Living Trust… Living Will… What’s the Difference?

“My mom told me she has a living will. That way she’s going
to avoid probate”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this when a new
person finds out I was a living trust lawyer.

They go on to say, “She got one of those forms at the seniors’
center. You know, the one she can fill out herself. They even
witnessed it for her.”

I hate it when this comes up, because I have to set the record
straight, I have to let the person know that a “living will”
and a “living trust” are two different instruments that serve
two different purposes.

One, the “living will,” is your statement that “If I am
terminally ill or mortally injured (I’m using simple language
here to get the point across), then don’t hook me up to life
support that will never return me to life.” It’s the issue
that’s currently being fought in Florida, with Governor Bush
signing a law to keep a woman alive over her family’s wishes
and a court ruling.

Her “living will” has nothing to do with avoiding probate. It
is a health care document. Really it should be called a “death
desire,” but our society can’t handle that bluntness.

A “living trust,” on the other hand, IS a probate avoiding
document.

Basically, probate is used to transfer property you own when you die. If you have a will, your executor uses the probate court to carry out the terms of your will. If you die without a will, the laws of your state has statutes that describe where your property goes and who is in charge of getting it there.

So, if you don’t own any property when you die, then (generally…there are always exceptions) there is no need for probate.

This is where the living trust steps in. It called a “living” trust because it is created while you are living.

When you create a trust, you transfer title to your property to the trustee of the trust. You, as an individual, no longer own the property.

So, if you die, no probate is needed (remember, there are always exceptions), since YOU don’t own the property. The property is owned
by the trustee of the trust. The trust instrument instructs him/her on what to do with the property upon your death.

A “living trust” is a LOT more complicated to set up and maintain than a “living will.” They accomplish different tasks.

So, when you hear that a loved one has a “living will to avoid probate,” it might be smart to ask a few questions.

Good luck and until next time,

Phil Craig

P.S. Feel free to forward this on to any friends.

How Should the Tax Return of a Trust Be Filled Out?

An annual return must be lodged through trust in Australia, irrespective of the amount of income derived by the trust. The return is to be launched by any one of the trustees who is a resident of Australia. If there is no trustee resident in Australia, the return must be lodged by the trust public officer or, when a public officer is appointed, by the trust’s agent in Australia. Trust returns are usually required to be launched by 31 October after the end of the income you to which the return relates. Under the group consolidation regime, the head company wholly owned group of entities including trusts may lodge a single consolidated tax return. The trustee of a transparent trust or a secured purchase trust is not required to lodge a return provided that, broadly speaking, the income of the trust estate is vested indefeasibly in the beneficiary.

The Commissioner of taxation has warned that he will act against tax deferral scheme is that involve interposing private companies between trusts and their individual beneficiaries, and switching income between one and the other in different years. Were such a scheme comes into the Commissioner’s attention, he will give notice requiring immediate lodgement associated trust and beneficiary returns, despite the usual lodgement rules, and give priority to processing them. The balance of the assessment will be payable in 30 days. The return form and the associated instructions should be checked to see what information needs to be provided with returns. Many elections available to taxpayers under the tax law are not required to be in writing or lodged with returns.

Whether or not an election has been made will generally be evident from the calculation of taxable income as disclosed in the return and from the records required to be kept to verify the calculation. This is the reason that filing a tax return for a trust is reasonably complicated and is best handled by a qualified professional such as a CPA.

How Is a Trust Treated for Tax Purposes?

A trust of property or income may be described as a fiduciary obligation imposed on a person to hold property or income for a particular purpose or purposes, or for the benefit of other persons or classes of persons who may or may not include the trustee. The fiduciary obligation may be imposed on the trustee either by the person establishing the trust, by another person, by court order or declaration, or by the operation of law. Although the trustee may hold legal title to property, the trustees compelled iniquity to deal with it in accordance with the express or implied terms of the trust. The executor or administrator of the deceased person’s state is not strictly the trustee of the state in two executor or real or administrative functions are completed, by an expanded definition of trustee. A company formed by the trustee of a wheel in accordance with its terms to carry out some or all of the trust’s purposes is not a trustee for tax purposes.

The official receiver in bankruptcy of insolvent deceased estate is a trustee, as is the receiver and manager of the assets of the company appointed by the debenture holders and a mortgage in possession. The trust will income tax purposes is property, or an interest in property, but is vested in and under the control of a person who is a trustee, and that produces income. The deceased estate is a trust pending completion of its administration and thereafter until the assets have been distributed to the beneficiaries. A person who has only limited powers to deal with property as intermediary for the legal owner is not a trustee of the trust. An agent who receives money for a principle is not a trustee. There are a number of examples of where courts have held a particular relationship to be a trust relationship.

