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father's day

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads, grandpas, uncles, and father figures out there! There are many kinds of fathers, from the beer-drinking to the book-reading, from the golf-loving to the car-fixing, to all of the above. And, just like there’s not one kind of way to be a dad, there’s no single type of father that needs an estate plan; everyone needs an estate plan regardless of the size of your tool shed. That’s why today is a great day to talk to your dad about estate planning.

Of course, estate planning can be a difficult subject to broach over grilling or yard work, but it’s an important conversation to have to see where your father is at. And, you can’t go buy an estate plan at the store or have one made for him, but in terms of long-term value, an estate plan is one of the best moves your dad could make.

Your father has likely taught you so much over the years. This could be your opportunity to give back to him and help him out with something for once by sharing information or just offering encouragement to complete the estate planning process.  Let’s consider a couple of different scenarios.

If Your Dad Doesn’t Know Much About Estate Planning

That’s okay! This is your chance to share some important basics about what estate planning entails. There are three main points you can pass along and then feel free to direct him to an experienced estate planning attorney who can explain the rest.

  1. Without an estate plan, there are major detriments. You cannot choose who receives your assets, how much and when. If a father has minor children they cannot choose who is the main guardian for the children if something were to happen to both parents/guardians. Without an estate plan, you also cannot choose your executor (the person to carry out the closing of your estate). Furthermore, if you die without an estate plan, all your assets— house, savings, retirement plans, and so on—will pass to your heirs at law as specified under Iowa’s statutes. Also, without an estate plan, the probate process can be even more cumbersome, time-consuming, and difficult on what is likely to already be a stressful time for loved ones.
  2. A basic estate plan includes six key documents. An estate plan questionnaire helps to organize important information in a single document. (Your estate planner will use this to ensure the documents are individualized to your estate’s unique needs.) A “last will and testament” is just one of those documents. The other documents in a basic estate planning package include: health care power of attorney; financial power of attorney (including an advanced directive, if desired); disposition of personal property; and disposition of final remains.
  3.  Your dad may be in need of a trust depending on his estate planning goals, size of the estate, and other considerations like ownership business.

Getting started with the process is easy. I recommend starting with my free, no-obligation estate plan questionnaire or giving me a call.

If Your Dad Already Has an Estate Plan

Give your dad a high-five because he’s ahead of the curve! Seriously, more than half of Americans do not have essential estate planning documents. However, there may be some points that you dad forgot about or needs to revisit.

Beneficiary Designations

Beneficiary designations are notoriously forgotten because they can be set once and then, even if things change, people forget to switch the name. Imagine the scenario of Beneficiary designations (sometimes called PODs and TODs) on accounts like savings and checking accounts, life insurance, annuities, 401(k)s, pensions, and IRAs. Make sure that designations are correctly filled out and supplied to the appropriate institution. Of course, remember to keep these beneficiary designations current as well.

Revisit Regularly

If things change in your personal life you may well need to update your estate plan. Some examples are if marital status changes; a new child or grandchild is born; a named beneficiary passes away; you move to a new state or buy property in a different state; or there’s a significant change in financial situation.

Additionally, sometimes changes to laws (like the federal tax code) can impact the structure and most advantageous tools for estate planning. Any estate planner worth their weight should be able to tell you if your current estate plan aligns with any changes to laws.

I recommend to my clients that they review their estate plans once a year to make sure everything still fits with your estate planning goals.

Give the Best Gift this Father’s Day

I understand you can’t really “give” your dad an estate plan, but you can help him check this major legal “must” off the life checklist by helping point him the right direction. You can also offer your assistance when it comes to gathering important documents or information for the Estate Plan Questionnaire. Let your dad know that when he’s ready to discuss his planning decisions that you’ll be there to listen, and if necessary, bring your siblings (if any) and other family members to the table so that everyone is on the same page. (Note that all the aforementioned information totally applies to mothers too!)

father with family

Questions, concerns, or otherwise from you or your father? Contact me at any time via email or phone (515-371-6077). I also offer a free consultation and make house calls!

 

neon LOVE

One major way we can show our loved ones how much we care about them is by making our wishes known for when we’re no longer there to tell them. Estate planning is one of the best ways to do that, especially concerning wishes regarding what’s to be done with the physical body after death. One of the six main documents a part of any estate plan is called the “disposition of final remains.” In this document, you can detail how you want your body to be treated after you pass away, along with any ceremonial aspects. You may be as specific or as general as you wish.

