Start Your Planning Now!

As we dive into this festive season (ho, ho, ho!) and gear up to welcome the promising horizon of a new year, it’s the perfect time to engage in thoughtful reflection and financial preparation. Year-end tax planning isn’t merely a last-minute affair; like estate planning, tax planning is a series of deliberate steps. The key to both is to plan ahead. Failing to plan can lead to unforeseen challenges and complications. Your loved ones deserve better. A well-crafted estate plan safeguards your assets, allows you to make your own choices, ensures your planning is honored, your loved ones are provided for, and can help minimize taxes on your estate. Without estate planning, the distribution of your assets will be subject to the legal system and its complexities, could cause family disputes and conflict, as well as higher tax liabilities. Protecting your legacy and ensuring your loved ones are well cared for requires both careful financial and estate planning which you can put in place now. Taking proactive steps now will save you money, provide invaluable protection for your loved ones and give you peace of mind right away.

To assist you in starting your planning now, below are five actions you can initiate right away to pave the way for tax savings in 2023:

Naming Godparents Does Not Create Legal Guardians

As we start this holiday season, it’s a great time to think about the love of our families. I hope you are blessed this holiday season and will have the opportunity to make many wonderful memories with loved ones.

As a parent, my top priority, of course, was the well-being and future of my children. I am sure that is one of your top priorities as well. You plan for your children’s future, their education, their health, and their happiness.

Godparents

Often, this planning includes the tradition of choosing godparents to guide and mentor your children if something happens to you. A godparent is traditionally someone you name to watch over your child and help them live according to your morals and values. Godparents are meant to be mentors and role models, guiding your child in matters of faith, morality, and character. The role of a godparent is deeply rooted in religious and cultural traditions.

While selecting godparents may be a meaningful tradition, it’s important to understand that naming a godparent is not the same thing as naming a legal guardian for your children. To put it bluntly, even if your child has godparents, if something happens to you, your children could end up in the care of strangers, child protective services, or in the long-term care of someone you would never want raising your children.

Legal Guardians

Naming a legal guardian for your child is a formal, legal process. A legal guardian is someone who has the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of your child, especially if you, as the parent, are unable to do so. This could occur due to your passing, incapacity, or even a temporary situation where you are not available to provide care or make important legal, financial, healthcare, or education decisions for your child. The responsibilities of a legal guardian encompass every area of your child’s life that you would normally manage as a parent. This includes everything from feeding and clothing your child to deciding where they go to school, attending parent-teacher meetings, and which extracurricular activities they participate in. Legal guardianship also includes the decisions about where your child lives and what medical treatment they should or should not receive.

Why Naming Godparents Isn’t Enough

While godparents may be deeply caring and involved in your child’s life, they have no legal authority to make decisions for your child unless they are officially appointed as legal guardians by the court. That means that until that happens (if it happens), your child’s godparents are not legally able to make any decisions for your children, including their basic care needs, education, and medical care.

Without a legal guardian designation (and, ideally, more than one) in writing and signed with the formalities of a Will, godparents may find themselves in an expensive court battle over custody rights, and they may not even be named as the legal guardians of your children at all. In fact, the court could name someone you would never want raising your kids as their legal guardian.

Life-long Legal Protection for Kids

If you’ve already chosen people you trust to serve as lifelong role models and spiritual guardians for your children as their godparents, why not give those people the legal authority to truly perform those duties if something happens to you?

But don’t stop there. The best way to keep your children safe and secure is to create a comprehensive protection plan that keeps your children in the care of the people you choose, no matter what. Ensure your children are protected. Ensure that the authorities know who to contact in an emergency and who can authorize prompt medical care. Make sure your children are never placed in protective custody – even for a minute.

Don’t Let The Online Spooks Haunt You!

It has been exciting to welcome all things fall recently. However, this email is about things that may haunt you and cause you difficulties and suffering. So, pardon me if I get a bit more serious this go-round, as October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. In our world, where many aspects of our lives are tied to our computers and online connection, our online safety has become more significant. Around the globe this month, a month-long campaign is waged to raise awareness about the ever-evolving cyber threats and the crucial measures individuals and organizations need to take to protect themselves against these risks.

