What is guardianship and do I need it? Guardianship is the court process whereby an individual (usually a family member) is appointed by the court to make health care and/or financial decisions form someone who the court has deemed incompetent and not able to make those decisions him or herself. It is what the court calls, “the means of last resort” because the court prefers alternatives over guardianship because it is so restrictive. Such alternatives are powers of attorney, joint account ownership, etc.
Did you create your own documents?
Why pay a lawyer when I can get my estate documents online for free (or at least at a lesser cost than a lawyer)? Every estate planning attorney has fielded that question at some point or another. My response is usually: “I love online documents…because it usually means I’ll have more work that makes more money in the future.” After I say that, I typically get a grin across the client’s face and then they ask “why”?
That is a valid question. One that is not pondered enough and often results in a family member being thrown into a position of great responsibility without any direction or idea how they are to act or what they are to do. In fact, most people sign power of attorney documents naming someone, but then never tell them or have a conversation with that person about what will be expected of them.
All too often will-seeking clients call the firm asking if we do “simple” wills, say they need a will, but don’t want one of those “long wills”, or claim to not have anything, so they just need a “basic” will. Most law firms will respond to the client, “Yes! We can do that!” But there are pitfalls that can arise, some foreseen and some unforeseen, when a person only has a “simple” will, and the client does not even know these potential pitfalls exist.
One of the most common misconceptions is that if you are married and you die without a will, your spouse automatically gets everything. Unfortunately, that often is not the case. Instead, it depends on several factors. First, if you have any joint accounts, those accounts will pass automatically to the joint account holder. Second, if you have a named beneficiary on any account or asset, that account or asset will pass automatically to the designated beneficiary.
It’s that time of year again when the kids head out to the bus stop in the morning to start a new year of learning, eager for what lies ahead. These children aspire to do great things, but with the rising costs of undergraduate education, families need to start saving earlier and the sooner the better. A 529 plan may be the answer and could benefit your estate plan as well.