If you’ve ever had someone close to you die and have been tasked with making arrangements for the wake, funeral, and burial or cremation (or otherwise), you know it can be difficult. Not only are you dealing with heartache and grief of losing that loved one, but now you’re also dealing with the organizational aspects of death. If you die without an estate plan, and without clear instructions in a disposition of final remains document, you’ll be leaving your loved ones with a headache on top of the inevitable heartache. The ambiguity surrounding final remains can lead to fighting between family members if they disagree over what would be best. That’s why taking the time to think through your final services is a wonderful gift and a great way to show your loved ones how much you care.

Let’s go through some of the basics related to this important, valuable document.

What Does “Final Disposition” Mean Anyway?

Final disposition sounds, well, conclusive. Indeed, this is about what you ultimately want to be done with your physical body following death and can include burial (sometimes referred to internment), cremation, removal from the state (if you want to be buried in a different state), and other types of disposition. You may also detail if you wish, a funeral or other type of ceremony (maybe even a party) to be held. If you’ve purchased a burial plot or want to be laid to rest in the family mausoleum, you would include those details here.

Choose a Designee

In the disposition of final remains document, you can designate one or multiple adults to assume responsibility for carrying out your wishes, similar to how you designate an executor to carry out the wishes as written in your will. Your designee (or designees) can be whomever you choose, just be sure to speak with them to make certain they are comfortable and accepting of the role.

Of course, the designee must be a competent adult. The Act also allows for alternate designees to be named in the event the primary designee is unable to act. The Declaration is not allowed to include directives for final disposition of remains and arrangements for ceremonies planned after death.

If something were to happen to you without a disposition of final remains document in place, the surviving spouse (if there is one) assumes the role as designee. If there is no surviving spouse, then the designee role passes to any surviving children. If there are no surviving children then the role would pass to the parents of the decedent, then grandchildren, surviving siblings, and finally surviving grandparents.

Can I Change My Mind?

Your wishes may change over time and that’s OK because the disposition of final remains is revocable. That means you can change your designee if one becomes unable or unwilling. (Regardless of whether or not you want to amend your disposition of final remains document, you should review your estate plan annually to see if any major life events require updates.)

How do I Start?

Because the disposition of final remains document is a key part of your estate plan, it’s best to get started with my free Estate Plan Questionnaire. Questions or want to discuss your personal situation? Contact me at any time via email or phone (515-371-6077).

Gordon Fischer Iowa City At Desk-Estate Plan

Estate planning.

Not exactly material for scintillating conversation. In fact, I’d bet most of us like to avoid this topic because it can be confusing, and requires lots of decision-making. And, well, yes, it forces one to think about one’s own mortality. Estate planning, after all, is a roadmap about what you want to happen after you move on from this life. While it may not be a fun topic, it is indeed a necessary one.

Estate plan: you almost surely need one

Almost everyone needs some kind of estate plan. If you’re young, healthy, unmarried, have no children, and have no significant or unusual assets…perhaps you could talk me into the idea that you don’t entirely need an estate plan. Even in such (rare) cases, I strongly recommend making sure your beneficiary designations are completed and up to date (for example, on your bank/credit union savings accounts and retirement benefit plan). But, if you are married, and/or have kids, and/or have significant or unusual assets, and/or own part or all of a business, you most definitely need an estate plan!

Baby in arms of dad

What IS an estate plan, anyway?

What do we talk about when we talk about estate planning? There are six documents that should be part of most everyone’s  estate plan. Plus, you should keep them updated and current. Also, don’t forget about assets with your beneficiary designations. For most Iowans, that’s good – six documents, keeping them current, and also remembering about those assets with beneficiary designations.

Sure, estate planning is complicated, but not that complicated. I’ll show you.

Six “must have” documents of your estate plan

There are six documents that should be part of most everyone’s estate plan:

  1. Estate planning questionnaire
  2. Will
  3. Power of attorney for health care
  4. Power of attorney for finance
  5. Disposition of personal property
  6. Disposition of final remains

We’ll go through each document briefly, so you have a sense of what each entails.

Estate Plan Questionnaire

Estate planning involves facing heavy questions, and depending on the amount of assets and beneficiaries you have, may take quite a bit of time and thought. I recommend clients (and even those who aren’t my clients) complete an estate plan questionnaire.

An estate plan questionnaire is an easy way to get all of your information in one place, and it should help you understand and prioritize estate planning goals. (I must also admit a questionnaire makes it easier for your attorney to build your estate plan!)

As with any project, it helps “to begin with the end in mind.” A questionnaire can help get you there.

Last Will and Testament

Now let’s get to the will. The will is the bedrock document of every estate plan, and it’s a little more complicated than other documents.

