Category Archives: Estate Planning Blog

5 Ways to Ensure Your Estate Plan Expresses Who You Are

children's inheritanceMost people know estate planning can help you pass along your material wealth, but what about your intangible wealth like your wisdom, values, and life experiences? Studies show that intangible wealth is valued by heirs even more highly than tangible wealth. It is also the wealth that lasts the longest, and the wealth that’s lost forever if care isn’t taken to preserve and pass it along.

Don’t get me wrong. The money’s important. But focusing on the money alone squanders an incredible opportunity during the estate planning process to account for the most important part of your wealth – the human capital you’ve accumulated during your life. With that in mind, here are five things which should be included in every comprehensive estate plan, but often aren’t:

  1. Your rich life story

You may think it’s all been said before, but this is the perfect time to schedule or conduct recording sessions about your own personal life narrative. These recordings will be treasured while you’re still here and long after you’re gone, too. It doesn’t have to be scripted or scary. You can just talk about particularly fond memories, knowing you’re creating a time capsule of sorts that will contain the uniqueness of your personality and the experiences that shaped you into the person you are today. And perhaps most importantly, this gives you the opportunity to share the valuable lessons you’ve learned from those experiences. Your family will be better for it.

  1. How you’d like to be honored

Estate planning involves considering some weighty decisions when it comes to long-term care, powers of attorney, and other situations that may arise should you become mentally incapacitated. Although these are not the sunniest of topics, it’s important to express to your family why you feel most aligned with the choices you’re making. This will ease the processes for your loved ones, should these things ever come to pass. And once you get this part of the conversation out of the way, there are better things to come.

  1. Your family tree

Your family might be curious about more than just your own life story. Take this time to go over your family tree and inform the younger members of your family about the details of your heritage. Getting a who’s who on paper and/or in a digital format is an excellent gift to your heirs, as they’ll be able to reference it and build upon it throughout their own lives.

  1. Significant heirlooms

Every family has heirlooms, and every piece tells a story. It’s common for estate plans to contain physical objects that matter dearly to their owners, such as furniture, garments, jewelry, hobby collections, and memorabilia. Keeping the story of the object alive is more important than transferring its monetary value to the next generation. So rather than just document who gets what, I encourage my clients to take a picture of each heirloom and then write about why that item means so much to them, and why they want to give it to the particular beneficiary they have chosen to receive it.

  1. Your core values

Your estate plan can be customized to include specific language (such as a family mission statement) that carries your values along with it while still leaving room for your beneficiaries to grow and explore on their own terms. Educational, incentive, and charitable trusts are other great tools available to you to express your values through your estate plan.

You know there’s much more to you than the material wealth you’ve accumulated during your life. As such, your estate plan should be about much more than just your financial worth. After all, what’s passed down from generation to generation amounts to something far greater than numbers on paper.

Don’t be afraid to insist that your estate plan includes a balanced representation of who you are and what you believe. And make sure you choose an attorney who isn’t only focused on your financial assets, but who wants to help weave your “whole wealth” into your trust and other critical documents so that the legacy you’ve built will mean something to your family for generations to come.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and securing your legacy,

Marc Garlett 91024



Money Isn’t Everything in Estate Planning

How to Pass Your Stories and Values to the Future Generations

estate planning 91024Money may be the most talked asset within a person’s estate, but the riches of experience and wisdom can – and most of the time do – mean even more to family members down the line. Reinforcement of family traditions can be built into your estate plan alongside your wishes regarding your money, property, and belongings. After all, what really makes a family a family is its values and traditions — not the way its finances read on paper.

It’s an excellent idea to hold a family meeting in which you discuss the sorts of things that matter to you most. In addition to the value of sharing your wisdom, you can also make it more likely that your heirs will handle their inheritance wisely if they understand the motives behind your choices. This is just one of the many reasons to have a family discussion about your estate plan and your legacy.

