Expiration date

So many things in life come with built-in expiration dates. Some, such eggs, milk, and cheese, are clearly stamped, while other common items (everything from spices, fire extinguishers, lipstick, to hard liquor) lose their quality or effectiveness over time, but don’t have a clear “best used by” date on them.

So, how about an estate plan? If your running shoes can expire, how about important legal documents? This is a common and certainly valid question.

As bill-paying Americans, it seems par-for-the-course that like everything else, we need to routinely file paperwork, with payment(s), to keep coverage in place. Fortunately, estate planning documents do not expire. Once valid, such legal documents are effective for, well, for as long as you want. This includes all documents that could (and probably should) be in your estate plan, such as a will, healthcare power of attorney, financial power of attorney, instructions for disposition of personal property, and instructions for final disposition of remains.

You will never receive a notice in the mail that your carefully crafted estate plan is set to expire in 30 days if you don’t submit another signed form or check payment. However, I highly recommend revisiting your estate plan annually to make certain life changes over the past year are appropriately reflected. For example, having a child, getting married or divorced, moving to another state, changes in financial circumstances, and other major life events necessitate revisiting your estate plan. After all, estate planning documents can be changed up until the moment you pass away.

Since these legal documents do not expire, there’s no better time than now to get started on your estate plan. The best place to start? Download my Estate Plan Questionnaire. It’s free and provided at no obligation.

I would love to discuss your estate plan with you. Reach out at any time by email, gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com, or cell phone, 515-371-6077.

Gordon Fischer Basics of Estate Planning Workshop

Let’s be honest, estate planning isn’t the most enticing topic to spend your free time on. The last thing you want to do after a long week at work is to dive into the depths of the internet to attempt to understand what an estate plan actually is and why you need one. Even if you do get that far, it’s hard to know where even to begin to start making an estate plan. Can you write one yourself? Do you have to hire a lawyer? What information do you even need?

Lucky for you, estate planning is one of my passions and what I spend a good deal of time and focus on while achieving the mission of Gordon Fischer Law Firm: To promote and maximize charitable giving in Iowa.

Gordon Fischer Law Firm mission

On April 26 at 325 E Washington St, Iowa City (in the large conference room on the 1st floor), I’ll take the mystery and complicated leg work out of estate planning. We’ll keep it simple and easy to understand while we cover:

  1. Five major reasons you need an estate plan
  2. Six “must have” estate planning documents
  3. Seven common mistakes in estate planning (and how to avoid them!)

Bring your questions and I’ll stick around after the presentation until all questions are answered.

The hour-long workshop is free and open to the public. A light lunch will be served.

It’s been approved for one hour of CFP credit for financial planners AND for one-hour of CLE for Iowa lawyers.

Please RSVP to gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com

Choose “going” on the Facebook event and invite your friends, co-workers, and family to join you!

Can’t make it to the event, but still want to learn more? Contact me at any time via email at gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com or phone at 515-371-6077.

When you hear the word “trust” it’s usually in the context of a belief of reliability of someone, such as: “I trust her to read about the past legal word of the day, quid pro quo.” Trust in the world of estate planning is entirely different, although you can certainly put trust in a well-crafted trust to maximize the benefits of an estate plan!

What is a Trust?

In simplest terms, a trust is a legal agreement between three parties: grantor, trustee, and beneficiary. This allows a third party (the trustee) to hold assets for a beneficiary (or beneficiaries). Trusts can be set up in a variety of ways and specify the details of when and how the assets will pass to the beneficiary. Trusts are a part of a well-crafted estate plan and can be used to minimize fees, costs, and taxes.

Let’s break it down further by looking at each of the three parties to a trust.

Grantor

Hands writing a document

All trusts have a grantor, sometimes called the “settler” or “trustor.” The grantor creates the trust, and also has legal authority to transfer property to the trust.

Trustee

The trustee can be any person or entity that can take title to property on behalf of a beneficiary. The trustee is responsible for managing the property according to the rules outlined in the trust document, and must do so in the best interests of the beneficiary.

Beneficiary

The beneficiary is the person or entity benefiting from the trust. The beneficiary can be one person/entity or multiple parties (true also of grantor and trustee). Multiple trust beneficiaries do not have to have the same interests in the trust property. Also, trust beneficiaries do not have to even exist at the time the trust is created (such as a future grandchild, or charitable foundation that has been set up yet).

Trust Property

A trust can be either funded or unfunded. By funded, we mean that property has been placed “inside” the trust. This property is sometimes called the “principal” or the “corpus.”

