Who needs a will?

Fact # 1 – We will all die some day.

Fact #2 – when most everyone dies they possess some property, therefore everyone needs a will. State law attempts to distribute the property according to what most people want as outlined in the will.

What makes a will legal?

Any adult of sound mind is entitled to make a will. Beyond that, there are just a few technical requirements a will must fulfill:

  • The will must be signed by at least two witnesses.
  • The witnesses must watch you sign and date the will.
  • In most states your witnesses must be people who won’t benefit from your will.

You do not have to record or file your will with any government agency Just keep your will in a safe, accessible place and be sure the person in charge of winding up your affairs (your executor) has a copy of your will.

Do I need a lawyer to make my will?

A lawyer does not have to write a will, but I strongly encourage you to use one. They know the law and more importantly an experienced lawyer can coach through assuring your goals as well as covering all the bases of anything you may have overlooked.

Personally drafted wills are often incomplete and therefore often determined to be invalid under state law.

Must I leave something to my spouse and children?

This is a tricky question. The law in most states protects surviving spouses from being left with nothing. If you live in a state where your spouse automatically owns half of all the property gained during your marriage, you do not have much flexibility. You can leave your half of the property to anyone you choose. Check the laws in your state.

Generally, it’s perfectly legal to disinherit a child. But there is another tricky spin. If, however, it appears that you didn’t mean to disinherit a child, the most common example is a child born after you made your will, then the child has the right to claim part of your property. This is a classic example of why it is important to keep your will current and why checking with an attorney is important.

How often should I update my will?

In general terms you should review your will every two years or when you have a life changing event. Examples of living changes events include:

  • Getting married
  • Getting divorced
  • Being separated from your spouse
  • Death of a spouse
  • Death of an heir
  • Birth of an heir
  • Changes in real estate holdings
  • Changes in Financial status
Can someone challenge my will after I die?

Few wills are ever challenged in court. When they are, it’s usually by a close relative who feels somehow cheated out of their share of the deceased person’s property. To get an entire will invalidated, someone must go to court and prove that it suffers from a fatal flaw such as the signature was forged; the person was not of sound mind when you made the will, or you were unduly influenced by someone. Unhappiness with the outcome of the will does not qualify as sufficient evidence for a will to be overturned.

Can more than one person he named as personal representative?

Yes. You may appoint co-representatives, or a secondary representative.

  • Pros – If one representative in your wills dies before you do, you have a built in backup plan with a second person to fulfill your wishes.
  • Cons – Normally they will have the same powers to act, and this can create conflict. The nomination of two or more executors/representatives should be carefully considered.

Appointing co-representatives might be an emotional reaction – not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings. However, an emotional reaction is often not the best choice for a legal situation. If you nominate co-representatives, you need to believe that they will be able to cooperate together in handling your estate.

Must the will be read to the family?

Only in Hollywood. Your executor normally must provide notice of probate to all interested parties, and they can obtain a copy of the will from the probate court. A “reading of the will” is used in movies to create drama, like when the decedent disinherits his wife and children and leaves everything to his mistress.

What is an independent life insurance agent?

An exclusive agent sells for only one insurance company’s products; an independent life insurance agent represents more than one insurance company.

Independent agents can offer a wider choice of products because they’re not tied to just one company. Independent agents who specialize in helping applicants with medical conditions or risky hobbies are known as impaired risk specialists. These agents know which life insurance carriers can provide coverage for your needs.

Seek an agent with experience serving clients with needs similar to yours, and MOST IMPORTANTLY find one with whom you feel comfortable and can trust.

Can I name someone other than a relative as the beneficiary of my life insurance policy?

You can name any legally competent person as a beneficiary of your life insurance policy, including your spouse, children, other relative or friend. You can also name an entity as a beneficiary, such as a charity, church or trust.

It’s a good idea to designate a contingent beneficiary as well as a primary beneficiary. If your primary beneficiary cannot be located or dies before you do, the life insurance proceeds go to your contingent beneficiary. Be very specific when naming a beneficiary; include full name and DOB or Social Security number to avoid any confusion.

Use major life events such as births, deaths or marriages as good times to confirm you have the appropriate person or entity designated as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy.

Should I purchase a life insurance policy for a child?

The question is a double-edged sword. Remember the life insurance is designed to give your surviving family the financial resources they need to continue without you. A child has no one to support. When you look at it from a return on investment standpoint, ask yourself if would you be better off putting those funds in a college education fund?

Now based on some insurance products on the markets; coverage may be purchased thinking about ensuring the child’s financial future.

Depending on the type of life insurance you buy, the policy could provide a nice nest egg once the child or grandchild reaches retirement.

Purchasing a policy also locks in the child’s insurability. Usually, children don’t have to go through a medical underwriting process; the parents simply answer a few medical questions. As long as the policy remains in force, the child will always have life insurance.

Can I do anything to lower the cost of life insurance?

