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Category: Estate Planning

The Probate Process Understood

Completed with or without a will, the probate process is essential to the valid and appropriate transfer of estate assets in the wake of an asset holder’s death.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the review, analysis, and transfer administration of estate assets that were formerly owned by a deceased person. The deceased’s estate encompasses all private holdings that contributed to that person’s net worth.

After applying the deceased’s assets to pay any outstanding liabilities, the entire estate is distributed to one or more inheritors during the probate process. These inheritors generally receive estate assets according to the stipulations of a legalized will and/or the laws of the state.

The probate process ensures that this is accomplished as accurately and efficiently as possible. When aided by clear and established documentation such as a legal will, this process can be extremely simple and affordable. However, complex and protracted probate procedures may become necessary in the absence of a legally recognized will or when the deceased’s estate is of exceptionally high value.

Probate With a Will

Probate legal proceedings are extremely common after the death of a person of high net worth even if that person left behind a will. These proceedings begin when a probate court appoints the executor named in the will (or another administrator if the will fails to stipulate a suitable executor). As a general rule, this probate court will be seated where the decedent resided at the time of his or her death. The exception to this general rule is real estate, which may require legal action where the assets are located.

Typically a family member of the deceased, the executor initiates the probate process by filing the will with the probate court, which confirms the authenticity and validity of this will. The executor is then responsible for estimating the value of the estate according to strict legal codes and government regulations and then overseeing the appropriate distribution of this estate. He or she accomplishes this under the guidance and supervision of the probate court.

Probate Without a Will

People who die without a legally valid will are considered to have passed away “instate.” In these cases, a probate court must get involved to distribute the deceased’s assets according to the laws of the state.

In the absence of a legally binding executor, the probate court appoints an administrator to function as one by paying off the deceased outstanding debts and receiving all legal claims against the estate. The court will then use state law and regulations to determine which remaining assets should be distributed among the deceased’s legal heirs and how best to distribute them.

To Learn More About Probate

If you are still unclear about the details of the probate process, contact a skilled and knowledgeable legal representative at Beasley & Ferber today. We can discuss what probate means to you and help ensure that your estate assets go exactly where you want them to go when you are no longer here to manage them.

 

Power of Attorney: What It Is and How to Choose

No matter your age, having a will in place is a good idea. When it comes to carrying out the wishes in your will, however, designating a power of attorney is just as important. By having a better understanding of what a power of attorney is and how to choose somebody to act as a power of attorney, you can make sure all your bases are covered.

What is Power of Attorney, Anyway?

Specifically, a power of attorney refers to a written document where you authorize somebody to make decisions on your behalf after you pass away or are otherwise unable to make your own decisions. A power of attorney can do things like pay bills on your behalf, manage your investments, and carry out aspects of your will or estate plan.

What many don’t realize, however, is that there are actually two different types of powers of attorney. A non-durable power of attorney is a temporary agent whose authority may only be permitted for a specific transaction. A durable power of attorney, on the other hand, is a permanent assignment.

What to Look For When Choosing a Power of Attorney

As you can imagine, choosing a power of attorney is one of the most important things you can do when it comes to estate planning. The person you select to act as your power of attorney should be somebody who will respect your wishes and ensure that they are carried out appropriately.

With this in mind, a great power of attorney doesn’t always have to be somebody who is close to you or even related to you. Ultimately, it all boils down to trust. If you can’t trust a person 100% to do what you wish after you no longer have a say, then they won’t be a good power of attorney.

Another important characteristic to look for in a power of attorney, however, is an assertive personality. The process of carrying out your will and/or estate plan may require a lot of unwavering decision-making and confidence. Ideally, your power of attorney should also be somebody who lives in close proximity to you. This is especially true if you’re appointing somebody as a power of attorney to make medical decisions on your behalf.

The Legal Team at Beasley & Ferber is Here to Help

No matter who you end up selecting as your power of attorney, the most important thing is to make sure that they’re aware of your choice and willing to serve in this vital role. After all, acting as a power of attorney can be a stressful duty that requires a lot of time.

Looking for more help in creating your will and/or estate plan? Our team at Beasly & Ferber has you covered. With practice areas ranging from estate planning and probate administration to Medicaid planning and more. we know a thing or two. Get in touch with our office today to schedule a consultation or learn more.

 

Common Estate-Planning Mistakes And How to Avoid Them

Having an estate plan is vital to protecting your assets and your loved one’s future. And contrary to what many believe, you don’t need to have a lot of assets or money to leave to your beneficiaries to create an estate plan. In fact, the reality is that everybody should have some sort of estate plan in place regardless of their finances, assets, or net worth.

