Don't Forget to Plan for Your Digital Assets - Part 2

In the first part of this series, we discussed the importance of including your digital assets in your estate plan. Here, we’ll talk about the best ways to get started with this process 

Today, estate planning encompasses not just tangible property like finances and real estate, but also digital assets like cryptocurrency, blogs, and social media. With so much of our lives now lived online, it’s vital you put the proper estate planning provisions in place to ensure your digital assets are effectively protected and passed on in the event of your incapacity or death.

However, because many types of online assets have only been in existence for a handful of years, there are very few laws governing how they should be dealt with through estate planning. And due to their virtual and often anonymous nature, just locating and accessing some of these assets can be extremely difficult for those you leave behind.

Given these unique challenges, last week we discussed some of the most common types of digital assets and the legal landscape surrounding them. Here, we offer some practical tips to ensure all of your digital property is effectively incorporated into your estate plan.

Best practices for including digital assets in your estate plan

If you’re like most people, you probably own numerous digital assets, some of which likely have significant monetary and/or sentimental value. Other types of online property may have no value for anyone other than yourself or be something you’d prefer your family and friends not access or inherit.

To ensure all of your digital assets are accounted for, managed, and passed on in exactly the way you want, you should take the following steps:

1. Create an inventory: Start by creating a list of all your digital assets, including the related login information and passwords. Password management apps such as LastPass can help simplify this effort. From there, store the list in a secure location, and provide detailed instructions to your fiduciary about how to access it and get into the accounts. Just like money you’ve hidden in a safe, if no one knows where it is or how to unlock it, these assets will likely be lost forever.

2. Back up assets stored in the cloud: If any of your digital assets are stored in the cloud, back them up to a computer and/or other physical storage device on a regular basis, so fiduciaries and family members can access them with fewer obstacles. That said, don’t forget to also include the location and login info of these cloud-based assets in case you don’t have a chance—or forget—to back them all up.

3. Add your digital assets to your estate plan: Include specific instructions in your will, trust, and/or other estate planning documents about the heir(s) you want to inherit each asset, along with how you’d like the accounts managed in the future, if that’s an option. Some assets might be of no value to your family or be something you don’t want them to access, so you should specify that those accounts and files be closed and/or deleted by your fiduciary.

Do NOT provide the specific account info, logins, or passwords in your estate planning documents, which can be easily read by others. This is especially true for wills, which become public record upon your death. Keep this information stored in a secure place, and let your fiduciary know how to find and use it.

It’s also a good idea to include terms in your estate plan allowing your fiduciary to hire an IT consultant if necessary. This will help him or her manage and troubleshoot any technical challenges that come up, particularly with highly complex and/or encrypted assets.

4. Limit access: In your plan, you should also include instructions for your fiduciary about what level of access you want him or her to have. For example, do you want your executor to be able to read all of your emails and social media posts before deleting them or passing them on to your heirs? If there are any assets you want to limit access to, we can help you include the necessary terms in your plan to ensure your privacy is honored.

5. Include relevant hardware: Don’t forget that your estate plan should also include provisions for any physical devices—smartphones, computers, tablets, flash drives—on which the digital assets are stored. Having quick access to this equipment will make it much easier for your fiduciary to access, manage, and transfer the online assets. Since the data can be wiped clean, you can even leave these devices to someone other than the person who inherits the digital property stored on it. 

6. Check service providers’ access-authorization tools: Carefully review the terms and conditions for your online accounts. Some service providers like Google, Facebook, and Instagram have tools in place that allow you to easily designate access to others in the event of your death. If such a function is offered, use it to document who you want to have access to these accounts.

Just make certain the people you named to inherit your digital assets using the providers’ access-authorization tools match those you’ve named in your estate plan. If not, the provider will probably give priority access to the person named with its tool, not your estate plan.

Truly comprehensive estate planning

With technology rapidly evolving, it’s critical that your estate planning strategies evolve at the same time to adapt to this changing environment. With us as your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can help you update your plan to include not only your physical wealth and property, but all of your digital assets, too.

Moreover, we can do this while respecting and protecting your privacy rights. Contact us today to get started.

This article is a service of Amanda Batsche Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That's why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.


Have you ever had one of those moments that just stop you right in your tracks?

