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What Makes a Will Legal

Will Legalities

Creating a will is an important step that every adult should take. However, most people do not really know very much about the creation process. Do you need a lawyer to create your will for you? What is it that makes the will legal? This short guide will explain the legal process, differences between states, and the best will-creation practices.

What Makes a Will Legal?

You may be surprised to hear what the actual requirements are for a will to be legal. There are only two requirements for most states:

  • The will must be signed by two witnesses
  • The will must be signed and dated by the owner of the estate

As long as these two things are fulfilled, the will is legal. While it is inadvisable, a lawyer does not need to be involved in the process at all. In fact, the will can even be handwritten. There are a few important things that you should note. First, the witnesses to the will need to witness you signing and dating it. Second, the witnesses cannot be anyone who is benefiting from your will. If someone will receive some property from your estate, he or she may not be one of your witnesses.

One final important note: You do not need to file your will with your state, but your will needs to be kept in a safe, accessible place. Your will is supposed to state who the executor of it is, and it is important for the executor of your will to know where it is being kept. The executor of a will is the person who ensures that your final wishes are carried out. Some states allow you to file your will officially, but this is never a required step.

Holographic Wills

About 25 states allow something called a “holographic will.” This is when the will does not have any witnesses who signed it. Usually, holographic wills are for smaller estates with very little property. The laws in states that allow this kind of will are much looser. As long as the will is signed in your handwriting, it should be official.

The downside is that probate courts usually treat holographic wills much stricter. They are scrutinized closely since there are fewer safeguards in place. If you want to be certain that your final wishes will be honored, you should avoid making a holographic will. Likewise, it is a very good idea to have a will lawyer, like a will lawyer in Chandler, AZ, produce your will for you so no mistakes are made.

Thanks to Citadel Law Firm for their insight into what makes a will a legal document.

Special Estate Planning Considerations for Women

Estate Planning Lawyer

Not so long ago, the process of estate planning was generally considered to be a “man’s business.” It was not socially acceptable for women to be financially savvy and deeply invested in matters involving a family’s estate. However, over the past several decades this well-established social norm has been flipped on its head. It is now considered critically important for women to be invested and involved in all financial and legal matters that affect them. As estate planning centers on one’s individual wishes concerning property, medical care, guardianship for minor children and legacy in the wake of incapacitation and/or death, women are now becoming more informed than ever about the estate planning process. In addition, many are discovering that working with an experienced attorney allows them to be both informed and empowered in regards to their individual estate planning journeys.  

Estate Planning as a “Woman’s Issue”

The reason that estate planning is a woman’s issue is both simple and straightforward: Estate planning affects women. Any woman who is interested in ensuring that her wishes are clearly articulated and legally enforceable should therefore consider connecting with an experienced estate planning attorney today.

When planning for a consultation, please consider writing down any questions you may have about this process and gathering some helpful documentation. For example, you may want to write down the names of individuals you would consider entrusting with the authority to make medical and/or financial decisions on your behalf in the event you were incapacitated by injury or illness. You may wish to bring along a thumbdrive containing important information about your digital accounts for use in creating your digital estate plan. Similarly, you may wish to list all of your financially-related accounts, truly sentimental and/or financially valuable property and the needs of your pets so that you and your attorney can address these assets as you prepare your estate plan. This process can be intimidating, but it is necessary and potentially very, very time-sensitive, so please don’t wait to get started.

Legal Assistance Is Available

If you are interested in creating an estate plan or modifying an existing estate plan, please do not hesitate to schedule a consultation with an attorney experienced in this area of law. Estate plans are meant to serve as living documents. As a result, they are meant to be updated over time so that they can consistently reflect the most current wishes of the individual estate plan creator. Working with an experienced estate planning attorney will allow you to better ensure that your wishes are both clearly (and currently) articulated and are ultimately enforceable. A law firm has extensive experience assisting women with both creating estate plans “from scratch” and with modifying existing estate plans. An attorney would be happy to speak with you about your unique estate planning needs, priorities and broader vision and to answer any questions you may have.

 


 

Thank you to our experts at Klenk Law for their input into estate planning. 

The Basics of Writing a Will

Writing a Will

Many people go through life avoiding the thought of what will happen after they die. While no one wants to think about their mortality, it can relieve a great deal of anxiety to have a will in place so that you know your wishes can be carried out. If you pass away without a will, the state will determine what happens to your property, and they can even make decisions regarding who will take care of your minor children. This can be devastating news to some people, which is why you will want an estate planning attorney, like an estate planning attorney in Allentown, PA, to help you create your will. One of the most basic things you can do to ensure your assets go to the right people and your children are taken care of is to create a will, and no one wants to have to keep going back to it because they forgot something in the first one. Speak with our attorneys to see how we can help you with your estate planning needs.

