Keystone Law Firm - January 2018

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Trust Matters The Probate Pipeline Why We Do Things Differently JANUARY 2018 (480) 418-8448 | KEYSTONELAWFIRM.COM

subtle, insidious advertising. Who are these grief-stricken people going to call if they need help with an estate dispute, or if their $300 dollar will slips into probate? They’ll call the person whose name is on all the documents, of course. This is the vicious, money-making cycle behind all those cheap wills and trusts. A bare-minimum will often leads to probate, requiring further estate planning to sort out the mess. As I’ve written about in my book, probate is nothing short of a nightmare. It’s traumatic, prolonged, and most important to the industry, expensive. This is why many planners aren’t interested in preventing it from happening. These hucksters build what I call a “probate pipeline.” The documents they provide at the outset are so bad, they seem designed to get mourning families into the courtroom. These sorts of disputes are where they make their real money.

As an experienced estate planner, I’ve seen the ugly underbelly of this industry. Many planners prey on the fears of vulnerable people to make a living. Yes, there are those out there who legitimately

want to help families and who fight to keep their clients out of probate. But they are the exception, not the rule. Too many firms rely on the grief and indecision of their clients to stay in business. Let me explain. Most of the industry operates by offering inexpensive documentation to lure in clients. A new planner might hang their shingle advertising $300 wills or trusts

“The documents they provide at the outset are so bad, they seem designed to get mourning families into the courtroom. These sorts of disputes are where they make their real money.”

This is, for lack of better words, messed up. The way things are, the system incentivizes bad or incomplete documentation. When planners stand to make money off of a probate case, why would they fight to keep it from happening? We at Keystone recognize this temptation, which is why we’re doing our part to break the cycle.

We do estate planning that works for you. It’s right in our contract: if you

starting as low as $499. These cheap plans are designed for mass- market appeal — and they work. This upstart suddenly gets hundreds of eager clients, all of whom believe they are protecting their family’s future. This is where things get really ugly. The estate planner begins to play a waiting game. A few years pass, maybe as many as five or 10, then the members of their large clientele begin to die. The bereft families receive their end of life documents, with the planner’s name written on every letterhead. This works as a sort of

end up in probate, we pay the probate fees, subject to the terms and conditions of your engagement agreement, of course. This means we’re incentivized to always have you and your family’s best interests at heart. What a novel idea.



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As you approach retirement, it’s important to make sure your lifestyle is tailored to fit the end of your working life. This concept, known as “rightsizing,” can make your savings last longer, which provides you with the freedom to enjoy your later years. Kathy Gottberg, author of “Rightsizing: A Smart Living 365 Guide to Reinventing Retirement,” defines the concept as “conscious choices for a better lifestyle that more closely fits your new needs in retirement.” The earlier you can begin rightsizing, the more prepared you’ll be for the days when you no longer have an income from work. For most of us, what really matters when we retire is spending time with loved ones and having memorable experiences. Nobody’s greatest regret is not having enough stuff. With that in mind, here are a few tips that will prepare you for a fruitful and fulfilling retirement. Clear Out Unneeded Goods If you’ve been in the same home for years or decades, you probably have more stuff than you need. Start by discarding anything that’s broken, damaged, or simply not getting any use. You should also make sure you’re not acting as a storage unit for friends or family members. If they don’t have the space for something, it shouldn’t be your job to hang on to it. Eliminating clutter will free up your space and allow you to treasure what you have. Move Into a House You Can Fill Once all of your children have left the nest, you’ll often find that you don’t need as many rooms. Selling your home and moving into one that isn’t

half-empty will generate some extra cash and help you to live more efficiently.

As an added bonus, you’ll often find that a cozier home increases happiness. The less time you have to spend on home maintenance, the more you can devote to the activities you love. Change Your Mindset

Too often, we suffer from the urge to “keep up with the Joneses.” If our neighbor buys something, we want it too. But to really rightsize, you should resist the urge to

meet other people’s standards. Retirement should help you make the most of your life, not anyone else’s. Before you make a purchase, especially a large one, ask yourself what’s motivating your decision. If it’s not going to make your life better, leave it on the shelf.

Every Stage of Life

How Debra Found Keystone

Debra Lee’s search for an estate planner began across the street from a Starbucks. She and her husband, Tony, wanted to put their first documents in order. The practice they chose was a modest one. As she recalls, “For 500 bucks, it was a start.”

Then, Tony fell ill. Debra had to split her time between visiting her husband at the hospital and raising their two daughters. To make matters worse, their distant attorney sent them a bill out of the blue. “We were quoted $400 and received a bill for $1,500 with no explanation.” This was the last thing Debra should have had to worry about. Tony soon succumbed to his illness. Debra had to wrestle with her grief along with the financial burden of raising her daughters without her husband’s income. Overwhelmed with the paperwork of settling Tony’s estate, she turned to a firm recommended to her by a friend — Keystone. “I love everything about Keystone, especially their integrity,” Debra says. “With something this important, I needed someone who would take their time with me and listen to what I want. I knew I had found the law firm I was looking for.” Today, Debra is forging a life for her daughters. She knows she won’t need Keystone’s help often, but she says it feels good to know we’ll be there when she does.