Well, I had one of those moments today.  I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and I came across a heartbreaking post in one of the groups I am in. I am in a private Facebook group that helps parents with installing, selecting, and safely securing their children into carseats. When I was pregnant with my first son I remember being completely overwhelmed with all of the choices for carseats --- let alone, figuring out how on earth was I ever going to correctly install one. This group has been incredibly helpful. I've learned bits and pieces over the last three years from following the posts in this group. After learning so much about carseat safety, I have been confident in my use, installation, and securing my boys safely into their seats. As a mother, this confidence is invaluable. I am so grateful for the people who tirelessly share their wealth of information.

It was from this group that I saw a heartbreaking post. One of the mothers who was graciously shared her knowledge of carseat safety tragically lost her life, along with her husband, in a motor vehicle accident. Anytime I hear of a parent losing their life, I am deeply saddened. But there was something about hearing about this woman and her husband that really got to me. I don't know if it was because she has five young children or because I am grateful to her for being apart of the group that has helped me keep my boys safe. I didn't know this person, but hearing about her death broke my heart. In the blink of an eye, a mother of five children is gone. It pains me to even type these words. 

... and then it reminded me.... 

This is why I do what I do.

So that when families experience the unimaginable, the tragic, things are not made worse because of lack of direction or legal documents. It is my hope and prayer that their children are taken care of.  This is why I share the importance of having a Kid's Protection Plan, and an Estate Plan. 

It's so children don't spend the night in a foster home while waiting for a social worker or the court to find a family member or guardian. It's so those children, on the most tragic and devastating moment in their life, are going to a place where they know safety, love, and security. 

In that moment, my heart broke for those babies. But it also made me dig my feet in a little deeper. It confirmed I am doing the right thing by educating and helping parents take care of their children, even when they are not here. 

So my question to you is....have you prepared? Because what I realize is estate planning is not about us. We don't plan for us. We plan for our children.


What to Include in your Go Bag

The authorities just notified you that you have 20 minutes to evacuate your home before a raging wildfire cuts off the exit from your neighborhood, leaving you trapped.

The fire is advancing at the rate of a football field every second, so the actions you take in the next few moments will determine whether you and your family live or die.

While this may sound like a scene from a blockbuster disaster movie, it’s actually the very scenario Judy Shannon faced in December 2017. And it’s something we can expect to see more and more as the impact of climate change sets in.

Judy was at home with her two young children, her elderly mother, and a puppy, when an out-of-control wildfire threatened to engulf her Ventura County home in Southern California.

Fortunately, she and her family escaped without injury. But her home, her neighborhood, and hundreds of other buildings in the area were burned to the ground. Shopping for supplies in the aftermath, Judy reflected on whether or not she could have done more to ensure her family’s safety in those last moments before evacuating.

“As I look back, I wonder, ‘Did I do enough?’” Judy recalled. “I can honestly say I didn’t have much choice in those 20 minutes. I responded without much thought and felt a sense of being carried, or moved about, with each step.”

Judy highlights a critical aspect of facing such life-threatening emergencies: You won’t have time to think; you must be prepared to act and act fast. Your life and the lives of those in your family absolutely depend on it.

Be ready to go

With natural disasters like wildfires, floods, and hurricanes becoming more frequent and destructive with every passing year, the need for you to be ready to act is more pressing than ever. And as Judy’s story highlights, when you have mere minutes to evacuate, you won’t have time to think about what you should bring with you to survive the days—or weeks—to come.

To be optimally prepared, take a cue from the U.S. military and police agencies. These organizations require their members to always have a “go-bag” on-hand packed with the essential items needed to survive for at least three days following a disaster.

While numerous online retailers sell fully equipped go-bags for such emergencies, and both FEMA and the American Red Cross provide checklists to help you pack your own, here we offer a basic summary of the most-recommended supplies.

This list should give you some idea of what items you should have ready to go in case you need to get out of your home within minutes

1) ID and other essential documents: Bring copies of your passport, driver’s license, and/or state ID card and store them in a sealed ziplock bag. Other documents to consider packing include the deed to your home, vehicle titles/registration, printed maps, and a recent family photo with faces clearly visible for easy identification and important medical documentation.

2) Cash: Carry at least $250 in relatively small bills, and keep it with your ID and credit cards in a waterproof bag.

3) Shelter: A lightweight tent, along with mylar emergency blankets can help keep you warm and dry.

4) Water and a water filter: You’ll need at least one gallon of water per person per day. Bring as much bottled water as possible, but also include a water purification straw and/or purification tablets, along with a steel container to boil water in.