Keep It Simple

One of the great things about creating a will is that you don’t need any frills. It doesn’t have to be fancy, you don’t need to be a millionaire, and you don’t need to own multiple properties. Instead, you can keep your will basic so that it covers all of your needs (and your family’s needs). You may want to create a will if you want:

  1. To name someone as the guardian of your minor children.
  2. To name someone to take care of your property.
  3. To name someone to give money to.
  4. To name someone as the executor of your estate to ensure your will is carried out the way you would like it to be.

How do I know what kind of will I need? Can I just stick to the basics?

This is a great question, and most people should have some kind of will. Whether it is a basic will or a more elaborate will depends on many things. For example, the younger you are, the less likely you are to have large amounts of wealth or property. Your attorney may only recommend a basic will in these circumstances.

What if I want to leave money to my minor children?

When spouses create wills, it is very common for each spouse to will their property to one another, then to their children, if they both pass away. When this happens, you can not only name a guardian for your minor child, but you can also ensure that someone you trust will take care of the property until your child is an adult.

When you want to create a will and have questions regarding whether you want a basic will or a more elaborate will, contact a respected estate planning lawyer to feel confident moving forward with making your will.

Thanks to Klenk Law for their insight into the basics of writing a will.

What is a Statute of Limitations?

Every state has a certain time limit allotted for a case to be officially filed. This is called a “statute of limitations.” Statute of limitations are attached to everything and prevent prosecutors from charging a person with a crime that has already reached its statute of limitations. The clock for the limitation generally begins at the time the injury occurred. The deadlines for each of the cases depend on the category of case you are filing. For example, debts, libel, and breach of contract all have common statues of around 1 to 6 years. Failing to make a case within the time frame will cause you to forfeit your ability to litigate the case. 

States Determine the Laws 

The objective of this law is to make sure that trials are based on relevant and current information that has not deteriorated with time. These limitations vary from state to state. Kentucky’s statute of limitations goes as low as one year, Texas’ personal injury lawsuits generally have a two year statute of limitations, and Maine has a six year limit. A skilled personal injury attorney, such as a personal injury attorney in Austin, TX, will know the laws concerning the statute of limitations in your state. 

Stopping the Clock

In many cases, people who are injured do not fully understand they were wronged until quite some time after the incident occurred. This generally happens in breach of contract cases, wage law disputes, or in cases of medical malpractice. Something can be done to temporarily pause the clock. Tolling the statute of limitations describes when the metaphorical “clock” on a statute is paused. The idea behind tolling is to give the plaintiffs a fair amount of time to bring the case to court. 

Tolling can be requested by the court and the judge will decide whether the reasoning is valid for interrupting the time limit. There are also traditional reasons tolling can occur. If the plaintiff is imprisoned or a minor, or if the defendant has fled there might be some leniency on the timeframe. There has been debate on the subject of when the statute should begin. Some believe that the statute begins when the crime occurred, while others believe the statute should begin when the wrong was discovered or fully comprehended. Some court decisions have gone in favor of the injured party allowing the clock to begin when the injury was discovered. Injuries occur often and are incredibly commonplace, therefore everyone should pay attention to the statutes on each kind of case. Ultimately, statutes of limitations are in place to keep a sense of responsibility and fairness within the court system. 

Thanks to Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC for their insight into the statute of limitations in the court system.

Should You Leave Money to a Charity in Your Will?

Probate Lawyer Sacramento California

If you want to leave money to a charity, depending on your situation, it may be feasible to do this in a will, or it may be more beneficial to your legacy to give your money to a charity in a different way. If you want to leave a non-cash gift to a charity after you pass, there are different ways to distribute wealth that is not liquidated.

Leaving money to a charity in a Last Will and Testament is a legally sound way to ensure that your money will go to the charity that you want it to but it is not always the most financially advantageous way to give money to a charity after you have passed. An individual’s specific situation will help to determine what is the best way for them to leave money to a charity.

Why should you leave money to a charity?

Leaving money to a charity touches peoples’ lives and sustains charities that will continue to do this in your name. People may be able to appreciate you and your generosity for generations to come.

