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  • Attorney Griggs Harris

Estate Planning for People Living Together, Bachelors, and Bachelorettes.


Approximately half of America’s population over the age of 16 is unmarried; therefore, it is important that a single person have a well-coordinated estate plan.


The default laws governing estates may not adequately provide for a significant other or unmarried partner. Having a cohesive and well-drafted estate plan will ensure that you protect and provide for those you truly care about upon your death.


Evolving Estate Planning

We know that life is constantly changing and that you may eventually experience life changes like getting married, having children, or buying your first home that will necessitate changes to your estate plan. It is important to understand that your estate plan can change over time.


If you die without a will, referred to as intestate, all of your possessions will be distributed according to the default laws of your state. Generally, state law provides that a single person’s assets are passed on to their next of kin (biological relative). This includes children, parents, and siblings; and, if there are no surviving close relatives, the assets will likely go to the state. Noticeably absent for many unmarried people are provisions providing for a long-term boyfriend or girlfriend.


To avoid the state dictating what happens to your assets, it is vital that you have a properly drafted estate plan put together.


As an Unmarried Person, How You Own Things Is Very Important

There is an increasing number of couples that are not getting married, and other individuals who are deciding to remain single. For this group, estate planning is important because taxes and other financial benefits tend to favor those who have tied the knot. It also brings up the need to be very careful about how assets are titled.


How your assets are titled and how the beneficiary designations are prepared will impact how your assets will be distributed upon your passing. The most common ways to hold title to property is tenants in common (TIC) and joint tenants with rights of survivorship (JTWROS).


Property that is held as TIC means that each owner owns an interest in the property. At the death of one owner, that interest is transferred according to his or her estate plan, or intestate succession if there is no estate planning. This is not an ideal way for unmarried couples to own property because at the death of one of them, the other person will end up as joint owner with the deceased’s next of kin.


JTWROS is one option for unmarried couples because when one owner dies, the property automatically transfers to the surviving owner.


There are several other planning strategies that can be beneficial for unmarried individuals -- involving tax benefits, retirement plans, wills and trusts, and healthcare powers of attorney -- if the right estate plan is carefully crafted.


Speak to an Estate Planning Attorney

If you do not have an estate plan yet, you should contact a knowledgeable estate planning attorney today. Whether you are married, single, or cohabiting with a partner, these professionals can help you craft a comprehensive financial plan that is tailored to your personal situation and assists you in protecting those you care for the most. Give us a call today so we can help.


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  • Attorney Griggs Harris

Know What Can Happen to Your Business If You Become Incapacitated or Pass Away


Preparing your company for your incapacity or death is vital to the survival of the enterprise. Otherwise, your business will be disrupted, harming your customers, employees, vendors, and ultimately, your family.


For this reason, proactive financial planning -- including your business and your estate plan -- is key. Below are some tips on how to protect your company and keep the business on track and operating day-to-day in your absence.


Preparing for the Unexpected

If you are a small business owner, your focus is likely on keeping the company running on a daily basis. While this is important, looking beyond today to what will happen if you can’t run your business should be on the top of your to-do list. If you die or become incapacitated without a plan in place, you will leave your heirs without clear instructions on how to run your company. This can jeopardize the business you worked so hard to build. The right plan along with adequate insurance can help keep your business running regardless of what happens.


Execute the Proper Business Documents

If your company has several owners, a buy-sell agreement is a must. This contract will outline the agreed upon plan for the business should an owner become incapacitated or die.


Provisions in the buy-sell agreement will include:

● how the sale price for the business and an owner’s interest are determined,

● whether the remaining owners will have the option to buy the incapacitated or deceased member’s interest, and

● whether certain individuals can be blocked from participating in the business.


Execute the Proper Estate Planning Documents

A properly executed will or trust will allow you to state how you would like your assets to be transferred -- and who will receive these assets -- at your death. A will or a trust also lets you identify who will take charge of the assets and manage their disbursement (including your business accounts) according to your wishes.


Although a will can be used to pass assets at death, creating and properly funding a trust allows any assets owned by the trust to bypass the probate process making distribution of assets to heirs much faster, private, and may reduce the legal fees and estate taxes your heirs will owe.