How to tell your story through your estate plan

It’s a delight to get to hear your elders’ stories of their fondest memories and wildest adventures, as well as the struggles they overcame to get the family where it is today. This wisdom provides connection and meaning for a financial inheritance that otherwise might just be viewed as a windfall. So as part of your estate and legacy planning, I encourage you to record your own personal history. Here are a few ideas:

  • Audio files: With the broad range of audio formats available today, you can record in the way that’s easiest for you – anything from a handheld cassette recorder to the Voice Memos app on your iPhone. There are some easy-to-use digitizing services that can compile your stories into audio files to make available to your family and descendants.
  • Video files: The same goes for home movies and other video recordings. Older film formats can be easily digitized and organized along with the videos from your phone. Today’s technology also makes it easier than ever to add narration (and context) to a video, making the story all the richer.
  • Photo albums: Many families have prized photo collections that catalog generations. It’s a tragedy when something like this is lost in a fire or misplaced in a move. Creating a digital database is a gift to your family in more ways than one: Not only will they have access to these memories at any time, they can also feel secure knowing that these family treasures won’t be lost anytime soon and that multiple copies can be made for the different branches of the family.
  • Letters and other writings: If you enjoy writing, you can also include handwritten or typed letters or stories to your family members in your legacy plan to be received and read at the time of your choosing. You can also include past letters and postcards that might be tucked away in the attic. It’s not only a personal delight to relive the memories of the past by reviewing your old letters and postcards, but it’s also a great way for younger generations to get to know and sincerely appreciate your life journey and legacy.

Your financial assets are important. Protecting and planning to pass those assets is a key part of any estate plan. But focusing only on those types of assets leaves a hole for your loved ones and does a disservice to the biggest part of your wealth. Your estate plan becomes exponentially more valuable when it incorporates and showcases your memories, history, and values in a long-lasting way that truly benefits your heirs. And that is really what estate planning should be all about.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and securing your legacy,

Marc Garlett 91024



How to Protect Your Child’s Inheritance from a Future Untrustworthy Spouse

Kids Protection 91024A big reason parents develop an estate plan is to provide for their children financially. It’s not the only reason. And if you’ve heard me talk about “legacy” you know I don’t think it’s the most important reason. But it is important! Most of us want to make sure hard-earned assets, family heirlooms, or closely held businesses stay within the family. Within that context I’m often asked how to protect children’s inheritance from a future spouse in the event of untrustworthiness or divorce. It’s a thoughtful and significant question. And thankfully, there are many ways to structure your child’s inheritance to help ensure it will remain in the family for future generations. Let’s look at a few of the options.

Create a Trust
A trust involves three parties: (1) the person creating the trust (you might see this written as the “settlor,” “trustor,” or “grantor.”), (2) the person or entity holding the trust property for the benefit of the beneficiary, known as the “trustee”, and (3) the person(s) that benefit from the creation of the trust, known as the “beneficiaries.” Choosing a trustee who is independent can be a great way to eliminate any arguments that one beneficiary has more control to receive assets than what is actually provided in the trust documents than other beneficiaries, a helpful situation when you have an untrustworthy son- or daughter-in-law.

A lifetime trust is a type of trust that – as is evident from its name – lasts for the lifetime of the beneficiary and passes to the next generation of beneficiaries upon his or her death. It is commonly referred to as a “generation-skipping trust” and can also dramatically reduce or eliminate estate taxes. Assets in a lifetime trust are protected against commingling in the marriage and, therefore, cannot be pursued by a spouse. When assets are held by a trust your children – and, by extension, their spouses – cannot access these assets. Therefore, even in the event of a divorce, an ex-spouse cannot pursue them.

Use Prenuptial Agreements
In addition to creating a trust to protect your children’s inheritance from an untrustworthy spouse, your children can use a prenuptial agreement as a tool for asset protection. A prenuptial agreement is a document that details an agreement between your child and his or her spouse about the characterization of assets owned at the time of marriage and those earned after marriage. This legal document also provides the couple to agree upon the division of assets in the event there is a divorce. This may be an uncomfortable suggestion to bring up with your children, but it can be an huge benefit in the event of a later divorce.

