directive

Everyone has at least a broad idea about the way their treatment should be done incase such a situation arises. Accordingly you must make an advanced directive incorporating your current wishes no matter how brief. The directive can be modified as often as you wish and you may add more specific instructions in the future to make it more effective.

Myth 5 - A completed directive is work done and does not require any further intervention

Preparing an advanced directive is a sensible decision but by no means is your work over. You must communicate and handover a copy to your doctor, and will have to continue such communication if you happen to get transferred to another medical facility or make any changes in the directive so that the new doctor is aware of your instructions.

Myth 6 - A lawyer is needed to make a directive

A lawyer is not necessarily needed to make an advanced directive but can be useful to make one based on their experience. Similarly you can seek assistance from other personnel trained for such purposes by approaching your healthcare provider or through the internet.

You will now have a clearer picture of what advanced healthcare directives are and what they can do for you, thus helping you to create an advanced directive that is useful and effective to your particular case.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Power Of Attorney For Military

Military power of attorney can help to ensure that money and other investments are handled properly while you are over seas and actively serving. Many times military power of attorney is necessary when there is incapacitation and decisions need to be made. This can also be important when there is over seas travel and an attorney is needed to make decisions for a business or other financial considerations.

A military power of attorney can be set fourth in the same way as a general power of attorney. The importance of a military agent is that because of the type of job that the military personal provide, in the event of their death, having an agent already assigned can make the process of the will go much smoother. It can mean less chance of problems arising with property and other finances too while over seas. An agent helps to ensure that the wishes are carried out as they have already determined. Having a will in place is important, however it can be misinterpreted as well and having an agent already selected that is to carry out specific tasks can make the process go a lot smoother.

The type of agent appointed can be specific or general. This will depend on what needs to be done and what needs to be handled. A specific power of attorney can only handle certain tasks that are set fourth within the document. Once those tasks are completed the agent appointment ends. While a general appointment can mean they can handle any situation that arises and there is not an end date, unless the person becomes incapacitated and can no longer make decisions. Than the appointment ends.

A military power of attorney will deal with the specific issues that deal with military personal, which usually includes over seas travel and the need to have affairs handled while away. No matter what type of power of attorney is chosen, the person or representative that is chosen should be someone that can be trusted and will have your best interest in mind. The more specific the appointment is, the better this can be, since there will be fewer misunderstandings and communications that can take place while away.

A military agent can handle business affairs, financial matters of all sorts, health care related issues, child care issues as well and anything else that a person would normally handle on their own in the first place.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Benefit of Living Wills

When the time comes, wouldn't you love to save your loved ones from any unnecessary trauma and expense? It's a wise choice to take time to plan ahead for the day when you might not be able to make any more choices on your own behalf. Living wills can quickly be created without the help of a lawyer. They make your choices and desires known when you can't and so you're family won't have to.

But living wills are not your last will and testament. It doesn't involve issues like probate or distributing your assets to your family or friends. They are also called advance directives and are primarily used to either express your wishes if you are incapacitated or to appoint someone to speak on your behalf. Simply put, this person or the form itself speaks for you - fulfilling your wishes if you become unconscious or terminally ill.

How are living wills created?

The forms can be found for each individual state. It's important to make it apply to the state you are a legal resident of, in order to comply with that state's law. These forms may also be obtained from your family doctor. This form may need to be witnessed by two people and it may also require notarization.

One of the most important aspects of this vital form is who you choose as your representative. They don't need to be related to you, but they certainly should be trustworthy. It's also helpful, but not necessary, for this person to live generally in the same area as you for close proximity in case of emergency.

Another great aspect of this form is for expressing your desire to be an organ donor and for your final arrangements. But, you are not locked into your decisions until you become permanently unconscious which must be determined by a medical expert. Up until that time, you still have the power to change your mind from the time of the form's creation.

Make sure you give a copy of your advance directive form to your representative, your physician, any other healthcare providers and any other family members or friends who may become involved.

Some of the medical options you will need to choose are the following situations. All of these are on a "as-needed" basis.

1. If CPR should be performed.

2. If you should receive oxygen.

3. If you should be kept alive through artificial feeding and hydration.

4. If you should need dialysis.

5. If you should need pain medicines.

It's not possible to cover every single aspect of living wills in this article, but I hope to have given you some food for thought.

Peace of mind is what you will receive - for you and your loved ones. Remember, they will already be going through a tremendous amount of suffering if this time comes in your life. You will want to make some easy choices now in order to save them more difficult ones later.

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