FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs- Estate Planning

Who needs estate planning?

Everyone needs estate planning. Children under the age of 18 are protected by their parents’ estate plan but everyone age 18 or older needs his or her own estate plan. Of course, estate plans vary immensely depending on goals, finances, family situation, domicile (where you live). There is no one-size-fits all estate plan.

How old do you need to be to have an estate plan?

Everyone needs estate planning, no matter their age. Children under the age of 18 are protected by their parents’ estate plan; everyone age 18 or older needs his or her own estate plan. Of course, estate plans vary immensely depending on goals, finances, family situation, domicile (where you live). There is no one-size-fits all estate plan. If you’re wondering whether you need an estate plan, you’re asking the right question and, yes, you do.

When do my children need to get their own estate plan?

Everyone is surprised when we answer this question. Even an 18-year-old high school senior needs her own estate plan. Once a child attains the age of 18, she is legally an adult and must make her own health care, financial, and legal decisions. Without legal documentation, parents are powerless to act on behalf of their adult children.

Of course an 18-year-old’s estate plan is very different from a 48-year-old’s estate plan because life, assets, goals, and family situation evolve over 30 years, but some basics are the same.

How much money do I need before an estate plan is necessary?

You don’t need to be a Rockefeller or Kennedy to need an estate plan. In fact, you don’t need any assets to need an estate plan. What you do need is one of the following: 1. someone you love, 2. the desire to control your life and finances, 3. the desire to maintain privacy, or 4. the wish to avoid court interference.

To help you think this through, here are non-monetary reasons to have an estate plan in place: 1. an estate plan empowers your trusted helpers to make healthcare decisions and manage your day-to-day business if you’re not able to; 2. appoints guardians for minor children and pets; and 3. avoids medical heroics through a living will.

My child is legally an adult, should she have her own estate plan?

Without a doubt, yes. Even an 18-year-old high school senior needs an estate plan. Once a child attains the age of 18, she is legally an adult and must make her own health care, financial, and legal decisions. Parents are powerless to act on behalf of their adult children without legal documentation.

What does "disabled" mean?

In the estate planning world, the term “disabled” refers to an individual’s incapacity or the inability to manage day-to-day business affairs such as managing and protecting assets, signing papers, paying bills, and filing taxes. “Disability” or “incapacity” doesn’t mean you’re laid up on the couch with a bad back; instead, it means that you don’t have the physical and mental capacity necessary to manage your personal business.

How can I be sure to stay in control of my property if I become disabled?

There are two options for maintaining control during a period of disability; and, often, we recommend the use of both: power of attorney and revocable living trust.

How do I avoid being kept alive by machines if I'm brain dead?

A living will is used to avoid medical heroics such as life support at the end of life.

Who will make healthcare decisions for me if I can't make those decisions myself?

Your agent under your health care power of attorney has the power to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to make those decisions yourself.

Who will take care of my finances if I become disabled?

Disability is the perfect example of why you need to appoint trusted helpers. If you have an up-to-date power of attorney, the named agent may be able to manage your finances, including paying your bills. Unfortunately, if you don’t have a legally documented disability/incapacity plan, your loved ones will battle it out in court and a judge will decide who’s in charge. Because power of attorney documents are often turned down, we use the belt and suspenders approach for many clients, including a trust with disability provisions.

TIP: Be sure to name a contingent agent in case your primary agent is unable or unwilling to serve. The same with disability trustees. Be sure to name successor disability trustees in case your named trustees are unable or unwilling to serve when the time comes.

Who should I pick as trustee?

Trustees manage assets contained within a trust. To figure out how to select the right person for the job, first consider whether the trustee should be an individual or a financial institution. If choosing an individual, pick someone you know who is diligent and detail-oriented, and whom you trust to carry out your clear instructions.

What does a successor trustee do?

A successor trustee can also be either an individual or an institution. This party serves as a back-up, or successor, to the original trustee in case the first trustee passes away or is incapable or unwilling to perform their duties regarding the management of your trust.

Should I pick a corporate trustee?

While it’s straightforward enough to pick a friend or family member you think will be up to the task, picking a corporate trustee is the best option for some people. Banks and trust companies that focus on trusteeship provide expert management. Being unrelated to your personal life, you can also rely on them to be impartial. However, corporate trustees do come at a cost.

What does a guardian do?