Still, there are many common mistakes people make when it comes to their estate planning. By being aware of these mistakes and how to avoid them, you can better protect yourself and your loved ones.

Putting Off Your Estate Planning

One of the most common mistakes people make in regards to estate planning is simply waiting too long to do it. If you’ve been putting off creating an estate plan because you feel like you don’t need one until you’re much older, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the sooner you sit down and create your plan, the better protected you’ll be. Likewise, if something does happen to you, you won’t be leaving your loved ones with the headache of divvying up your assets and paying your debts.

Overlooking Power of Attorney

While most estate plans are heavily focused on finances and assets, it’s important not to skip designating a power of attorney as part of your plan. Specifically, a power of attorney is a person who is chosen to represent you and carry out your wishes in the event that you’re unable to do so for yourself (either due to death or medical reasons).

Designating a trustworthy and assertive power of attorney is one of the best ways to ensure that the terms outlined in your estate plan are actually carried out.

Failing to Discuss Your Plan

Once you’ve created an estate plan, it’s usually a good idea to discuss it with your loved ones. Specifically, make sure to talk to beneficiaries about what they can expect from the estate plan. If you have designated a power of attorney (or have chosen somebody to act in this function), be sure to discuss it with them first. If your loved ones don’t know about your estate plan, it can be much more challenging for the terms to be carried out when the time comes.

Not Updating Your Plan as Needed

Remember that the terms of your estate plan don’t need to be (and generally shouldn’t be) permanent. It’s a good idea to revisit your plan at least once every year or so to ensure that it still suits your needs. If not, you can make changes as needed to keep your plan as close to your current wishes as possible.

Get Help With Your Estate Planning Today

Still feeling overwhelmed with estate planning? It may be time to consult with an experienced legal team. Beasley & Ferber can help! Contact us today to schedule your estate planning consultation or to learn more about our practice.

 

3 Benefits of Working with an Elder Law Attorney

Elder law is a specific specialty of law that pertains to aging and the needs of seniors and their loved ones. As elders age, their ability to take care of themselves and their financial affairs is often greatly diminished. A lawyer who specializes in elder law in New Hampshire can assist the family with managing the issues associated with a senior who has a reduced capacity to cope with certain issues.

1. Clarification of Medicare and Medicaid Issues

Medicare is available to seniors aged 65 and older. When Medicare coverage commences, seniors are eligible for certain health benefits and discounts in addition to any regular health insurance they may have, or in some cases, in replacement of such health insurance benefits. However, the applications and claims process can be confusing for seniors and others, and this is where an elder law attorney can help.

If you’re wondering about what Medicaid is and if your loved one might be eligible for coverage, you’re not alone. Medicaid is available for certain low-income seniors and others who qualify. As with Medicare, Medicaid can be a complex and confusing system even for young people to figure out. Even the Medicaid phone number isn’t always easy to find. A New Hampshire elder law attorney will be able to help with the Medicaid forms, including the original application form to see if the senior qualifies.

2. Insight Into Nursing Home or Assisted Living Relocation

At some point, you may want to relocate your loved one to a nursing home or an assisted living facility. Facilities like these specialize in elder care and the specific needs of seniors. Nursing homes vary considerably, and you want to be sure that your senior loved will have the attention they need from staff and other residents. Elder law attorneys often help facilitate such transitions, and may be able to offer you experienced insight into how to choose the best facility for your elder loved one.

3. Estate Planning Services

One of the specialties of an elder law attorney is estate planning services. Remember, any real or cash assets can comprise an estate. It doesn’t matter if there is a large fortune involved, or a small property; an elder law attorney can help to organize the estate so that taxes are minimized and so that everyone involved is protected, including your senior loved one. Your elder law attorney can draw up living wills, trusts and any other documentation that is needed to ensure that your loved one’s wishes are respected and carried out. Finally, bear in mind that estate planning should not be kept to the last minute. The earlier the process is begun, the more time for consideration you and your loved one will have.

These are just a handful of the many benefits that an elder law attorney offers. Contact your New Hampshire elder law attorney to learn more about the ways that you and your elder loved one can get assistance with the legal and technical aspects of aging.

Contact Us for Assistance

This blog outlined just a handful of the many benefits that an elder law attorney offers. Contact Beasley & Febrer to learn more about the ways that you and your elder loved one can get assistance with the legal and technical aspects of aging.