Monies held under court order by solicitors acting as trustees pending the outcome of proceedings to determine who is entitled to the money is a trust. Compensation paid into an accident compensation fund the benefit of dependence of deceased workers is trust. Money paid in to a joint bank account on trust pending the determination of the parties respective entitlements contingent upon the occurrence of future events is a trust. Money stolen by an employee from his employer is held on constructive trust. These are all examples of the way the tax law treats particular types of trust is. It is very important to understand from a tax perspective whether or not a particular entity is a trust or some other entity, because different tax rates apply to different entities.

Pet Trusts For Your Exotic Pets

Making the decision to set up a pet trust is an important part of owning an exotic pet. As the popularity of exotics as companion animals increases, so does the responsibility to be sure that they are properly cared for in the event something should happen to you, their owner.

Choosing an animal such as a monkey, a tiger, a frog, or a snake is a very big decision. There’s quite a bit of research and preparation required to bring home one of these amazing animals and ensure that they get the care they need. A crucial part of exotic pet ownership is planning for their continued care in the event that you die or become disabled before they do. Fortunately, a pet trust can help you do this by ensuring that your pets are cared for, even if you’re no longer around.

Proper care of an exotic animal can be both time consuming and expensive. In addition, not everyone has the ability or the desire to provide the kind of care these animals need. As a result, the grim reality is that many exotic animals are euthanized annually due to the untimely deaths of their owners and the inability of family members and friends to adopt the animal as their own. Animal shelters are under-funded and overcrowded, and more importantly, many of them are not set up to provide care to exotic pets. Setting up a pet trust is the key to ensuring that your pet has a happy future.

Pet trust laws are different everywhere, so it is important to obtain legal assistance as you determine what kind of care your exotic animal requires and who should provide that care. An experienced pet trust lawyer can help you to cover all the details and can also see to it that your wishes are carried out with regard to your pets’ daily lives when you are gone.

You’ll also want to be sure to talk with the people in your life about what should happen to your exotic animals, should they outlive you. If there is someone who really enjoys your exotic pet but perhaps is not quite knowledgeable enough about it to be a good caretaker, you might consider teaching that person more about the animals you have come to love in your life. One of the most important parts of setting up a pet trust is the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your pet will be properly cared for in the event you are no longer able to do so.

Another very important part of creating a pet trust for your exotic animal is specifying a dollar amount that will keep your pet comfortable for life. Depending on the animal, the cost of food, proper shelter and appropriate veterinary care can vary greatly. You’ll also want to add in the cost of emergency care and liability insurance if needed. A pet trust lawyer can help you estimate all of these expenses and navigate the legal requirements of your state.

Ensuring that the physical and emotional needs of your exotic animals are taken care of for the rest of their lives is an important part of being a responsible pet owner.

Lawyers’ & Clients’ Responsibilities to Each Other

Lawyers bear a certain responsibility towards their clients. A lawyer may serve as your representative, advisor, negotiator, intermediary, and/or advocate. With so much interaction and exchange of crucial information, it is excruciatingly important that the client and attorney have grounds for trust in each other. Understanding the responsibility your lawyer owes you and the responsibility you bear towards your attorney may help you establish trust.

Lawyers’ responsibilities to you as a client include these things.

· Adhering to strict rules of conduct and ethics

· Communicating with you effectively and in a timely manner

· Following your instructions

· Representing you in professional manner

· Safekeeping your money or property, and returning it to you promptly when you ask

· Treating you loyally (no conflicts of interest)

· Treating your privileged case information confidentially

Your lawyer needs to be someone you can trust to do what you want and only what you want in your case. He needs to know the right information and know how to communicate that information in a way that reads clear to a specific audience. However, it can prove difficult for an attorney to fulfill his or her responsibilities when the client does not then fulfill their own responsibilities.

Your responsibilities as a client to your lawyer are comprised of these items.

· Attending legal proceedings when asked

· Being accessible and available

· Being cooperative, courteous, and responsive

· Being honest

· Maintaining contact and communication

· Paying your legal bills on time

· Understanding that your lawyer has additional clients

Remember these responsibilities to each other and your lawyer-client relationship should benefit your lawyer as well as you.

When Do You Need Probate Lawyers?