Guardians and conservators are court-appointed individuals who make decisions on a person’s behalf in the event of mental or physical incapacity. This can be avoided by adding proper powers of attorney, and explicit directions for them, to your estate plan.

What’s the difference between my health care agent and my financial agent?

While there is some overlap, health care and financial agents are two distinct roles within an estate plan. Your health care agents, also referred to as health care powers of attorney or health care proxy, are responsible for making medical decisions on your behalf and may also implement your pre-arranged instructions if you experience incapacity. Likewise, financial agents can manage your wealth, pay bills, file taxes, purchase insurance, and adjust investments for you if you become unable to do so yourself. They may or may not be the same person; it’s up to you to decide who is best for each role.

What does personal representative mean — is that different than an executor?

A personal representative is the same as an executor. This is the individual or institution named in a will who becomes responsible for carrying out the instructions provided in your will during the probate process.

FAQs- Mediation

How long does mediation take?

Typical mediation cases are usually resolved after a half day or, at most, a full day of mediation. Cases with multiple parties often last longer.

What are the stages of mediation?

While mediation is not as formal as going to court, the process is more structured than many people imagine. A typical mediation involves six distinct stages.

Mediator’s Opening Statement: After the disputants are seated at a table, the mediator introduces everyone, explains the goals and rules of the mediation, and encourages each side to work cooperatively toward a settlement.

Disputants’ Opening Statements: Each party is invited to describe, in his or her own words, what the dispute is about and how he or she has been affected by it, and to present some general ideas about resolving it. While one person is speaking, the other is not allowed to interrupt.

Joint Discussion: The mediator may try to get the parties talking directly about what was said in the opening statements. This is the time to determine what issues need to be addressed.

Private Caucuses: The private caucus is a chance for each party to meet privately with the mediator (usually in a nearby room) to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of his or her position, and new ideas for settlement. The mediator may caucus with each side just once or many times, as needed. These meetings are considered the guts of mediation.

Joint Negotiation: After caucuses, the mediator may bring the parties back together to negotiate directly.

Closing: This is the end of the mediation. If an agreement has been reached, the mediator may put its main provisions in writing as the parties listen. The mediator may ask each side to sign the written summary of agreement or suggest they take it to lawyers for review. If the parties want to, they can write up and sign a legally binding contract. If no agreement was reached, the mediator will review whatever progress has been made and advise everyone of their options, such as meeting again later, going to arbitration, or going to court.

What is covered in the legacy video?

Embark on a 90-minute session where a legacy architect will ask a number of targeted legacy-focused questions to draw out and identify central themes you would like to focus on in a recording to friends and family (e.g. faith, family, personal history, ethical ideals and practices, etc.) You will end with an outline of things to cover in the video, and you can record your legacy video in our office at your convenience. It’s a professionally guided reflection to identify the most poignant themes to convey to heirs in a Legacy Video.

FAQs- Legacy Consulting

What is legacy coaching?

Legacy coaching is a professionally guided journey to identify, articulate, and integrate your highest held values into your life in a way that resonates, reflects and endures. The process begins with written questions on both a personal and philosophical level to initiate your thoughts on legacy. You will then meet with a legacy architect over a few months to begin translating your ideas into plans, which will be compiled into a Legacy Toolkit – a personalized agenda for how to transmit your values and guiding principles within your sphere of influence.

What is legacy design?

This is an in-depth customized experience to establish, examine, and refine legacy goals. You will then design a road-map for how to achieve those goals. This 3-stage process concludes with a legacy retreat where you will engage in a series of structured exercises focused on clarifying and prioritizing your personal values, motivations, and ideals. You will develop the language to articulate critical messages for life-partners, children, grandchildren, mentee’s, potential beneficiaries, etc. The final outcome of the months long process is to design a Personalized Legacy Roadmap that incorporates your seminal life-goals, values-based priorities, and a focused vision of your personal legacy.

What is covered in the legacy video?

Embark on a 90-minute session where a legacy architect will ask a number of targeted legacy-focused questions to draw out and identify central themes you would like to focus on in a recording to friends and family (e.g. faith, family, personal history, ethical ideals and practices, etc.) You will end with an outline of things to cover in the video, and you can record your legacy video in our office at your convenience. It’s a professionally guided reflection to identify the most poignant themes to convey to heirs in a Legacy Video.