Tips to Prevent Sibling Disputes

When bequeathing to sibling children, remember that sibling disputes are extremely common. If you think about it, sibling disputes may have been festering since childhood. When you factor in the emotional turmoil after a parent’s death, combined with events that may have transpired over the years, there’s a more than likely chance that serious relationship damage can happen due to stipulations of your last wishes. You can help avoid all this with the following tips from elder law attorneys Beasley & Ferber.

Be Transparent About the Distribution

To avoid sibling disputes after the fact—and to iron out disagreements ahead of time—be transparent about what your will or trust specifies. Bring everyone together in person or on Zoom and share the document. Tell everyone in your own words what you plan to leave to whom, and why. You aren’t required to do this, but it would be an act of parental love that could help to avoid any sibling squabbles after you’ve passed.

Reconsider Distribution Percentages

Many times, parents purposely give more to one child than another. Reasons vary but may include judgment about who deserves less, who is a higher earner, or who has more mouths to feed. This kind of last judgment can leave a sour taste in the beneficiaries’ mouths. Your assets are yours to give as you see fit, but in the interest of sibling harmony, consider bequeathing your children equal shares. If assets are split up between real property and cash, you could leave instructions for the executor to assess fair market values and ensure that each child gets an equal allotment.

Introduce “Hidden” Children

Life is messy, and sometimes there are children from previous marriages or relationships that are unknown to siblings until after the Last Will and Testament is read aloud. This kind of surprise isn’t easy to bear and can lead to lots of unanswerable questions and resentment. That’s not the kind of legacy that most parents want to leave behind. In a situation like this, it’s usually best to “come clean” and introduce—or at least, divulge the existence of—hidden children. Doing so will help siblings to come to terms with another beneficiary who is to share in their inheritance.

In the chance that divulging the existence of children from a past relationship isn’t on the table, another option is available. You can include a personal letter in your final documents that explains the other child and the pertinent circumstances. At least this way your children will have answers that can help them to understand your reasoning and why you made bequests the way you did.

Contact Us for Assistance with your Estate Planning

Elder law and family estate planning in New Hampshire are the areas of expertise of Beasley & Fisher. Come to us with all of your estate planning needs, no matter the size of your estate. We are available for consultations, document preparation, and asset allocation. Contact us today to schedule an estate planning appointment or to request a copy of our free estate planning guide.

Providing for Extended Family and Charities

Many people choose to bequest to extended family members and charities in their will. But did you know that estate planning should also include certain information that can make the process of disbursing funds faster and easier for survivors?

Providing for Extended Family Members

When providing for extended family members, it’s good to keep certain things in mind. Doing so will not only facilitate the executor in disbursing funds, but it may even prevent confusion and/or resentment in your other beneficiaries. Here are the things to keep in mind:

Extended Family Members May Be Unknown to Immediate Family

For a variety of reasons, extended family members may not be known to your immediate family. So it will be confusing for them to understand why your will bequeaths assets to a “stranger.” To avoid this, you can specify in your will the nature of your relationship, and the reasons for the bequeath. For instance, “John Philip is my step-sister’s cousin. Though we grew apart over the years, I fondly recall our childhood years during which  he was my only friend in difficult times.”

Extended Family Members May Have Moved or Changed Names

One job of an executor is to track down beneficiaries. If you are giving to extended family members, it’s helpful to elucidate their possible whereabouts and last known contact information to streamline the process. This can be done with an addendum. On it, list maiden names, married names, parents, children, and last known addresses, emails, and contact numbers for the beneficiary.

Providing For Charities

If you choose to leave a portion of your estate to a charitable organization, know that you have several avenues to do so. You can designate a one-time lump sum payment to the organization, request repeated smaller payments over time, or even create your own charitable trust. However you choose to provide for a charity, there are some details that you can help with by including them in your estate planning.

List the Official Name of the Charity

There are so many charitable organizations now that many of them have similar names. This can be confusing for someone unfamiliar with the organization. Be sure to mention the official, full name of the charity, not just the “slang name.” For instance, instead of “St. Jude’s,” which could be interpreted to mean St. Jude’s Church, say “St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.”

Include the Charity’s Tax ID Number

Charitable organizations must report donations to the IRS, although they usually do not have to pay taxes on them. Have your estate planning attorney take the time to look up the charity’s official tax ID number. This will save a step in reporting the bequest to tax officials and help to get your other bequests out to your other beneficiaries faster.

Contact Us for Assistance with your Estate Planning

We are here to help you prepare your will and trusts so that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes. Contact us to schedule an estate planning appointment.

What Happens if You Pass Without a Will?

