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OakstoneLaw.com is up and running!

We’re very excited about our new site! Almost as much as we are about our new firm. (By the way, the firm is up and running too.)

We intend to fill this site up with practical info about life & estate planning, trust planning, estate settlement (you get the idea).

Our goal with this site – and in our work – is to help you make your family’s future solid.

Feel free to browse our blog, which will appear right here on the homepage (below) so there’s something new every week. Also please take a look at our About Us and Services pages to get a better feel for what we can do for you. And because life can get a little jargon-y, we’ve included a handy Glossary on the site to help with some vocabulary.

If you have any questions for us or need some help, click here to ask a question. Of course you can always use the trusty Contact Us page with address, directions and more contact info.

If you’d like to speak with us more directly, click on one of the Click to Schedule buttons you’ll find above and/or to the right. You pick a time on our calendar and we’ll call you then. Piece of cake.

(Oh, and please sign up for our email updates – click here to sign up or enter your email address in any of the signup boxes near the top of any page.)

Thank you very much for visiting. We hope you find something helpful for your family in these pages. If we can do anything at all to improve them, or do anything for your family, please do not hesitate to get in touch!

How Do Other People Handle Estate Planning?

If you’re thinking hard about how to transfer wealth to the next generation(s), you’ve probably asked this question already. “How do other people handle estate planning?” Your intentions are good, and doing research can be helpful in many situations. But in estate planning, this sort of thinking leads to one thing: Procrastination.

Trust and wealth transfer questions are hard. Hard questions cause us great discomfort. Questions like:

  • Who should the trustee be?
  • How much should the beneficiaries get and when?
  • Should they get it outright at certain ages?
  • Should we “incentivize”?
  • How do I avoid “ruining” my children and grandchildren?

It’s overwhelming, so we need a shortcut: “What does everyone else do?”

Here’s what they do: They do what’s right for their families. “Well, that’s no help,” you might say. But neither is looking at what the Joneses, Buffetts or Rockefellers did, either.

Those families are and were full of individuals. Individuals who may or may not be anything like the ones in your family.

Each family has different:

  • values;
  • social habits;
  • education levels;
  • ideas about money;
  • ideas about work; and
  • people.

So, it’s much more important to ask, “What should we do?” Rather than, “What did they do?” Think about your family. Who knows them better than you?

Here’s a suggestion: Take a short break from the research about famous trusts and about how famous families transferred their wealth. While you’re at it, you can skip the stories about how much Mr. Thurston Howell III thinks his kids should have. All of this is nothing more than a diversion.

How to get started? Just start. Break it into digestible pieces:

  1. What concepts and values are pivotal to you? Are you all about hard work, and you want to help your kin see the virtue in that? Are you more interested in broadening horizons? Art? Giving back?
  2. Who are the key players? List them – include yourself and your spouse (if you have one), and all those you think of when you think of your family.
  3. What are they like? What do they want to be? Likely, some of them are unsure (or “lost”). But, do you know what motivates them?
  4. How far apart are your answers to #1 and #3? What single action could you take this week that might close that gap? (Pick up the phone, send an email, schedule a dinner?)
  5. Can you articulate your biggest worries about handing off the reins to what you have built? (As you know, you can’t take it with you.)

You wrote all your answers down, right? No?

Ok, then get going – quick bullet points that only you can read are fine for now. When you’re done, you’ll have a place to begin and an initial road map.

And you won’t have to stop and ask a Rockefeller for directions.

Just Give It All Away?

Warren Buffett. Bill and Melinda Gates.

They and others make headlines when they promise to give the bulk of their billions away. Why do these estate plans attract headlines and media attention? Mostly because we find it surprising when a billionaire announces he’s giving it all away. So, right off the bat it’s a good story (see Chip and Dan Heath’s book, Made to Stick for more on why surprise is important to getting a tale retold).

But there also seems something noble about it. Almost Super-American. It’s as if these folks are saying, “Look, this country is awesome. I made a fortune. My kids can make one too if they work hard enough. So they don’t need my wealth. In fact, they’ll be better off if they make their own.”

So it makes a great American story. And the concept has a simplicity about it. The wrinkle-free estate plan: give it all away! That resonates with many of us.

So why don’t you just give all your wealth away like Warren & Bill?

Not so simple? Here’s why:

Continue Reading →

The Two Types of Trust Distributions

Part of our Estate & Trust 101 series. Great place to start if all of this trust lingo is a foreign language to you (as it is to most people).

The question that trust creators, trustees, and beneficiaries alike all want answered is, “How much (and when) will the trustee distribute?”

The answer comes down to the trust agreement, and whether it provides that distributions are:

  1. mandatory; or
  2. discretionary.

These are the two types of trust distributions, and they are pulled apart below.

Continue Reading →