Other Planning Ideas
Beyond the actual legal tools, it is important for you to let your wishes be known to the family. One way to do this is to have a family discussion about your estate plan, explaining your intentions and reasons as to why it is set up in this manner. Additionally, using clear language in your estate planning documents that specify the intent or purpose in leaving the inheritance to benefit descendants – and not their spouses – can further solidify your wishes are followed. Finally, choosing a trustee that is independent will keep control over the funds in the trustee’s hands and not your child’s untrustworthy spouse. This will also allow you to manage or overcome any conflict that you may not have been expecting.

Bottom Line: Be Proactive
If you wish to make sure your descendants receive a portion of your estate, discuss these intentions with your children and devise an estate plan that will guarantee this desire is fulfilled after your passing. Whether you have no estate plan, or have one that’s more than a few years old, sit down with a trusted estate planning professional to create or update this plan to suit your goals.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and securing your legacy,

Marc Garlett 91024

The Difference between Lifetime and Deathtime Planning… and Why a Comprehensive Estate Plan Must Include Both

estate planning 91024According to a March 2017 survey by, six out of ten Americans have no will or any other kind of estate planning in place. One in three said they didn’t need an estate plan because they didn’t have any assets to give someone when they’d died. So it’s all too clear that most of us think “estate planning” is a euphemism for “deathtime” planning.

However, comprehensive estate planning isn’t just about death. It’s lifetime planning, too. It’s about ensuring that your medical and financial decisions can always be made by someone you trust. Lifetime planning helps address potential tax liabilities, find benefit programs you may eligible for, and protect your family from costly guardianship or conservatorship court proceedings. And it allows you to choose who looks after and protects your affairs, if and when you’re not able to.

Lifetime Planning Tools

A good estate plan uses an array of lifetime planning tools, custom-tailored to an individual family’s needs. Here are a couple of the most common (and necessary) lifetime planning tools you should have in place.

Revocable living trusts

When people hear the word “trust,” they may envision “trust fund babies” or think that trusts are something only for the super-rich.

However, a trust is simply a legal tool that can help almost anyone with property – not just the wealthy. In a trust, assets you own are re-titled and transferred into the trust. When this happens, technically, you no longer own your real estate, stocks, bonds and similar properties. Instead, the trust owns them all. But you still control everything in the trust: You can still buy and sell these assets as if they were still in your name. In fact, revocable living trusts don’t even change your income taxes while you’re alive. You continue to file your tax returns as you always have. And as the creator of the trust, you can continue to make changes to the trust throughout your life as long you’re competent to do so.

Once you die, your chosen successor trustee distributes assets to the trust beneficiaries (the people, such as your spouse, children, a church, or other charity, you named to inherit from you). In many respects, the role of the trustee is similar to that of the executor of a will. But, a trustee of a properly funded trust doesn’t have to go through the public and expensive probate process. In fact, trusts are private, unlike wills, providing valuable privacy to your family.

Durable power of attorney

With a durable power of attorney, you legally designated an agent to act on your behalf, in the ways specified in the document. You can make the durable power of attorney broad in scope or quite limited, and it can become active as soon as you sign it, or only spring into action if you become incapacitated. Through the power of attorney, your agent may sign checks for you, enter contracts on your behalf, or even buy and sell your assets. But you control what they can and can’t do by what you authorize within the document.

Health Care Power of Attorney

In an instant, an accident can change a healthy, vigorous person into someone who can’t make her own healthcare decisions. Others face a long decline in mental capacity because of a disease like Alzheimer’s. But in either case, it is important to pre-empower those you trust to make medical decisions for you. This document is similar to the durable power of attorney, but authorizes an agent to make medical decisions for you if and when you no longer have the capacity to do so yourself. It should be incorporated with a health care directive to communicate your desired treatment and end-of-life care.

