Bobby’s Blog

The Importance of a Health Care Directive

As we age, there is a risk that our mental faculties will decline substantially or we’ll suffer a sudden, unexpected health issue that leaves us incapacitated and unable to make important healthcare decisions. I’ve confronted this harsh reality with members of my own family. My father developed Alzheimer’s and got to the point where he needed someone to step in and making important decisions on his behalf.

Another tragic example is the mental decline of comedian Tim Conway, famous for his role on “The Carol Burnett Show.” Conway was diagnosed with dementia and is “almost entirely unresponsive,” according to MSN News. It does not appear that a health care directive was in place, which has spurred a rancorous legal battle between Conway’s wife and his daughter about the quality of his medical care.

These unfortunate situations highlight the importance of having a detailed health care directive in place. You can have a health care directive drafted and incorporated into your estate plan.

Health Care Power of Attorney

An example of a viable directive is a “Health Care Power of Attorney.” This is a legal document that empowers you to select a spouse, family member or trusted friend to be the decision-maker regarding health care issues, in case you are unable to make medical decisions. This includes the decision where you will receive your care (at home, nursing home, hospital, etc.). The person you designate as the decision maker will be deemed your “agent.” Keep in mind, a proper agent must be at least 18 years of age and should be someone you (i) trust and (ii) is capable of handling the responsibilities associated with being your health care agent.

A health care power of attorney pertains to health care matters only and allows you to specify in writing the types of care you do, and do not, want to receive when you cannot make those decisions independently. This specification has the effect of limiting the discretion or powers of your agent regarding the types of care that are expressly covered in the legal document. It also gives clear instructions to health care providers about the type of care you want to receive.

It is important to remember that a health care power of attorney only takes effect if you cannot make your own health care decisions. In addition, you have the power to change your choices regarding agent or instructions at any time.

Check out this video of Bobby discussing strategies for disability planning:

Living Will

In addition to a health care power of attorney, you can also incorporate a living will in your estate plan. A living will is more limited than a health care power of attorney. It basically describes your choices for medical treatment for when you reach end of life. For example, if you wind up in a persistent vegetative state, do you want to be kept alive artificially? A living will that address this important, sensitive question.

Generally, a living will does not appoint an agent and does not grant discretion for choices independent of those identified in the document. A living will generally takes effect only when you are terminally ill and in need of life-sustaining medical treatment. It states your wishes for the kind of medical care you want should you become unable to state your wishes. Like a health care power of attorney, a living will may be revoked at any time.

Speak to an Experienced Trust and Estate Attorney

Drafting a health care power of attorney and/or living will can be complicated, since there are a myriad of legal requirements that must be met to ensure these documents are legally valid and enforceable. To ensure your health care documents are valid and sufficiently detailed, contact InSight Law today.

21 Aug

The Power of Being an Organ Donor

When it comes to planning your estate, an important issue that needs to be addressed is what you want done with your body when you pass away. Do you want to be embalmed and buried? Do you want to be cremated? Relatedly, you need to answer this important question – do you want to donate your organs?

You are not required to donate your organs and, at the end of the day, it is your decision. Nevertheless, it is important to understand the potential impact you can have on other people’s lives if you decide to become an organ donor. For example, more than 120,000 people within the U.S. are currently waiting for a life-saving organ transplant, according to Mayo Clinic. Unfortunately, many people waiting for a transplant never receive the organ they need and die as a result. This is where you can enhance your legacy by allowing your organs to be used to help save others.

A prime example of the power of organ donation was highlighted by a 21-year-old suicide attempt survivor. She received a second chance at life after receiving a historic face transplant. Yes, you read that correctly – a face transplant. The family of a 31-year-old who recently passed away and agreed to donate her organs was approached by doctors to see if they would consent to donating their loved one’s face to the 21-year-old suicide attempt survivor, according to ABC 7 News. They agreed and the landmark procedure took place. Now, the 21-year-old has a new lease on life.

Making a Difference

As you can see, one of the major benefits to being an organ donor is knowing that you will be able to make a difference and save the lives of others, even when you pass on.  Think about this key fact – a single organ donor has the potential to save as many as eight lives. If you decide to go beyond organ donation to donate your entire body, even parts that may not be used directly in patients may be used for medical research, allowing you to help society in general.

Not only will organ donation provide value to you, the donor. It can also offer benefits to your family. It’s difficult to lose a loved one, and their passing can seem to have little meaning. However, many families find it comforting that, through their loved one’s death, another life can get extended.

Donating an organ has a powerful impact and can leave a wonderful legacy behind. Many of the organ donor and transplant recipient stories are extremely moving, and it can be comforting to know that the choice to donate by a loved one who passed away can change the lives of real people.