With your will, you’ll be answering three major questions:

  1. Who do you want to have your stuff? A will provides orderly distribution of your property at death according to your wishes. Your property includes both tangible and intangible things. (An example of tangible items would be your coin collection. An example of an intangible asset would be stocks.)
  1. Who do you want to be in charge of carrying out your wishes as expressed in the will? The “executor” is the person who will be responsible for making sure the will is carried out as written.
  1. Who do you want to take care of your kids? If you have minor children (i.e., kids under age 18), you’ll want to designate a legal guardian(s) who will take care of your children until they are adults.

Power of Attorney for Health Care

Assorted pills

A power of attorney for health care designates someone to handle your health care decisions for you if you become unable to make those decisions for yourself. This essentially gives another person the power to make decisions on your behalf. For example, if you don’t want to be kept alive with machines, you can clearly outline that in your power of attorney for health care. But keep in mind that power of attorney for health care isn’t just about end-of-life decisions – it can cover any medical situation.

Power of Attorney for Finances

The power of attorney for financial matters is similar, only your designated agent has the power to make decisions and act on your behalf when it comes to your finances. This gives them the authority to pay bills, settle debts, sell property, or anything else that needs to be done if you become incapacitated and unable to do this yourself.

It might be obvious by now, but I’ll say it just in case: choosing an agent for a power of attorney requires that you think long and hard about who would be best suited for the job and who you trust.

Disposition of Personal Property

Now, let’s get to the disposition of the personal property. This is where you get specific about items you want particular people to have. If you’re leaving everything to one or two people, then you may not need to fill this out. But, if you know you want your niece Suzie to have a specific piece of jewelry, and your nephew Karl to have that bookshelf he loved, then you’d say so in this document.

Disposition of Final Remains

We come to the disposition of final remains. This document is where you get to tell your loved ones exactly how you want your body to be treated after you pass away. If you want a marching band and fireworks shooting your ashes into the sky (that’s a thing, by the way), then this is where you make it known. It can be as general as simply saying “I want to be cremated,” or it can be specific and include details of plots you’ve already purchased or arrangements you’ve already made.

Keep updated and current

OK, so you’ve gone to an estate planning lawyer, and these six “must have” estate planning documents have been drafted and signed. What else? You need to keep these documents updated and current.

If you undergo a major life event, you may well want to revisit with your estate planning lawyer, to see if this life event requires changing your estate planning documents.

What do I mean by a major life event? Some common such events would include:

  • The birth or adoption of a child or grandchild
  • Marriage or divorce
  • Illness or disability of your spouse
  • Purchasing a home or other large asset
  • Moving to another state
  • Large increases or decreases in the value of assets, such as investments
  • If you or your spouse receives a large inheritance or gift
  • If any family member, or other heir dies, becomes ill, or becomes disabled

This is just a short list of life events that should cause you to re consider your estate plan. There are many others.

Don’t forget about your beneficiary designations

There are six “must have” estate planning documents, plus you need to keep them current. Also, don’t forget about your beneficiary designations. For example, savings and checking accounts, life insurance, annuities, 401(k)s, pensions, and IRAs are all transferred via beneficiary designations. These beneficiary designations actually trump your will.

Regarding assets with beneficiary designations, you must make sure that designations are correctly filled out and supplied to appropriate institution

What other documents might you need resides these six “must have” estate planning documents?

For most Iowans, probably the vast majority, what I’ve outlined above is enough. There may be folks who have more that $5 million in assets, or who have complex assets (for example, more than one piece of real estate), or own part or all of a robust business, or otherwise have unusual situations. In such cases, a trust may be helpful. But that will be more “advanced” estate planning. What I’ve described above is an excellent start.

See? That wasn’t so bad!

Glasses on estate planning documents

There it is in a nutshell. This is what goes into an estate plan.

Whether it’s complicated or simple, it does require some thought and time. But, it’s worth the investment – a proper estate plan can save you and your estate costs 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.

Begin today

Why not start right now on your own plan for the future with my free estate plan questionnaire? It’s provided to you free, without any 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.

pitcher holding baseballs

The Red Sox (AKA the “other” Sox team, not my beloved White Sox) took home the World Series title after a 5-1 win in Game 5 against the LA Dodgers. This is the team’s ninth World Series win and its fourth in the past 15 seasons! Some sports commentators are hailing the Bostonian sluggers as one of Major League Baseball’s greatest teams ever. Whether or not you cheer for the Red Sox, one thing is certain there are some winning estate planning takeaways from the great American game that will help you cement your legacy as strongly as the Sox.

set of 3 baseballs

Disposition of Final Remains – Plan a Parade

Boston is now prepping to host the championship parade, which reminds me that in your “disposition of final remains” document you can specify precisely in great or little detail what you want done to celebrate your successes. If you want your designated representative in the disposition of your final remains to plan a parade to march through town, you can do that! Confetti cannons, marching band, (duckboats if you live in Boston)… the whole shebang. But, would that ever actually happen you ask? That’s where choosing a trusted and steadfast rep for disposition of final remains document comes in. Your will’s executor and other representatives owe you and your estate a fiduciary duty to fulfill the execution of the plan as you indicated. So, you’ll want to select people who are up to the task if a parade is in the cards!