The price you pay for life insurance depends on your age, your health, and your lifestyle. So if you are older, have a health problems and are a smoker you’ll always pay more for life insurance in comparison to someone who is younger, healthier and a nonsmoker.

That being said, there are ways to lower your life insurance premiums, even if you fall into a higher-risk category. Following are some simple suggestions for life insurance and term life insurance.

  1. Round up. Often, you’ll actually pay less for a little more life insurance as you approach multiples of $250,000 in coverage. For example, $240,000 of life insurance coverage might cost $275 per year, while $250,000 in coverage might cost only $260 per year.
  2. Shop around. Every insurance carrier has different price points. When it comes to insurance, it pays to shop around because premiums can vary widely. And thanks to the Internet, it’s now easier than ever. Save time by going to a website where you can compare multiple insurance companies at once.
  3. Quit smoking. Many insurance companies charge smokers double the nonsmoker rate for insurance. (But don’t even think about lying about it. If you end up dying of a smoking-related illness, your insurance company can opt out of not paying your death benefit.)
  4. Forget the riders. While special riders may add value to your life insurance policy in certain situations, many are simply an unnecessary expense. Paying extra money to cover an event that’s almost guaranteed not to happen just doesn’t make sense when you’re trying to cut costs. Double indemnity for being struck and killed by lightening is a unique concept, but do you really need it?
  5. Find out about hidden fees. You may not realize it, but your life insurance could end up costing you more if you choose to make “convenient monthly payments” rather than paying the entire premium up front. Before you choose a payment plan, compare the single payment price to the total cost of the monthly payments. Do the math, and decide whether the convenience is worthwhile.
Where do I start discussing /planning for a funeral?

If you’ve never planned a funeral before, it can be quite intimidating. Hot Tip: Plan ahead.

The following steps will help you plan a funeral for yourself or for a loved one.

STEP 1: Funeral Planning Is a Family Matter

Funeral planning starts at home. Just as most families discuss weddings, home-buying, college, and other major life choices, so should they discuss funeral wishes and needs. Death will come to each of us, no matter how long we put off discussing it.

There are as many ways to honor the dead as there are cultures, religions and budgets. Your personal philosophy or faith should guide your choices.

Whatever you choose, be sure it’s based on what’s meaningful to you. Learn more in my free guide, “9 Ways To Start The Ultimate Conversation.

STEP 2: What Are My Options?

Most people are confused about what they can and can’t do. While the American funeral industry usually pushes what it calls a “traditional funeral” – embalming, fancy casket, open-casket wake, funeral ceremony, procession, and graveside service. Note: None of that is required.

The typical American funeral has no specific roots in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or any other religion.

Do as much or as little as you want (or what you can afford).

STEP 3: Shopping Around

A funeral can be simple or elaborate, inexpensive or costly. But unless you plan well in advance and shop around, you’re likely to pay top dollar. Consumer surveys show that most people don’t shop around for a funeral – they pick the funeral home closest to them, or the one their family has always used. Neither of these criteria tells you whether you’re getting a good value.

By federal regulation, funeral homes must give you price quotes over the phone. In addition, they must give you printed, itemized price lists when you show up in person to discuss funeral arrangements. It’s a good idea to visit several funeral homes to pick up price lists and take them home for comparison. I appreciate that all this work can be a challenge if you are grieving, therefore planning ahead is great idea.

What is Cremation?

It’s the process of reducing the body to ashes and bone fragments through the use of intense heat. The process usually takes two to four hours.

The percentage of cremations in the US is rapidly rising each year. In 12 states the cremation rate is over 50%. In England and Japan the cremation rate is close to 90%. Primary reasons for choosing cremation are to save money, because it is simpler, less emotional and more convenient, and to save land.

A casket is never required for cremation. However, most crematories do require that the body be enclosed in a rigid, combustible container.

Prices can vary from about $500 to well over $3,000 depending on the funeral services rendered.

Cremated remains can be placed in a niche in a columbarium, traditionally buried, scattered, or kept by the family. Cremated remains are sterile and pose no health hazard.

Ashes may be mailed by the US Post Office or shipped via FedEx. (UPS will not ship the ashes.) If you are taking the remains on a plane, you are best off leaving them in the box just as it comes from the crematory with the official documents attached. TSA requires that they be able to be x-rayed so they need to be in a non-metal container.

What are the burial benefits for Veterans?

All veterans are entitled to burial in a national cemetery, a grave marker (regardless of the cemetery), and a flag. Spouses and dependent children are also entitled to a burial plot and marker but only in a national cemetery. There will be no charges for opening or closing the grave or setting the marker in a national cemetery. Depending on the circumstances, a family will be responsible for all other expenses including transportation to the cemetery.

Some additional notes:

  • A spouse and dependents of an eligible veteran are entitled to burial in a national cemetery even if the veteran is not buried there.


  • Memorials are available to all veterans, spouses, and dependent children buried in a national cemetery and will be set without charge.
  • There are State-run veterans cemeteries that may offer the same or similar benefits, with some restrictions. For a listing of VA cemeteries, check http://cem.va.gov.