Any Asset

Any asset can be held by a trust. Trust property can be real estate, intangible property, business interests, and personal property. Some common examples of trust property include farms, buildings, vacation homes, money, stocks, bonds, collections, personal possessions, vehicles, and so on.

“Imaginary Container”

We speak of putting assets “in” a trust, but assets don’t actually change location. Think of a trust as an “imaginary container.” It’s not a geographical place that protects your car, for example, but a form of ownership that holds it for your benefit. For instance, on your car title the owner blank would simply read “the Jane Smith Trust.” It’s common to put real estate (such as farms, homes, vacation homes) and entire accounts (like bank, credit union, and brokerage accounts) into a trust.

After the trust is funded, the trust property will still be in the same place before the trust was created—your land where it always was, your car in the garage, your money in the bank, your stamp collection in the study, and so on. The only difference is the property will have a different owner: “The Jane Smith Trust,” not Jane Smith.

Transfer of Ownership

Pass house from one hand to another

Putting property in a trust transfers it from personal ownership to the trustee, who holds the property for the beneficiary. The trustee has legal title to the trust property. For most purposes, the law treats trust property as if it were now owned by the trustee. For example, trusts may have separate taxpayer identification numbers.

But trustees are not the full owners of trust property. Trustees have a legal duty to use trust property as provided in the trust agreement and permitted by law. The beneficiaries retain what is known as equitable title: the right to benefit from trust property as specified in the trust.

Assets to Beneficiary

The grantor provides terms in a trust agreement as to how the fund’s assets are to be distributed to a beneficiary. The grantor can provide for the distribution of funds in any way that is not against the law or against public policy.

Types of Trusts

The types of trusts are almost limitless. Trusts may be classified by their purpose, duration, creation method, or by the nature of the trust property.

One common way to describe trusts is by their relationship to the life of their creator. Those created while the grantor is alive are referred to as inter vivos trusts or living trusts. Trusts created after the grantor has died are called testamentary trusts.

Another way you can describe trusts is by whether they are revocable or irrevocable. A revocable trust can be modified by the grantor; an irrevocable trust cannot be modified or terminated without the beneficiary’s permission.”

But again, there are so many types of trusts, and the aforementioned are just a few examples.

Do YOU need a trust?

If you have substantial or complicated assets (for example, you own more than one piece of real estate), own part or all of a robust business, or have any other special circumstances, a trust may be incredibly helpful.

Great Place to Start: Estate Planning Questionnaire

A great place to start is with the estate plan questionnaire, provided to you free, without any obligation. Also, feel free to reach out at any time by email, gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com, or on my cell, 515-371-6077.

GoFisch News

It’s hard to believe a month has passed since the first edition of GoFisch was sent out. Click here to read the latest edition of the monthly newsletter. If you like what you read and want GoFisch delivered right to your inbox, be sure to subscribe!

GoFisch is full of practical information, case studies, and important legal updates. Please know your privacy is of critical importance to me; I won’t share emails with anyone, ever.

If you have a story you think would be great to feature in the newsletter, feel free to contact me at any time by email, gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com, or phone at 515-371-6077.

Gordon Fischer at desk

How much does an estate plan cost? It’s an important question. Fortunately, you can easily find the answer (specific to my services) in my Estate Plan Questionnaire (EPQ), available to all on my website.

Filling out my Estate Plan Questionnaire is a great first step to completing an estate plan for you and your family. My EPQ is a PDF you can fill out online, download, and/or print. It features an easy-to-read schedule of my fees.

EPQ wills graph

Living Trusts graph

All parties benefit from transparent information regarding costs. You’re writing an estate plan so there are no surprises regarding your assets after death. Certainly, the last thing you want is to be surprised at the cost of estate planning documents while you’re living!

Cost of estate plan as an issue

When I talk with folks who want to complete an estate plan, but are procrastinating, a common concern that comes up is cost. People are concerned (and rightly so) about how much money they must fork over for an estate plan. So, no matter what lawyer you hire to draft or update your estate plan (and you do indeed need a lawyer to have this done right) make sure they’re completely up front with you about what it will cost.

One Size Does NOT Fit All

One Size Does Not Fit All on tag

There is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” estate plan. Estate plans—their terms, coverage, ins and outs—depend on a myriad of individual circumstances and indeed preferences.