Below are five easy tips to help keep you, your family, and your information safe online. I know you are busy. I know it is not easy. I know you think you have better things to do with your time. I also know innocent people, like you and me, who have been victims of cybercrime. Given what scammers and con artists can take from you if they get into your cyber world, the time and effort you take NOW can save you much more time, energy, money, and damages tomorrow.

Women Think Differently

Here’s the Scoop: Why, As Women, We Need to Plan

Ladies, whether we want to admit it or not, most of us, at some point, will find ourselves in an unforeseen situation with the rest of the family looking to us for direction. When this occasion arises, it is best to be prepared and have a plan laid out for whatever the circumstances are. I can’t tell you how many times I have worked with a woman left holding the bag after something happened to their spouse, parent, sibling, etc. This is why planning now could be the best gift you give to future-you.

  • Outliving Our Partners: Whether we like it or not, most women will outlive their partners. That means, ultimately, we will be making all the financial decisions. We need to be ready to take over when that happens, and, in the long run, it will benefit you to be proactive about it. The good news is we can begin together today. I encourage you to sit down and learn the various investments you have. Come up with a plan to provide a safe future for you and your loved ones, and ensure that you put in the effort and forethought now before you have to do it later.
  • Many Changes Occur When You Least Expect: Life can change from what you thought it would look like in the blink of an eye. Divorce, for example, is just one of those changes where friends say, “I never thought it would happen to me!” A sudden injury, disease, or disability are other changes that are hard to predict. When your life experiences change, your estate plan must also reflect these developments.
  • Health First: Health risks for women are much more likely to occur. Cancer and heart disease are equal opportunity risks. If your health declines, you will be thankful for a Healthcare Power of Attorney that sets forth your choices and specific directions. This is an easy step to take now that you will be highly grateful for later.
  • Modern Families: More than ever before, families today are blended families. Blended families can bring challenges and complexity because many moving parts and relationships must be considered. Thorough planning now will ensure that everyone is taken care of later, no matter what. If you die before your children’s step-parent, make sure your children still get what was important that you wanted them to have.
  • Likely Caregiver: Many of us will have no choice but to step up and become caregivers. This is an uncomfortable truth for many women regarding their spouses. Consider and plan for the possibility before it happens. Having this conversation now will also ease any tough decisions or discussions that will need to be had if the situation arises.
  • Boss Ladies: As you build your business, there are ways to protect yourself from the threat of liability. Now that you’re a Boss Lady let’s ensure your business legacy is secure and thriving by having the proper documents in order.
  • Single and Rocking It: Estate Plans aren’t just for married folks! If you are single and never tied the knot, it’s crucial to have an estate plan that lets those left behind know the choices you want made when you can’t make your own decisions and after you are gone. Your loved ones will thank you for making these decisions now, so they are not left guessing your wishes.

Estate planning is NOT a form you borrow from a friend. Estate planning is NOT taking chances with online services that warn this is “not legal advice” and “we are not your lawyer.” You are unique. Your family is unique. What you own and what you’ve built is unique. What you leave behind when you exit will be unique. Estate planning is about protecting you and your loved ones with a plan tailored to you and your life. Today is the day to start planning for your future and the probabilities and possibilities.

Let’s chat about crafting a unique plan for you and your legacy. Don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss your specific needs. You can call to schedule an appointment at 719-434-0000.

Paying It Forward: How to Build Your Legacy Through Mentoring

I can readily look back and see those people who have profoundly impacted my success, both as a child and as an adult. I had, and still have, teachers and mentors that helped me build my character and ultimately assisted me in becoming successful. I couldn’t have done it without them. I will forever be grateful!

Opportunities to mentor abound. Have you tried it? One of the ways that I give back now is through the youth group at my church. Every Wednesday evening, you will find me sitting on the floor in a room with 7th-grade girls. Why? Because I know how important having a mentor can be and I have an opportunity to play a role in the lives of these young women.

By investing time and effort in mentoring, you demonstrate the essence of leadership and envision a brighter future for the coming generations by actively nurturing and passing on knowledge to younger individuals.

Mentees benefit when they are encouraged to pursue their goals and work towards a brighter future. Not only does mentoring give you the opportunity to invest in the life of another person, but it can also provide you with a unique perspective on your life and a chance to create a lasting impact in the community. As you engage in the mentorship process, you’ll find yourself reflecting on your own goals, seeking to provide a valuable experience for those you mentor.

