Estate Planning 101

January 31, 2019

First responders put their lives on the line daily to protect the public. However, their willingness to preserve life and property doesn’t always extend into their own personal lives. Ask yourself these questions: If something were to happen to you today, would your family know what to do next? Would they be aware of your wishes pertaining to your medical care in an event of a debilitating injury or illness? Would your family have the financial resources to care for you and their needs too? Unfortunately, the answer to those questions would most likely be no. With a little planning, though, that could all change. By taking a few simple steps, you can easily place your family in a proactive position instead of a reactive one.

With an estate plan, you are being proactive by not allowing unforeseen circumstances to further disrupt the lives of those you care most about. A living trust cannot only give you the peace of mind that your family will be provided for but also that your wishes will be followed in case of your death. When done correctly, a living trust can also assure a fast distribution of your assets, avoid unnecessary taxes, and keep your wishes private as well. First though, whether you need to create a will or trust, or modify an existing will or trust, you’ll want to seek the help of a financial or legal advisor. No matter the value of your estate, it is essential that you plan for what will happen to your assets after your death.

As your living trust will be one of the most important documents drafted in your lifetime, you should be prepared before setting an appointment to draft one.

Here are a few things you should do before writing a living trust:

1. Make a list of all your assets.

Be sure to include a list of your assets that includes everything you own. Assets are everything from tangible items like your house, car, and jewelry to intangible ones like stocks, bonds, and life insurance policies.

Preparing this list and having it in front of you will give you a clearer picture of your estate and help you decide how you would like it distributed in case of your disability or death.

2. Find the paperwork for your assets.

Just as it is important to list all your assets and their values before sitting down to write your living trust, you will want to be sure that you have all the needed paperwork—titles, deeds, stock certificates, life insurance policies, etc.—in order and ready to hand over to the attorney or advisor that will be preparing your living trust.

3. Choose beneficiaries.

You will have to name a beneficiary or multiple of different ones. A beneficiary is the one(s) that will receive assets upon your disability or death, so plan carefully who should receive what before you sit down to write the living trust. Beneficiaries can include family, friends or organizations (including charities such as the WODFF). Also, if you only name one beneficiary, think about the scenario of what happens if both of you are together when tragedy strikes. Now what? A matter to discuss with the individual preparing your trust. You may also want to consider who you don’t want to receive anything and discuss this with the attorney or advisor as well.

Keep in mind that if you have named beneficiaries on insurance policies or retirement or savings accounts, these may conflict with your plans regarding the living trust. Be sure to let the attorney know of these potential conflicts as to avoid legal fights among beneficiaries after your death.

4. Choose a successor trustee.

With a living trust, you will name yourself as the trustee so you continue to have control over your assets during the period of your lifetime. Your successor trustee, though, will distribute your assets and assure all your debts are taken care of. Having a trust in place will assure that this will be accomplished per your instructions, not by someone else you don’t know, so be sure to choose someone you trust. Moreover, in the case of your incapacitation, your successor trustee would also be the one to handle your affairs.

5. Choose a guardian for your minor children.

Although you cannot designate a guardian for your minor children through a living trust, you should still consider who you would want to take care of them in case of your death or disability. You can include this information in a “pour-over will,” which also provides for the distribution of any assets acquired after the creation of the living trust but before your death. It will also cover any assets inadvertently excluded from the trust.

Once you have gathered and prepared the pieces of information above, you will now be ready to create a living trust and pour over will that will assure your wishes will be followed in the event of your disability or death. An Estate Plan is essential for everyone. It gives you peace of mind knowing your affairs are in order and the comfort of knowing you’ve provided for your family. Failing to establish a well-thought out Estate Plan could cost your family thousands of dollars and force them to suffer through years of probate.

By John Hicks

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Member Benefits

The Relief is proud to offer a one-time reimbursement of up to $600 for our members or surviving spouses to help you get your estate plan completed. To qualify, send a copy of the receipt or statement showing you paid for these services along with your member name, address and phone number to Member Services Specialist, Maria Rodriguez, via email: mrodriguez@lafra.org; by fax (323) 259-5297 or mail to:
Los Angeles Firemen’s Relief Association
Estate Planning Benefit Request
Attn: Member Services
P.O. Box 41903
Los Angeles, CA 90041

The Relief now also offers a supplemental service to members in good standing. Starting July 1, 2015, members can submit a request for a one-year financial advancement of up to $1,200 for the exclusive use of trust preparation. Members must:
• Execute the trust on or after July 1, 2015; this service is not applicable to trusts prepared or services received prior
• Pay back the Relief Association within one year via:
• Payroll or pension check deductions.
• Increments determined by amount received.
• Members may pay off balance in full early via check or credit card
• Fill out the application for the Trust Preparation Financial Advancement on our website and submit it along with an invoice showing the date, name, and address of the estate planning professional as well as the members name and amount due. Submit the application to Member Services Specialist, Maria Rodriguez, via email: mrodriguez@lafra.org; by fax (323) 259-5297 or mail to:
Los Angeles Firemen’s Relief Association
Trust Preparation Financial Advancement Request
Attn: Member Services
P.O. Box 41903
Los Angeles, CA 90041

Estate planning professionals recommend you review your trust every five years, as tax laws, assets and your circumstances may change. Therefore, members may submit a request for the Trust Preparation Financial Advancement multiple times, if needed.

This service is in addition to the one-time $600 Estate Planning Reimbursement Benefit all members already receive. It is intended to encourage members to have an estate plan to protect your loved ones, ensure your assets are distributed the way you wish and ensure your well-being and care is handled appropriately should you ever become incapacitated.

At the Relief Association, our “Getting Started Kit” will walk you through the steps of protecting your loved ones and your assets. To request your kit, call Development & Marketing Director, Marlene Casillas, at (323) 259-5217 or email mcasillas@lafra.org.

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