Burial At Sea

(Or the scattering of cremated remains) at sea is available to all veterans and dependents, and is provided by the Navy or US Coast Guard. A flag is required, and—if supplied by the family—can be returned.

  • Note: At the convenience of the military, the family  may not witness the burial at sea.

To reach the regional Veterans office in your area, call 800-827-1000.

Can financial planners really help?

Financial planners can help you with more than just retirement. You can find a certified professional today that will help you save money for college, purchasing property or even figuring out how to take that dream vacation.

What’s different in using a certified financial planner?

There are two types of financial planners. Those that are certified and those who are not. When you work with an uncertified planner that doesn’t mean you are not getting the same level of service. The difference between the two is that a certified financial planner (CFP) has taken and passed the most rigorous exam in the field. When you choose a CFP then you know you are using a professional that understands all the tools at his or her disposal.

If I’m in debt can a financial planner help?

Living in debt is a stressful situation and when you try to get out of it alone you could end up making things worse. When you are digging yourself into a hole, drop the shovel. A financial planner can show you how to eliminate your debt no matter how large it is. If you are dealing with high medical bills, sky rocketing credit card payments or past due mortgage payments, you want to talk with a financial planner as soon as possible.

Should I really spend money on advice?

Having a financial planner isn’t just about advice, but action. Yes, you are getting advice about how to handle your current personal finances, but you are also getting action from investments. A financial planner can guide you in the right direction. You are getting both peace of mind and financial security when you allow a certified financial planner to help.

How can I prepare for college funding?

Start saving for your children’s college education as early as possible. You will need to determine what type of college you would like your children to attend and how much of the cost you are willing to support. According to the Credit Union National Association the projection for a college education in 2025 starts at $250,000 and goes up!

What Is Estate Planning?

To put it simply, estate planning involves putting your affairs in order to help maximize the benefits your assets can provide for you during your life, or to those you wish after your death.

Estate planning is a process that has two objectives in mind:

  • To insure that your assets will pass upon your death to those persons you designate in a manner which will give them the maximum benefits.
  • To reduce or eliminate the tax burden on your estate.
When Should An Estate Plan Be Reviewed?

If you already have an estate plan, it should not be considered permanent. Conditions, as well as your desires, may change. Estate plans should be reviewed at least every two to three years. Any important change in your life demands immediate review.

  • Birth, death, marriage, divorce or disability of you or a beneficiary
  • Large increase or decrease in the net worth of you or a beneficiary
  • Substantial change in the type of your assets
  • Purchase or sale of a business
  • Change of residence to another state
  • Change in tax law
How can I make sure my son/daughter keeps the inheritance I leave from them in case they become divorced from their spouse?

First of all, talk with your children and express any concerns you may have regarding their marriage. In some states, inheritances are the separate property of your child and are not community property. So his spouse has no rights to the inheritance. Of course, what your child does after he receives the inheritance can change what was once his separate property into community property. The most typical example is where the child who receives the inheritance places the assets into a joint bank account. Once he does that, it may not be his separate property anymore.

How do I know if An Estate Planning Attorney Is Really Competent?

Inquire about the attorney’s credentials. Does he or she have any specialized education? Ask what the titles of the courses were to determine if the courses were relevant to estate planning, trust, and probate law.

Learn about the courses they took. Are they relevant to estate planning, trusts and probate law?

Ask if the attorney will discuss all viable options with the client based on that client’s individual objectives and circumstances, or does the attorney offer just one solution for virtually all circumstances? A “one pill for all ills” approach is not generally appropriate.

What is a will?

A Will is a legal document where you identify and declare a person to manage your affairs and your estate after you die. The person you identify is called an executor of your Will. While there is no legal requirement that your Will be prepared by a lawyer, it is strongly recommended that it is. There are many specific requirements that must be met to ensure that the Will is valid.

What is an executor?

An executor is someone you identify in your will who has the responsibility to manage your affairs after you pass away. These duties may include the payment of all debts, taxes, and the supervision of the distribution of all your assets and property to your heirs or to any organizations you have identified in your will. Executor will file your will with the local probate court who will then assist your executor to assure that your assets are distributed to the appropriate inheritors. Your executor should be someone you trust implicitly.

What is a trust fund?

A trust fund is a tool to help you manage all of your assets while you are alive and after you die. One of the primary goals of the trust fund is to defer taxes on your assets as they pass to your identified beneficiary and also to hopefully reduce the hassle associated with that process. There are two main types of trust funds called a living trust fund and a testamentary trust fund. As a name implies a living trust fund contains your assets while you are alive. A living trust fund is also called a revocable trust fund which means that you, as the trustee of your trust fund, are free to move assets in and out of the trust fund while you are alive. With the testamentary trust fund, you identify in your will that the assets in living trust fund are now an irrevocable once you pass away. Clearly you want to use a knowledgeable and experienced attorney to help you establish and manage a trust fund.