As an Estate Planning lawyer, I recognize that true success and satisfaction arise from building a legacy that reflects who you are and your values as a leader- both personally and professionally. I have adopted a heart-centered approach to help individuals define and build their estate plans and their legacies. To discover how I can assist you in achieving your vision, schedule a free 15-minute call to discuss your plans and dreams for your family and your future.

Adulting 101

In today’s rapidly changing world, young adults often find themselves navigating a multitude of responsibilities and decisions as they embark on their journeys toward independence. While estate planning might seem like a topic more relevant to older generations, it holds a crucial significance for young adults as well. The truth is unforeseen circumstances can affect anyone at any stage of life, underscoring the importance of having essential estate planning documents in place. These documents provide a sense of security and control over one’s future and offer a practical way to ensure that one’s wishes are honored in situations that may involve medical emergencies, financial uncertainties, or unexpected life events. As such, young adults (and their parents) increasingly recognize the value of establishing these foundational legal instruments early on to safeguard their well-being and protect their assets.

What legal documents do your young adults need when they turn 18?

It’s great that you’re considering legal documents for a young adult at 18. At this point, individuals become legal adults and have certain rights and responsibilities. Some essential legal documents for a young adult to consider include:

1. Healthcare Power of Attorney: This document designates someone to make medical decisions on their behalf if they are unable to do so themselves.

2. Durable Power of Attorney: This grants someone the authority to manage their financial affairs if they become incapacitated.

3. Living Will: Also known as an advance directive, a living will outlines their preferences for medical treatment and end-of-life care.

4. Last Will and Testament: While typically associated with older adults, it’s never too early to create a will to outline how they want their assets distributed in case of their passing.

5. HIPAA Authorization: This allows healthcare providers to share medical information with designated individuals.

6. Digital Assets: As technology becomes more integral to our lives, it’s important to consider what should happen to their online accounts and digital property after their passing.

Some additional legal documents to consider include:

7. Rental Agreement: If they’re moving out of their parent’s home or living independently, a rental agreement can help outline their responsibilities as a tenant.

8. Bank Account Documents: If they’re opening a bank account, they will likely need identification documents and possibly a parent or guardian’s signature if they’re under 18.

10. Student Loan Agreements: If they’re pursuing higher education and taking out loans, they should be aware of the terms and conditions of their loans.

Remember, legal requirements can vary from state to state, which is why it’s a good idea to consult with an attorney when your young adult is ready to set up their first estate plan.

Why do parents want to have their 18-year-old child’s legal documents in order?

Parents often want to ensure that their 18-year-old child has their legal documents in order for several important reasons:

1. Healthcare Decisions: Legal documents like a Healthcare Power of Attorney and a Living Will can allow parents to make medical decisions on their child’s behalf if they cannot do so themselves. This becomes crucial in case of accidents, emergencies, or medical situations where the young adult cannot communicate their wishes.

2. Financial Management: With a Durable Power of Attorney, parents can manage their child’s financial affairs if the child becomes incapacitated. This can be especially helpful when the young adult is away at college or living independently and needs assistance with financial matters.

3. Peace of Mind: Parents naturally worry about their children’s well-being. Knowing that their child has taken steps to address important legal matters can provide parents with peace of mind, knowing that their child’s interests are protected even if they are not directly involved in every decision.

4. Asset Distribution: While it might not be pleasant to think about, having a Last Will and Testament ensures that the young adult’s assets are distributed according to their wishes in case of their passing. This can help prevent confusion, disputes, and potential legal issues among family members.

5. Privacy and Communication: Documents like HIPAA Authorization allow parents to access their child’s medical information and communicate with healthcare providers if necessary. This can be critical in situations where quick decisions need to be made about medical treatment.

6. Transition to Independence: As young adults transition to independence, having these legal documents in place empowers them to take control of their own lives while still having a safety net in case of unexpected events.

7. Avoiding Legal Complications: Without proper legal documentation, parents might face challenges in accessing their child’s medical or financial information, making decisions on their behalf, or managing their affairs if needed. These challenges can be avoided with the appropriate legal documents in place.

