The Montana Estate Lawyer

Thursday, September 24, 2020

The Work of a Legal Assistant

If you Google “Legal Assistant” you would find job descriptions that list seemingly boring administrative tasks with perhaps a few interesting things mixed in. You might even find the ever-popular joke:

Legal assistant (n.)
a person who babysits lawyers

People have a lot of ideas about what Chris, Charlene, LaTonya, Adair and I do – ideas ranging from Roz in Monsters Inc. to Elle Woods in Legally Blonde.

We wanted to give you an idea of what it’s really like to work at Scott, Tokerud & McCarty.

Read more . . .

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Preparing for Coronavirus: The #1 Legal Document Every Adult Needs to Have

As the coronavirus continues to disrupt daily life and leave Americans uncertain of the future, you don’t have to feel helpless during this pandemic. In fact, now is a great time to be proactive and plan ahead should you or a loved one fall ill. One of the most important and relatively easy things you can do (and should do) is to select a healthcare agent and set up your advance healthcare directive. 

What Is a Healthcare Agent?
A healthcare agent (also called a medical agent, healthcare surrogate, a healthcare proxy, or a medical proxy) is a person you authorize in a healthcare or medical power of attorney to make decisions about your medical care if you are too ill to make them yourself or are otherwise unable to communicate your wishes. 

Read more . . .

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Five Common Mistakes with "DIY" Estate Plans

In light of the current pandemic, many people are becoming aware of the importance of creating or updating their estate planning documents. With the extension of some states’ stay in place orders, it may be tempting to create your own documents all on your own. Whether you are considering writing your own will or using an online “do it yourself” (DIY) document creator, there are many reasons why this is one project you shouldn’t undertake without the help of a professional.

What is a DIY estate plan? 

A DIY estate plan is something that you “do yourself” without the advice of an estate planning attorney. Someone who DIYs their own legal documents could be:

Read more . . .

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Important Steps to Protect Your Special Beneficiaries

All children are a blessing. From the day they are born, you begin making plans to ensure that your child or grandchild has a bright future. What will their interests be? What job will they have? Who will they marry? While these are common concerns for most families, for those with a special needs child or grandchild, taking steps to ensure they have a safe, happy, and healthy future is even more important due to the additional hurdles they may face. To help provide a prosperous future for your special needs child or grandchild, we suggest the following steps:

1. Have a Special/Supplemental Needs Trust Prepared
One of the first things you can do in your estate planning is establish a special or supplemental needs trust (SNT) for the benefit of your child or grandchild.

Read more . . .

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Protect Your Finances From Coronavirus Complications

Many Americans spend a lot of time and effort in managing their finances. While most are worried about how the coronavirus (COVID-19) will impact their income—whether that’s because they are temporarily furloughed, find themselves suddenly without a job, or watching their investment and retirement accounts dwindle—there is another way COVID-19 can wreak havoc on American’s finances: lack of incapacity planning.  

As the coronavirus continues to expand across the country, thousands of Americans are unable to carry out normal financial responsibilities because they are too ill, or they are stuck abroad and unable to travel home, or from a lack of resources due to being isolated at home. 

While feeling healthy, individuals should plan ahead now and ensure that someone will take care of their financial duties by setting up a Financial Power of Attorney. This important legal document will not only protect your finances should you fall ill from COVID-19 but also from any events that might leave you incapacitated, like an injury or accident.

Read more . . .

Thursday, May 7, 2020

What should I do if I've received a Covid-19 Stimulus Check for a deceased person?

It has come to our attention that some of our clients have received an Economic Impact Payment, authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), for a person who is no longer living.

If you receive an Economic Impact Payment for a person who is no longer living, do not cash the check or use the funds. 

According to the Internal Revenue Service Website, a deceased person is not eligible to receive the payment. 

A Payment made to someone who died before receipt of the Payment should be returned to the IRS by following the instructions about repayments. Return the entire Payment unless the Payment was made to joint filers and one spouse had not died before receipt of the Payment, in which case, you only need to return the portion of the Payment made on account of the decedent.
Read more . . .

Thursday, March 26, 2020

CORONAVIRUS / COVID 19: Essential Estate Planning Considerations for Yourself and Loved Ones

With the threat and uncertainty of COVID-19, many people may be thinking about what they should be doing to prepare for and handle their personal estate planning needs or those of an elderly family member. Here is a checklist of estate planning essentials.

Healthcare or medical power of attorney.  This document allows you to designate a person or persons to assist you with your personal affairs and medical care.  It allows for a family member or close friend to make decisions on your behalf about medical treatment options if you lose the ability to decide for yourself.

Read more . . .

Thursday, February 13, 2020

If A Decedent Dies Without A Will, How Are The Assets Distributed?

Each state has statutes called “Intestacy” statutes that are referred to when an individual dies without a Will. These statutes dictate intestate succession, which is how “probate” property is to be distributed to the decedent’s heirs. 

What is probate property, or, stated another way, when is a probate necessary? Generally speaking, probate is necessary when a person dies leaving property in his or her own name (such as a house titled in the name of the decedent) or having rights to receive property (such as a wrongful death claim or debt owed to a decedent). However, not all property in which the decedent has an interest will be subject to probate. There are certain kinds of property which pass to a new owner on death without going through probate, such as:

• Property which is owned by the decedent and another person as joint tenants with right of survivorship will pass automatically to the surviving joint owner without going through probate.
Read more . . .

Thursday, January 16, 2020

The SECURE Act and Your Estate Plan

On December 20, 2019, President Trump signed the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act (SECURE Act). The Act became effective on January 1, 2020 and impacts retirement accounts. Among other things, the Act increases the start date for required minimum distributions (RMDs) from 70 ½ years of age to 72 years of age, eliminates the contribution age limit for qualified accounts, and allows penalty-free withdrawals of $5,000 for the birth or adoption of a new child. One of the more  significant and key provisions of the Act changes the way designated beneficiaries receive the funds after the account owner has died. 

In the past, designated beneficiaries had the opportunity to “stretch the account” – taking distributions over their individual life expectancy.
Read more . . .

Thursday, December 26, 2019

New Year's Resolutions

(I originally posted this almost ten years ago, but it still holds true today.)

We all make New Year’s resolutions.  Losing weight, exercising, learning a new language . . .
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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Myth: A Will Avoids Probate

Many people believe that once they have created a Will--whether drafted by an experienced attorney or using a do-it-yourself solution or online form--they have avoided probate. Unfortunately, they are wrong.

A Will is a way to designate a person to wind up your affairs once you have died, determine who will get your hard-earned savings and property, and, if necessary, appoint a guardian to care for your minor children. However, it is not self-effectuating. The Will has to be submitted to the probate court to formally determine its validity, appoint the person you have designated, called a Personal Representative, and begin the process of distributing your money and property.
Read more . . .

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