Additionally, a trust can help your loved ones manage your trust assets if you become incapacitated. While you are alive and well, you typically act as the trustee of the trust, so you can manage your business and assets with little change from the way you do now. But unlike a will, a trust allows your successor trustee to step in manage things if you become incapacitated. This process avoids court involvement, allows for a smooth transition of trust management (which can be very important if your business is an asset of your trust), and proper continuing care for you in your time of need. Although having a will can be a great way to start, most business owners are much better off with a trust-based estate plan.


Purchase Additional Insurance

Whether you own the business by yourself or are a co-owner, it is important to have separate term life insurance and a disability policy that names your spouse and children as beneficiaries. The money from these policies will help avoid financial hardship while the buyout procedures of buy-sell agreement are being carried out.



Contact an Estate Planning Attorney

Having a plan for your business in the event you are unable to continue managing the company is essential to keep the company going. An attorney can explain the many options you have to protect your enterprise so that you can focus on what you do best -- running your company. Give us a call today to get started protecting your business!

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  • Attorney Griggs Harris

You have worked hard for years, have family members and friends you care about, and have approached a time in your life when “estate planning” sounds like something you should do, but you are not exactly sure why.


You may feel that you are not wealthy enough or not old enough to bother or care. Or you may already have a Will and feel that you are all set on that front.


Whatever your current position, consider these common misconceptions about estate planning:


1.) Estate planning is for wealthy people.


False. Anyone who has survived to age eighteen and beyond has likely accumulated a few possessions that are of some monetary or sentimental value. While things like your home, your car, and financial accounts are self-evident assets, that collection of superhero figurines or your iTunes library also deserve proper attention. There is no minimum asset value required to justify having a Will, especially since there are many low-cost options, including estate planning attorneys who will not charge an arm and a leg for a basic Will.


2.) Estate planning is for old people.


False. Tragedy can strike at any moment, and it is best to have your affairs in order so as not to put your loved ones in a financial or bureaucratic bind while they are grieving. Young parents should ensure that proper guardians are in place to take care of their children if they are no longer around, lest the children end up with the most irresponsible member of the family or, worse, a complete stranger.


3.) Estate planning means having a Will.


False. Having a Will is smart because it puts you in charge of the disposition of your assets. A Will allows you to pick your executor, designate the guardians for your minor children, and name any individuals and charitable organizations as beneficiaries of your estate. If you were to die without a Will (i.e., intestate), the law of the state where you reside at your death would govern who receives what part of your estate, who administers your estate, and who takes care of your children. There are some situations where state law may override the provisions in your Will (e.g., a spouse’s elective share), but for the most part, you are in the driver’s seat.


However, a Will is only one tool in the estate planning toolbox. There are other vehicles that allow you to remain in control of your possessions and family’s future during life and upon death. Depending on your situation, a Will alone may not be the most efficient or the most cost-effective means to achieve your goals.


Upon your passing, your Will has to go through probate – a process whereby a court reviews your Will and determines its validity. It is a lengthy and often costly process in many states to begin with and can become even lengthier if a Will is contested (e.g., on the grounds that someone coerced or cajoled their way into an inheritance). The delay in disposition of your assets and the accompanying legal costs may put your family members in financial straits. If your goal is to ensure that your survivors’ cash flow is uninterrupted after your death, it would be wise to incorporate a trust or a life insurance policy into your estate plan. These assets are considered “non-probate” – they pass outside of your Will.


There are other non-probate assets that may constitute a part of your estate. For example, a joint tenancy arrangement on your home, IRA, and payable-on-death (POD) or transfer-on-death (TOD) accounts designate specific beneficiaries upon your death, and the assets pass to them without the delay and cost of the probate process. If your Will provides for a different beneficiary of your IRA account or another non-probate asset, it will be superseded by the beneficiary designation form on file with that account’s or asset’s administrator. Therefore, it is wise to review all of your beneficiary designations periodically, but certainly upon life-altering events like marriage, birth of a child, or divorce.


You are neither too young nor too poor to engage in estate planning! Just remember that a Will may be a necessary, but not the only means to plan your estate in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Keep on top of your assets, and your survivors will have another good thing to say about you at your memorial.


Call us to discuss your options!

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