A Holistic Approach

Lifetime planning is a comprehensive approach to estate planning. And while it addresses needs of the living, comprehensive planning may also improve the after-death part of your plan as well, because it can reduce family conflict and preserve assets against court control or interference in the event of incapacity.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and securing your legacy,

Marc Garlett 91024

How Your Trust Can Help a Loved One Who Struggles with Addiction

addiction 91024Substance addiction is by no means rare, impacting as many as one in seven Americans. Because of its prevalence, navigating a loved one’s addiction is a relatively common topic in everyday life. But you should also consider it when working on your estate planning. Whether the addiction is alcoholism, drug abuse, or behavioral like gambling, we all want our loved ones to experience a successful recovery.  And a properly created estate plan can help achieve just that.

The idea that money from a trust could end up fueling addictive behaviors can be particularly troubling. Luckily, it’s possible to frame your estate planning efforts in such a way that you’ll ensure your wealth has only a positive impact on your loved one during their difficult moments.

Funding for treatment

One of the ways your trust can have a positive influence on your loved one’s life is by helping fund their addiction treatment. If a loved one is already struggling with addiction issues, you can explicitly designate your trust funds for use in his or her voluntary recovery efforts. In extreme cases where an intervention of some sort is required to keep the family member safe, you can provide your trustee with guidance to help other family members with the beneficiary’s best interest by encouraging involuntary treatment until the problem is stabilized and the loved one begins recovery.

Incentive trusts

Incentive clauses can be included in your estate planning to help improve the behavior of the person in question. For example, the loved one who has an addiction can be required to maintain steady employment or voluntarily seek treatment in order to obtain additional benefits of the trust (such as money for a vacation or new car). Although it might seem controlling, this type of incentive structure can also help with treatment and recovery by giving a loved one something to work towards. This approach is probably best paired with funding for treatment (discussed above), so there are resources to help with treatment and then benefits that can help to motivate a recovery.

Lifetime discretionary trusts

Giving your heirs their inheritance as a lump sum could end up enabling addiction or make successful treatment more difficult. Luckily, there’s a better way.  Lifetime discretionary trusts provide structure for an heir’s inheritance. If someone in your life does (or might eventually) struggle with addiction, you can rest easy knowing the inheritance you leave can’t be accessed early or make harmful addiction problem even worse.

Of course, you want to balance this lifetime protection of the money with the ability of your loved one to actually obtain money from the trust. That’s where the critical consideration of who to appoint as a trustee comes in. Your trustee will have the discretion to give money directly to your beneficiary or pay on your loved one’s behalf (such as a payment directly to an inpatient treatment center or payment of an insurance premium). When dealing with addiction, your trustee will need to have a firm grasp of what appropriate usage of the trust’s funds looks like. Appointing a trustee is always an important task, but it’s made even more significant when that person will be responsible for keeping potentially harmful sums of money out of the addicted person’s hands.

Navigating a loved one’s addiction is more than enough stress already without having to worry about further enablement through assets contained in your trust. But you can take that extra burden off your shoulders by building an estate plan that positively impacts your loved one and doesn’t contribute to the problem at hand. That way, you can go back to focusing your efforts on the solution. Call us today if you’re in this situation and would like some help.

Dedicated to empowering your family, growing your wealth and securing your legacy,

Marc Garlett 91024

Which life events require an immediate estate plan update?

trust 91024Estate planning is the process of developing a strategy for the care and management of your estate if you become incapacitated or upon your death. One commonly known purpose of estate planning is to minimize taxes and costs, including taxes imposed on gifts, estates, generation skipping transfer and probate court costs. However, your plan must also name someone who will make medical and financial decisions for you if you cannot make decisions for yourself.  You also need to consider how to leave your property and assets while considering your family’s circumstances and needs.

Since your family’s needs and circumstances are constantly changing, so too must your estate plan. Your plan must be updated when certain life changes occur. These include, but are not limited to: marriage, the birth or adoption of a new family member, divorce, the death of a loved one, a significant change in assets, and a move to a new country.