Planned giving to a charity leaves a personal legacy to something that is meaningful to you after you are gone. Your endowment will help your memory live on in the name of a foundation that you believe in.

Are there tax benefits to leaving money to a charity?

Depending on the type of gift a person makes, there may be tax benefits to your estate if you leave money to a charity. There are different ways to do this. A lawyer that is licensed to help with these matters is a good person to ask about your particular situation and what tax advantages may be available to you.

One example of a way to get a tax benefit to leaving money to a charity, is to create a life insurance policy with a charity of your choice as the beneficiary. While you are alive, you can claim the annual cost as a charitable donation.

Talk to a lawyer to find out more about your state’s particular estate tax and charitable donation laws.

What is a legacy gift?

A legacy gift is a planned future gift that designates some part of an individual’s estate as a donation to a charity or other nonprofit organization.

What is legacy giving?

Legacy giving, also called planned giving, is a type of post-mortem gift-giving that enables philanthropic individuals to make larger gifts to charitable organizations than they could make from ordinary income.  

What kinds of non-monetary assets can you give to a charity?

Charities will often accept many different valuable gifts that are not money. These include but are not limited to:

  • Real estate
  • Personal property, such as jewelry, vehicles, artwork, and antiques, etc.
  • Proceeds from life insurance policies
  • Proceeds from retirement plans
  • Investments, such as stocks and mutual funds, etc. 
  • Partnership interest in a business

For highly-rated estate planning and probate lawyers, contact the Yee Law Group for a free case evaluation, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

States That Allow Asset Protection Trust Creation

Trust Attorney

An asset protection trust is an irrevocable trust that includes a spendthrift clause, with the purpose of protecting assets from creditors and other parties, so these assets can be passed untouched to the designated beneficiaries. The creditors do not go unpaid, but rather this allows them to settle with the debtors on favorable terms for both parties while avoiding the costs of court time.

States Where Asset Protection Trusts are Fully Allowed

Some states are beginning to accept the formation of these types of trusts, such as Colorado on limited terms, but as of 2019, at least the following states fully allow asset protection trusts, also known as Domestic Asset Protection Trusts:

  • Alaska
  • Delaware
  • Nevada
  • South Dakota

These states have a few common requirements, such as the trust being irrevocable and containing a spendthrift clause; having one or more trustees; and having some of the admin work completed within the state the trust was established in. As well, the settlor may not be able to be the trustee.

If you do not live in one of these states, you can still establish this type of trust in one of them. The only rule with this, is that the real estate or property you place in the trust must be located in the same jurisdiction that the trust is established in. There are some offshore countries which allow the creation of foreign asset protection trusts, such as the Cook Islands and Cayman Islands. Setting up this type of entity usually provides you with more privacy and security from potential domestic issues you might be anticipating.

Trust Benefits

The formation of an asset protection trust was fairly controversial when it was first invented, and is still not allowed in most states. However, more states are allowing it to be part of the estate planning process, and it can be beneficial for estates that are large and complex. Some reasons families may put a few of their assets into this type of entity include:

  • Protecting the beneficiary from taxes, bankruptcy (creditors), or divorces
  • Avoiding the probate process, just as any other type of trust
  • Reducing your current taxable estate or inheritance

The creation of this entity involves detailed regulatory requirements, so it is highly recommended that you establish one with the guidance of an experienced estate attorney in Cherry Hill, NJ. This will help to ensure that your trust is setup correctly in respect to the laws that govern its particular jurisdiction, following all state and federal laws, and that it remains legitimate in the case that the laws change over time.

 


 

Thanks to Klenk Law for their insight into estate law and asset protection.

Estate Planning: Insight, Basics and Considerations

Estate Planning

For those planning for or nearing the twilight years of their lives, estate planning will (at some point) come into consideration. An estate is comprised of everything you own. This includes things like personal property, insurance, investments, etc. Regardless of how much you own, you can’t take it with you when the time comes, so making sure to plan out its distribution is a must. Although estate planning may be a complicated task, a well-developed plan can potentially make a large difference in what is left to the people you care most deeply about. Without an appropriate plan, friends and relatives can spend a significant amount of time and money fighting over the distribution of assets left by a decedent (dead person).