Probably one of the last things you will want to be faced with in life is the untimely death of a loved one. Many of us will face this at some point in time in our lives whether we really are ready to deal with it or not. What many people tend not to think about during the death of a loved one is what is going to be done with all their worldly possessions. If you’re like me, you do not even want to think about this but sometimes it is good to plan ahead just in case. A Probate lawyer is someone that can help because they are estate or trust lawyers.

You do not want to wait until someone has passed away to start looking for a probate lawyer. You will be too overwhelmed to even think clearly, much less find someone that you will trust with your loved ones possessions. It is important that everyone has a last will and testament so that all the loose ends can be easily tied up in the event of a death. It may not be something you want to think about while you are alive, but having a will can be one of the best things you can do for your loved ones while you are still alive.

Probate lawyers can help by assisting you in creating a last will and testament so that your family can rest easy that all your wishes will be carried out after you pass. They can also assist you in trust planning and with powers of attorney and medical powers of attorney.

You may think that you do not need a lawyer to handle all these personal matters of your life, and in a way you are correct. You do not have to hire an attorney to do all of this, but if you do decide to hire one you can rest easy that things will be taken care of correctly. You may try to do things on your own, but since you are not properly trained in all of the matters you may leave some things out and once you have passed there will be nothing that can be done about it at that point.

If you would like, you can write your own last will and testament and then take it to a probate lawyer to look over for you and see if they think you have done a good job. That is if you can find a lawyer that will do such a thing for you. You may want to write your own will and then hire a lawyer to make sure it is properly executed after your death.

Understanding The Role Of A Litigation Lawyer – Attorneys Wear Many Hats

Litigation lawyers perform a variety of duties, but in most cases if you’re looking for a litigation lawyer, Chicago firms can offer you a choice of litigators who are also experienced in other areas of law as well in order to provide clients with better representation. Some, for instance, specialize in elder law or handle estates and trusts. Some attorneys handle criminal litigation by representing criminals in court, while civil litigators work with clients in matters such as contract disputes, non-payment for services, personal injury, or estates.

The Role Of A Litigation Lawyer – Chicago Civil Court, Estates, and Trusts

Getting the best possible outcome for his or her client is the top priority for a litigation lawyer. Chicago residents can find litigation attorneys who will represent them in any type of legal case that is argued in civil court. If it is a personal injury case, your attorney will pursue your rights and try to get the highest compensation allowed by law. In many cases, this will mean going to court and fighting for your rights, but sometimes the best outcome is reached outside of the courtroom. If you are working with a litigation lawyer in Chicago, be sure to discuss the pros and cons of any settlement that is offered to determine whether you should accept a settlement or go all the way to the courtroom with your case.

Some litigation attorneys also handle issues such as the preparation of wills, setting up estates, or probate. These attorneys find that litigation experience is particularly helpful when they are working for clients who are disputing the terms and conditions of a last will and testament or are struggling with the terms of a trust or estate.

A Guardianship Lawyer – Chicago’s Advocate For The Elderly

There are several roles for a guardianship lawyer. Chicago courts recognize the expertise of attorneys who represent elderly clients during the establishment of a trust, living trust, or guardianship in order to protect their assets and lifestyle. A guardianship lawyer can also help clients write and execute an appropriate will.

A guardianship lawyer can administer an estate or trust for clients or represent an individual who is contesting the terms of a will. In this situation, litigation experience can be particularly helpful in order to argue that the estate should be handled in a manner contrary to what is stated in the last will and testament.

If you are an elderly client who is suffering because you feel someone is not handling your affairs properly, you should consult a guardianship lawyer. Chicago has many such attorneys who can represent you if you feel that your current guardian overseeing your finances or making decisions for you is not keeping your best interests in mind. Some older clients put a guardianship in place for themselves with a guardianship attorney handling only their financial concerns, giving them the freedom to continue making day-to-day decisions without the burden of handling finances.

Chicago Probate Attorneys Make Settling An Estate Easier

Chicago probate attorneys either act as the executor of an estate or they help executors who are inexperienced in the probate process as it winds its way through the court system. Most heirs or executors aren’t familiar with the probate process. Chicago probate attorneys can help these individuals by making sure they file all the appropriate paperwork and make an accurate accounting of the estate.

Probate attorneys can also be hired by would-be heirs who feel that a will or estate isn’t valid because the deceased person wasn’t in his or her right mind or because some heirs were inadvertently excluded. In these cases, litigation experience is valuable, since contested wills sometimes turn into unpleasant court battles.

Whether you are the executor of an estate or you’re ready to write a will, take the time to ask your attorney if he or she is also an experienced litigation lawyer. Chicago residents know the value of courtroom experience for guardianship lawyers and Chicago probate attorneys, just in case!

