3 Steps Estate Planning – Steps You Can Take Now To Protect Loved Ones!

By Steven J. Gibbs, Esq.

3 Steps Estate PlanningHello Friends & Colleagues!

At Health & Wellness, this month is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  We know that regular screenings are recommended for early detection and prevention of serious health concerns.  Other “lifestyle” recommendations include regular exercise, stress management and a healthy diet, and these lifestyle changes can be taken right now to aid in prevention of physical illness.

Similarly, there are a few steps that you can take right now to prevent unnecessary estate planning complications in the event of a major life event.  These steps can prevent some common estate planning pitfalls and are relatively simple as follows:

1.    Check Your Beneficiary Designations On Insurance and Qualified Financial Accounts!
Insurance products have beneficiary designations and by default, many people do not complete the designation form and/or the form designates “the estate” by default.  Qualified Financial Accounts such as 401k, 403b and IRA accounts also have beneficiary designations and this same problem arises.  When the “estate” becomes the designated beneficiary, this requires that the entire account go to the probate court rather than being immediately distributed to beneficiaries.  A simple change in your beneficiary designation avoids this cumbersome and expensive process.

2.    Utilize Transfer Upon Death (TOD) or Pay Upon Death (POD) options for Bank Accounts and other Non-Qualified Financial Accounts!  
Non-qualified accounts are accounts without unique tax treatment such as bank accounts (checking and savings), CDs, Mutual Funds and Stock Trading Accounts (not in IRAs).  These accounts will be required to go to probate upon the death of the account holder unless they are joint (something that may not be wise depending upon circumstances) or the account includes a “Pay On Death” or “Transfer On Death” provision.  A POD or TOD will designate a beneficiary upon the death of the account holder and most banks will provide this upon request.

3.    Check Your Real Estate Titles and Other Vehicle Titles!  
Real estate assets often only include 1 person’s name on the title, and this will often require a probate of the asset in order to transfer it to beneficiaries (heirs) upon the death of the title-owner.  Even husbands and wives may face “retitling” challenges if only one name is on the title.  In many cases, simply adding a spouse to title or another beneficiary will simplify things dramatically.  It is strongly recommended that this option be reviewed with an experienced estate-planning attorney due to the availability of numerous options for superior planning and asset protection such as the use of LLCs and the asset protection risks inherent in joint titling with non-spouses.  Vehicle title issues may or may not require probate (often depending on the vehicle) yet it can still greatly simplify matter to think about the titling options prior to disability, incapacity or death.

All of the above assumes that you already have your necessary estate planning documents, so please do not ignore this when taking the above steps.  Setting up estate documents and taking these steps are a key part of taking a proactive approach to your estate and legacy planning.  However, it is also important to know that there is no “one size fits all” approach to estate planning, just as there is not just one way to optimum health. Talking with experts is always valuable because it helps you to determine what approach makes sense for you and your loved ones.  To find out more about what documents and advice is needed, you can always visit our “Trust and Estate Planning” page at:  www.gibbslawFL.com.

Circling back to our health analogy, just as regular medical exams are important for prevention of health problems, it is also important to schedule regular estate planning checkup in order to assure that important changes are included in your plan and that your plan is compliant with current laws.

Taking these steps is part of healthy living and pays dividends for your well being on all levels.

As always, I hope this is helpful and…

Until next time.

Steven J. Gibbs, Esq.

Steven Gibbs founded the Gibbs Law Office in January 2009, committed to providing client-centered legal services.
Steve as he would rather be called, is not your typical attorney.  If you appreciate the staunch egotistical mannerism of most firms, you will be delighted with Steve’s unpretentious approach to educating and then assisting his client.  Instead of giving you his complacent and lofty ideas, he would rather pursue your expectations with professional conversation about resolving your concerns under the Law.  It’s your life and it’s his job to make your legal expectations come true while using years of his guidance and knowledge.

Steve was admitted to the Minnesota Bar in 1999, the Florida Bar in 2007 and was recently admitted to the California bar. Keeping abreast of law changes in these three States, as well as the United States, assists him in all aspects of the types of law the firm practices.

Along his career path, he was an associate attorney for an insurance defense law firm; an in-house real estate negotiator for Target Corporation; and corporate counsel for Civix, LLC and Vice President for North American Properties where he was responsible for various real estate transactions, including legal issues and negotiating unresolved business issues.  Prior to opening Gibbs Law Office, PLLC, he was an associate with the firm of Roberts & Engvalson, P.A. where he gained his knowledge of trusts, estate planing and Wills.  He opened his own firm in 2008 and now focuses on laws that will enrich the needs of his clients throughout their lives and those of their children.  The firm has developed a practice dealing only with Trusts and Estate Planning, Wills, Medicaid Planning, Elder Law, Real Estate, Business Law and Probate.

Quoting from Steve “I decided to practice in areas that families will need as they progress down life’s path.  To help them with a solid foundation that will carry them throughout there lives is a rewarding experience for me and my staff.”

Gibbs Law Offcie
www.gibbslawfl.com • info@gibbslawfl.com

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