A few years passed, and then Solange was born. Having had their first daughter, Debra realized it was time to get serious about planning for their future. The couple found a new attorney to add Solange to their plans. While they did receive better documentation, they were not at all satisfied with the service they received. The attorney treated Debra and Tony like strangers. This was an affront to Debra, who values professional relationships. “My husband and I wouldn’t even go into a coffee shop if we didn’t like the customer service.” It was a shame to lack any sort of connection with someone responsible for something as personal as estate documents.

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CONTROL YOUR CARE Formalize Your Health Care Instructions There are many precautions we take for our future health, including eating healthy foods, exercising, and paying for health insurance, just in case. But one step we often don’t take is setting aside clear health care instructions should a situation arise in which we’re unable to make those decisions ourselves. Lacking these important legal documents can complicate matters for you and your loved ones at the worst possible time. If you slip into a coma, suffer dementia, or are otherwise incapacitated, your licensed physicians will request legal documentation of the care you have authorized. If these documents do not exist, the health care facility can demand a court-appointed guardian to make these decisions on your behalf. This means your loved ones will have to spend time and money publicly appealing to a judge for the right to give you the care you’d want. This process adds to your family’s burden during a time when they would otherwise be focused on giving you love and support. Even after going through this trying legal ordeal, your loved ones may find themselves in the difficult position of having to make very serious decisions about your health. Without clear instructions, they may spend the rest of their lives asking themselves whether they made the right choice. When you take the time to put your health care decisions in the proper legal format, you’ve given you and your family a gift. Not only do you receive the care you want, you also ensure your loved one’s peace of mind by removing all unknowns and preventing a lengthy court battle. The unexpected can happen to any of us, and when it does, it’s too late to formalize anything. Consider hiring a professional estate planner to ensure your health stays in good hands.



East-West Snackers

Make this

delicious appetizer for your next family gathering, party, or the big game! The East- meets-West flavor is sure to please your guests!


1/3 cup canola oil, divided

1 (10-ounce) can tomatoes and green chilies, well-drained 1 cup finely shredded colby jack cheese

40 wonton wrappers

1 (15-ounce) can chili, no beans

1 cup chow mein noodles


1. Heat oven to 350 F.

dividing evenly among tarts.

Oil mini-muffin pans. Place wrapper in each cup. Lightly brush oil on each wrapper. Bake 5 minutes.

3. Bake 8–10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and from pans. 4. Sprinkle chow mein noodles on top of each tart.

2. Mix together the chili, tomatoes, and chilies. Place 1 teaspoon of filling in each cup. Sprinkle cheese on top,


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Escape to Nicaragua The Country That Has Something for Everyone

After the hectic holiday season, many of us feel like we need another vacation just to unwind. Luckily, January and February are two of the best months to travel. Flight prices plummet and crowds thin out after the Christmas rush. If you’re looking to escape the dreary winter weather, there’s no better place to visit this season than Nicaragua, the “Central American country that has it all,” as Condé Nast Traveler puts it. Whether you’re looking to explore the rainforests surrounding the Río San Juan or get lost in the quirky-yet-beautiful architecture of Granada, there’s something for everyone in this tropical wonderland. One must-see destination is the Cerro Negro volcano. Just a baby at 150 years old, it’s one of the most active volcanoes in the region. It only takes about an hour to scale its smoking, black gravel surface, and the verdant forests surrounding the peak are a sight to behold. Adventurous travelers can board down the side, reaching ludicrous speeds as they teeter and try not to fall. In fact, it’s almost impossible to travel anywhere in the country without seeing an “I boarded a volcano” T-shirt. If relaxing on a pearlescent beach is more your speed, take a short boat trip out to the Corn Islands. There, you can amble around the small towns bordering the shockingly blue Pacific, visit a number of laid-back seafood restaurants, get scuba certified for a fraction of the price anywhere else in the world, or just read your book as you swing in a hammock by the waves.

You can also visit the gorgeous, alabaster Our Lady of Grace Cathedral in “new” Léon. The biggest church in all of Central America, this unique Baroque and neoclassicist structure was built in 1814. Visitors can climb onto its roof (as long as they don’t wear shoes) and bask in the view of surrounding volcanoes (including Cerro Negro). If you’re planning on heading to Nicaragua, it’s best to do it soon. Neighbor Costa Rica often overflows with tourists, and instead of wading through the crowds there, many travelers are catching on to what Nicaragua has to offer.

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