Marriage: it is not uncommon for estate planning to be the last item on the list when a couple is about to be married – whether for the first time or not. On the contrary, marriage is an essential time to update an estate plan. You’ve probably already thought about updating emergency contacts and adding your spouse to existing health and insurance policies. But there’s another important reason to update an estate plan upon marriage. In the event of death, your money and assets may not automatically go to your spouse, especially if you have children of a prior marriage, a prenuptial agreement, or if your assets are jointly owned with someone else (like a sibling, parent, or another family member). A comprehensive estate review will ensure you and your new spouse can rest easy.

Birth or adoption of children or grandchildren: when a new baby arrives, it seems like everything changes – and so should your estate plan. For example, your trust may not “automatically” include your new child, depending on how it is written. So, it’s always a good idea to check and add the new child as a beneficiary. As your children (or grandchildren) grow in age, your estate plan should adjust to ensure assets are distributed in a way you deem proper. What seems like a good idea when your son or granddaughter is a four-year-old may no longer look like such a good idea once their personality has developed and you know them as a 25-year-old college graduate, for example.

Divorce: after a divorce, you should immediately update beneficiary designations for all insurance policies and retirement accounts, any powers of attorney, and any existing health care proxy and HIPAA authorizations. It is also a good time to revamp your will and trust to make sure it does what you want (especially if you want to leave out your former spouse).

The death of a loved one: sometimes those who are named in your estate plan pass away. If an appointed guardian of your children dies, it is imperative to designate a new person. Likewise, if your chosen executor, health care agent or designated power of attorney dies, new ones should be named right away.

Significant change in assets: whether it is a sudden salary increase, inheritance, or the purchase of a large asset these scenarios should prompt an adjustment to an existing estate plan. The bigger the estate, the more likely there will be issues over the disposition of the assets after you are gone. For this reason, it is best to see what changes, if any, are needed after a significant increase (or decrease) in your assets.

A move to a new country: estate planning for Americans living abroad or those who have assets located in numerous countries can get complicated and requires professional assistance. It is always a good idea to learn what you need to do to completely protect yourself and your family before you move to a new country.

Dedicated to empowering your family, securing your wealth and delivering your legacy,

Marc Garlett 91024

3 Decidedly Dumb Ways to Leave an Inheritance for Your Children

family estate planning 91024Estate planning offers many ways to leave your wealth to your children, but it’s just as important to know what not to do. The following ill-advised estate planning strategies can cause confusion, or even cost your children some – if not all – of their inheritance….

“Oral Wills”

If you feel you have a good rapport with your family or don’t have many assets, you might be tempted simply to tell your children or loved ones how to handle your estate when you’re gone. However, even if your family members wanted to follow your directions, it won’t be up to them. Without a written document, any assets you own individually must go through probate, and “oral wills” carry absolutely no weight in court. It would be up to a judge and the intestate laws written by the legislature, not you or your desired heirs, to decide who gets what. This strategy should be avoided at all costs.

Joint Tenancy

In lieu of setting up a trust, some people name their children as joint tenants on their properties. The appeal is that children should be able to assume full ownership when the parents pass on, while keeping the property out of probate. However, this does not mean that the property is protected; it doesn’t insulate the property from taxes or creditors, including your children’s creditors, if they run into financial difficulty. Their debt could even result in a forced sale of your property.

And there’s another big issue, too. Choosing this approach exposes your properties to otherwise avoidable capital gains taxes. Here’s why. When you sell certain assets, the government taxes you. But you can deduct your cost basis—a measure of how much you’ve invested—from the selling price. For example, if you and your spouse bought vacant land for $200,000 and later sell it for $500,000, your taxable gain would be $300,000 (the increase in value).

However, your heirs can get a break on these taxes. For instance, let’s say you die, and the fair market value of the land at that time was $500,000. If you use a trust rather than joint tenancy, your spouse’s cost basis is now $500,000 (the basis for the heirs gets “stepped-up” to its value at your death). So, if she then sells the property for $515,000, her taxable gain is only $15,000, rather than the $315,000 it would have been before your death! However, with joint tenancy, she does not receive the full step-up in basis, meaning she’ll pay more capital gains taxes.

