Estate Planning Lessons from the Recent Earthquakes and Turmoil

Unanticipated disasters, such as economic downturns and the Japanese earthquakes and related nuclear problems, point to the urgent need of assessing your estate plan. A complete estate plan addresses your top priorities if you die or become incapacitated. Planning now will alleviate problems later when something happens to you.

Financial planners suggest making a list of assets and the location of bank records, loan details, insurance policies and other vital documents. Good financial planners will refer you to a competent estate planning attorney to plan who will be your appointed heirs or beneficiaries, personal representative (executor), and agent under power of attorney documents.

Charles Schwab, for example, correctly states that only an estate-planning attorney can create a will, trust, power of attorney and other documents to truly carry out your wishes. Legal counsel is particularly important for an individual who has children from a prior marriage or concerns should a surviving spouse remarry. Skilled estate lawyers will also advise when it is best to transfer assets through gifting. Although the recipient will not have gift tax levied on the gift, the donor might. Only a skilled estate-planning lawyer can advise you in such matters.

Poor estate planning will cost you more money in the long run. Although using a will kit or preprinted form might save you money now, your heirs (and perhaps you) will pay more later. For example, probate in Florida is lengthy and expensive, and it adds to the headache your heirs will suffer with when you die. Also, creditors can come after your assets if isn’t protected by the estate documents. Taxes levied on estates can make a huge dent in remaining assets. A good estate plan can minimize costs, creditor claims, and taxes, although in many cases those items cannot be eliminated entirely.

“Family, money and death are a combustible combination,” said author and attorney Les Kotzer, whose book, Where There’s an Inheritance, outlines 80 stories from his law practice and radio show about the ups and downs of estate planning for clients.

It’s unfortunate that sibling and family issues sometimes come to the forefront and cause drawn-out battles. It helps for a parent to already have a plan in place and be specific about who gets what to take the emotion out of the process. And should the finances fluctuate, a person can stipulate, for example, “my favorite charity can get the lesser of $50,000 or 10 percent of my estate”. Oftentimes a trusted family friend or a licensed estate trustee is a better person to carry out your plan, thereby keeping the family intact.

What’s even more concerning than the potential for family squabbles is how many Americans do not have an estate plan. A recent survey showed 44 percent of Americans do not have a will, living will, power of attorney, or trust, and they say the recession has them focusing on only necessary bills.

Estate planning is not just for the wealthy or older people. In just a few meetings, an experienced estate plan lawyer can protect and preserve a person’s wishes. In fact, in most cases Brandon, Florida estate planning attorney Reginald Osenton plans an estate in two meetings – one to discuss his client’s situation and wishes and one to sign the estate planning documents. Osenton has counseled thousands of clients to ensure they have a strong plan in place and update it regularly. Attorney Laurel Tesmer also has counseled many estate planning clients. Osenton Law Offices P.A., is well versed in the latest regulatory and legal developments in estate planning, and they use their experience for the benefits of their clients.

O. Reginald (“Reggie”) Osenton is the Owner and President of Osenton Law Offices, P.A. If you need a Brandon bankruptcy lawyer, Tampa bankruptcy lawyer, or Tampa bankruptcy attorney, call 813.654.5777 or visit

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