In terms of a simple definition, estate planning is defined as preparation for the transfer of one’s wealth and assets post-mortem. This process involves the writing, signing, and notarization of plans by the person who owns the estate. Although conventional wisdom may say otherwise, a will simply isn’t enough to guarantee one’s wishes when looking to distribute their assets. Though the procedure known as probate, a judge will interpret a will and allow for the transfer of money and property to written beneficiaries. However, due to the nature of this procedure, it may be possible for relatives or third parties to contest the will and make the transfer process far more complex and lengthy. Also, fees for probate can cost thousands of dollars, making it more difficult for beneficiaries to continue with the legal process.

Things to consider when thinking of estate planning:

  • Estate planning is for everyone, not just the wealthy
  • An estate plan starts with a will or living trust
  • Not enough people plan due to business, stigma, age, etc.
  • The best time to plan is now; preparation is key

It’s also important to consider working with an attorney or tax advisor on your plan as they will provide essential guidance through the estate planning process (especially with it comes to documentation). While you make the key decisions when it comes to distribution, an estate planning lawyer in Arlington, TX can help you through some of the more complex interactions involving your options. This way you can avoid mistakes, minimize taxes and help levy your plans to your current circumstance.

If there’s anything to take from this, it should be that estate planning, although a lengthy and complex process, is a necessary step towards making sure that your loved ones are the ones who receive the assets you have gained throughout your time contributing to the economic landscape.

 

Thanks to Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC for their insight into estate planning and the basics you need to know.

 

Identifying a Guardian for Young Children in an Estate Plan

 

 

Developing an estate plan in the event that you are no longer around can be morbid to say the least. This is especially true when you have minor children to plan for. No parent wants to consider a world where they are no longer able to care for their young children. However, by taking the time to develop a proper estate plan with an estate planning lawyer, you can give yourself peace of mind, and your children as smooth a transition as possible should the unexpected occur. One of the most important components to an estate plan with minor children is the process of naming a guardian who will take over the responsibility of their care. Contact an estate planning lawyer so that you may provide your children with all that they need should you be unable to care for them in the future. 

 

Naming a Guardian

One of the most important components to planning for minor children in an estate plan is by naming a guardian. The guardian of your choosing will be responsible for caring for your children in the event that you and your spouse are unable to do so. By not doing this yourself, you put yourself at risk for having a judge carry this great responsibility. Should this occur, anyone may come forward asking for this responsibility. Not only can this cause familial strife, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a judge will choose a guardian that you would approve of. It’s important that you carefully weigh your options by:

 

  • Considering the values and beliefs of prospective guardians
  • Their geographical location to your children and whether they are willing to relocate
  • The relationship your child has with the prospective guardian
  • Whether they are willing to take on this great responsibility
  • Their age

 

When considering who will care for your children, it’s vital that you have direct and clear conversations with prospective guardians over your wishes. You will want to make sure that  they are willing to commit to caring for your children. 

 

Plan for a Backup, or Two

Although you may have identified someone to take over guardianship, it’s key that you have at least one or two backups in the event that the original person is unwilling or unable to care for your child. Whether the person you have chosen has passed away or has other obligations making them unable to care for your children, having alternative options is key when estate planning for minor children. 

 

Contact an Estate Planning Lawyer

Estate planning can be easily put off. While you may believe that you have the luxury of time, it can be difficult to predict what the future may have in store. An estate planning lawyer can help you to develop an estate plan that leaves nothing out by:

 

  • Making sure that you are aware of your options
  • Helping create a plan that is customized to your needs
  • Avoiding the probate process
  • Having knowledge of state tax laws 

 

If you have young children, they likely come before protecting any assets or mitigating the risk of estate taxes. You will want to make sure that they are properly cared for in the event that you are no longer able to. Despite this, taking the time to develop an estate plan, can not only mitigate tax implications and protect your assets but ensure that there is a clear plan in place for your children. All of these go hand in hand when it comes to making sure that your children have all that they need when facing a life without you. Contact a Sacramento estate planning lawyer so that you have a plan in the event of the unexpected. 

 

Thanks to the Yee Law Group for their insight into estate planning and choosing a guardian for young children.

 

Elder Abuse Lawyer - Sacramento

Did You Know More Than Half of Americans Over 55 Don’t Have A Will?

If you should pass away, who will get your house, assets, life savings, or collection of antique clocks you love so much? If you are like the half of Americans over 55 years of age, you might not have an answer to this question. Or, perhaps you have an idea, but never put too much thought into it. Regardless, what is true in this situation is that you lack a legally binding will that could distribute your assets as you wish. 