This is why filling out an Estate Plan Questionnaire is such an important first step. You can gather the important and relevant information, all in one place, and think through some of the decisions you must make when building your estate plan. Plus, I can see from your Estate Plan Questionnaire what you might want and need to meet your planning goals. Once the Estate Plan Questionnaire is filled out, you and I meet for a free one-hour consultation.

Let’s Talk About Your EPQ

In the free, one-hour consultation, we’ll talk about the EPQ you completed. I usually meet clients in my office, but I’ve also met folks at coffee shops, restaurants, hospitals, and their houses. (I do make house calls!) Regardless of place, we’ll walk through your Estate Planning Questionnaire. I’ll listen carefully as you describe your intentions. I’ll answer all your questions. I’ll address all your concerns. Once we are both satisfied we understand each other, I’ll give you my recommendations. I’ll tell you in plain language what I think you need and why I think you need it. I’ll also tell you the exact cost. As you can see from my fee schedule above, I use a flat fee approach. So, you’ll get a 100% reliable figure.

Only Then, My Bill

It is important to note I don’t bill you until the end of this process. Only once you have a fully executed (i.e., signed, notarized, witnessed) estate plan, only then will I provide you my bill for services. And again, because I work on a flat fee basis, the bill will exactly match the figure I provided you earlier. Some clients write a check right on the spot, and we’re done. Other folks want to pay along with all their other bills, so they pay me later. Yes, you may take the estate plan documents without paying. I trust you’ll pay me.

So, now the cost of an estate plan has been demystified, why not take control of your future and set your family and friends up for a smooth transition of all your assets in the case of illness, disability, or death? As stated before, a great place to start is the Estate Plan Questionnaire. Also, feel free to reach out at any time by email, gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com, or on my cell, 515-371-6077.

Gordon Fischer at desk with client

I’ve previously written about the six “must have” documents of everyone’s estate plan. These documents include some key people that are essential. But, the terms for some of these roles can be confusing. Let’s review the main ones today.

What is a Beneficiary?

Let’s talk first about beneficiaries. This is a basic term you’ve probably heard before or seen while filling out documents. Your beneficiary is the person to whom you leave your belongings, assets, money, land, etc. Of course you can leave your stuff to more than one person, in which case there would be multiple beneficiaries. With multiple beneficiaries, you’ll have to clearly designate who gets what. This can be done in a number of ways; for example, percentages of total value of the estate, or it can be done with specifics.

An example of percentages:  “I want Beth to inherit 20% of my estate.”

An example of a specific bequest:  “I want my son John to inherit the country house and I want my daughter Suzie Q to inherit the lake house.”

You don’t have to be related to your beneficiaries, and you’re under no obligation to leave anything to family members whom you wish not to receive your assets (no matter how hard that may be or how guilty you might feel). It truly is your choice as to who should benefit under your estate plan.

Beneficiary cartoon

There’s a lot more to say about beneficiaries, but for now, just remember to make sure all documents are up-to-date. Keeping your estate plan up-to-date ensures you avoid nightmares like your ex-husband from 10 years ago cashing in on your retirement funds.

How about an Executor?

Let’s talk about the executor of the will. An executor is the person who is in charge of your estate plan. They make sure the will is carried out as it is written. It’s not an awful job, but it is an awful lot of responsibility. Most folks, having never had to deal with the execution of a will, might not know how arduous it can actually be. Additionally, your executor might be close to you and grieving your passing while trying to make sure everything is taken care of properly. It can be stressful, to say the least.

will you be my executor on paper

When picking an executor, you want to make sure it’s someone you trust. Obvious, right? But, it’s so much more than that. We all have people in our lives we love and trust on a personal level, but we know they’re not responsible with things like finances and details. Those people would not a good executor choice, generally speaking. Look for someone in your life who is detail-oriented and can handle the part-time job of dispensing an estate.

If there’s no such person in your life, or even if there is and you simply don’t want to burden them with the task, there’s another great option: “corporate executors or trustees”, which can be found at a bank or a credit union. The corporate executor offers the bonus of being completely neutral in all things, which can be helpful if you have sticky family dynamics that might make life difficult for the executor. The corporate executor does come at a cost, which is usually based on the size of the estate. I tend to think you get what you pay for, and this could be an excellent option to consider.

If you do go with an executor you know personally, you’ll want to sit down and talk with them about it. You want them to know that you’ve assigned them the task and why you chose them specifically. And, if you’re choosing one child out of many, you’ll want everyone to be on the same page so there’s no unexpected turbulence after you’re gone.

