From ‘I Do’ to ‘What If’: Estate Planning Must-Do’s for Newlyweds – Part 1

Wedding season is winding down, and if you are a newlywed or are planning to tie the knot soon, it’s time to make your first legal move as a married couple – creating an estate plan. With all the joy and happiness a new marriage brings, planning for your potential incapacity and future death may feel out of place, but creating your estate plan as part of your post-nuptial to-do list is the greatest gift you can give your new spouse.

A lot changes once your marriage is official, but how you and your spouse want your finances to be managed or how you would want medical decisions to be made for each other are not automatically documented when you say “I do.”

If you become incapacitated for any reason before your estate plan is complete, your spouse would not have the legal authority to make medical decisions for you even though you’re married. Your loved one would also have no access to your bank accounts, and in the event of your death, could even be put into a position of losing the home and possessions that you owned together.

Instead, your choices for yourself, each other, and your life together need to be properly documented to ensure your wishes are respected and honored no matter what the future holds.

Here are 6 essential estate planning tools you need to put in place right now.

01 | Updated Beneficiary Designations

One of the easiest estate planning tasks that newlyweds often overlook is updating their beneficiary designations. Some of your most valuable assets, such as life insurance policies, 401(k)s, and IRAs, do not transfer via a will or trust. Instead, they have beneficiary designations that allow you to name the person (or persons) you’d like to inherit the asset upon your death.

While every couple should consider creating and using a Trust to transfer retirement (only with the guidance of a lawyer, as this can be complex) or life insurance distributions, you shouldn’t wait until your Trust is created or your estate plan is complete to update your beneficiary designations. Until your estate plan is finished, if you would want your spouse to receive your retirement account benefits or life insurance at your death, you need to proactively name your spouse as your primary beneficiary, and then name at least one contingent, or alternate, beneficiary in case your spouse dies with or before you.

If you have minor children at home, remember to never name a minor child as a beneficiary of your life insurance or retirement accounts, even as a contingent beneficiary. If a minor is listed as the beneficiary, the assets would be distributed to a court-appointed custodian, who will be in charge of managing the funds until the child reaches the age of eighteen, at which point the funds would be distributed to them outright, to do with what they want. Instead, you can set up a Trust and name the Trust to receive your life insurance or retirement account benefits.

If you have children or you plan to have children in the future, you should set up a Trust to receive those assets instead so they can be properly managed for your child’s well-being while keeping the funds safe from any future overspending, debt, or legal trouble your child may have. Creating a Trust to hold and distribute assets to your children is even more important if your marriage creates a blended family, as it will ensure your children inherit from you in the way you want and avoid conflict between step-siblings.

If you aren’t sure how to update your beneficiary designations in the best way, contact my office today for a Family Wealth Planning Session™. During the Session, I’ll look at exactly what you own and guide you on exactly how your beneficiary designations should be filled out now and after your other estate planning tools like a Will or Trust are created.

02 | A Durable Financial Power of Attorney

Estate planning is not just about planning for what happens when you die. It’s equally about planning for your life and the unexpected events life throws your way like a serious illness or accident that may leave you incapacitated.

If you become incapacitated and have not added your spouse as an owner on your bank accounts or legally granted them permission to manage your financial and legal interests, they may have to petition the court to be appointed as your guardian or conservator to handle these affairs for you. This is surprising to many newlyweds and long-time married couples who assume their spouse has automatic access to all of their assets at any time. Sadly, this isn’t the case, and without giving written permission to your spouse through a Durable Financial Power of Attorney, that authority could be given to someone else by the court, even a stranger or a family member you would never want to have control over your financial life.

A Durable Financial Power of Attorney would grant your spouse the immediate authority to manage your financial, legal, and business affairs in the event of your incapacity, and give them a broad range of powers to handle things like paying your bills and taxes, collecting government benefits for your care, selling your home or car, and managing your banking and investing.

Creating a Durable Financial Power of Attorney is especially important if you don’t live in one of the community property states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In every other state, the law does not assume your spouse has any ownership of property in your name alone, which means your spouse could be forced to move out of your shared home or give up your shared property with little notice and little legal recourse.

03 | A Power of Attorney for Health Care and Living Will

Where a Durable Financial Power of Attorney gives your spouse the authority to manage your financial and legal matters, a Power of Attorney for Health Care lets them make medical decisions for you if you can’t communicate them for yourself.

For example, a Power of Attorney for Health Care would let your spouse make decisions about your medical treatment if you are in a serious car accident or hospitalized with a debilitating illness. If you don’t name your spouse as your Power of Attorney for Health Care and you do become incapacitated, your spouse would have to petition the court to become your legal guardian before they can make any major medical decisions on your behalf.

Even though your spouse is generally the court’s first choice for your legal guardian, relatives may also petition the court to be appointed as your guardian, which can create severe conflict and financial strain in your family. Creating a Power of Attorney for Health Care that names your spouse as your decision-maker far in advance will spare your spouse the time, money, and stress involved with a court guardianship process.

Within or attached to your Power of Attorney for Health Care should be your Living Will. A Living Will explains to medical providers and to your decision-maker how you would want your medical care handled, particularly at the end of life. Because a Power of Attorney for Health Care and a Living Will go hand-in-hand, they are often combined into a single document.

In your Living Will, you can explain your wishes for life support, whether you would want hydration and nutrition supplied intravenously, and even what kind of food you want and who can visit you in the hospital. It is always a relief to your spouse to have instructions and wishes written out by you in advance that they can lean on, rather than having the added stress and trauma of trying to guess what your wishes would be in these situations.

Through Sickness and Health, We Can Help

Between moving in together, establishing a new routine, and combining your finances, estate planning can seem like a low priority for newlyweds. But in reality, estate planning shortly after getting married is one of the smartest decisions you can make for your marriage. Creating your plan shortly after your wedding is also the most convenient time to plan since you will inevitably be going to the bank and contacting your financial institutions to update your new marital status.

To make sure your new spouse has immediate access to your assets and that you can always care for them in the way they would want, give me a call. It would be my honor to help you and your spouse plan for your new life and your future through my unique, heart-centered process.

If talking about finances and death shortly after your wedding feels heavy, don’t worry. I’ll guide the discussion in a way that feels casual, natural, and helps facilitate open communication between you and your new spouse.

