Monday, March 31, 2014

Beware of Trump Cards in an Estate Plan Rule #1 – Not all Documents are created Equal.

This post is the first in the 3-part Blog series: Beware of Trump Cards in an Estate Plan.

Lynn A. Dean,
Estate Planning Attorney
You have decided that you will do an estate plan or you are looking at documents for someone who did estate planning (your friends, or your parents). There are a few rules that you should be aware of from the beginning.  

Not all documents are created equal. Yes, they all say that they are Will or Trusts. But as someone who has reviewed hundred, I can tell you that no two are alike. A good trust should be drafted based upon the situation of the client (single, married, with children, no children, etc.). However, we know that there are “trust mills” out there, and all they do is type in the names of the clients, and push print. You can end up with a “generic” document that makes no sense. Also, there is a recent trend to push “do it yourself” estate planning, with companies like Legal Zoom, Suzie Orman, Willmaker, and Trustmaker kits. Think about it – can software really ask or answer questions? How do you find out what the client wants or probe into areas the client may not have thought of? You have to ask questions based on conversation face to face. I have seen handwritten (holographic) wills, which should be sufficient, but often are not. This rule also applies to documents drafted by attorneys. There are some attorneys who will draft estate planning documents as a “favor” for their clients. These documents may be taken directly from a form book, without the attorney knowing what is important.

There are many clients who call and say “my situation is very simple.” It is invariably not true. The days of Ozzie and Harriet are long gone. We have first marriage, second marriage, third marriage, kids of each marriage, community property, separate property, unmarried couples who buy houses together, etc. To be a good estate planner, you have to know what will work and what won’t.  Some people want ‘guarantees” – “I want to know that this money will go to my children, if my spouse gets remarried.” Most trusts are not guarantees, and the clients need to know that. 

Lynn Dean enjoys having the opportunity to share her expertise on Estate Planning and Elder Law. She is frequently requested to speak around the community. If you or your organization would like Lynn to speak at your next event, please contact The Law Office of Lynn A. Dean for scheduling. View the Lynn A. Dean Speaker Sheet (pdf).

Friday, March 21, 2014

Raising Awareness…Be Prepared for Life’s What- ifs

Lynn A. Dean
Estate Planning Attorney
The National Safety Council has declared March as Workplace eye wellness month. With many hours at the computer, laptop, electronic readers and tablets, it is not surprising to learn that 70 percent of American adults experience some form of digital eyestrain.  Source:

Having a month devoted to raising awareness about the importance of vision health and ways to minimize damage is commendable.  As human beings, we tend to take for granted our health until something goes wrong.  Preventative measures ensure we are at least doing the best we can with enough information to make informative choices.  But what if?

Estate planning raises awareness and is preventative too.  Rather than leave it to chance, an estate plan provides for the “what ifs.”  If something were to happen to both parents of young children, for instance, who is the designated guardian?  If there are no health care directives, how do the survivors know if the decedents wanted to donate organs, be buried or be cremated?  In this scenario, the confusion, expense and unexpected outcomes is often a result of having had no estate plan at all leaving major decisions up to the legal system.
People tend to procrastinate about designating someone for financial or health care powers of attorney. Or they are so fearful about giving up control that they don’t name anyone. But if you suffer a stroke, lose your eyesight or become ill and go into a facility, there may be no one who has power to pay your medical bills or handle your care. It’s important to create powers of attorney documents while you’re competent. Keep in mind: If you change your mind about who you designated, you can always redo the documents. 

To learn more about estate planning and powers of attorney, click here