Criminal Lawyers – The Ones to Avoid

You have been charged with a crime and need a lawyer, now what? You know that just like other professionals, there are good and bad lawyers and you want to avoid the bad ones!

If money is not an issue, the answer is easy. Go to the largest law firm in your area and hire them. It is in their best interest to achieve great outcomes because of their reputation. There are no guarantees but at least you will get profession representation. The problem most of us face is we don’t have that kind of money, so here is what to do.

There are certain qualities that distinguish good lawyers from the bad ones. Watch out for these qualities when you hire a criminal lawyer.

Lack of Experience

Experience is the first thing you should take into account when hiring criminal lawyers. A lawyer that has been practicing for years is certainly bound to be better than someone fresh out of law school, at least in the world of criminal law.

Area of Expertise

Would you let your family doctor operate on your heart? Probably not, you would want a heart specialist for that. So it follows that you don’t want a lawyer with a general practice that “does it all”. You want someone who only does criminal defense work full time. You need a criminal lawyer not the guy whose practice is wills, divorces and everything else under the sun.

Google Them

Get online and see what you can find out. Check out any reviews that may be available. Check out their profile in their bar association website, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media sites. You will be surprised at what kind of things you can learn about a person.

About Referrals

It’s always wise to ask for referrals. The obviously thing about referrals is he/she is only going to give you people who are happy with them. That’s fine but a recent track record would be better. Ask them the outcomes of their last 5 cases. You don’t need names and address just how it turned out for the client.

Empty Promises!

Beware of lawyers who promise to “get you off”. It’s only natural that you would want to believe this assurance but no one can guarantee anything. They’re lying.

Exorbitant Charges

Many criminal lawyers take advantage of the fact, that in most cases, looking to hire them are scared and anxious and they take advantage of this by charging exorbitant fees. It is okay to pay a lawyer for the expertise and reputation he has but look out for the greedy ones. You need to shop around to become aware of current fee rates.

Can I Trust You?

It all comes done to trust. When you are interviewing a prospective lawyer you need to ask yourself “can I trust this person” and if the answer isn’t a resounding “yes” then look somewhere else.

Your lawyer is your confidante and you should make sure that you can trust him completely. Choose a person who is sincere, straightforward and knowledgeable and is known to follow strict professional ethics.

Who’s working?

Dedication is as important as trust when you hire a criminal lawyer. You shouldn’t hire a lawyer who cannot dedicate his time to your case. Besides, it is very important that the lawyer you are hiring handles the case himself. Don’t hire someone who will pass it on to a subordinate or a law clerk as this shows his lack of dedication towards your case.

Well I hope this has been helpful. This information may not find you the best lawyer but my hope is you will be able to avoid the bad ones.

Choosing Estate Lawyers Who Will Look Out For Your Best Interests

Selecting your estate lawyers is an important decision. Not only are you trusting this professional to create a plan that supports your wishes, you are also sharing some of the most confidential details of your life with him or her. Here are some things to consider when selecting an attorney.

Selecting Estate Lawyers

Choose an attorney who is experienced in your particular needs. Not all estate lawyers are experts in every aspect of estate law, but they should have a basic understanding of how laws covering one issue may affect others.

Look for specialty designations on the issue you need help with and ask what percentage of their practice is devoted to this subject. Estate planning is a constantly growing field and unscrupulous attorneys might try to capitalize on that by claiming to be experts in wills, trusts and plans when in fact they are not. A specialty designation can give you some measure of comfort that the attorney is knowledgeable on the subject.

Research attorneys before contacting them. Review their websites for educational background, practice specialties and experience. Is the lawyer a member of any local, state or national associations? Make sure to search specialty associations related to your need, such as the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, and see if your attorney is a member.

Search for articles the lawyer or firm may have written and take note of any examples of community involvement they may have participated in or supported. Reach out to friends, neighbors and colleagues to get recommendations.

Finally, although it may sound far-fetched to think this isn’t the case, always contact the state bar association to make sure the lawyer is a member in good standing.

Other Considerations

There are several things to consider besides experience when choosing estate lawyers. Don’t forget the other staff at the law firm. You are likely to have a lot of contact with them. You want staff that is courteous and professional and responds to you in a timely manner.

Look for a local lawyer. Local attorneys are certain to know the state law better than a lawyer who is out of state, not to mention it is more convenient for you to visit the office.