How about Legal Guardians?

Legal guardians are the folks who will take care of your minor children should something happen to you before they reach the age of 18. Like your executor, this job requires a lot of trust in the person you choose.

Mom and daughter

Clearly, this is not a job that ends after the estate is closed. Who you decide to choose should be a matter of closeness of relationship (as in bond, not necessarily family ties), mutual values, and ability to handle the responsibility. Have an in-depth conversation with the person or people you choose. You want to confirm that you’re comfortable with their parenting style, make sure they feel they’re up to the job, and let them know why you chose them.

Important Trait in Common: Trust

trust in blue marker

What’s the key theme in all of these roles from beneficiaries to executors to legal guardians? Trust. The level of trust you have in the people who are involved in and benefit from your estate plan should be strong to be successful. If you ever have any questions about selecting the key players in your estate plan, don’t hesitate to reach out.

See? That wasn’t so bad!

There it is in a nutshell. Those are the basics of the key people in your estate plan.

Whether your estate plan is simple or complicated, it does require some thought and time, but it’s worth the investment. A proper estate plan can save you and your estate costs, taxes, and fees; help your family and friends; and provide you peace of mind.

Perhaps most importantly, through proper estate planning, you can help your favorite charities in ways large and small. Really, without estate planning, it’s not possible, at your death, to help nonprofits you care about.

No Day Like Today

Why not start right now with my Estate Planning Questionnaire? It’s provided to you free, without any obligation.

Do you have an estate plan? Why or why not? I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me any time at gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com or by phone at 515-371-6077.

 

 

Babies faces in a grid - Healthy Birth Day

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24,000 babies in America are lost every year to stillbirth. Emily Price learned about this and an inspiring Iowa-based organization, Healthy Birth Day, working to reduce the number of stillbirths in America, for a story she did as a reporter at KCCI-TV. In a recent Des Moines Register article, Price credited the organization with giving her with the knowledge to recognize something wasn’t right with her pregnancy. She brought the concern to her doctor, and ultimately saved the life of her son.

Emily Price

Price (who currently is the Board President, but will assume the role of Executive Director of Healthy Birth Day, Inc. on May 8), said, “Aside from raising our family, it’s the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done in my life. To hear about a baby saved is the most impactful thing—it stops us in our tracks and we cry tears of joy.”

She was happy to share more about how Healthy Birth Day began, the significant impact the organization has made so far, and details on some exciting developments coming up in the future.

How did Healthy Birth Day come to be?

Healthy Birth Day Founders

EP: Healthy Birth Day was created by five Iowa moms (Kate Safris, Kerry Biondi-Morlan, Janet Petersen, Tiffan Yamen, Jan Caruthers) who all lost daughters to stillbirth or infant death in the early 2000s. They took their grief, researched stillbirth prevention methods and discovered that by encouraging moms to track fetal movement in the third trimester that some stillbirths and premature births could be prevented.

(Side note: Since its founding, one of the major accomplishments for the organization was getting the Stillbirth Registry law enacted in Iowa, which has brought over $2 million in to the state for prevention research.)

Scientific studies indicate kick counting, a daily record of a baby’s movements (kicks, rolls, punches, jabs) during the third trimester, is an easy, free and reliable way to monitor a baby’s well-being in addition to regular prenatal visits.

Can you shed some light on Count the Kicks? What’s the campaign about and how has it helped mothers in Iowa?Count the Kicks Logo

EP: In Iowa we’ve watched our stillbirth rate drop by 26 percent as the rest of the country’s stillbirth rate has remained stagnant. Some states, like Tennessee, are even seeing stillbirth numbers increase. We have received quite a few stories from moms in Iowa where they’ve been monitoring their baby’s movements, notice a change in how long it’s taking them to get to 10 kicks, call their provider, provider runs tests, tests show a baby in distress, doctor decides to deliver baby via emergency C-section, mom wakes up to doctor telling her, “Congratulations, you saved your baby!” It is incredible to hear and we are so grateful when moms feel empowered to not only count their baby’s kicks, but to also speak up when they notice a change. Sometimes it makes all the difference.

In the five short years after Count the Kicks launched in Iowa, our state went from 33rd worst stillbirth rate to third lowest in the country.

Are there any specific resources related to the organization that people may not know about, but should?