Giving Away the Inheritance Early

Some parents choose to give children their inheritance early–either outright or incrementally over time. But this strategy also comes with several pitfalls. First, if you want to avoid hefty gift taxes, you are limited to giving each child $14,000 per year. You can give more, but you start to use up your gift tax exemption and must file a gift tax return as well. Second, a smaller yearly amount might be seen by your kids more like “free money” than the beginnings of your legacy, so they might squander it rather than invest. Third, if situations change that would have caused you to re-evaluate your allocations, it’s too late. You don’t want to be dependent on them giving the cash back if you ever need it for your own maintenance and support.

Shortcuts and ideas like these may look appealing on the surface, but they often do more harm than good. Consult with an estate planner to avoid these pitfalls and find the best strategies to prepare for your and your families’ future.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and securing your legacy,

Marc Garlett 91024

Do It Now: Name a Guardian for Your Minor Child(ren)

sad childI know it’s hard. Thinking about someone else raising our children stops us all in our tracks. But we must. If we don’t, and something happens to us, a stranger will determine who raises our children – and your child’s guardian could be a relative you despise or even a stranger you’ve never met. It happens.

No one will ever be you or parent exactly like you, but you can’t let that stop you from naming a guardian. In fact, the guardian of your children would easily become the most important person in their lives and could be the difference between them surviving the tragedy of losing you and going on to be happy, healthy, and successful or not. And while the likelihood of your guardian actually having to take over is slim, the consequences of having a stranger make that incredibly important decision could be dire.

If you have not named a guardian and something happens to you – a stranger who does not know you, your child, or your relatives and friends – will determine who will raise your child. Anyone can ask to be considered, and the judge will have the authority to decide. Keep in mind, too, families tend to fight over children, especially if there’s money involved.  And fights can lead judges to order the child into foster care until the matter is resolved. On the other hand, if you name a guardian, all of that can be avoided.

How to Choose a Guardian

Your child’s guardian can be a relative or friend. Here are some of the factors to consider when selecting guardians (and don’t forget to select back up guardians, too).

  • How well the child and potential guardian know and enjoy each other
  • Parenting style, moral values, educational level, health practices, religious/spiritual beliefs
  • Location – if the guardian lives far away, your child would have to move from a familiar school, friends, and neighborhood
  • The child’s age and the age and health of the guardian-candidates:
    • Grandparents may have the time, but they may or may not have the energy to keep up with a toddler or teenager.
    • An older guardian may become ill and/or even die before the child is grown, so there would be a double loss.
    • A younger guardian, especially a sibling, may be concentrating on finishing college or starting a career.

Remember, it Doesn’t Count if You Don’t Document it

I know it’s not easy, but don’t let that stop you. I’m happy to talk this through with you and legally document your wishes. And know that you can change your mind and select a different guardian anytime you’d like – also – the chances of needing the guardian you’ve named are small; but, you’re a parent and your job is to provide for and protect your children no matter what, so if you haven’t taken care of naming legal guardians yet, stop procrastinating and get it done.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and securing your legacy,

Marc Garlett 91024

When Duty Calls: Navigating the “Sandwich” Generation

sandwich generationThe average age of parents raising children in the US continues to rise, leaving many middle-aged Americans in a category commonly referred to as the “sandwich” generation.

This growing population of professionals are often still raising kids at home when they become responsible for the care of their own aging parents. The stress and financial strain of managing the affairs of both children and parents can easily become overwhelming. The following tips, however, can help make this challenging stage of life manageable if not more enjoyable.

Assess the Financial Situation. Taking time to thoroughly understand the financial picture for your own household is imperative as you step into a role of responsibility for your aging parents. Prepare for the inevitable and avoid surprises by working with a professional to consider how your role in the care of your parent will affect the plans you are making for your family’s financial future. You’ll want a comprehensive planning process that ensures your legal, financial and insurance needs are covered appropriately.