5) A multi-tool: These modern-day Swiss Army knives come with a wide array of essential tools, from a knife and screwdriver to tweezers and a can opener.

6) First-aid kit and prescription medications: Whether you buy one ready-made or pack your own, the likelihood of injury skyrockets in the wake disasters, so not having a first-aid kit can be deadly. And don’t forget to include prescription medications and other life-sustaining medical supplies if needed.

7) Light: Flashlights with extra batteries are great, but headlamps are even better because they’re ultra compact and leave your hands free.

8) An emergency whistle: Emergency whistles can alert rescue crews and help locate others in low-visibility conditions.

9) Solar-powered emergency radio and cellphone charger: Without power, you’ll need a way to stay in touch with the outside world. Today you can find devices that include a combination radio, cell-phone charger, and flashlight all in one, with the extra option of hand-cranked power to keep things charged even in the dark.

10) Sanitary items: Pack toilet paper, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, soap, as well as tampons and/or pads if needed.

11) Clothes: You only need enough clothes to keep you warm and comfortable for a few days, so don’t try to bring your entire wardrobe. Stick to essentials like underwear, socks, extra shoes, a jacket, a poncho, a hat, and gloves. You’ll need to tailor your clothing to the particular climate and region you live in, so colder locations may require extra outerwear

12) Food: Focus on high-protein, high-caloric foods that will give you the energy you need to live and get from point A to point B. The most recommended options include, energy bars, MREs (Meals-Ready-to-Eat), freeze-dried survival food, and meal-replacement shakes

Stay totally safe and secure

While go-bags are a critical part of helping your family survive the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster or other emergency, they’re just a start. For instance, this list doesn’t address any of your precious sentimental items, such as photos, old love letters, and treasured cards from the past. Nor does it mention estate planning documents or insurance policies.

Copies of your insurance policies and estate planning documents items should be uploaded to the cloud and stored online. You should also store sentimentals, like family histories and photos online, so you don’t have to worry about packing any of that in the event of a natural disaster. Indeed, safely storing your sentimentals online is so important, we offer this as a service to our clients, so be sure to ask us about that.

Of course, to keep your family totally safe and secure, you’ll need to make sure you actually have the right insurance coverage and necessary legal documents in place to cover every possible emergency contingency. Contact us as your Personal Family Lawyer® to learn exactly what you need and how we can support you.

This article is a service of Amanda Batsche, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That's why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.

Don't Forget to Include your Digital Assets in your Estate Plan - Part 1

If you’ve created an estate plan, it likely includes traditional wealth and assets like finances, real estate, personal property, and family heirlooms. But unless your plan also includes your digital assets, there’s a good chance this online property will be lost forever following your death or incapacity.

What’s more, even if these assets are included in your plan, unless your executor and/or trustee knows the accounts exist and how to access them, you risk burdening your family and friends with the often lengthy and expensive process of locating and accessing them. And depending on the terms of service governing your online accounts, your heirs may not be able to inherit some types of digital assets at all.

With our lives increasingly being lived online, our digital assets can be quite extensive and extremely valuable. Given this, it’s more important than ever that your estate plan includes detailed provisions to protect and pass on such property in the event of your incapacity or death.

Types of digital assets
Digital assets generally fall into two categories: those with financial value and those with sentimental value.

Those with financial value typically include online payment accounts like PayPal, domain names, websites and blogs generating revenue, as well as other works like photos, videos, music, and writing that generate royalties. Such assets have real financial worth for your heirs, not only in the immediate aftermath of your death or incapacity, but potentially for years to come.

Digital assets with sentimental value include email accounts, photos, video, music, publications, social media accounts, apps, and websites or blogs with no revenue potential. While this type of property typically won’t be of any monetary value, it can offer incredible sentimental value and comfort for your family when you’re no longer around.


Owned vs licensed

Though you might not know it, you don’t actually own many of your digital assets at all. For example, you do own certain assets like cryptocurrency and PayPal accounts, so you can transfer ownership of these in a will or trust. But when you purchase some digital property, such as Kindle e-books and iTunes music files, all you really own is a license to use it. And in many cases, that license is for your personal use only and is non-transferable.

Whether or not you can transfer such licensed property depends almost entirely on

the account’s Terms of Service Agreements (TOSA) to which you agreed (or more likely, simply clicked a box without reading) upon opening the account. While many TOSA restrict access to accounts only to the original user, some allow access by heirs or executors in certain situations, while others say nothing about transferability.