EP: We have a free Count the Kicks! app in Google Play and iTunes online stores that allows expectant moms to monitor their baby’s movement, record the history, set a daily reminder, count for twins, and is available in English and Spanish. We have Count the Kicks Ambassadors in 18 states, a national PSA that’s generated more than 300 million viewer impressions, and a monthly Huffington Post blog that reaches moms across the globe. We also have a growing network of supportive doctors, nurses, hospitals, and clinics that give Count the Kicks materials to their patients. (Count the Kicks materials are free to ALL providers in Iowa, Illinois, and Nebraska!)

We also offer resources on our website and we are on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Does the organization have specific needs from volunteers or donors at this time?

EP: Yes! We have volunteer needs in graphic design, data collection, research, and clerical work, as well as donations to our Save 6,000 Babies campaign. Just being an advocate for kick counting means the world to us. When you know someone who is pregnant, tell them to download our Count the Kicks! app; tell them about the importance of tracking their baby’s movement in the third trimester. We also love when you spread the word about our organization on social media. Share, retweet, like—it all helps spread the word about our campaign. You never know who you might save.

What’s ahead for Healthy Birth Day?

EP: Oh lots of incredible things are happening in 2017! In February we launched the Save 6,000 Babies campaign (the same month our Founders were featured in O Magazine!).

O, The Oprah Magazine

We have a bold vision to save 6,000 babies each year in the U.S. If we can decrease the entire country’s stillbirth rate by 26 percent, we will save more than 6,000 babies every year.

We have a plan in place that will replicate exactly what we have done in Iowa in all 50 states. We are ready to implement this plan just as soon as we have enough funding. To us, this is urgent as we hear far too often from expectant moms who did not know the importance of tracking fetal movement in the third trimester and find us only after losing their precious son or daughter.

In order to go after our goal of saving 6,000 babies every year in the U.S., we need to raise $2 million for increased staffing and programming. This will completely cover our plan to replicate what we have done in Iowa in all 50 states and set us on a true path to success. Success to us equals saving babies.

We are also about to move into our very first office space thanks to the generosity of Telligen Community Initiative. It will be located in a non-profit incubator space near Gray’s Lake and we are thrilled to move in!

If someone wanted to get involved with Healthy Birth Day, how would they go about doing so?

EP: Please send us an email at info@healthybirthday.org! Thank you so much.


Gordon Fischer works with nonprofits and the donors who support them in a number of different ways including coordinating complex gifts. If you’re a nonprofit or looking to maximize the benefits of your charitable gift contact Gordon at any time by email, Gordon@gordonfisherlawfirm.com or by phone at 515-371-6077.

Prince 1958-2016

When Prince died in 2016 the world lost an icon and amazing contributor to music and art. Unfortunately, it has come to light that the award-winning artist passed away without an estate plan. Considering all of Prince’s 12 properties, eight vehicles, fine art, unreleased music, and hoarded gold bars, it’s estimated his entire estate could be worth $300 million pre-tax. Prince didn’t have any stocks or bonds but he did have about $6 million spread across four companies. A Minnesota court judge on the issue said without the will the estate’s current status is “personal and corporate mayhem.” Comerica Bank & Trust—the company that took over the Bremer Trust’s duties to administer the “Purple Rain” singer’s estate earlier this year—is still appraising the total value of the estate and itemizing everything Prince owned.

Paisley Park

Prince’s Minneapolis estate, Paisley Park Studios

The situation has created a tragic real world example of the infighting and conflict that can occur if passing away without a will; currently there are six potential heirs to Prince’s fortune including his sister and five other half-siblings.

Now, most Iowans aren’t going to have multiple gold bars sitting around and properties valued at over $25 million total, but that doesn’t make what assets and property you do have any less important. If you don’t have a will, it can cost your family and friends a lot of time, a lot of money, and indeed lots of anxiety and even heartache. Here are four reasons you need a will.

  1. Without a will, probate courts and the Iowa Legislature decide everything about your estate.

If you die without a will, you are leaving it up to the legislature/courts to decide who will receive your property. Or possibly even who will get to raise your children!

  1. Without a will, you cannot choose a guardian for your children.

After Prince died multiple claims were put forth about potential biological and adopted children. Whether or not those claims are true, you likely do know who your children are and if you die without a will, the courts will choose guardians for your children. One of the most important aspects of a will is that it allows you to designate who will be the guardian for your children. This can ensure that your children are cared for by the person that you want, not who the court chooses for you.