If you die without a will in New Hampshire, the state considers you to have died “intestate” and state law determines how your assets will be distributed. Even if there is strong evidence that you had the intent to leave certain assets to certain people, if you do not leave a will with specific instructions, state law controls who your heirs are.

There are assets that pass to heirs and beneficiaries that are not included in a will even if you leave one. The remaining assets pass according to the state law of intestate succession.

Assets That Pass Outside of a Will

Some examples of assets that pass to beneficiaries whether you leave a will or do not leave a will include:

  • Life insurance proceeds go directly to the named beneficiary or beneficiaries.
  • Payable on death bank accounts.
  • Property that you have placed in a living trust
  • Property owned in joint tenancy with someone else.
  • Funds in retirement accounts that are payable to beneficiaries.

New Hampshire Intestate Succession Laws

New Hampshire intestate succession laws are somewhat complicated. Who gets your assets depends on whether you have a living spouse, children, and descendants with that spouse, or children and descendants from other relationships.

Some examples of state law are:

  • If you have no surviving spouse but you do have children, all your assets will be divided among your children. This includes any children who you legally adopted.
  • If you leave a spouse but no descendants and no surviving parents, your spouse inherits everything.
  • If you leave a spouse with whom you have descendants, and the spouse has descendants from another relationship, the spouse and the descendants of you and your spouse share in a portion of your estate in percentages established by the state. The descendants of your spouse from another relationship do not inherit from your estate.
  • If you leave a spouse and you have descendants from another relationship other than with your surviving spouse, your spouse and your descendants share in the inheritance.
  • If you leave a spouse, no descendants, but you have surviving parents, your spouse and parents share in your estate.
  • You leave your parents, no spouse, and no descendants, your estate goes to your parents.
  • You leave siblings but no descendants, no spouse, and no parents, your siblings inherit all of your assets.
  • If you die with no heirs, your assets will belong to the state.

There are more issues to consider, such as how your half-siblings inherit, how children conceived before you die but born afterward inherit, and how those relatives inherit whose immigration status is in question.

Contact Us for Assistance with your Estate Planning

Intestate succession does not have to happen to your heirs. Take control and contact us at Beasley & Ferber. We are here to help you prepare your will and trusts so that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes and not according to the state of New Hampshire. Contact us to schedule an estate planning appointment.

How to Protect Your Inheritance When Adult Children Make Poor Decisions

Leaving an inheritance to your children and grandchildren is something that you feel proud of and have worked hard to achieve. You want the money to only go to them and for them to use it wisely.

At the estate planning law firm of Beasley & Ferber, we encourage clients to consider potential scenarios that could impact whether adult children or grandchildren receive the full inheritance and how they use it. Although no one can predict the future, your current observations should give you a good indication.

Could One of These Scenarios Happen in Your Family?

Receiving a large sum of money from your estate should be a positive thing. However, some people have problems in their lives that prevent them from handling the windfall well. We outline some common scenarios below.

Immature Spending Habits

Have you noticed that your son, daughter, or grandchild spends all their money immediately after receiving a paycheck and then cannot pay their bills? A habit like this is a sure sign of an impulse control problem and may indicate you should not leave this person a large sum of money to spend all at once. Family members who foolishly spend money on get-rich-quick schemes should also raise suspicions.

Drug Addiction

Few things are as heartbreaking for parents and grandparents as seeing someone they love struggle with addiction. You want to see them get help, but the person has to be ready to accept it. You also do not want to enable their habit by providing a large inheritance they will use to buy drugs. Just remember that no one can demand proceeds from your estate and you have every right to limit an inheritance or put stipulations on it.

Current Financial Struggles

Is your loved one facing bankruptcy, a lawsuit, an expensive divorce, or other serious financial problem? Any of these situations could cause their inheritance from you to disappear in a hurry and still leave them owing more. If you see no obvious signs of serious financial problems, you can still ask about it before leaving part of your estate to a certain relative.

Abusive Relationships

Maybe your adult child or grandchild is in a relationship with someone who has abused them or you just do not trust them. If they are married and divorce later, the abusive ex-partner could receive at least part of your inheritance. Current abusive partners could also keep the money from whom you intended to receive it by controlling their bank account.

You Always Have Options with Your Own Money

Your concerns are legitimate, and you can exercise various legal options to accommodate them. For example, you could assign a trustee to manage the inheritance of a beneficiary. The trustee controls when beneficiaries receive payments and how much they can take out with a single withdrawal. You can also establish contingencies for the money, such as that it only goes towards college tuition.