As an estate planning lawyer in Sacramento, CA, we often find that its not actually about wealth or income, but rather the desire to ignore the sensitive subject of dying. Even people who are considerably well off may need to be nudged by their legal advocates, family members, or friends, to take the necessary steps to ensure all of their affairs are in order. 

 

Why Do So Many People Fail to Have  a Will?

The subject of death, or even incapacitation, is one that most people would rather avoid. On the other hand, as an estate planning lawyer would know, it is also common for people to not wish to deal with other stumbling blocks. For example, some parents are unable to come to an agreement on who should be named guardian of the children. Others may feel uneasy about distributing their assets in a fair way to their children. Finally, there are people who recoil at the cost of drafting a will or estate plan. Our firm even knows of cases in which a person began to draft a will, with or without an estate planning lawyer, but never actually completed the process. In this situation, the will was not signed; therefore, was not valid. As a result, the entire estate was probated through intestate succession; something that often takes years to complete. 

 

Is Planning an Estate Expensive?

At first glance, one might feel that planning their estate with the help of an estate planning lawyer is too expensive. However, this is a misconception. By sitting down with an estate planning lawyer and discussing all of the small details, you not only save copious amounts of time, but you ensure everything is done correctly. Furthermore, a good lawyer may be able to draft the estate documents in such a way that they save you or your beneficiaries from having to pay high taxes or court fees. A ballpark range of a package that may include a will, power of attorney, and a living will that includes end of life decisions may cost around $5,000. Of course, this price could be more or less depending on the area, your needs, and the estate planning law firm you choose to work with. 

 

Do You Really Need a Will?

At Yee Law Group, we find that most people don’t understand the full implications of dying without a will or estate plan. When this happens the estate will be forced into intestate succession. Basically, this means the state will get involved and name someone they believe to be a suitable executor of the estate. All assets will be accounted for and appraised. All debts will be identified and creditors will be notified. Taxes must be paid followed by debts in an order of most important to least important. Only after all of these things are taken care of will the remaining assets be distributed. How they are distributed will depend on the laws of the state. Let us say that you would like your daughter to have your antique collection and your son to have your veterans medals. If you did not include this in a will, there is no guarantee that your wishes will be upheld by the court. Furthermore, it is certainly possible for a “long lost child” to make a claim on the estate. A situation like this can cause a great deal of stress and money, as well as, huge amounts of time – and it could be avoided. 

 

Stop Procrastinating and Take Action Today!

Realistically, you never know what might happen in the future. The best thing you could do for any of your loved ones is to have a plan in place and know that all of your wishes will be carried out in the way you intend. To learn more about drafting a will, trust, or estate plan, call the estate planning lawyers from Yee Law Group.

Criminal Law Appeal

Criminal Defense Lawyer

What does it mean to appeal your case?

 Appealing a case is the process having a higher court review the decision made by the lower court looking for errors. However, appeals only answer questions of law and not questions about the facts of the case. This means that when you appeal to a higher court you will not be getting that second chance at a new verdict but rather asking the court to grant you a second chance because the court made a legal error when deciding on its original verdict. If you plan to appeal your case you must find an error in how the lower court handled the application of law to your case. Examples of legal errors include but are not limited to:

  • False Arrest- being arrested without probable cause, or a warrant and its exceptions.
  • Ineffective assistance of counsel-The 6th amendment protects individuals rights to effective counsel. Therefore if you feel as though your counsel has been insufficient and has not handled your case as a competent attorney should, you are able to appeal on such grounds. Examples of this would be: Not objecting to improper evidence or failing to adequately advocate for your case such as missing hearings or deadlines.
  • Improper admission or exclusion of evidence
  • Judges failure to inform the jury of the correct application of the law

These as well as any other reason that can be proved to have violated a person’s rights give grounds for an appeal. Keep in mind the facts of what happened in your case are not being reviewed in an appeal but merely how the court handled the process of your case and trial.

If you feel there was a legal error in your case you may contact your criminal defense lawyer in Arlington, TX and begin the appeal process. To file for an appeal, a criminal appeals attorney must file a notice of the appeal with the proper trial court. The attorney must then look for and identify any possible legal errors by obtaining and analyzing all of the transcripts and documents related to the appeal. After drawing up and filing a brief, which will consist of the details about what has happened in the case, as well as arguments that will favor the appeal, the attorney and the person involved in the case will appear before the judge. You will then plead your appeal case to the judge who will make a written decision regarding the outcome of the appeal, the judge will then either affirm or reverse a conviction. 

Thanks to Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC for their insight into criminal justice and appeals.