Disposition of Person Property- Pass Your Treasures to Whom YOU Choose

The World Series made recall a story from a few years back about a family feud over autographed baseballs that got pretty nasty. Larry Pogofsky, one of the original White Sox investors, passed away in 2010 leaving behind a baseball collection of hundreds, that included autographs by the greats like Babe Ruth, Lou Gherig, and Micky Mantle, among others.

One son, Brad, said that his father repeatedly orally told him that the baseballs were to be inherited after Larry’s death. However, there was no express mention of the autographed baseballs in Larry’s estate plan. Larry passed all of his possessions to his wife (the boys’ mother) who stated: “My husband made it very clear what he wanted to happen to his collection of baseballs. He wanted his collection to remain intact and he wanted to give it to his son Benjamin.” Benjamin and Brad fought for the baseballs through a series of civil and even criminal charges (including a restraining order keeping Brad from Ben and Ben’s dog) filed against one another.

The Pogofsky story serves as a cautionary warning of what can happen when you don’t clearly discuss your estate plan and intentions with family members and other beneficiaries. Further, what Larry could and should have done was specify to whom the baseball collection was to pass to in his disposition of personal property document. This clearly would have expressed his intent, instead of transferring all of his assets to his wife who he presumed would pass the collection on as he wanted, without interference from his sons. He could have even split the collection up among his sons if he so chose.

world series baseball

The disposition of personal property document (like the disposition of final remains) is one of the six key documents a part of most folks’ estate plans. This document is where you get specific about items you want particular people to have. For instance, let’s say you have a special piece of artwork you would like to pass to your niece, then you would say so in this document. It would make sense to name your specific niece in the document, rather than passing everything to, say, your spouse or kids and just hope they follow your oral wishes to pass along the specific property to whom you intended.

Understand Sports? Then You Can Understand Estate Planning!

If sports make sense to you, then you can understand the important aspects of estate planning. Give these posts relating to football, basketball, and the Olympics a read.

Questions? Want to get started on making certain your assets pass to whom you want, when you want, and how you want? Download and follow my free Estate Plan Questionnaire and/or contact me for a free consult!

final resting place black balloons

There are six main documents that should be part of almost everyone’s estate plan. One of these is called “Disposition of Final Remains.” This document is where you tell your loved ones exactly how you want your body to be treated after you pass away.

It’s best to approach the subject of final disposition of remains with thoughtfulness, consideration, and, yes, indeed, even a little levity. Discussing your passing can feel morbid or even downright creepy. However, taking the time to think through your final services (whatever it is you want) is a wonderful gift to your family. It ensures that clear instructions are passed on, and alleviates, perhaps even eliminates, the avalanche of headaches that inevitably accompanies such planning.

Your estate plan’s disposition of remains directs your family and friends as to how you want your remains handled after you have passed away. This includes your funeral, service, and maybe a place of internment. If you want a party complete with a piñata you can detail that in the disposition of remains. Choices for what to do with your physical remains can include earth burial, above-earth burial, or cremation . . . or you could always go with something unique to you, like being made into a diamond. Some of my clients have insisted that there be only the shortest and simplest of memorial services. Others have wanted a marching band and fireworks shooting their ashes into the sky. (Yes, that is a thing). It’s completely up to you.

fireworks final disposition

What is incredibly important is that you leave clear instructions of your desires, whatever they may be. That way, your loved ones won’t have to guess as to what you would have wanted, during a time that is already stressful, turbulent, and full of grief. Again, leaving behind a fully thought out “disposition of final remains” is a wonderful gift to your loves ones.

Have questions? Need more information?

A great place to start is the free Estate Plan Questionnaire. Feel free to reach out at any time; you can contact me by email at Gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com or give me a call at 515-371-6077.

red chairs in conference room

Undoubtedly knowledge is power when it comes to understanding how different laws directly affect you. Indeed, living in a modern society mean that an interplay of laws govern pretty much every aspect of our lives in one way or another—even when it comes to death. That’s why I’m dedicated to breaking down terms (like in my “legal word of the day” series) and explaining processes (like how to form a 501(c)(3) in Iowa) related to GFLF’s core services. Because even if you’re not an attorney, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t/can’t learn about the interplay of different laws  Similarly, I think it’s important to get the word out about events in the community that can help grow knowledge on important topics like estate planning.

