Taking Stock in Family Over the Holidays
by Stephan J. Lipskis, Esq.
The holidays are a wonderful time to gather with family and take stock in what is happening in each others’ lives. We frequently advise our clients and friends to review their estate planning documents to ensure they meet their current needs. This time of a year is an excellent time to consider whether important life changes that are occurring to you or your family may require a change in your estate plan. The following are a few things to think about as you meet with family.
I. How are you or elderly family members coping with aging?
We all deal with the reality of aging, but frequently we discount the effects it has on our family. Communication with older family members regarding their mobility, ability to handle finances, and general health concerns can reveal concerns that may not have been planned for previously. In an age when family members often live far from elderly loved ones and only communicate over the phone, it may seem that things are fine until extensive interaction over a vacation or holiday reveals that an elderly loved one may need more assistance than previously thought. Particularly quick action should be taken with regard to elderly family members who exhibit signs of decreasing mental ability, because their window to plan their estate may close. Furthermore, as individuals confront aging their views change on whether they want to stay home, live with a particular family member, or move into an assisted living facility. Finally, any individuals who are not up to the task of serving as an agent, executor, or trustee should be removed as a fiduciary from any documents naming them.
II. What significant life changes have occurred or are anticipated?
Estate planning revolves around changes in family dynamics and living situations. Accordingly, when grandchildren are born, individuals near retirement and other common life changes occur, incorporation of those changes in estate planning documents is critical. Often estate planning is done after a first child is born, but updates are neglected after subsequent children are born. Newborn children and grandchildren create the potential for estate assets to go to a minor, which should be incorporated into any estate plan. Significant assets have been left to minors unintentionally, which may cause problems when inherited.
III. Who Needs Help and What Kind of Help?
Assessing the individuals who you intend to benefit from your estate plans is often done best around the holidays. The increased family time allows for an assessment of how your potential beneficiaries are doing. Several of the questions you should consider are:
1) Is you granddaughter, niece, nephew, etc. responsible with money?;
2) Is anyone going through legal, financial, or substance abuse issues? ; and
3) Do any of your family members receive government benefits or have medical conditions that may require planning around?
A natural inclination may be to give money to these individuals in order to alleviate their problems, but significant gifts can have severe impacts on your ability to plan for yourself and should be done in a thought-out manner after consulting with an attorney.
The changes in your family situation often dictate the need for a change in your estate plan. Consulting with one of our attorneys will help prevent the problems we often encounter in “do-it-yourself” changes to your estate plan. On behalf of Hook Law Center, please have a happy and safe holiday season and a wonderful new year!
Ask Kit Kat – Cats in Small Spaces
Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, why do cats seem to prefer to sleep in small spaces?
Kit Kat: Well, although we cats have a reputation for being aloof, independent, and somewhat on an irregular schedule, we actually are quite predictable about some things—like where we sleep. Curling up in small spaces actually makes perfect sense to us. In a small space like a shoe or boot box or even a bathroom sink, we can feel safe and protected. The space is defined, and to us that means we have some element of control over our environment. For example, my mom has put a boot box under her bed lined with a towel. There one of my sisters, Junior, and I love to sleep, especially in colder weather. I weigh almost 14 pounds, so I can generate a lot of body heat. Junior, at a little over 7 pounds, generates heat as well. The toweled box keeps that heat from floating away. Though my parents keep the house heated at a comfortable temperature, we can feel when it is winter, and we respond to the longer periods of darkness by sleeping more.
There are other reasons, too, cats prefer sleeping in small places. A mother cat, about to give birth, will seek out a hidden small place to keep her kittens safe from predators. Also, until the kittens are bigger, it allows her to more easily keep the litter together and supervised. A small space also allows her to keep them warm using all of their body heat.
Finally, feral cats find that small places enhance their ability to remain in the wild and avoid being captured by either humans or predators. It’s simply a matter of improving our odds of survival.
So, one can understand now why we prefer small spaces. It makes purrfect sense to us!
(technical information taken from Dr. Patty Khuly (veterinarian), “Why does my cat…like to sleep in small boxes and tiny spaces?” vetstreet.com, October 26, 2011)
- January 20th, 2016 – Andrew Hook and Elizabeth Boehmcke will be speaking on “Protecting Assets from Nursing Homes and Medicaid” at Crowne Plaza Hotel, 4453 Bonney Road, Virginia Beach, VA 23462.
- January 21st, 2016 – Andrew Hook and Elizabeth Boehmcke will be speaking on “Protecting Assets from Nursing Homes and Medicaid” at Hilton Gardin Inn, 5921 Harbour View Blvd., Suffolk, VA 23435.
- February 15th, 2016 – Stephan Lipskis will be speaking on “Protecting the Money You Leave to Your Children from Their Divorce” at Crowne Plaza Hotel, 4453 Bonney Road, Virginia Beach, VA 23462.
- February 18th, 2016 – Stephan Lipskis will be speaking on “Protecting the Money You Leave to Your Children from Their Divorce” at Hilton Gardin Inn, 5921 Harbour View Blvd., Suffolk, VA 23435.
- March 14th, 2016 – Elizabeth Boehmcke will be speaking on “Protecting Your Children’s Inheritance” at Crowne Plaza Hotel, 4453 Bonney Road, Virginia Beach, VA 23462.
- March 15th, 2016 – Elizabeth Boehmcke will be speaking on “Protecting Your Children’s Inheritance” at Hilton Gardin Inn, 5921 Harbour View Blvd., Suffolk, VA 23435.
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