We understand these situations can be delicate and are here to help you navigate them. Please contact us to schedule an estate planning appointment and learn more.

Estate Planning for Second Marriages

Estate planning can be challenging enough when you and your spouse have children in common. The process becomes even more complex when one or both of you have children from a previous relationship that you want to provide for after your passing.

People sometimes feel torn between the needs of their current spouse and the needs of their children, whether they are minors or adults. Adult children may have concerns that your spouse will exhaust their inheritance if you pass away first, and you may both have concerns about perceived fairness. This blog provides a general outline of factors to consider when considering estate planning with your second or subsequent spouse.

Questions Remarried Couples Should Consider When Writing a Will

While every person who has been married before has a unique situation, brainstorming answers to the following questions can help you and your spouse determine your joint priorities.

  • Do you have certain assets in mind for certain children? If one child or stepchild receives an asset with a considerably higher value than the others receive, how do you plan to address that?
  • Did either the husband or wife prepare a will while in a previous relationship that now requires updating? Do you plan to write new individual wills or a joint will?
  • Do the two of you have children together or do you plan to in the future? Which assets would you like to pass along to children who have not been born or adopted yet?
  • Did either of you bring individual debts into the marriage, or do you plan to incur large debts together?
  • Does either of you have individual assets or assets with a former partner that needs a new title in both names?
  • What other estate planning situations do you plan to cover besides writing a will? Common examples include healthcare power of attorney or directive, creating a trust, or guardianship of minor children.
  • Have you updated the beneficiary designations on your retirement savings account and insurance policies that may still bear the name of an ex-spouse?

Emotions are often high after a death, and tensions can be even higher in a step-family or blended family situation. Should one of you pass away suddenly without a will, the inheritance laws in your state apply rather than your own wishes. The best way to protect both sets of children and anyone else associated with your estate is to create an estate plan as early in your new marriage as possible.

Work with the Experienced Estate Planning Attorneys at Beasley & Ferber

With 30 years of experience operating our own law firm, attorneys Beasley and Ferber have worked with all types of families when creating and helping to settle estate plans. We invite you to contact us and share the ideas from your brainstorming session to ensure that you are not overlooking any estate planning essentials. Once you feel satisfied that your will and other legal documents express your true wishes, we will assist you with putting each of them in writing.

What to Expect When Going Through the Probate Process

The term probate refers to the entire legal process that takes place after a person passes away. An official appointed by the local court supervises all probate actions. Probate can be a difficult process, and it can be challenging to understand everything taking place if you do not know what to expect. We outline the basic process of probate in this blog.

Steps Involved in the Standard Probate Action

Probate typically involves the following:

  • Proving that the will of the deceased individual is valid. Although this is usually a routine process, people who feel the will is not valid may attend the probate hearing to voice any objections.
  • Identifying the assets of the deceased and assigning a value to each one.
  • Locating the beneficiaries of the will, known as decedents.
  • Completing a formal appraisal of the deceased individual’s real estate property, if any.
  • Paying any outstanding debts and taxes using money from the estate of the deceased.
  • Filing a final tax return on behalf of the deceased’s estate.
  • Distributing the remaining property and money to people named in the will.

The fees to pay for lawyer and court services come directly from the estate of the deceased. Unfortunately, that means fewer funds remain for the decedents when the time comes to distribute proceeds from the will. Retaining the legal services of an experienced law firm is essential to reducing the time spent in probate. The sooner the estate settles, the higher the value of the original will.

The Executor of the Estate Initiates the Probate Process

Part of preparing a will is to name an executor to handle its settling after the person dies. When death occurs, the executor named in the will files paperwork with the local court. People who die without a will have an executor assigned to their estate by the court. The executor bears responsibility for presenting the court with the deceased individual’s assets, debts, and names and contact information for each decedent. The court then notifies creditors and relatives about the person’s death.

Finding, securing, and managing the assets of the deceased can take several months to more than a year. If the person who passed away left a lot of debt, the executor can decide to sell assets to pay those debts. Most states allow immediate family members of the deceased to request short-term funds as they wait for the will to settle.

Probate is Not Automatic

People often dread the process of probate, but you should know that it does not happen automatically. For example, surviving spouses become the sole owner of property that the two owned jointly as a couple. Investment accounts and insurance policies name beneficiaries, and those named have legal entitlement to the inheritance without going through probate. Each state also protects a certain amount of assets from the probate process.

The elder and disability rights law firm Beasley & Ferber celebrated our 30th year of service in 2021. We invite you to contact us to learn more about how we can assist your family in the settling of a loved one’s will.

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