Month: March 2022

What To Know About Estate Planning: It’s Not Just for the Wealthy

Piggy Bank: What To Know About Estate Planning: It’s Not Just for the Wealthy

Professional estate planning is a clear necessity for those with millions of dollars in assets. It reduces the tax burden on their estate, minimizes conflict and confusion among heirs, and helps ensure that the estate is distributed according to their wishes.

But what about the rest of us? Most people don’t have estates worth millions, so they naturally have doubts that they need to worry too much about what happens to their property after they die. However, it’s important to understand that estate planning is not just for the wealthy; it can provide the same benefits for people with more modestly sized estates and is generally worth the investment.

The best way to understand how estate planning can work for you is to run a “fire drill.” This means playing out what would happen if you were to die right now. While it may seem a bit morbid, it helps people understand that they do have assets (often more than they realized) and that if they don’t make decisions about what happens to those assets after they die, then someone else will.

A proper estate planning fire drill requires the assistance of a professional, as most people are not familiar enough with things like probate and estate taxes to simulate the legal consequences. However, we can still run through a few common considerations.

Minor Children

If you have children under the age of 18, it’s important to consider what will happen to them if both parents die. Unfortunately, this can happen, and when it does happen, it is usually unexpected. In that case, someone must be appointed as the child’s legal guardian until they reach adulthood. If you don’t make that decision yourself, a court will have to make it for you. Given the obvious importance of this issue, it’s best that you make your wishes clear and discuss them with the person or persons you want to take on that responsibility.

It’s also good to create a trust that will care for your estate until your children are old enough to do so themselves. This helps ensure that the children are cared for and gives you some control over the terms of the trust. For example, you can decide who will be the trustee and what age the children should reach before taking full control of the property.

Spouses & Partners

If a married person dies without a will, their property generally goes to the surviving spouse through the laws of intestacy. While this usually makes sense, there are a few issues to keep in mind.

First, if there is property you want to go to someone else—a child or a friend, for example—then you will need to make that clear in writing.
Second, even if all the property ultimately goes to the surviving spouse, a lack of estate planning can create unnecessary headaches. For example, a common issue is when property such as a house is only in one person’s name; the surviving spouse may get the house eventually, but the process will be more complicated and expensive.

Unmarried couples have significantly greater estate planning needs precisely because of the laws of intestacy mentioned above. Courts will usually not recognize the legal significance of these relationships, leaving the surviving partner with little recourse and potentially in conflict with other family members.

Specific Circumstances of Family Members

You may be well acquainted with the lives of the people who could inherit your estate—their economic circumstances, personal abilities, etc.—but courts are not. Without a will, the probate judge will distribute your estate according to the laws of intestacy, which do not consider those people’s specific circumstances. For example, maybe one of your children helped you build your house, and you want them to have it after you die. Unless this wish is recorded in a will, all the siblings could jointly inherit the house.

Create the Right Estate Plan

These and most other issues can usually be resolved without much effort if you take the time to sit down with an estate planning attorney. They could help you figure out what would happen to your estate if you were to die today and then improve on those results. With just a little investment, you can make things much easier for those that survive you and see that your wishes are respected.

Contact our office today to schedule a consultation and get the process started.

5 Critical Mistakes People Make With Personal Injury Claims

Gavel and Stethoscope: 5 Critical Mistakes People Make With Personal Injury Claims

Bad things happen to everyone. We’re involved in car accidents, get hurt at work, or are injured in some other way—often through no fault of our own—and then we’re left wondering how to pick up the pieces. A personal injury claim is something that many people end up filing in such instances.

If you’ve been injured and think you may have a claim against someone else, it’s important to understand that how you handle things (from the point of injury onwards) can have huge consequences for your case.

Here are five of the most common mistakes people make concerning personal injury claims.

1. Not Hiring an Attorney for a Personal Injury Claim

You may read this and think, “Of course, an attorney will say that,” but this is absolutely the most common and critical mistake. People who are injured and have a potential legal claim are unlikely to understand the real value or the full extent of that claim. They are also much more likely to make a huge mistake that can undercut their case.

Think of it from the defendant’s side. Insurance companies and other business entities will definitely have lawyers on their side. The standard playbook for those lawyers is to get a potential plaintiff to settle the case for little or no money before talking to an attorney.

If the defendant can’t settle the case, the next best thing is to convince the plaintiff to delay hiring an attorney as long as possible in hopes that they will trip themselves up and spoil their own case. They do this because it is in their best interest, and their interests are directly opposed to yours.

Most plaintiff’s attorneys who handle personal injury cases do so on a contingency basis. This means the client does not pay any upfront fees, and the attorney instead receives a percentage of any compensation the client collects. There is no downside to consulting with an attorney in this scenario, so don’t delay.

2. Failure to Document Evidence

A personal injury claim only has value if it can be proven, so it’s important to collect and retain evidence. The more objective the evidence, the more helpful it is (as opposed to relying solely on your own testimony).

For example, if you are in a traffic accident, call the police. They will investigate the scene and create a report. If there are witnesses, talk to them and get their contact information. Take photos of everything and if other people take photos, ask for copies. Anything that documents the event and its consequences has the potential to be helpful.

3. Making Unnecessary Statements

As a general rule, starting from the moment of the injury, it is best to make as few statements about the incident as possible. This includes statements to family, friends, and especially to potential defendants. Don’t post anything on social media. Everything you say can be used as evidence, and defendants will be searching intently for anything that weakens your case. One common issue is that some people are naturally very polite, and they end up apologizing for something that isn’t even their fault—that apology can be used as evidence of their guilt.

This rule goes hand in hand with having an attorney. If anyone wants to talk about the incident, you can (and should) simply refer them to your attorney and politely end the conversation.

4. Not Documenting the Full Extent of Your Injuries

If you don’t document your injuries, it will be more difficult to receive compensation for them later. Some people are accustomed to suffering in silence; they receive treatment for broken bones after an accident but never mention that they’ve started to have migraines or nightmares every day. If you tell a healthcare provider about any issues you are having as they arise, other people are more likely to believe they are real.

5. Settling Too Quickly

It’s natural to want to settle a case quickly. Lawsuits can take a long time to resolve, and people often just want to move on with their lives. They may also really need the money that is being offered just to pay for basic necessities or medical care. Defense attorneys know this, and they will try to take advantage of it. They will drag out the case and offer $100,000 to settle a claim that is worth a million dollars or more.

If it is at all possible, avoid falling into this trap. Holding on a little longer is usually worth the trouble.

Speak to a Personal Injury Claim Attorney

If you’ve suffered an injury and think you might have a legal claim, don’t make one of these mistakes. Contact our office to speak to an experienced personal injury claim attorney as soon as possible.