Don’t forget to check back next week for part two of this series!

Click HERE to schedule a free 15-minute call with me to learn more.

Got Intellectual Property? Include It In Your Estate Plan

You don’t have to be a famous producer or household name to own intellectual property. If you create music, own a business, write stories, or build gadgets in your garage, you almost certainly have intellectual property. However, because intellectual property is intangible, it’s often overlooked in estate planning.

And if you do have intellectual property, it may hold significant sentimental and even monetary value for you and the people who love you. Without properly planning for these works in your estate plan, your family could lose these valuable assets forever.

Even if you’ve worked with a lawyer to set up your business, write a will, or file your taxes, those professionals may not be thinking about what happens to your intangible assets upon your death. Many lawyers who focus on estate planning don’t really understand the value of intellectual property and how to protect it. We do, and now so will you.

It’s essential that you take the proper steps to not only protect these intangible assets during your lifetime but also ensure that your intellectual property is properly handled following your death. That way, the monetary and human value of your intellectual property isn’t lost forever when you die.

Safeguard Your Intellectual Property During Life

While you might think that identifying, protecting, and valuing your intellectual property is something that only applies to big companies and famous artists, that’s definitely not the case. Your intellectual property has sentimental value to your family and may have more monetary value than you realize, and could be of even greater value to your loved ones after you’ve died.

The first step to take in protecting your intellectual property is to formally document it in an inventory of assets that describes what the asset is, where it’s located, and how to access it if it’s a digital or intangible item. This is something I help all of my clients create to ensure that no asset, whether tangible or intangible, is left out of their plan or lost when they die.

The next step is to consider if any of your intellectual property should be legally registered in the form of trademarks, copyrights, or patents with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Original works are automatically copyrighted when you create them, but without legally registering your copyrights, it can be difficult to prove and enforce your copyright if someone steals your work and presents it as their own. If you’re lending, renting, licensing or selling anything you’ve created to a third party, it’s also important to have the proper legal agreements and contracts in place to ensure there’s no question about who owns the material.

Likewise, if you own a business and have not protected your intellectual property with copyrights, trademarks, patents, royalty and licensing agreements, non-competes for employees, and work-for-hire provisions in your existing agreements with independent contractors and vendors, now is the time to do so.

Don’t wait until your intellectual property is stolen or you receive a cease-and-desist letter to put these protections in place. Registering a trademark or copyright might cost you time and money, but failing to register your original works can cost you far more than that in legal fees or the lost value of your assets, especially if your family ends up in court trying to fight for what you created.

Protect Your Intellectual Property for Future Generations

In addition to protecting your intellectual property during your lifetime, it’s equally important to plan for what will happen to these assets at your incapacity or death, and to protect your heirs from a potentially long and costly court battle over the ownership of your intangible assets.

The most important thing is to make sure that your family can locate and access your intellectual property after you’re gone. Otherwise, your work could be lost forever.

Once you’ve created an inventory of your assets, you’ll need to make sure your loved ones know how to find your inventory so that if you die or become incapacitated they can easily locate and access your assets. Your inventory should also include how each asset is accounted for in your estate plan and whether you share ownership of any intellectual property with another person or company.

To make sure all of your assets are planned for in the right way, it’s imperative to meet with an estate planning attorney who has the experience and knowledge to plan for your intellectual property and protect any future income the property may generate for your loved ones.

Your attorney should help you plan for each asset, who will inherit it, how its value will be distributed, and how income generated from it will be used, all while avoiding the need for a long and costly probate proceeding.

If you think this all sounds overly complicated, imagine how much more difficult it will be for your loved ones to deal with it should something happen to you. In fact, it could prove impossible for your loved ones to handle these matters in your absence, which is why it’s so important for you and your legal team to take care of these issues now. That way, your family isn’t stuck trying to clean up your mess after your death.

Planning for All of Your Assets, In The Best Way

While you might not be a famous author, artist or musician (yet), you very well may have valuable intellectual property, and chances are that property has not been properly documented or accounted for in your estate plan. Besides monetary value, your pieces of intellectual property are unique creations that reflect your heart, soul, and personality that your family will cherish for years to come.

To make sure all of your assets are protected and planned for, including your intellectual assets, give us a call. As your Personal Family Lawyer® firm, we offer expertise in documenting, valuing, and protecting your intangible assets so your loved ones can benefit from these creations for generations to come.

Click HERE to schedule a free 15-minute call with me to learn more.

Help Your Parents Avoid These New Financial Scams – Part 2

In part one of this series, we explored two popular scams that are targeting older adults this year: the grandparent scam, and cryptocurrency pickpocketing. In this week’s blog, I’m sharing two more scams that you and your parents need to be aware of, plus tips for staying protected.

Let’s dive in.


Imagine opening your inbox to an urgent email from a seemingly legitimate source – perhaps your bank, a popular online retailer, or even a social media platform. The message claims there has been suspicious activity on your account and urges you to click a link or provide sensitive information to verify your identity. This is the classic phishing email – a crafty attempt to deceive you into revealing your personal data.

Phishing has been around since email became mainstream, but what has changed is the depth to which scammers feign legitimacy. Even if you or your parents are familiar with phishing email schemes, new approaches and advances in technology are making it harder than ever to detect a phishing email.

Same Scammers, New Tricks

Phishers often pose as trusted entities such as banks, governments, or department stores. But in recent years, phishers have been sending their victims more personalized emails to trick them into thinking the message is from someone the victim personally knows or is personally connected with. The email will address the victim by name and may appear to come from a friend, co-worker, or supervisor. It may even contain a legitimate-looking email domain, signature, or logo.

The email will usually claim that there is a time-sensitive matter that needs to be addressed, such as a gift that needs to be purchased for a co-worker’s birthday or important client, and asks the victim to purchase the gift via online gift cards, PayPal, or crypto.

For example, you may see an email that reads:

“Hi Jim, this is Mr. Boss. I’m going to be in meetings all day today but I need to send a gift to our new client right away. Please purchase a $200 gift card on Amazon and send it to this email address. I will then forward it to our client.”

