What's In an Estate Plan - The Wealthy and Wise Episode 2

Check out the second episode of The Wealthy and Wise

In this episode we acknowledge that that estate plans can seem remote, mysterious, complicated and expensive when you don’t know “What makes up an estate plan” and don’t have an overview the information necessary to make informed decisions about your estate.We clear the air on the episode of The Wealthy and Wise as we talk to you about:

What makes up an estate plan?
What happens to your assets if you die without an estate plan?
Determining your net worth from an estate perspective
Sorting out powers of attorney, living wills, health care proxy and advanced directives
Your beneficiaries – who gets your assets, how and when?
Is the government your beneficiary?
How are trusts tools to protect money?
Probate v. Non-Probate assets
And much, much more

The goal of The Wealthy and Wise, as always, is to educate you about how you can take steps in your own life to protect and build your wealth. How’d we do? We’d love your questions and comments, either below or to questions@thewealthyandwise.com. You may find yourself featured in an upcoming episode or podcast!

65% of Americans Don't Have a Will - Staggering as 100% will die someday

Why don't people create a Will?  Reasons I have heard range from I don't have enough money to worry about it, I trust xyz person to take care of it, it is too complicated or expensive, to people who sincerely believe that if they make a Will they may die.  

Apparently, all these reasons and more are very strong as  Forbes.com reports that 65% of Americans do not have a Will. The article, brought to my attention by Michael Rinne, outlines some of the reasons people give for not making a Will.

I understand all the reasons why for many people making a Will is not a priority.  There are oodles of things not a priority in my life.

However, for parents of minor children, the only place to name Guardians for your children upon your death in is your Will.  Whatever reason you have for not thinking you need a Will, it is superseded by your need as a parent to provide for who will care for your children in the event of your death.  

To make it easy, go to www.legalzoom.com and have a Will prepared on-line if seeking professional services is not a priority at this time.  I have blogged before on the pros and cons of computerized Wills, and an article on the subject is being talked about on Twitter today, but in the case of naming care for minor children, something is definitely better than nothing.

What are your thoughts on why 65% of Americans don't have a Will?

Surrogates - In the news, but what do they do?

In Morris County right now we have an election race for the Morris County Surrogate.  The Surrogate is an office that I deal with frequently, but many people do not know much about.  

I must first say that Surrogate John Pecoraro does a wonderful job.  My clients interact with his office usually due to the death of a family member and his office and staff are warm, caring and efficient so that the executor can leave their office feeling empowered rather than scared and confused (disclaimer - this endorsement is not upon request or even knowledge of his office, but because I feel Surrogate Pecoraro has excelled in the position).

The Surrogate is an elected judicial role.  The Surrogate has jurisdiction in limited areas:

  1. When a person dies, the Surrogate reviews the will and if all is in order, formally empowers the Executor to act on behalf of the estate
  2. When a person dies without a Will, the Surrogate formally empowers the Administrator (who is named to act based on relationship to the decedent) to act on behalf of the estate, as well as ensure that the estate administrate is completed
  3. If a person is incompetent (due to mental disability or being a minor) the Surrogate is involved with the process of the naming of the Guardian.
  4. The Surrogate facilitates adoptions.
  5. The Surrogate managed funds paid to minors (inheritances left to a person under age 18, or personal injury awards).  The Minors' Intermingled Trust Fund for Morris County minors manages approximately $25 million.

As an aside, you can now search for probated estates online to see if a will was probated or an estate administration opened in Morris County.  

The Surrogate's role is quiet, but important.  They facilitate moving families through times of grief and joy.  Having dealt with many other Surrogates, it is pleasure to represent cases in Morris County.