Carefully review the TOSA of your online accounts to see whether you own the asset itself or just a license to use it. If the TOSA states the asset is licensed, not owned, and offers no method for transferring your license, you’ll likely have no way to pass the asset to anyone else, even if it’s included in your estate plan.

To make matters more complicated, though you heirs may be able to access your digital assets if you’ve provided them with your account login and passwords, doing so may actually violate the TOSA and/or privacy laws. In order to legally access such accounts, your heirs will have to prove they have the right to access it, a process which up until recently was a major legal grey area.
Fortunately, a growing number of states are adopting a law that helps clarify how your digital assets can be accessed in the event if your death or incapacity.

The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act

The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, which has been adopted in 37 states so far, lays out guidelines under which fiduciaries, such as executors and trustees, can access these digital accounts. The Act allows you to grant a fiduciary access to your digital accounts upon your death or incapacity, either by opting them in with an online tool furnished by the service provider or through your estate plan.

The Act offers three-tiers for prioritizing access. The first tier gives priority to the online provider’s access-authorization tool for handling accounts of a decedent. For example, Google’s “inactive account manager” tool lets you choose who can access and manage your account after you pass away. Facebook has a similar tool that allows you to designate someone as a “legacy contact” to manage your personal profile.

If an online tool is not available or if the decedent did not use it, the law’s second tier gives priority to directions given by the decedent in a will, trust, power of attorney, or other means. If no such instructions are provided, then the third tier stipulates the provider’s TOSA will govern access.

As long as you use the provider’s online tool—if one is available—and/or include instructions  in your estate plan, your digital assets should be accessible per your wishes in states that have adopted the law. However, all 50 states are expected to adopt the Act soon, so even if the law isn’t on the books in your state, you should take it into serious consideration when planning.

Look to us for guidance
In the second part of this series, we’ll offer practical steps for preserving and passing on your digital assets in your estate plan. Meanwhile, contact us as a Personal Family Lawyer® if you have any questions about your online property or how to include it in your estate plan.

Next week, we’ll continue with part two in this series, discussing the best ways to  protect and preserve your digital assets through estate planning.

Questions and Answers about Personal Liability Insurance

It’s no secret that we live in a law-suit-happy society. And though our right to a fair trial is one of the hallmarks of American democracy, it has also led to a lawsuit-crazy culture.

In this atmosphere, you’re at near-constant risk for costly lawsuits, many times even when you’ve done nothing wrong. This is especially true if you have substantial wealth, but even those with relatively few assets can find themselves in court.

If you’re sued, your traditional homeowner’s and/or auto insurance will likely offer you some liability coverage, but those policies only protect you up to certain limits before they max out. Given this, you should consider adding an extra layer of protection by investing in personal liability umbrella insurance. Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean everyone should have it — but it should be considered. As I always say, making no decision, is in fact making a decision.

What is umbrella insurance?

Umbrella insurance offers a secondary level of protection against lawsuits above and beyond what’s covered by your homeowners, auto, watercraft, and/or other personal insurance policies. For instance, if someone is injured in your home, they might sue you for their medical bills and lost wages.

Your homeowners insurance will cover you up to a certain dollar amount, but you’re personally liable for anything beyond that limit. This is where umbrella insurance kicks in. Once your underlying insurance maxes out, the umbrella policy will help pay for the resulting damages and legal expenses if you lose the case. If you win, it can help cover your lawyer’s fees.

Who should purchase it?

Umbrella insurance is particularly important for those with a high net worth. But seeing that everyone has the potential to be sued, it’s a good idea even for those without substantial assets.

Indeed, if you’re sued and lose, the judgment against you may exceed the value of your current assets. In such a case, judgements can last for years. To this end, umbrella insurance not only protects your current assets, but your future ones as well.

How much coverage do I need?

Most people will be adequately covered with a $1 million umbrella policy. If you earn more than $100,00 a year or have more than $1 million in assets, you may want to invest in additional coverage.

A good rule of thumb is to buy an umbrella policy with coverage limits that are at least equal to your net worth.

How much does umbrella insurance cost?

Umbrella insurance is fairly inexpensive. You can buy a $1 million umbrella liability policy for between $150 and $300 per year. An additional million in coverage will run you about $100, and roughly $50 for every million beyond that.