Some phishers will pose as banks, lending agencies, or debt relief programs and claim that you have been approved for special credit or financial assistance. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, student loan pause, and hurricane season, you may have seen an email like this:

“Hi Aaron, it’s Gav with Hardship Relief Program. We tried reaching you at your home and did not hear back… I’m not sure if you’ve spoken to an assigned agent yet, but I do see that you’re pre-approved for our Hardship Program. So, what I’m going to do is keep this in a pending status. Please give me a call between the hours of 8 AM and 10 AM EST to go over the details. My number is 555-886-3424.”

Identifying Scams: It’s All in The Details

Before you respond to any kind of email requesting a phone call, consider whether the sender’s request seems legitimate. Did you actually open an account or fill out an application? Is it normal for your boss to email you about important requests?

Always scrutinize the sender’s email address, even if it looks legitimate, by hovering your cursor over the email address to reveal its true origin. Avoid clicking on suspicious links, and never share personal information via email, no matter how professional the sender’s email appears.

Check the email and “from address” for typos, and verify the information provided by the sender, such as the company name and phone number, by searching for it online. When in doubt, contact the company directly through official channels to confirm the authenticity of the message.


In the world of online buying and selling sites like Etsy, Facebook Marketplace, Poshmark, and Craigslist, scammers are increasing their attacks and their success by preying on the good conscience of other people.

In the overpayment scam, the fraudster contacts the victim pretending to be interested in purchasing an item the victim has listed for sale online. The scammer offers to purchase your item, usually at an inflated price and appears to make a payment that’s higher than the agreed-upon amount.

The scammer then requests that you refund the excess amount they “accidentally” sent, and will usually act panicked, upset, and harried. The scammer may even threaten to report the victim to the police for “stealing” the scammer’s money.

But here’s where the twist comes in: the overpayment sent by the scammer was actually fake – a fraudulent check or a forged payment confirmation email that made it seem like you received funds when in fact the scammer didn’t send anything at all. When you refund the overpaid amount, you’re essentially giving away your legitimate money, and by the time the scam is realized, the scammer has disappeared into the digital abyss.

To protect yourself and your parents from this sinister scam:

  • Always require online buyers to pay through traceable means, such as PayPal, Cash App, or Venmo.
  • Avoid sending and receiving money from strangers through non-refundable money transfer services like Zelle.
  • Never accept more money than the purchase price.
  • If the buyer wants a refund, verify that you actually received the funds by logging into your payment servicer account and checking your balance there. Do not rely on a confirmation email which can be easily faked, especially if your payment account does not show any payment received.

Preserving Your Assets and Protecting Your Loved Ones

Staying on top of constantly changing financial scams can feel overwhelming, but with the right knowledge and tools, you can help keep yourself and your aging parents safe from the financial and emotional harm scams cause.

As your Personal Family Lawyer™ firm, we’re available to help guide a discussion with you and your parents about your financial well-being as part of your estate plan, including how to catalog their assets and how to make it as easy as possible for you to help each other in the case of an emergency or scam attempt.

If you want to know more about how working with a Personal Family Lawyer® firm can help you and your family, schedule a free 15-minute discovery call today. It would be my honor to look after your family’s plans now and for years to come.

AARP and The Red Cross Celebrate Make-A-Will Month, But Here’s What They Didn’t Tell You

August is National Make-A-Will Month and you may have received an advertisement in your inbox or mailbox from AARP or the American Red Cross reminding you to get your Will taken care of this month. Both AARP and the Red Cross promoted their partnerships with, a website that claims to help you create a legally valid Will in just 20 minutes.

A Will is usually the first thing that comes to mind when you think of getting your affairs in order, so the advice presented by AARP, the Red Cross, and National Make-A-Will Month itself sounds really good. But in reality, the message of AARP and the Red Cross for Make-A-Will Month could leave your family with a stressful mess when you die or if you become incapacitated first.

To understand why, it’s important to know what a Will does and where its limits lie.

A Will Does Not Cover All of Your Assets

Advertisements and public campaigns about making a Will can make it seem like a Will can take care of all of your needs and all of your assets after you’ve died. In reality, a Will only covers certain items of your property, including any property owned solely in your name and any property that doesn’t have a beneficiary designation.

That means a Will does not control property co-owned by you with others listed as joint tenants or owned as marital property with a spouse, meaning you can only give away your share of any property you own with others, not the entire property.

Assets such as retirement accounts and life insurance policies that have beneficiary designations are not controlled by your Will at all but will instead be paid out directly to the person listed as your beneficiary on each account. Because of this, it’s especially important to make sure your account beneficiaries are up to date. And, that you have backup designations in case your chosen beneficiary isn’t living at the time of your death.

Even if your Will states that you want your wishes to apply to all of your assets, the wishes in your Will are always trumped by beneficiary designations and co-ownership laws.

A Will Does Nothing For You If You Become Incapacitated

Since your Will doesn’t have any authority until after you’ve died, you can’t use it to give someone you trust the power to make decisions for you if you’re incapacitated due to illness or injury. An incapacity can occur as a result of a car accident, an injury sustained while playing with your softball league, or due to an illness, and may be temporary or permanent.

Tasks like paying your bills, managing your money, and maintaining your home may all require help if you become incapacitated. Likewise, you’ll need someone who can make medical decisions for you if you’re unconscious or unable to communicate your medical choices effectively, such as if you’re in an induced coma in the hospital or have memory problems due to an injury or degenerative condition.

Unfortunately, the people named in your Will have no authority to make decisions for you or act on your behalf while you’re alive unless you’ve given them that power through a separate Power of Attorney. Without it, your loved ones may need to go through a court guardianship process to gain the authority to take care of you and your home.

A Will Must Be Filed in Court to Be Used

One of the biggest estate planning myths I hear from clients is the belief that by having a Will, their loved ones won’t need to go to court after they die.

Sadly, this is the opposite of the truth.

A Will only has the authority to control your assets and represent your decisions when it is filed under a probate case in court after your death. If you named someone in your Will to manage your estate or watch over your children, that person will have no authority to do so while you’re alive.

Your chosen representatives can only begin the process of managing your assets and following the wishes you’ve left in your Will only after a judge or court commissioner has formally given them the power. While court oversight can be helpful if there is any confusion or disagreement about your estate, the probate process can be long and expensive. Often, the process can take 18 – 24 months or sometimes even longer.

Due to the length and complexity of the process, going through probate can easily cost your family tens of thousands of dollars.