Plan Ahead. Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Planning for your family’s future means preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. As you move through helping your aging parent with important Estate Planning decisions, take time to be sure your own wishes are legally binding as well. Be sure to include:

  • Medical power of attorney – appoints a person to make medical decisions if you are unable to do so
  • Durable power of attorney – designates a person to make financial decisions if you are unable to do so
  • Living will – expresses your wishes for end of life decisions
  • Will – carries out your wishes in the event of your death
  • Kids Protection Plan – designates a legal guardian for your minor children in the event of your incapacitation or death

Pay Attention to Red Flags. Even if your aging parent is still quite capable, work together to assess their financial situation carefully and be on the lookout for signs that anything is falling through the cracks. Common red flags are:

  • Frequent calls from creditors
  • Forgetfulness when it comes to bills and deadlines
  • Unopened mail

Utilize professional legal and financial support when necessary and communicate clearly so everyone knows who is responsible for what.

Practice Good Self Care. Stress is one of the most common consequences of caring for two generations at once. Balancing the responsibilities of raising children and caring for aging parents with relaxation and play is vital over the long-haul. Remember that adequate rest and good nutrition will provide you with the extra energy you’ll need when times get tough. Most importantly, remember that you don’t have to do it alone! Establish a relationship with trusted advisors who are ready to assist you when duty calls.

For example, if you schedule a Family Legacy Planning Session with us, we’ll review your current financial situation in light of your future responsibilities. With our assistance, you’ll gain the confidence of knowing you’re making the most empowered, informed and educated legal and financial decisions for yourself and the ones you love. Begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Legacy Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and securing your legacy,

Marc Garlett 91024


Spring Cleaning For Your Legal and Financial Affairs

spring cleaning 91024Spring has officially sprung and that means it’s spring cleaning time. Shake out the rugs, clean out the cupboards, and get your legal and financial affairs in order.

For plenty of folks, it’s easy to know what to do when it comes to home organization, but the idea of legal and financial ordering can be complex and confusing.

Here are a few places you can start:

  1. Review Your Beneficiary Designations

Request updated beneficiary designation forms from your life insurance account and retirement account custodians. Look at the form and identify whether you have a minor designated as either a primary or contingent beneficiary. If you do, those assets will be tied up in Court, unnecessarily, and may not be available to the people you’ve named to care for your children.

Consider designating your life insurance and retirement accounts to be distributed to a trust for the benefit of your heirs, providing Court and creditor protection, and ensuring your children do not inherit money before they are properly prepared.

  1. Update Your Family Wealth Inventory

Your Family Wealth Inventory is a document – usually a spreadsheet – itemizing the assets you own, so that in the event you become incapacitated, or when you die, your family will know how to find everything you own.

Without an updated Family Wealth Inventory, your assets could be lost to California’s department of unclaimed property. There’s currently over 8 billion – with a ‘B” – dollars of assets in California’ department of unclaimed property because most people do not leave a clear record of their assets at the time of their incapacity or death. Don’t let that happen to your assets!

  1. Consider If You Need to Name New Guardians (Long or Short-Term)

Review your guardian nomination designations. Have you named guardians for both the short-term (local) and the long-term (people you would trust to raise your kids fully)? If so, do they need to change? Is there anyone you would wish to exclude? Does the ID card for your wallet need to be updated? This is the time to check.

  1. Check Out the Title to Your House

Get a copy of the deed to your house and make sure that your trust is listed as the owner on the deed if you want your house to stay out of court in the event of your incapacity or death. If you see your personal name on the deed, and there is not a trust listed, you can bet your house would have to go through the court process of probate in the event of your death before it could be passed to your heirs. If you don’t want that, now is the perfect time to spruce up your planning.

  1. Come In and Meet With Us For a Family Legacy Planning Session

Last, but far from least, this is the perfect time of year to come in and meet with us for a Family Legacy Planning Session, whether you’ve done estate planning in the past or not.  We will have a 2-hour working meeting that will get you more financially organized than you’ve likely ever been before (unless you’ve already done planning with us) and give you the confidence of knowing you’ve made the most empowered, informed and educated legal and financial decisions for the people you love. Call within the next week and mention this article to receive your session on a complimentary basis. 

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and securing your legacy,

Marc Garlett 91024