We Have a New Location!

19 September 2017

Sullivan Law Office is excited to announce our new location in downtown Oxford. After being a part of the Oxford community for over one year now, we have decided to open up our own "shop" to grow even more. The new office is located at 40 S. Washington Street in Suite 2, just above the Downtown Salon. The office has a beautiful view of Centennial Park, just in time for fall and winter festivities.

Please save the date for our ribbon cutting, currently set for October 19, 2017, at 4:30 p.m. This date is just a few days from when Alaina will be celebrating her 11th anniversary of being sworn in as an attorney. It seemed like a fitting time of year. We hope you can join us as we celebrate our new beginning!

Having a Family Meeting to Explain Your Estate Plan

08 August 2017

An estate plan affects more than just you. It involves the whole family. The first part of making sure that you are fully prepared and have an estate plan is to create the will, trust and other necessary documents. The next step is making sure that all affected parties are aware that it exists. After all, these are the people who will be ensuring that your plan is executed just as you want it to be handled, so it only seems natural that you would discuss your decisions with these individuals while you are still here, right?

Be prepared to get some push-back from your loved ones once you sit them down. Death is an uncomfortable subject, but it is an inevitable one, at that. Several items need to be discussed, however:

  1. Who is your personal representative? Do not surprise the loved ones you have chosen to handle your estate with this appointment. Ensure that they are aware of your trust in them, and also ensure that they are aware of your wishes for your assets.
  2. Who will be the guardian for your children? You may not want to have this conversation with everyone, but at least speak with the individuals you have chosen to be guardian for your children in the event of your passing.
  3. Your funeral wishes: Make sure your loved ones are aware of what you want done with your body and what funeral wishes you have, if any.
  4. Where all of your important documents are located: Make sure they are aware of where to find the will, where your documents are located and the names of any important parties, such as attorneys or financial planners.
  5. Your healthcare wishes: This conversation is easily the most uncomfortable but also the most important. If you have a specific wish regarding "do not resuscitate" clauses and what should happen if you are incapacitated, make 100 percent sure that your loved ones are aware. This conversation needs to happen no matter how uncomfortable the topic. It will save them pain in the long run from having to make these decisions for you.

So how do you go about setting up this meeting? It is up to you and how you feel it is best handled. Should you send an evite or spring it on the family at a gathering? Probably not. Make sure the forum is one where everyone is capable of being serious and prepared to have this conversation. Avoid settings where children are present or where alcohol is being consumed. Avoid emotional situations where emotions are already at a high, and, make sure your loved ones are aware that this topic is going to be discussed. If you want open minds, make sure you give them enough preparation.

At Sullivan Law, we offer estate planning packages at a flat and reasonable fee. We also offer free consultations to discuss what your needs are, what you would like to do, and how that can be best accomplished. Everyone's needs are different, and your wishes should be clearly listed and understood.

Call us at 248-917-1351 or email at asullivan@sullivanlawonline.com to schedule your free consultation today. We look forward to working with you!

Can I Do My Will on My Own Online?

07 July 2017

All attorneys get this question every now and then: "Do I really need to hire an attorney? Aren't wills just forms I can get online?"

It is an understandable question. Using an attorney to prepare your estate plan can be costly, but like so many other professional services, such as accounting or financial services, you are hiring a professional for a reason. You want it done correctly. Saving yourself money on the front end can end up costing your family and loved ones much more money in legal fees in the end.

First, most estate documents are very similar in form. However, a good attorney is not going to simply fill out a form and put your name on the signature line. Everyone's life situation is different, and when it comes to an estate plan, one size certainly does not fit all. Whether you have a unique family situation or have specific wishes with respect to how you want your property divided, an attorney can tailor your estate plan to what you need. If you are in your second marriage and want to make sure you want your children from your first marriage to be adequately covered in your will, an attorney can craft your will to make sure the proper language is in there to accomplish this goal. If you are the parent of a special needs child and want to make sure he or she is properly cared for on into adulthood, you may be hard pressed to prepare this document properly on your own. Regardless of what your life situation is, a blank form on a subscription legal site will not provide you the coverage you think you need.

What happens if you do have a "form will" and your loved ones go to probate it following your passing, only to find out that what you told them you were doing with your estate is not what was stated in the actual hard document. Many of these form sites include a lot of legal-ease in their forms that can be hard for the average person to understand. Signing on the dotted line to a document you do not fully understand can be hard to undo once you are gone. That requires a lengthy court process of disputing the will itself and proving that your intent was not what was included in the will. That process is by no means easy and not guaranteed to end well. Even more importantly, it is not a cheap process.