In addition, because probate is a public court proceeding, your Will becomes part of the public record upon your death, allowing everyone to see the contents of your estate, who your beneficiaries are, and what they’ll receive. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for scammers to use this information to try to take advantage of young or vulnerable beneficiaries who just inherited money from you.

A Will is Not an Estate Plan

Organizations often promote a message of the importance of creating a Will because a Will is a tool that most people have heard of and are familiar with, which makes it an easy launching point to talk about the importance of planning for your assets and your loved ones. But the thing is, a Will isn’t the one-and-done solution that most people are led to believe.

The terms “Will” and “estate plan” are often used interchangeably to mean a tool for dispersing your assets and protecting your wishes, but these two terms are not the same. In reality, a Will is just one piece of your overall estate plan, not the entire plan itself. An estate plan isn’t just one or two documents – it’s a range of strategic decisions about the allocation and title of your assets, and it’s a set of tools and counseling-oriented planning that make sure everything and everyone you love is taken care of both while you’re alive and after you’re gone.

Your complete estate plan may include a Will, a Trust, Powers of Attorney, and other tools that are tailored to your specific situation, local laws, and your vision for the future.

And even more important than both a Will and a Trust, is an inventory of your assets so your family knows what you have, where it is, and how to find it when you become incapacitated or die. Without an inventory of your assets, your family will be lost when something happens to you. A comprehensive inventory updated throughout your lifetime is a critical, and often overlooked, piece of an estate plan that is just a Will.

Trusted Guidance and Counseling

An online program may be able to give you a legally valid Will or other legal documents, but just because something is legally valid doesn’t mean it will be effective. And any document created through a 20-minute online tool is almost guaranteed not to work for you and your loved ones when they need it.

If you’re ready to see how having an estate plan created for your family with heart-forward professional guidance is different than just creating a Will online, schedule your Family Wealth Planning Session™ today. During the session, we’ll review an inventory of everything you have and everyone you love, and together look at what would happen to your possessions and loved ones when something does happen. Then, I’ll help you develop a plan that works exactly as you want it – at your budget and with your vision – to make sure your loved ones are taken care of when you can’t be there.

Most importantly, any document created using an online tool will lack the knowledge, guidance, and personal counseling of a trusted expert who knows your situation and cares about your plan’s effectiveness.

That’s why I don’t just create documents – I guide you and your family through every step of the process, now and at the time of your passing. I even help all of my clients pass on something more valuable than their money – their values, stories, and wisdom – through a Family Legacy Interview.

To get clarity on what you and the people you love truly need schedule a free 15-minute discovery call at this link to learn more.

Help Your Parents Avoid These New Financial Scams – Part 1

Fraudsters and scam artists are nothing new, but changing tools and technology are making it easier than ever for scammers to target their victims, especially seniors. To protect your aging parents (or yourself) from these con artists, it’s crucial to equip yourself with the knowledge of how these scams work and what your loved ones need to know to keep their assets and emotions safe.

In this two-part series, we’ll explore four of the most recent and insidious financial scams that have surfaced, shedding light on their tactics and providing you with practical steps to shield your parents from potential harm.


One of the toughest parts about being the victim of a scam is the emotional and mental stress it usually causes. Scammers intentionally use urgency, alarm, or guilt to trick victims into making hurried decisions to send money to someone who needs “help.”

In the new “Grandparent Scam,” fraudsters will call or text senior adults pretending to be their grandchild. The scammer will claim that they’re in trouble and that they need the grandparent to send them money right away to bail them out of jail, buy a ticket home from a dangerous location, or pay for damages caused by a car accident.

In these scenarios, the scammer will usually ask the grandparent, “Grandma, do you know who this is?” to trick the grandparent to reveal the name of their grandchild so the scammer can use that name for the rest of the phone call. The scammer will then ask the grandparent to wire money to “help” the grandchild and ask that the grandparent don’t tell the grandchild’s parents for fear of them getting upset.

Some scammers are even using AI to disguise their voices while on the phone with the grandparent to sound more convincing. This scam preys on the love and concern our parents have for their children and grandchildren, and can easily cause young or tech-savvy parents to fall victim as well.

To protect your parents from being victimized by this scam, talk to them about the importance of never disclosing personal or financial information or the names of their loved ones in a text, phone call, or email. Instead, instruct them to ask who the caller is and to wait for the sender or caller to respond. If in doubt, the senior should ask the sender personal questions that only their real grandchild would know, but a scammer wouldn’t. Most importantly, encourage your parents to contact you before wiring or transferring money to anyone for any purpose, no matter what.

One strategy we particularly love is to have a family code word or phrase. For example, your code phrase may be “Cosmo is a spotted dog” and that code phrase would be known by everyone in the family so that if anyone is contacted in an emergency situation, the person could ask what’s our family code phrase, and the person calling, texting or emailing either knows it or doesn’t. And, if they don’t, it’s a no-go for help.


The world of cryptocurrency brings new investment opportunities for those willing to try it out, but with this new financial arena comes new risks and safety measures.

In order to store cryptocurrency, you will need a digital wallet, as that’s the safest way to hold your cryptocurrency. Your cryptocurrency wallet doesn’t actually “store” money like a traditional wallet; rather, it stores passcodes, known as keys, that allow you to send and receive digital currency to and from the wallet.

Wallets come in two forms: hot and cold. A “hot” wallet stores your cryptocurrency in a location that’s connected to the internet—exchange-based wallets, desktop wallets, and mobile wallets. Because they’re connected to the internet, hot wallets are the most convenient, but also the most vulnerable to hacking.

A “cold” wallet, conversely, stores your cryptocurrency in a location that’s completely offline. Ironically, the most secure type of wallet for storing digital currency is a cold “paper” wallet. Paper wallets involve printing out your keys and storing them in a secure location. While paper wallets are the most secure option, if you lose the codes, it’s the same as losing paper currency—meaning there is no way to recover your investment.

But no matter what kind of wallet your loved one keeps their crypto in, anyone with the “key” to that wallet can access and steal the funds – no hacking required.

How the Scam Works

To gain access to your wallet, scammers will lure you to give them your wallet’s key by pretending to be representatives of a cryptocurrency company like Bitcoin or Coinbase, or by portraying themselves as a crypto broker. Once the scammer has your keys, your cryptocurrency is completely vulnerable, even if it’s kept in a “cold” offline wallet.