Umbrella policies are inexpensive because they only go into effect after your underlying homeowners or auto policy is exhausted. In light of this, most insurers require you to have at least $250,000 in liability on your auto policy and $300,000 on your homeowners before they’ll sell you a $1 million umbrella policy.

How can I purchase umbrella insurance?

You can buy an umbrella policy from the same insurance company you use for your other policies. In fact, some companies require you to purchase all of your policies from them in order to obtain umbrella coverage.

If your current insurance agent offers umbrella coverage, you may qualify for a discount for bundling all of your policies. Of course, you can also purchase a stand-alone umbrella policy, so shop around for the best rates.

This article is a service of Amanda Batsche, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That's why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.

Don’t Let Your Elderly Parents Become Victims of the Grandparent Scam

Imagine this… You are an elderly grandparent who lives alone.

You get a call in the middle of the night from your college-aged granddaughter. She’s frantic and crying, telling you she was mistakenly arrested while vacationing in Cancun.

She says she needs you to pay her $1,800 bond, or she’ll be transferred to a dangerous Mexican prison. The Mexican police told her she only has a few hours before she’s transferred, so she needs you to wire the money immediately.

She’s petrified about her parents finding out she was arrested and begs you not to tell them. Because she only has a couple of minutes to use the police station phone, the call ends abruptly before you can get any further details.

What do you do?

If you’re like the thousands of others who’ve gotten just such a call, you’d probably wire the money in a heartbeat. It is your grandchild’s life after all. However, just like the others, you’d soon find out that your granddaughter hasn’t been arrested and was never in Mexico.

The Grandparent Scam
Known as the Grandparent Scam, this con has been around for years, and while it may seem far fetched, it has tricked many caring seniors. And in recent months, there has been an uptick in the number of people falling prey to the deception.

The details can vary, but the scam typically works like this:

1) You get a call from someone pretending to be your grandchild. The “grandchild” explains he or she is in trouble and needs money immediately. They might be in jail and need bond or be stranded in a foreign country and need money to get out.

2) The caller asks you to wire money to a specific location or give it to a third party, usually someone posing as a lawyer or police officer.
3) The “grandchild” will often plead with you not to tell their parents they’re in trouble.

4) Once you send the money, the caller breaks off all contact, making it impossible to recover your funds.


Preying on the vulnerable
While just about anyone can fall for such scams, the elderly are the ones targeted most often. This is due to the fact that seniors are frequently lonely and eager to hear from family. And whether it’s because their hearing is failing or because they haven’t seen their family members in awhile, they’re more likely to not recognize voices.


Due to their advanced age, seniors are also less likely to think clearly in a crisis, making them more susceptible to fear and panic. Finally, the elderly are less familiar with technology and social media, so they don’t realize how easy it is to access enough of someone’s personal details to make the scenario seem realistic.


What to do

In most cases, the best course of action is to simply hang up and contact the authorities. However, if the caller really does sound like the family member they claim to be, here are some steps you can take to help verify the situation is legitimate:


1) Don’t panic. It’s far easier to be deceived if you’re nervous or scared.
2) Be wary of calls from unknown or blocked numbers. Ask to call them back on the person’s own phone, and never accept requests sent solely by email or text.

3) Verify the caller’s identity by asking them questions only the actual person would know the answer to, such as the name of their first pet.

4) Beware of urgent demands that money be sent immediately. Reputable sources don’t try to pressure you into making split-second financial decisions.

5) Call other family and friends to verify where the person is. A reputable source will respect your caution and give you the opportunity to verify the facts.

6) Requests for money to be wired are often scams, as it’s nearly impossible to get your money back in cases of fraud. Request a more secure transaction method, such as through a bank or PayPal. Legitimate sources are likely to offer multiple payment options.

Comprehensive protection

Please share this article with any seniors in your life. There are countless other scams out there that work in much the same way, so even if it’s not this particular con, by becoming aware how these deceptions work, they’ll be much less likely to fall for them.


Of course, scams and cons are just one threat to seniors’ financial security. Without comprehensive estate planning, there are numerous other ways your family’s wealth and assets can be squandered or lost which have nothing to do with fraud.


Consult with us as a Personal Family Lawyer® to put planning strategies in place to safeguard your family’s finances and other assets, both tangible and intangible. Contact us today to get started with a Family Wealth Planning Session 210-920-5661.

