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What Can Estate Planning Do for You?

Guardianship

If you are in an accident do you know who will take care of your kids? Are you sure? We can ensure your family’s safety.

Wills

Everyone needs a will. A will covers short term disability, long term disability, and death. Don’t leave yourself exposed.

Trusts

Trusts give you the flexibility to keep your family safe from creditors, bad influences, and themselves.

Business Succession Planning

Life insurance. Disability insurance. Buy-sell agreement. If you own a business and don’t have these, that’s a problem.

Powers of Attorney

Financial power of attorney. Health care power of attorney. If you are disabled you need to have protections in place to take care of you and your family.

Avoid Estate Taxes

Is your net worth 5 million plus? Proper estate tax planning can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars. No planning can cost you the same

“Everyone has an estate plan. The question is, are you going to decide the future of your family, or is a judge?”

– Christopher Small, CMS Law Firm LLC

Why Do You Even Need Estate Planning Anyway?

Do you know what happens to your kids if you don’t have a guardian appointed?

Do you know who will help you continue to pay your bills if you are seriously injured in a car accident and require months of recovery?

Do you know who will get your stuff?

Do you know how your business will function if you aren’t there to run it?

I know. A judge will step in and do his or her best to make the decisions that they think you would make.

How do you think that is going to work out for you?

It’s going to work out badly, that’s how it’s going to work out.

But it doesn’t have to. You can take control of your life and the afterlife with great estate planning. Let me show you what I’m talking about.

Guardianship: Protecting Your Kids Before They Need It

I have two kids (soon to be three). Blakely is three and a half, Jackson is almost two, and baby number three is due May 2, 2016. It’s safe to say that we have a lot going on.

But my wife, Alison, and I, are committed to keeping the romance alive. So every Friday night we have a date night. The babysitter comes over, we pick a new restaurant to check out, and we go enjoy each other’s company for a while.

One of the things that used to prevent me from having a completely good time is the worry about what would happen if something happened to us while we were out on our date.

Car accident.

Random act of violence.

Unforeseen trouble.

I knew that our kids would wind up with someone we’d had no part in choosing if something happened to us. See, up until recently (see, even estate planning attorneys don’t follow their own advice sometimes) we didn’t have even our basic guardianship paperwork set up.

That means if something happened to us, a judge was going to be the sole decision maker when it came to our kids. Sure, he or she would do their best, but it their best effort could never equal our specific wishes.

The wonderful thing is, creating guardianship paperwork isn’t that difficult. It isn’t that time consuming. All it takes is a little bit of attention from you.

Power of Attorney: A Lifeline When You Need It

I am the owner of CMS Law Firm, LLC. As you might expect, I have bank accounts associated with my business.

As the sole owner and shareholder of the business I am the only person who is designated to act on those bank accounts.

So what happens if I am in an accident and wind up in a coma for a couple of months?

What happens if I am otherwise disabled to such a degree that I cannot personally access those accounts?

How do my vendors get paid?

How do my employees get paid?

How do legal fees coming into the business get deposited?

There are actually two answers to this question:

The easy way; and The hard way.

The easy way is that the person I have selected and granted a power of attorney to steps in and runs the show. Thier power of attorney appointment allows them to act on my behalf for all things contractual, financial, and otherwise, until I am able to do it again on my own.

The hard way is to petition a judge to first determine whether or not I am competent and can control my own affairs. If the judge decides I am not competent, the judge would appoint a conservator to do all of the things I’ve just discussed.

The competency hearing costs money.

The conservator costs money.

And, again, I’m leaving my life in the hands of someone chosen by someone who doesn’t know me at all.

Thankfully, power of attorney paperwork isn’t difficult to create. All it takes is a little bit of attention from you.

Intestacy: the State’s Way of Distributing Your Wealth

Whenever I talk to single people and tell them I’m a Kirkland estate planning lawyer they always seem relieved to know they don’t need my services.

Then I ask them about who would manage their finances if something happened to them (aka do they have a power of attorney).

Then I ask them if they have a serious girlfriend or boyfriend.

I ask them to tell me about their favorite niece or nephew.

I ask the about their best friends.

And then I ask them if they’d want to give any of their wealth away to those people.

And the almost always say yes.

Then I ask them if their parents: (a) know about these wishes; and (b) even know that these people exist.

I then tell them that if they don’t have kids and aren’t married, pretty much all of their wealth is going to be given to their parents unless they specify otherwise in a will.

That usually gets their attention.

But the same goes for married couples too.

Have any family heirlooms you’d like to pass to someone specific?

Have a favorite family member you’d like to show your gratitude toward?

Chances are, your spouse doesn’t specifically know about this (the chances that you’ve talked about this if you do not have a will are between slim and none). So, whether they wanted to abide by your wishes or not, they can’t because they don’t know what your wishes are.

A will solves these problems. It tells the world, specifically, where you want your stuff to go.

Again, all this takes is a little bit of time and attention from you.

Business Succession Planning: The Elephant in the Room

As much as people hate thinking about estate planning in general, business owners hate thinking about succession planning ten times more.

Imagine you are a successful business owner. You are making great money. You are providing a great service or great product. You have happy employees. You are building something bigger than yourself.

And now I am asking you to consider a scenario when all of that goes away.

We all know the statistics. Something like seventy percent of all family owned businesses don’t survive the second generation.

And worse than that, many businesses don’t even make it to the second generation. They burn out or fail before that even has a chance to happen.

I am asking you to consider a time when you can’t operate the business.

I am asking you to consider your early demise and what that means for the business.

I am asking you to consider what life looks like when you step away from the business.

That is not easy.

But the alternative is losing everything you’ve been working for for years.

The alternative is leaving your business cash poor, your business partners up a creek without a paddle, and your family with no financial foundation to build on.

Complete business succession plans aren’t easy to create. Like your actual business, though, it’s perfectly fine to start with the foundational elements and build your way up.

Estate Planning Is Important But Not Urgent

In his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey describes four quadrants that divide up people’s attention.

  • Quadrant 1 is important and urgent;
  • Quadrant 2 is important and not urgent
  • Quadrant 3 is not important and urgent; and
  • Quadrant 4 is not important and not urgent.

kirkland estate planning lawyer
Estate planning falls into that fourth quadrant – important but not urgent.

We all know we need a good estate plan to protect our family and wealth, but there is very often no motivating force to get us to take action.

If I had a dollar for every phone call I received from people who were going out of town and leaving their children behind for the weekend I’d be a rich man.

Why were they calling? Estate planning had suddenly become urgent because they could foresee an actual time when it might be needed.

Sadly, we can’t predict car accidents.

We can’t predict random acts of violence.

We can’t predict workplace accidents.

The only thing we can do is protect ourselves from those unforeseen circumstances. Estate planning can do that for you. All it takes is a little bit of time and attention from you.

Estate Planning Attorney Blog

  • Thank you, Chris! I am going to refer my friends to you in the future.
    D.K.
  • This was my first time using Christopher Small's legal services. During the initial consultation, I found him to be very informing, attentative and someone I could trust with my case. Throughout the legal process he kept me well informed of my case either by phone call or email. Not only would I use him again, I would also refer him to any friend or colleague.
    J.B.
  • Awesome! I can't wait to recommend you to my friends!
    H.T.
  • Excellent lawyer; totally concerned about his clients' needs; excellent command on the subject matter; quickly returns calls/emails, reasonable fees; would recommend to anyone who is willing to listen to an expert. Highest quality of service.
    N.D.

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