With the keys, the scammer can move your crypto out of your wallet and disappear with it forever, and since the cryptocurrency market is not attached to the banking system, there is no way to recover cryptocurrency once it’s stolen.

To help protect your parents from these scams, talk to them about the importance of never, ever sharing their wallet keys with anyone besides you and any other trusted family members. This is essential to keep your parents’ crypto investments safe.

In all cases, whether your loved ones have crypto in a hot wallet, paper wallet, or directly in a crypto exchange, make sure they’ve given you the details of where their crypto is stored and how to access it in the event they’re incapacitated or die. Otherwise, it’s completely lost.

If you don’t know how to find and access your parent’s cryptocurrency in an emergency or don’t know how best to plan for your own crypto, please talk with us so we can guide you on how to include your crypto information in your estate plan.

Helping You Protect the Ones You Love

Your parents’ financial security is a priority that demands proactive measures, especially in the face of emerging scams that exploit their vulnerability. By remaining vigilant and arming yourself with knowledge of these scams, you can effectively shield your family from falling prey to these fraudsters.

But remember, communication is key. Talk openly with your parents about these potential risks, and encourage them to reach out to you or a trusted professional before making any financial decisions.

As your Personal Family Lawyer firm, we’re here to guide you through the intricacies of safeguarding your family’s financial future and can make it even easier to protect your parents by helping them establish estate planning tools to record and pass on digital assets like crypto, Powers of Attorney to help manage their assets, and Trusts to protect everything they love for years to come.

To learn how we can help you protect your parents from these scams, schedule a free 15-minute discovery call at this link to learn more.

Can You Rely on Legal Insurance for Your Estate Plan?

As the need for affordable legal services becomes even more important in today’s world, it’s common to opt for group legal insurance offered through your workplace benefits. These group insurance plans provide free legal assistance for a variety of needs from law firms that have contracted with the insurance company to provide the legal work.

While group legal insurance might seem like an easy option to save on your family’s legal needs, it’s often inadequate for creating the kind of estate plan you really need to protect your assets, your choices, and your loved ones. In fact – the type of estate plan, will, or trust created through legal insurance programs could leave your family with a big mess.

Here are the reasons why estate planning for your family demands a heart-centered, counseling-oriented approach and guidance beyond the scope of your group legal insurance coverage. I’ll help you understand the potential pitfalls of using group legal insurance for estate planning and share suitable alternatives to ensure your assets are properly protected and that your loved ones are left with a legacy of love, and not a big mess.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

When it comes to estate planning, if you have people you love and assets you care about, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all plan that works for you and your family. While there are almost always at least, and sometimes four key documents in a standard estate plan–a will, trust, health care directive, and power of attorney–tthere are additional pieces of planning that are quite important for your family, depending on the specifics of your family dynamics and the nature of your assets, to ensure that your plan actually will work when your family needs it. Not to mention the content of these four documents must be specifically tailored to meet the unique needs of your family.

Each person and each family has unique circumstances that require custom planning to ensure their plan works the way you want it to. Your financial, medical, and personal needs must be taken into account to craft a comprehensive plan that will serve you now and pass on your assets in the best way after you’re gone, all while ensuring the best use of your resources during your life.

Your group legal insurance plan may have the 4 key documents of an estate plan, but a generic set of planning documents is unlikely to work for you the way you want, and will almost certainly guarantee your family will end up lost and confused when something actually happens to you, and your family needs the support of the plan you created to guide them.

To create a plan that will truly work for you and your family, your planning process needs to begin with an evaluation of your assets and family dynamics and needs to educate you about the application of the law to your specific situation. This is why we don’t have a one-size fits all solution, but instead begin our planning with you looking holistically at everything you have, everyone you love, and what you desire for the people you love.

The type of cookie-cutter estate plan you are likely to receive through your group legal insurance simply won’t include the kind of comprehensive considerations and counseling necessary to deliver a plan that will serve you and your loved ones in the way you would want while keeping your family out of court and conflict.

Legal Insurance Nickel and Dimes

Many group legal insurance plans boast free legal services after your deductible is paid, but what isn’t revealed is the limit of the coverage that’s covered for free.

Only certain types of legal services are covered under group legal insurance plans. Estate planning is frequently covered, but the kind of plan you will receive is a mere set of documents, similar to what you could create yourself online, and not a customized, well-counseled plan that will be sure to work when your family needs it.

Plus, some items that are essential to the creation of your plan, like notary stamps or fees to file documents with the state, are not included in the covered service and are instead charged to you as an extra expense.

More importantly, most legal insurance plans have limits to the amount of claims you can file for each type of service each year. For example, you may only be covered to create a Will once a year, but won’t be covered if you need to update your estate plan mid-year if circumstances change or someone dies. Estate planning isn’t something you do once, as your life will change, your assets will change, and the law will change. A legal insurance covered plan will not keep up with those changes, so you may receive documents, but those documents aren’t likely to be what your family needs when something happens to you.

You Need a Heart-Centered, Counseling-Based Planning Approach

Creating an estate plan isn’t just about a Will or a Trust or passing on your money after you’ve died. It’s about making wise decisions about the use of your resources throughout your life, leaving your assets in a way that creates a legacy, not a mess, and creating the best reality possible for yourself and your loved ones.

As your dedicated Personal Family Lawyer®, I take a holistic approach to serving you by working closely with you and your family to understand what matters to you, your family’s dynamics and values, and the aspirations you have for your family as a whole. Then, I review and consider all of your assets, including the intangible assets often left out of planning. Then, together, we create a truly personalized plan that takes into account every aspect of your family’s well-being for the near and long-term.

What’s more, your needs and your family’s needs will change over time. You’ll buy new assets and sell others. You may have another child, or become a grandparent. Your son may start a business or your sister may develop a disability.

That’s why it’s crucial to coordinate your estate plan with the circumstances of your loved ones so that your wishes are honored and your assets are protected no matter how their situation changes over time.

To do this, I look at how your wishes and the circumstances of your loved ones intersect and can provide you with personalized guidance at any stage in life’s journey.

In addition, our planning process includes creating an inventory of all of your assets and we review your entire plan, including all of your decisions and your asset inventory for free every three years to make sure the plan we created for you will continue to serve you and your family in the way you intended. By doing this, we can identify any areas of your plan that need to be changed and any new assets that need to be coordinated into your plan.