The Iowa State Bar Association (ISBA) announced they’re producing a seminar series called the “People’s Law School.” The first public information event will focus on three super important estate planning elements:

While the seminar is being billed as one for “older Iowan issues,” I have to remind that everyone needs an estate plan! Even young professionals and definitely married couples. Definitely people with kids and people with pets! Even college students can benefit from putting a power of attorney in place. And, especially working and middle-class folks need a up-to-date estate plan.

At the seminar, attendees can have a living will or medical power of attorney form notarized at the event if they bring their completed documents.

The session will be held 5:30-7 p.m. on September 19 at the ISBA Headquarters in Des Moines. Interested? You can register online here.

According to their website, the ISBA will “identify other topics of public interest and host similar seminars in the future,” so be on the look out for other upcoming opportunities to learn more about the law as a part of your life.

If you’ve dropped all the excuses and committed to making your estate plan happen, that’s great! It’s easy to get started with my free Estate Plan Questionnaire. Questions or want to discuss your estate? Don’t hesitate to contact me via email or by phone at 515-371-6077.

flower-pink-mothers-day

To all the moms out there (including my own!), happy Mother’s Day! We all have our own unique relationships and therefore unique lists with an endless number of things we can and should thank our moms for. But the one thing we all have in common is there are not enough words and never the perfect gifts that fully encompass how thankful we are for all they’ve given us. Bath salts, candles, and lotions are nice. A massage or pedicure sounds even better! These gifts are kind, but they pale in comparison to all the tangible and intangible things your mother has given you over the years.

mom tattoo

That’s why I propose this year you give your mom a gift that’s unconventional, yet incredibly valuable…an estate plan! Why is this one of the greatest gifts for a loved one?

  • An estate plan leads to peace of mind. Your mom can feel good knowing if the unexpected happens, then the legal “stuff” surrounding your life is accounted for.
  • Estate planning means that you (the testator) get to make the decisions about who you want to have what stuff and when.
  • Estate planning isn’t just about death. Documents like financial and health care powers of attorney play an important role if your mom were to be incapacitated by a debilitating accident or illness. Everyone wants the ability to choose the people they want to make important decisions regarding their money and health instead of a court-appointed guardian or conservator.
  • Estate planning means your mom can plan for her estate to benefit the causes and organizations she cares for through charitable bequests.
  • Estate planning saves your mother’s family (like you!) time and money in attorney’s fees and court costs in the probate process.
  • By encouraging your mom to execute an estate plan, you are recognizing that you want her wishes to be heard on important matters like disposition of final remains and a living will. (It makes up for all the times you didn’t follow her directions as a kid!)
  • Estate plans can also be seen as a representation of your everlasting love for your mother, because estate plans never expire! They need to be reviewed regularly and updated when goals or big life-changing events happen, but a valid estate plan will last as long as your mom wants it to. What other Mother’s Day gifts can you say that about?

How do you gift someone an estate plan you ask? Well, you certainly can’t buy one at a store, but this is your chance to get creative.

  • Gift the gift of information. Even sharing the benefits and educating her on the main components of an estate plan is an amazing present.
  • Connect her with an estate planning attorney. Sometimes the hardest part of estate planning is simply getting started. When you work with an estate planning attorney (in lieu of something with a high potential for negative unintended consequences like a DIY will off the internet), they help guide and consult you through the process on top of writing the actual documents.
  • Give a storage container. This is a gift you could actually put a bow on! There are many different ways you can choose to store your estate plan, so take stock of what your mother has in terms of secure storage. Is there a locked file cabinet readily available or does she need a water-proof, fire-proof place to keep her original estate plan? The storage container could be a sort of representative for the estate plan that is to come.
  • Help her gather her information to fill out the Estate Plan Questionnaire. An Estate Plan Questionnaire helps you and your attorney collect all the important details related to your estate in one place.
  • Gift your assistance. Let your mom know that when she’s ready to discuss her planning decisions that you’ll be there to listen, and if necessary, bring your siblings (if any) and other family members to the table so that everyone is on the same page.

Already got your mom a gift? That’s cool. I’m sure she would love it in addition to the estate plan!

Questions, concerns, or otherwise from you or your mother? Contact me at any time via email or phone (515-371-6077).