  1. Without a will, the probate court will choose your estate’s executor.

If you die without a will, the probate court is forced to name an executor. The executor of your estate handles tasks like paying your creditors and distributing the rest of your assets to your heirs. Of course, if the probate court has to pick who will be your estate’s executor, there is always a possibility that you would not have approved of that person if you had been alive.

If you have a will, it will name an executor who will carry out all of your final wishes, pay your bills, and distribute your assets just as you wanted.

Prince and purple symbol

  1. Without a will, you can’t give your favorite nonprofits gifts from your estate.

Prince was a resident of Minnesota, and each state has different matters regarding intestate succession (dying without a valid will). If you die without a will, your estate assets—your house, savings, life insurance, trusts—will pass to your heirs under Iowa’s statute. But, if you have a will, you can include gifts to your favorite nonprofits and see that they are helped for many years to come. Prince may have wanted to give to charities given his track record while living. He gave to Black Lives Matter, Harlem Children’s Zone, and National Public Radio. Prince was actively engaged with #YesWeCode, an initiative to train black children for good jobs in the tech industry. He gave more than $1.5 million over just two years to Love 4 One Another Charities Tour and supported an environmentalist group working to fight climate change and grown green jobs among other initiatives, Green For All. Regrettably, without an estate plan Prince didn’t have a chance to support these charities through his estate in the event of his death.

The Iowa Lawyer

The April 2017 issue of The Iowa Lawyer is out and I’m proud to say my article, “How can you give more to your favorite charity? Consider gifts of stock!” is included. Scroll to page 11 for info that’s helpful on taxes, just in time for Tax Day.

Tax tips just in time for Tax Day

The Iowa Lawyer magazine is The Iowa State Bar Association’s official publication. The magazine features information on legal developments, legislative news, bar history, views from the bench, profiles of legal community leaders, and ISBA events.

Any questions after reading? Feel free to contact me any time to discuss how to maximize the potential of appreciated, long-term, publicly-traded stock. I offer a one-hour free consultation, without any obligation. I can be reached any time at my email, gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com, or by phone at 515-371-6077.

s-town theme

Let’s be honest, the topic of estate planning can be a little, well, dry. Every lawyer, financial advisor, real estate agent, and the like will encourage you to have a quality estate plan professionally drafted, but it tends to be one of those things you’ll get to eventually. Life happens, work piles up, your to-do list grows longer and deciding what you want done with your remains after you die seems like a worry for another day. But, once in a great while a story comes up where the topic of estate planning is so necessary and uniquely integrated that it’s hard to ignore—cue the buzz-worthy podcast, S-Town. The podcast broke a record with 10 million downloads in four days, so don’t just take my word for it.

S-Town header

Caution: A few spoilers ahead

If you haven’t listened to S-Town and don’t want to know ANY details of what unfolds, stop reading now. Go listen and then come back to read how S-Town exemplifies some of the key reasons you need a will ASAP.

The highly bingeable story from Serial Productions (masterminded by the producers at This American Life and Serial), takes place in a small town in Alabama. As This American Life producer Brian Reed dives into what appears to be a true crime story, in line with the first season of Serial, the tale takes an unexpected twist following an unanticipated death.

Brian Reed

Brian Reed, S-Town

The person who passed away didn’t have an estate plan. At first this may not seem like a big deal, but without a last will and testament, the individual’s death left a wake of conflict and confusion. Without an estate plan, a mother with dementia is left without defined care and guardianship; 13 dogs are left without a pet trust to declare who will care for them; property is fought over; a felony charge is issued; a religious funeral is held despite the deceased’s atheism; a house and land are sold, likely against the wishes of the individual if they had been alive; an immaculate, amazing garden maze will be destroyed; and because the deceased was “unbanked” there were no cash assets to pay for a funeral and other important costs. This person had verbally told some people what he wanted them to have in terms of property and monetary assets, but there was no written record, and such hearsay doesn’t hold up in a probate court.

S-Town maze

S-Town is not only an example of excellent storytelling, but also a real world example of what can happen when someone dies without putting in place clear directions and wishes for property, cash and non-cash assets, pets, health care, and final disposition. You don’t want your family and friends to fight, press charges, and dig up your property in search of gold when you die. So, there’s no day like today to have your estate plan drawn up.

A good place to start is with my obligation-free Estate Plan Questionnaire.

Already have an estate plan? Good. It’s probably time you reviewed and updated it.

Feel free to contact me any time to discuss further how to start an estate plan. I offer a one-hour free consultation, without any obligation. I can be reached any time at my email, gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com, or on my cell, 515-371-6077.