Legal Insurance Plans Lack Long-Term Considerations

Estate Planning is a journey that spans a lifetime. As your finances, needs, and wishes evolve over time, your estate plan must adapt accordingly. Relying solely on group legal insurance won’t provide the ongoing support and guidance needed to address changing circumstances over the years.

Under group legal insurance, your choice of attorneys is limited to the firms that have contracts with the insurance company, and there is no guarantee that the attorney you worked with this year will be available to help with changes to your plan next year.

Your children will grow into adults. That means you’ll lose your ability to make decisions for them unless you update your estate plan to nominate a Permanent Guardian or Power of Attorney for them. We can help with that.

You may wish to leave your house to your daughter but you worry about the longevity of her marriage. We will help you look at all of these considerations as part of our planning with you now and as they come up in the years that follow.

Time-sensitive changes to your plan that are needed as a result of a sudden emergency or death in the family may be impossible to carry out when using an attorney through group legal insurance. Instead, you want to work with an attorney who knows your family’s story and can pick up right where you left off, allowing them to quickly and effectively address any needed changes to your plan with just a phone call.

Trusted Expertise in Estate Planning

While group legal insurance may seem like the ultimate way to protect your loved one’s future legal needs and your family’s wallet, sadly, the services available through these group insurance plans simply aren’t comprehensive enough to ensure you and your family get the support and guidance they need, and deserve.

Instead, it’s crucial to work with an experienced estate planning attorney who gets to know your family on a personal level and can guide you every step of the way.

Your estate planning journey deserves personalized attention, compassionate understanding, and unwavering dedication. That’s why I have dedicated my practice to using a form of estate planning we call Life & Legacy Planning, allowing me to guide you skillfully through the decision-making process while looking ahead to proactively avoid issues in the future.

If you want to make sure your loved ones are always cared for no matter what the future holds, schedule a phone call with me and I’ll share all the details of our Family Wealth Planning Session, which kicks off our Life & Legacy Planning process.

Schedule a free 15-minute discovery call at this link to learn more.

Don’t Send Your Kids Back to School Without These Documents

As summer comes to a close, and back-to-school excitement fills the air, there is one crucial task that is often overlooked: designating legal guardians for your minor children. Legal guardians are the individuals you entrust with the care of your children if, for any reason, you are unable to do so yourself.

In the hustle of back-to-school shopping and end-of-season summer fun, it might seem like naming legal guardians for your kids is a low priority, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

As kids return to school, they’ll spend most of their day in the care of other people – their teachers, coaches, and babysitters. That means that your children will spend most of their time with people who do not have any legal authority to take care of them for more than a brief time in the event you are in an accident or can’t be reached for any reason.

And, if your kids are going off to college, you’ll no longer be able to make decisions for them or have access to their medical records in an emergency unless your adult kids create Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives.

Don’t Rely on Informal Agreements

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and as parents, you usually have a network of friends or family you feel you can rely on to step in and care for your child if needed. But it’s essential not to rely solely on informal arrangements with relatives or friends to care for your kids if you can’t.

Whether you are unconscious in the hospital or have passed away, there’s a chance your child could be taken into protective custody by social services until you recover or until a permanent arrangement can be made.

But here’s the thing, the person who ends up taking your child may not be someone your child knows or loves, but a complete stranger in the foster care system. Or, maybe even worse, that person could be someone you never want to raise your kids but who is appointed anyway by a well-meaning court system that doesn’t know what you would want or how you would want your children to be raised.

In addition, if you don’t name legal guardians for your kids you risk creating conflict among family members who want to care for your children and may subject your loved ones to a lengthy and costly court process—an unnecessary burden that can easily be avoided.

You know your child and your family better than anyone else, and you know who would be the best fit for raising your child if something happened to you. But unfortunately, unless you document your choice of guardian in advance, the decision of who would raise your child if you can’t is ultimately left to a judge who doesn’t know you or your family dynamics.

Instead, naming short-term and long-term guardians for your kids ensures they are always cared for by people you know and trust.

And, if your kids are off at college, you cannot rely on the fact that you know they’d want you to have access to their medical records and financial accounts if something happened to them. The hospital or banks need official legal documents for you to get access if needed. That’s why we provide all of our client families with young adult planning documents for kids away at college.

Comprehensive Protection for Your Child

To make sure your kids are always protected and cared for by people you trust, it’s essential to create a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan®. Every Kids Protection Plan® enables you to name short-term temporary guardians who have immediate authority to care for your children in an emergency and long-term permanent guardians who can raise your children if you are no longer able.

My Kids Protection Plan® also equips you with emergency ID cards that contain instructions for first responders to contact your child’s guardian if you’re in an accident so they can travel to be with your child right away. Plus, all caregivers, like babysitters and nannies, are provided with precise instructions on how to reach your short and long-term guardians, and that everyone involved in your plan has the necessary legal documents on hand to ensure a smooth process if the need for a guardian arises.

In this way, not only have you legally named guardians for your kids, but you’ve created an entire safety plan to ensure they are always cared for in the way you’d want in any situation.

And for your college-bound kids, it means having young adult planning documents in place like Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives that allow you to access your kids’ accounts or make medical decisions for them if they become incapacitated by an illness or injury.

A Thoughtful Approach for Your Peace of Mind

As your Personal Family Lawyer® firm, we are dedicated to securing the well-being of your children under all circumstances. As the back-to-school season approaches, don’t overlook this essential homework for parents – naming legal guardians and creating your own Kids Protection Plan®.

The first step is to go through our unique planning process to choose the right plan for you, your kids and everyone you love. We begin with a Family Wealth Planning Session™. During the Session, I get to know your family on a personal level to understand your family dynamics and your assets. I’ll share the law with you, and together we’ll look at exactly what would happen to your assets and your loved ones if something happened to you right now.

From there, we choose the right plan for you – at the right budget and that achieves your personal objectives – based on the specifics of your family situation. This ensures your kids and family are cared for and protected no matter what happens, so you can embrace the excitement of this new academic year with peace of mind.

Schedule a free 15-minute discovery call at this link to learn more.