Ask for references. Ideally you will be able to speak to people who have used the lawyer’s services in the past so you can get an idea of his or her client service and communication with clients.

Always ask about fees, payment terms and the cost of the initial consultation. Estate planning is very time-consuming and complex. It is not at all uncommon for these lawyers to charge for the initial consultation. Find out if you will be charged a flat-fee or an hourly rate to have the plan drawn up, then make sure you understand what is included in the fee and ask for a written fee agreement.

Trust Yourself

Throughout all of your research, don’t discount your gut feelings. You’re looking for a lawyer who has the expertise you need, but you should also choose one with whom you feel comfortable. He or she should listen to your needs, concerns and values and be interested in your situation. They should speak to you in terms you understand. Estate lawyers will be delving deep into your life and asking questions about your finances and relationships with friends and family. You want your attorney to be someone you trust and feel you can be open and honest with.

Choosing a lawyer is an important decision and one that will have far-reaching consequences for your future and the future of your children or heirs. Take the time to do a little bit of research to make sure the lawyer you choose has the experience you need and a personality you can trust.

The Meaning of Communication For Lawyers

For lawyers, communication is the keystone for delivery of effective services. From the time a law student enrolls in school, they are taught methods of effective communication. Communication for lawyers is about much more than verbal discussion. It impacts all areas for attorneys, from marketing initiatives through all matters covered under attorney-client privilege.

Most clients do not consult an attorney for pleasant reasons. More often it’s because they have time sensitive problems that create stress and cloud their thinking. It’s up to the lawyer to introduce a note of calm and reason through effective communication.

American Bar Association Rules require attorneys to communicate with their clients in an effective, timely way. In fact, violating this rule is the leading cause for ABA discipline. The reality is that communication is essential for the attorney-client relationship to work.

Lawyers have to be able to plainly and succinctly express themselves in print and in conversation. This is the subject of endless hours of study and drill throughout law school. But in the real world when it comes to marketing communications, what does a lawyer say after “Hello”?

One of the most important sales closing skills that any professional can bring to the table is the ability to listen carefully to what prospects and clients say. This directly relates to the importance of understanding their needs. It also is the single most important factor in being able to respond to them when it comes to winning contracts, and it directly translates to the firm’s bottom line. In order to communicate in any meaningful way, a lawyer has to be able to listen.

Listening goes beyond simply hearing words or understanding the letter of the client’s statements. As we’ve established, most clients are under at least a little bit of pressure or they wouldn’t be consulting an attorney at all. Listening requires that ineffable quality of empathy balanced with pure reason. A good attorney understands what the client is saying when they’re not saying a word, through the context of their communication. The art of listening is developed through experience and practice, and it means moderating content with context.

How to Make Bad News Good For Your Bottom Line

Whether your preferred morning reading is the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post or a local paper, you’re probably reading plenty of bleak economic news. The Dow Jones average is up, then it’s down. First the end of the recession is in sight – but then, no, wait, maybe not. However you aren’t the only one reading the news. Your customers, competition, prospective clients and future employees scan the same business and legal articles you do.

So what are you doing with this information? Are you using it to pass the time over your morning cup of coffee? Or are you using this information as context for your clients? You can leverage the news of the day as an effective business tool in routine conversations to provide perspective and expertise for your clients. Chatting up the news of the day is certainly acceptable in polite society. But it also creates the opportunity for a foot in the door to clients and prospects when the news is relevant to your area of expertise.

Taking this concept one step further, lawyers can use the daily news to create a platform for establishing their own expertise within the media. Writing is often an attorney’s greatest gift. It makes sense then to take advantage of the burgeoning writing opportunities that modern technology presents to all professionals, not just attorneys, and generate new business for the firm.

Online publishing opportunities abound through blogs, guest blogging, article directories and news websites. The shrinking print newspaper business, coupled with a tight economy, and a growing online presence, all create a rich opportunity for lawyers to offer themselves as a credible resource for issues that affect their areas of expertise. In fact, now is a great time not just for lawyers but also for small and mid-sized firms, companies and consultancies to use communication as a primary business development tool.

But if writing for the Wall Street Journal seems out of your league, you may opt to be the big fish in the small pond. Try contacting reporters at your local newspapers and industry publications and offering them an interview. Become their “go-to person,” and your name will appear in more and more of their feature articles as trust is established. Building your reputation as an expert in print will go a long way toward closing the sale before you ever communicate with your prospect.

The meaning of communication for lawyers isn’t just about delivering a one-way discussion to a single client. It embraces the totality of the profession, and it creates a rich opportunity for service.