If you decide to donate your organs and/or tissues, you should (i) make sure you are registered to be an organ donor, which can be accomplished at the DMV or through the Department of Health and Human Services; (ii) discuss your election with your family members and/or estate trustee; and (3) incorporate your election into your estate plan. To learn more, contact InSight Law today.

Effective Management of Your Online Assets Critically Important for Your Digital Estate Plan

Ask yourself – what will happen to your Twitter account when you pass on? What about your Facebook account and Pinterest Board?  What about your photos shared on a variety of social media platforms?  These are important questions that need to be answered when planning your estate because your digital assets need to be part of that plan.

Think about this – between 2012 and 2014, humans generated more data than in all of human history and the pace of that growth is only accelerating.

Law Needs to Catch Up with Groundbreaking Technology

There is an established set of laws for managing hard copy documents and other physical property (e.g., real estate, automobiles, etc.) when someone passes on. However, laws and regulations concerning the effective management of digital assets is far more vague. Courts have only recently began attempting to figure out how to handle assets based on digital technology.

Trend in the Courts Leaves Individuals in the Lurch

So far, in most cases involving the ownership of digital asserts, courts have held that the information is controlled by the companies that store the information. For example, Google retains ownership over the Gmail account of your loved one.

There is a draft of uniform laws that many legal organizations have encouraged all 50 states to adopt. The uniform laws would enable people to specify in their wills that the executor of their estate can access their email account(s) and social media account(s). So far, around forty state legislatures have adopted it and seven more are considering it in 2018.

However, the uniform set of laws fails to specify exactly how executor access should occur. So, for the moment, an executor will need to contact the company that owns the digital platform to determine how to get into the decedent’s email and social media accounts.

Tips For Preparing Your Digital Estate Plan

You need to prepare yourself for the “digital afterlife.” In order to get prepared, you need to state, in writing, what you want to happen to your digital assets, according to The Conversation.com. This would entail creating a list of the accounts in your name. Next, determine which accounts you want your executor to be able to access and which should just be deleted, and which should be managed. Consider having a one-pager that details access information for these accounts and keep it in a safe place.

You also need to check with the companies whose online services you utilize to see if they offer their own unique method to transfer digital assets when a subscriber or member passes on. For example, Google has a method for its users to indicate what they want to have happen to their account if they don’t access it for several months. Facebook offers a similar service.

Take Action  Now

Digital assets are the proverbial shoe box of photos in today’s society. They are the letters and other heirlooms that carry significance because they are unique to you. Effective planning can preserve your legacy in its digital form and ease the management of your estate after your passing.

How Your Estate Plan Can Be a Reflection of Your Values

There is a common misconception about the purpose of estate planning. Many people mistakenly believe that an estate plan is intended to simply transfer Asset A to Person X; a dry, legal document focused solely on stocks, bonds, property, etc. This is not accurate.

An estate plan is a symbol of love and concern for the people you care about the most. It is a representation of your desire to protect your family and loved ones. An estate plan, in many ways, can be a reflection of your values.

A prime example of this principle is the estate of celebrity Anthony Bourdain. His Last Will and Testament was probated in New York and many media outlets were aghast to learn that Bourdain’s will was “only” worth around $1.2 million. Some people went so far as to criticize Bourdain for not having a higher net worth; never mind the fact that an estate valued at more than $1 million put Bourdain in the top 3 percent of all Americans in terms of wealth, according to a great Wall Street Journal article.

People ignored the fact that Bourdain took steps to protect the people he cared about the most. For example, Bourdain’s will took steps to ensure his only child received the bulk of his estate. He also stipulated that his frequent flyer miles should be transferred to his estranged wife and she could utilize them “in accordance to what she believes to be his wishes.”  Bourdain’s final message, as articulated through his estate plan, was not stocks and bonds, but about continuing to grow and maintain your curiosity throughout life. Bourdain also stressed taking care of the ones you love most.

Steps You Can Take to Create a Detailed Estate Plan that Reflects Your Values and Protects Your Loved Ones

Bourdain left a Last Will and Testament to detail how he wanted his assets distributed, which is perfectly fine. However, there are an array of estate planning techniques and strategies you can utilize to protect your protect your loved ones and reflect your values.  For example, you could establish a revocable living trust rather than simply leaving a will. Living trusts are great because they enable you to pass your assets to your loved ones without having to deal with the hassles associated with probate. Furthermore, you can alter a revocable living trust however you wish while you are alive. That means you can add funds, take out funds, add or remove beneficiaries, and so forth.

Speak to an Estate Planning Lawyer Today

If you are interested in creating an estate plan, take action now and contact InSight Law. Our team of legal professionals are ready to help you create the best plan possible for your family.