10 Life Events That Signal It’s Time to Review Your Estate Plan – Part 2

You might think that estate planning is something you can complete one time and then check off your to-do list for good. But the reality is that in order for your estate plan to work for you no matter how your life changes, your plan needs to change with it.

To make sure any big changes in your life are considered in your plan, I recommend reviewing your estate plan with your attorney at least every three years. But if any major life events happen before then, it’s crucial to have your plan reviewed as soon as possible so it can be updated if needed.

Last week, we started to explore 10 life changes that might affect your estate plan. This week, we’re coving five more life events that mean it’s time to review your plan.

06 | You Became Seriously Ill or Injured

A sudden illness or injury can leave you incapacitated and unable to manage your affairs. Therefore, it’s essential to review your estate plan to ensure it includes Powers of Attorney for healthcare and finances. These documents let you name someone you trust to pay your bills and manage your assets, as well as make medical decisions for you if you can’t speak for yourself.

It’s also important to include healthcare directives that describe what kind of healthcare you want if you become incapacitated. This can include dietary restrictions or preferences, religious beliefs, or limits to certain treatments or life-sustaining measures. By legally documenting your healthcare choices, your Power of Attorney will feel more comfortable in the role and will be able to make medical decisions for you that align with your wishes.

07 | You Moved Here From Another State

Each state has its own laws and regulations regarding estate planning, so if you moved here from another state after completing your estate plan, it’s crucial to have your plan reviewed by a local attorney. If your existing plan doesn’t meet our state’s requirements for how an estate plan is signed or witnessed, or contains terms or processes that differ from the processes of our state, this can cause delays when your plan needs to be used and may even require a court to review its validity.

Reviewing your plan with a local attorney and making any changes to comply with our laws will make sure that your estate plan can be relied upon at any moment without delay or confusion.

08 | You Got Married

Marriage brings about not only joy and celebration but also important legal updates that are easy to put off. When you tie the knot, your estate plan needs to reflect your new marital status.

To make sure your assets will go to your new spouse if you die or become incapacitated, it’s essential to update beneficiaries and make arrangements for shared assets. Additionally, you might consider creating provisions to protect your spouse financially and emotionally in the event of your passing.

09 | You Got a Divorce

The end of a marriage is a significant life event that requires immediate attention to your estate plan. After a divorce, you’ll likely need to revoke and redo your entire estate plan. This includes creating a new Will and Trust, updating beneficiary designations on life insurance and retirement accounts, and revising asset distribution to reflect your new circumstances and relationships.

If you have children from your previous marriage, you may need to revisit guardianship arrangements and provide for their financial needs accordingly.

10 | The Law Changed

Tax laws are subject to change, and revisions to estate tax exemptions can have a substantial impact on your estate plan. If there are significant changes in federal or state estate tax laws, it’s crucial to review your plan with an estate planning attorney to minimize tax burdens and protect your wealth for your loved ones.

Even if you weren’t affected by federal or state estate taxes in the past, changes in federal estate tax law are scheduled for 2026, so now is the time to review whether this change will affect your family’s estate tax filing status. Estate taxes can cost your family tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, but these tax liabilities are optional and can be avoided with proper estate planning.

By Your Side Through All of Life’s Changes

Your estate plan serves as the bedrock protecting your family and finances, not just for today but also for the future. However, estate planning isn’t a one-time task – it should adapt and evolve alongside the changes in your life.

As your Personal Family Lawyer®, my mission is to be by your side through all of life’s changes, ensuring your estate plan remains up-to-date and effective no matter what life brings your way. That’s why I offer my clients a complimentary review of your estate plan every three years, and I encourage you to reach out at any time before then with questions about life changes or events that might affect your plan.

If you’re ready to create an estate plan that protects your loved ones and your legacy, or want your existing plan reviewed, give me a call. I’d be honored to help ensure your family’s well-being for years to come.

Schedule a free 15-minute discovery call at this link to learn more.

10 Life Events That Signal It’s Time to Review Your Estate Plan – Part 1

Maybe you thought that creating a Will or Trust is something you can do once and then your family and assets are protected forever after. It seems to be how most lawyers structure their services, so it wouldn’t be surprising if you did think this. You work with your lawyer, they draft documents, you bring them home in a binder or notebook, put them on a shelf or in a drawer, and you never hear from them again. Estate plan, done. But, it’s not, and thinking of it that way could leave your family with a big mess when something happens to you.

In reality, life events can drastically affect your estate plan and even cause your plan not to work in the way you intended. To make sure your plan remains up to date throughout your life, we recommend reviewing your plan at a minimum of every three years. Because I am so passionate about this, I offer to review my clients’ plans every three years for free.

And, if any of these 10 life events happen before your three-year plan review, you’ll want to have your plan professionally reviewed right away. Let’s take a closer look at these 10 life events and how they can affect your estate plan and what changes may be required.

01 | Your Assets or Liabilities Changed

Life is full of changes, and your financial situation is unlikely to stay the same over time. Changes in your assets, such as acquiring a new home or other assets, selling property, or incurring debt should prompt a review of your estate plan. You may need to update asset distribution, beneficiary designations, and financial provisions to reflect these changes accurately and ensure that the people you love receive what you intend when you die. Most importantly, you need to update your asset inventory every time your assets change, and if you do not have an asset inventory, you need to call us and update your plan to ensure you’ve got an inventory included. The biggest risk to your family in the event of your incapacity or death is that they do not know what you have, where it is or how to find it. We solve this by creating an updating your asset inventory, regularly.

02 | You Bought, Sold, or Started a Business

Owning a business adds another layer of complexity to your estate plan. If you’ve recently bought or sold a business, it’s essential to update your plan to reflect what you want to happen to your business when you die, ensure a smooth transfer of ownership (if desired), and create a plan to protect your business assets for yourself and your loved one’s future.

The financial and personal value of your business can be a significant gift to your loved ones both today and for years to come – if you know how to incorporate it into your estate plan in the right way.

03 | You Gave Birth or Adopted a Child

Welcoming a new child into your family is an incredibly joyful moment. As a parent, it’s essential to update your estate plan to include provisions for your child’s well-being and financial future. This includes naming Guardians for minor children, creating a Kids Protection Plan, and ensuring their financial security through Trusts or other means.