Most attorneys maintain contact with their estate clients to ensure that their estate plans are relevant to their current life situation. If something needs to be added or deleted, they will ensure that change is made. You may not think to make the needed changes following a divorce and second marriage only to find out later that your ex-spouse was the individual who ends up inheriting your estate. A good estate planning attorney will catch this change and make sure your estate plan accounts for it.

At Sullivan Law, we offer estate planning packages at a flat and reasonable fee. We also offer free consultations to discuss what your needs are, what you would like to do, and how that can be best accomplished. Everyone's needs are different, and your wishes should be clearly listed and understood.

Call us at 248-917-1351 or email at asullivan@sullivanlawonline.com to schedule your free consultation today. We look forward to working with you!

Divorce and Your Estate Plan

22 June 2017

An estate plan is not something you sign and file away, never to look at again. Life happens, and things change. Your estate plan needs to reflect that. Life changes can include children, moving, deaths in the family and divorce.

Think about it. You may have written an estate plan with your first spouse, assuming that the to death do you part thing made it so you never would need to even consider changing it. That idea is a nice one, but it does not always pan out. Say you get divorced but never revise your estate plan.

You get remarried years later and assume that your new spouse will receive all of your property, but you never get around to making sure he or she is covered. However, if something happens to you and your spouse finds out later that all of your property is going to your first spouse and not him or her, that piece of news is not going to be pleasant. It happens all the time unfortunately, and the reason for this is people never get around to modifying their plans.

Your will should not be the only document updated either. Make sure your new spouse is on your power of attorney and healthcare directives. Your previous spouse may not want to be held responsible for your medical decisions, but if she or he is listed as your first point of contact, his or her hands may be tied unless you have a logical successor to that appointment. In addition to documents, make sure your retirement accounts and life insurance policies are updated as well. Speak with your financial advisor to ensure that your current plan reflects your current life situation.

Do you need a completely new document or an amendment? You may only need a codicil, which serves as an amendment to your will where you state that your previous appointment of your spouse as beneficiary should be removed and replaced with new language. This change is easy and can be done for a smaller flat fee. If, however, mention of your previous spouse is scattered throughout your estate plan and is quite complex, you may need to revoke your previous estate plan and replace with a new set of documents. We can help you determine which choice is best for you.

At Sullivan Law, we offer estate planning packages at a flat and reasonable fee. We also offer free consultations to discuss what your needs are, what you would like to do, and how that can be best accomplished. Everyone's needs are different, and your wishes should be clearly listed and understood.

Call us at 248-917-1351 or email at asullivan@sullivanlawonline.com to schedule your free consultation today. We look forward to working with you!

The Empty Bucket

16 June 2017

The idea of creating a trust in lieu of a will is appealing to many people when it comes to estate planning. Trusts have several benefits, the biggest of which being money that goes into a trust can be distributed to beneficiaries outside of the federal estate tax provisions. Many people operate under a misconception that once the trust is executed, they are fully protected. However, once the trust is written, the work is far from done.

The next and most important step that needs to happen following a trust's creation is funding the trust. If you want your assets protected, you need to be sure that your assets are actually going into the trust to accomplish this goal. Otherwise all you have is a signed document. Your trust is essentially an empty bucket. The structure is there, but no water is inside.

So how is this done? Property that is titled in your or your spouse's name(s) needs to be re-titled to "the Trust of X and Y" (insert your name here). This includes your home, bank accounts, and any other financial accounts you have. Many trustors wish to have all of their assets funneled into the trust, including life insurance policies, and for this purpose it is recommended you consider having the life insurance policy be written as the trust. Any financial or retirement accounts you have could similarly be written to the trust. All this means is the proceeds of these policies would be put into the trust account and then distributed, free from federal estate taxes, to the beneficiaries by the trustee.

As an estate attorney, I like to work closely with my client's financial advisors, accountants, etc. to ensure that the trust is properly funded and that all financial decisions are being made for the benefit of the trust. I also regularly follow up with my clients to ensure that any property that is acquired later, following the trust signing, is also included in the trust.

Your trust is a living document. It takes more than simply signing your name on the dotted line and assuming everything else will work out. Make sure you are carrying around more than just an empty bucket.

At Sullivan Law, we offer estate planning packages at a flat and reasonable fee. We also offer free consultations to discuss what your needs are, what you would like to do, and how that can be best accomplished. Everyone's needs are different, and your wishes should be clearly listed and understood.

Call us at 248-917-1351 or email at asullivan@sullivanlawonline.com to schedule your free consultation today. We look forward to working with you!

Older