8. Educational and Employment Needs: Some legal documents, such as what is needed when signing rental agreements or managing student loans, might be necessary as young adults pursue higher education or enter the workforce.

By helping your young adult put their first estate plan in order, you, as a parent, demonstrate your support, care, and commitment to your child’s well-being and future. It teaches your young adult responsibility and becomes a great lesson that will benefit your child as they move through life. If you have any further questions about what legal documents your young adult might need, or you are ready to make some moves and start to get these in order, contact Cris Carter Law today.

Brains & Gains: The Importance of Brain Health

In an increasingly fast-paced and demanding world, the significance of maintaining optimal brain health cannot be overstated. Often dubbed as the body’s most intricate and essential organ, the brain serves as the command center for every facet of our existence, from decision-making and problem-solving to emotions and memories. As research continues to uncover the intricate interplay between lifestyle choices, mental well-being, and cognitive function, the imperative of preserving and enhancing brain health becomes all the more evident. Nurturing our brain’s vitality through mindful practices and informed choices is paramount to leading a fulfilling and cognitively empowered life.

I have shared below six tips for helping maintain brain health in your day-to-day life. These are easy to practice and will help your overall health, not to mention help keep your brain in tip-top shape.

Make Family Communication All That it Can Be!

No relationship is immune to conflict. Sooner or later, you, your partner, your children, and others in a relationship with you are bound to not see eye-to-eye about something. Research shows it is how you handle communication with others that will determine both the health and success of your relationships. And we all want our relationships to be as healthy as possible, right? Check out the infographic below from The Gottman Institute. Perhaps you have never heard of The Gottman Institute. The Gottman Institute is a resource that I have followed for years and that I have found to have great value in helping me understand how to communicate with others more successfully. What I have learned from The Gottman Institute has benefitted me personally, professionally, and in every aspect of life, which is why I am sharing it with you. I encourage you to learn about The Four Horsemen. Even more important is learning how to avoid having The Four Horsemen be part of your communication patterns. You can access more information from The Gottman Institute here.

Tips for Your July 4th Holiday Weekend

Make Sure You Have All Your Fourth of July Party Supplies

Whether you are heading out to your backyard, or getting together with family or friends, the Fourth of July holiday is the unofficial start to summer and backyard party season. Here is a quick checklist to make your Fourth of July planning easier. Make it even easier by asking others to help. 

Fourth of July Party Checklist

  • Folding table, picnic table, festive tablecloth & napkins (maybe even a centerpiece!)
  • Lawn Chairs, folding chairs, camp chairs, umbrellas, or shade tents
  • Paper or plastic plates, cups, and eating utensils
  • Plenty of fresh water; a water dispenser & a cooler
  • Smores sticks, marshmallows, chocolates, and graham crackers
  • Bug spray, sunscreen, citronella candles
  • Flags, party favors, fireworks
  • Sprinkler, pool, water guns
  • Music, playing device, portable speakers
  • Backyard games, cornhole, dodge ball, badminton, Twister, or cards
  • First Aid kit
  • Towels, blankets
  • Paper towels and cleanup supplies

Now that the party is underway plan for a SAFE 4th of July. Here are a few tips to keep everyone safe during the festivities.

4th of July Safety Tips

  1. Before using any fireworks, read the instructions and labels carefully.
  2. Designate one responsible adult to monitor and be responsible for all Fireworks. Ensure your firework handler wears protective eyewear when handling and igniting fireworks.
  3. Create a Safe Area where you plan to ignite the fireworks. Ensure that friends and family are at a safe distance away and that trees, shelters, or shrubbery are not in the trajectory of the fireworks.
  4. Know where your water source is should anything unexpected occur. Keep a filled bucket of water handy. (the dog will love that!)
  5. Keep a keen eye out for the kids and people that act like kids during the fireworks.
  6. Have everyone maintain a safe distance from the fireworks to protect them from potential harm.
  7. Trash fireworks that didn’t light. Don’t relight. Wait and then soak those fireworks in water before disposing of them properly.
  8. Protect Your Pets! If your pet doesn’t like the noise of fireworks, leave them at home. If you bring your pet with you, make sure they are cool and comfortable. Their paws are sensitive and burn on the hot pavement just like your hand would. If it is too hot to touch for 10 seconds, it is too hot for your pet.