It’s also important to document your wishes for your child’s education, religion, and values in your plan so that their legal Guardians will know how you would want your child raised if something happened to

04 | Your Minor Child Reached the Age of Majority (or Will Soon)

As your children grow up and reach the age of majority, it’s time to review how they will receive their inheritance, make sure someone can legally make healthcare decisions for them, and manage their money in the event they become incapacitated. Depending on their level of maturity, you may want to consider if they are ready to handle assets on their own and if so, what amount.

An even better idea is to provide lifelong protection of your child’s inheritance through the use of a Lifetime Asset Protection Trust. By using this estate planning tool, your child’s inheritance can be used to support your child’s future while safeguarding its use and protecting it from any potential future lawsuits or divorces your child may face later in life.

This ensures that your children are financially secure as they head into adulthood while also supporting your children with financial responsibility.

05 | A Loved One Dies

The loss of a family member is emotionally devastating, and it can significantly affect your estate plan. If a deceased loved one was a recipient of assets under your Will, Trust, or financial accounts, it’s crucial to update these documents to make sure your assets will be distributed to the right people.

Additionally, if the deceased individual was designated as a Trustee or Executor of your estate or a Guardian of your minor children, you will need to appoint new individuals to fill these roles.

Planning for Life’s Changes

Your estate plan is the foundation that protects your family and your finances today and in the future. But estate planning is not a set-it-and-forget-it task; rather, your estate plan should change and evolve with the changes in your life.

As your Personal Family Lawyer® firm, we’re here to guide you through life’s changes to keep your estate plan up-to-date and effective, so you can have the peace of mind of knowing that your plan will work exactly how you want it to when your loved ones need it most.

If you’ve recently experienced a significant life event or it’s been a while since your last estate plan review, now is the time to review your plan. If you haven’t created an estate plan yet, it’s better to plan early than to have no plan at all.

To get started, schedule a free 15-minute discovery call to learn more about my Family Wealth Planning Session process where we’ll discuss your family dynamics and goals, address any changes in your life, and create a comprehensive estate plan that brings you peace of mind.

Plus, don’t forget to return next week when I’ll be discussing five more life events that signal it’s time to review your plan.

Schedule a free 15-minute discovery call at this link to learn more.

What the National Debt Ceiling Extension Means for Your Family

You’ve probably heard about the national debt ceiling and its recent extension, but you might wonder what it has to do with your everyday life as a family. While it may seem like a distant matter, the national debt ceiling extension can have a significant impact on your family’s financial well-being and future planning.

So what exactly is the national debt ceiling extension?

The national debt ceiling is a legal limit set on the amount of money the government can borrow to finance its operations and meet its financial obligations domestically and around the globe. When the government reaches this limit, it cannot borrow more money unless Congress raises or extends the country’s debt ceiling. If the ceiling isn’t raised and the United States can’t pay back its debts, the country’s global creditworthiness is affected as well as financial security abroad and at home.

Congress raised the national debt ceiling on June 3, 2023, which means the United States will not default on its loans. This is good news, and yet the extension of the debt ceiling can still affect the economy and your family.

Here’s how the national debt ceiling extension can affect the economy, and your family, and what you can do to mitigate the impacts

Access to Credit and Loans

You likely rely on credit and loans for various purposes, such as buying a home, financing education, or handling unexpected expenses. When the national debt ceiling is extended, it can create uncertainty in the financial markets, leading to higher interest rates and tighter lending conditions. This means that securing affordable credit and loans for major life milestones or managing financial emergencies may become more challenging.

One of the ways you can mitigate this impact could be to consider starting a business or a side hustle, so you can create multiple revenue streams instead of just being reliant on one, and leverage access to business credit, which can be more accessible and less expensive than using personal credit, even in tight lending markets.

Consumer Confidence and Spending Habits

Your family’s financial health may be closely tied to the state of the external economy. When there is uncertainty surrounding the national debt ceiling, coupled with high inflation, it can affect consumer confidence and spending habits. As people become concerned about the government’s ability to manage its debt, they may tighten their spending, leading to decreased demand for certain goods and services. This can have a direct impact on your job stability, income growth, and even your ability to save and invest for the future.

One way to mitigate this risk is to begin to separate the well-being of your family from the greater economy by creating your own local economy, wherever possible. If that feels far afield, consider ways that you can begin to generate income locally by making a product that friends and neighbors would want and need, or providing a side service within your local community.

Government Programs and Support

Government programs and support play a crucial role in many families’ lives, especially during challenging times. However, when the national debt ceiling is extended, it can put pressure on government budgets, leading to potential cuts or delays in funding for essential programs and services. This may directly affect your access to healthcare, education, housing assistance, and other forms of support that your family relies on.

If you have a child or family member with special needs or an elderly family member you are supporting this may affect you even more. Now is the time to get into closer relationship with your nuclear and extended family, marshall all the family resources, and get into conversation around how you can use all the family resources to support all of the children and elders in the best way possible. If you need help speaking to your parents, or considering how best to ensure a lifetime of support for a child with special needs, give us a call and let’s strategize together.

Tax and Fiscal Policies

Changes in tax and fiscal policies, often influenced by the national debt, can have a significant impact on your family’s finances. As the government seeks ways to manage the national debt, it may consider adjustments to tax rates, deductions, or credits. These changes can directly affect your take-home income, savings, and overall financial planning. Understanding and adapting to these shifts is crucial for effectively managing your family’s budget and long-term wealth and legacy.

You can be fairly certain tax rates will go up to support the debt extension. And, the middle class, especially those who do not know how to mitigate tax impacts with legal entity structuring, are likely to bear the burden.

Ongoing Guidance for Your Family

We understand that managing your family’s financial and legal well-being can feel overwhelming, especially when it’s hard to know how changes in the law and the financial landscape will affect you. But remember, you don’t have to face these challenges alone. As your Personal Family Lawyer® firm, our mission is to provide you with the support and guidance you need as you navigate changes in the law so you can build a life you love while protecting and preserving your wealth and legacy for the next generation.

While we aren’t financial advisors, we can connect you with a trusted network of professionals and work alongside your financial and tax advisors to make sure your estate plan coordinates with your overall financial plan and protects your family’s wishes and wealth no matter what the future brings.

Ready to protect your family’s wealth and preserve your assets and your story for generations to come? Schedule a free 15-minute discovery call at this link to learn more.