Leaving the Ex In Control – An Estate Plan Nightmare

When someone passes away, there is an assumption many people make that the family and friends of a decedent will be left in charge of their deceased loved one’s estate so they can divide any possessions appropriately. Unfortunately, this assumption is not accurate. There are rules and regulations in each state concerning the distribution of assets maintained in an estate and who is ultimately empowered to make those decisions. If you do not have an estate plan, or you have an outdated estate plan, you are heightening the risk that someone you are not very close to, or may even dislike, will be left in charge of managing your assets.

 

Take, for example, the tragic and sudden passing of CNN host Anthony Bourdain. It turns out that his estranged wife, MMA fighter Ottavia Busia-Bourdain, is empowered to decide whether his remains are transported back to the United States since she is legally the next of kin.  Mr. Bourdain and Mrs. Busia-Bourdain decided to separate in 2016, but their divorce was not officially finalized before his sudden death, and the funeral arrangements for the star are being held up in the process, according to news reports.This caused Mr. Bourdain’s mother to speak out concerning the frustration she, and other loved ones have felt, as a result of the delay. To add to the awkwardness, Mr. Bourdain was in a relationship with an actress named Asia Argento at the time of his passing. Depending on the specific terms of Mr. Bourdain’s estate plan, assuming he had one, there is a chance his significant other at the time of his passing could be left with nothing.

Importance of Updating Your Estate Plan

The fact that Mr. Bourdain’s estranged wife could very well be empowered to manage his entire estate is a prime example of why it is so important to be proactive and update your estate plan if you decide to separate from your spouse and are definitely moving forward with a divorce.

If you pass on before the divorce is finalized and you do not have a formal estate plan, your spouse will likely be entitled to a significant portion of your assets. This remains true even if you have living children, living parents, living siblings, or living nieces or nephews. If you have life insurance policies and retirement accounts, they are controlled by your beneficiary designations. As a result, if your estranged spouse is the designated beneficiary, they will receive the payout from those policies.

Take Action

If you do not want your estranged spouse to be involved in your estate, you need to either amend your estate plan or create a new plan. You also need to modify the beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts and life insurance policies.

Speak to an Experienced Trust and Estate Planning Attorney Today

As you can see, when a major life event occurs (e.g., separating from a spouse), you need to take action sooner rather than later to ensure all of your vital trust and estate planning documents are in order and properly updated. This can be accomplished most effectively with the guidance and assistance of an experienced trust and estate lawyer. Contact InSight Law to schedule a meeting today. Our team of professionals is here to help.

Leaving the Ex In Control – An Estate Plan Nightmare

When someone passes away, there is an assumption many people make that the family and friends of a decedent will be left in charge of their deceased loved one’s estate so they can divide any possessions appropriately. Unfortunately, this assumption is not accurate. There are rules and regulations in each state concerning the distribution of assets maintained in an estate and who is ultimately empowered to make those decisions. If you do not have an estate plan, or you have an outdated estate plan, you are heightening the risk that someone you are not very close to, or may even dislike, will be left in charge of managing your assets.

 

Take, for example, the tragic and sudden passing of CNN host Anthony Bourdain. It turns out that his estranged wife, MMA fighter Ottavia Busia-Bourdain, is empowered to decide whether his remains are transported back to the United States since she is legally the next of kin.  Mr. Bourdain and Mrs. Busia-Bourdain decided to separate in 2016, but their divorce was not officially finalized before his sudden death, and the funeral arrangements for the star are being held up in the process, according to news reports.This caused Mr. Bourdain’s mother to speak out concerning the frustration she, and other loved ones have felt, as a result of the delay. To add to the awkwardness, Mr. Bourdain was in a relationship with an actress named Asia Argento at the time of his passing. Depending on the specific terms of Mr. Bourdain’s estate plan, assuming he had one, there is a chance his significant other at the time of his passing could be left with nothing.

Importance of Updating Your Estate Plan

The fact that Mr. Bourdain’s estranged wife could very well be empowered to manage his entire estate is a prime example of why it is so important to be proactive and update your estate plan if you decide to separate from your spouse and are definitely moving forward with a divorce.

If you pass on before the divorce is finalized and you do not have a formal estate plan, your spouse will likely be entitled to a significant portion of your assets. This remains true even if you have living children, living parents, living siblings, or living nieces or nephews. If you have life insurance policies and retirement accounts, they are controlled by your beneficiary designations. As a result, if your estranged spouse is the designated beneficiary, they will receive the payout from those policies.

Take Action

If you do not want your estranged spouse to be involved in your estate, you need to either amend your estate plan or create a new plan. You also need to modify the beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts and life insurance policies.

Speak to an Experienced Trust and Estate Planning Attorney Today

As you can see, when a major life event occurs (e.g., separating from a spouse), you need to take action sooner rather than later to ensure all of your vital trust and estate planning documents are in order and properly updated. This can be accomplished most effectively with the guidance and assistance of an experienced trust and estate lawyer. Contact InSight Law to schedule a meeting today. Our team of professionals is here to help.