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Planning Pays Off: An Illustrative Look at Carrie Fisher's Semi-Failed Estate Plan

Whether your estate is modest or movie star worthy, the value of a good estate plan, properly handled, cannot be underestimated. A comprehensive plan can mean the difference between an expensive and unnecessary “time spent in court headache” for your loved ones or an easy “in your lawyer’s office” transition that allows your family time to grieve in peace.
When a high profile celebrity passes away, we can learn a lot about the value of careful planning when using their estate plan as a case study.
Carrie Fisher is one of the celebrities whose proactive, yet faulty, planning gives us an excellent example to illustrate some key points that are important for you to understand for your family.
Even though Carrie Fisher worked with some of the best (read: most expensive) lawyers in Los Angeles, and she had created a trust to hold her assets, her estate plan failed, in our opinion, because it didn’t keep her assets out of court and passing privately to her heir, Billie Catherine Lourd.
Instead…
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Why You Should Never Buy Your Will from Living Social or Groupon

Of the handful of major life events that require your serious consideration, few are as emotionally charged as how to leave your assets for loved ones at the time of your death. This often complex process is accomplished via testamentary documents such as wills and trusts, which have recently become available for purchase online as standard forms.
The assets you have acquired during your life and the ways that you own them are often far more complex than a standard legal document or online service can anticipate.  When you make that all important decision to create a will or put your assets into a trust, you need an experienced estate planning attorney to guide you so that your wishes for life and death can be carried out without risk of your family getting stuck in court or conflict, when it’s too late. 
Your incapacity or death will be an emotional time for your family. During this time, they need guidance, not a set of documents, which may not have even been kept up to date or adequ…

Planning for the Care of Your Pet: How to Include Your Pet in Your Estate Plan

If your pet is beloved as a family member, you likely want to ensure that he or she will be well cared for in the event of your incapacity or death.
Without explicitly stated wishes, these furry family members could end up without a home of their own, if you die or become unable to care for them.
To prevent this tragic outcome, include planning for your pet in your estate plan. Here are a few important issues to consider when planning your estate with your beloved pet in mind.
Who will get ownership of your pet? Pets are property and not people. Because of this legal distinction, an agent must be named in your estate plan to take ownership of your pet or arrange for your pet to have a loving home. In absence of a legally enforceable document stating your wishes, your pet could suffer the fate of many when their owners pass on: an animal shelter.
How will that person provide for your pet? Pets require food and medical care. These costs can be significant if your pet has a health condition or…

The Future of Finances: How to Teach Your Kids to Be Money Savvy

Part of being an enlightened parent is being thoughtful about how we teach our kids about adult life. Of course you wantto prepare them to make good choices as an adult, especially when it comes to finances. And, you may either feel not equipped, or you may be concerned about passing on your own bad habits.
So, how do you teach kids about smart financial decision-making? What lessons should you teach? Is leading by example enough? Raising a child to be money savvy doesn’t have to be hard, especially if you have valuable lessons to pass down. But it will take a little reflection on your own financial know-how and a commitment to make passing on these aspects of adult life conscious, rather than doing it unconsciously, as happens in most families.
Kids look to us to learn about life and they pick up far more from us about what we do then from what we say. Accordingly, we can best teach our children to be money savvy by modeling the habits we want them to take on for themselves and by invo…

Defining the Legal Relationship Between Grandparents and their Grandchildren

Raising a grandchild (or even spending a lot of time with your grandchild while his or her parents work) can be fraught with legal and financial complications. Lacking many of the inherent rights parents have, grandparents who are responsible for the care of their grandchildren may encounter unexpected legal challenges.
Even if you are your grandchild’s full-time caregiver, consider obtaining certain legal rights so you can avoid unnecessary complications and instead focus on raising a happy and healthy child. 
If you are raising your grandchild, don’t assume you can make legal decisions on your grandchild’s behalf. Without legal custody, you do not have the authority to make important decisions such as where he or she will go to school. If you are responsible for your grandchild’s care, it’s critical to establish a clear relationship in the eyes of the law.
The legal rights you need will depend entirely on your role in raising your grandchild. Does he or she live with you? Are you the …

What Happens to Your Body When You Die? The Choice Can Be Yours.

Many of us are too afraid of death to carefully consider what happens to our bodies after we die. Unfortunately, failing to plan for that event can leave your wishes unattended to and your family grief struck and unsure how to honor your wishes. And the larger truth is that facing your death proactively creates a better life now.

There are many options for disposal of the body when you die, including burial, cremation, and donation to science. These are difficult decisions to consider, especially if you aren’t familiar with the standard body-handling practices used in our society today.

A humorous—and possibility lighthearted—way to learn about these practices is to read Mary Roach’s Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (New York, Norton, 2003), which explores the how and why of what happens to bodies when people die.

In Stiff, Roach takes us on a journey—albeit an unconventional one—to see what happens to human cadavers. From surgical practice to crash test dummies, donated—or …

How to Incorporate Family Values in Your Estate Planning

Baby boomers know money isn’t the only important aspect of estate planning. A 2012 study released by the Allianz Life Insurance, Co. showed baby boomers wanted to leave their family more than just financial assets. Researchers found baby boomers identified family values as some of the most important things to pass down to heirs. In 2012’s economic climate, it’s no wonder family values imparted through stories, life lessons, and family possessions were at the top of the list. In an economic downturn, financial inheritances are more tenuous, unlike the abiding worth of family values. Thus, family values, tax-free of course, made the top of the list in importance. But what is interesting is a similar study released by Allianz in 2005 which showed family values were also among the most important legacies boomers wanted to leave behind, even though the economy was more robust. What these studies demonstrate is the enduring importance of family values, morals and meaningful possessions as part …