Use Estate Planning to Enrich Your Family With More Than Just Material Wealth

In the weeks before her death from ovarian cancer, author Amy Krouse Rosenthal gave her husband Jason one of the most treasured gifts a person could receive.

She penned the touching essay “You May Want to Marry My Husband” in the New York Times as a final love letter to him. The essay took the form of a heart-wrenching yet-humorous dating profile that encouraged him to begin dating again once she was gone. In her opening description of Jason, she writes:

“He is an easy man to fall in love with. I did it in one day.”

What followed was an intimate list of attributes and anecdotes, highlighting what she loved most about Jason. It reads like a love story, encompassing 26 years of marriage, three grown children, and a bond that will last forever. She finished the essay on Valentine’s Day, concluding with:

“The most genuine, non-vase-oriented gift I can hope for is that the right person reads this, finds Jason, and another love story begins.”

Just 10 days after the essay was published in March 2017, Amy died at age 51.

Finding meaning again

Amy’s essay immediately went viral, and Jason received countless letters from women across the globe. Although he has yet to begin a new relationship, Jason said the outpouring of letters gave him “solace and even laughter” in the darkest days following his wife’s death.

Just over a year later, Jason wrote his own essay for the Times, “My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me,” in which he expressed how grateful he was for Amy’s words and recounted the lessons he’d learned about loss and grief since her passing.

He said his wife’s parting gift “continues to open doors for me, to affect my choices, to send me off into the world to make the most of it.” Jason has since given a TED Talk on his grieving process in hopes of helping others deal with loss, something he said he never would’ve done without Amy’s motivation.

Toward the end of his essay, Jason gave readers a bit of advice for how they can provide their loved ones with a similar gift:

“Talk with your mate, your children, and other loved ones about what you want for them when you are gone,” he wrote. “By doing this, you give them liberty to live a full life and eventually find meaning again.”

Preserving your intangible assets

This moving story highlights what could be the most valuable, yet often-overlooked aspect of estate planning. Planning isn’t just about preserving and passing on your financial wealth and property in the event of your death or incapacity. When done right, it equates to sharing your family’s stories, values, life lessons, and experiences, so your legacy carries on long after you (and your money) are gone.

Indeed, as the Rosenthals demonstrate, these intangible assets can be among the most profound gifts you can give. Of course, not everyone has the talent or time to write a similarly moving essay or have it published in the New York Times, nor is that necessary.

We recognize the enormous value these assets represent, along with the inherent challenge of documenting our life experiences. Given this, in our estate plans, we’ve built in a process, to help guide you through passing on your unique treasures and gifts.

There is more than one way to pass this on.

Through our time working with clients, we have learned that everyone is unique and everyone has a different way and different things they would like to pass on the values, ideas and gifts.

We’ve developed a series of helpful questions and prompts to make the process of sharing your life experiences not only easy, but enjoyable. And this isn’t something you have to do on your own—we help provide accountability in putting together what we call your "heartwork". We help you define your goals and how you want to pass these memories. Then, we hold a monthly workshop hours open to all of our current clients to attend — this way, you have a dedicated time and space to come in and accomplish your project.

In the end, your family’s most precious wealth is not money, but the memories you make, the values you instill, and the lessons you hand down. And left to chance, these assets are likely to be lost forever.

If you want to pass down a truly meaningful legacy, one that can provide the kind of inspiration Amy’s letter did for Jason, contact us as your Personal Family Lawyer®. Our customized estate planning services will preserve and pass on not only your financial wealth, but your most treasured family values as well. Start by scheduling a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we’ll discuss what kind of assets you have, what matters most to you, and what you want to leave behind.

This article is a service of Batsche Law PLLC. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That's why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.

Asked & Answered: What does the probate process look like?

Last month we talked about what is probate, and I defined it as simply the court process we go through to allow us to transfer assets from the name of the deceased person to the name of their beneficiaries or heirs. This definition lead us to our next Asked and Answered topic: What does the probate process look like?

It seems like everyone is trying to avoid it— but I think it would be helpful to know what exactly what it is you are trying to avoid. 

The probate process looks different when we have a properly executed Will drafted by a skilled attorney, a properly executed Will downloaded from a form or drafted by yourself, improperly signed Will (which many cases ends up not being a valid Will at all),  and have no Will. For today’s conversation, we are going to discuss the process when you have a validly signed and executed Will and we are going to assume it was drafted properly by a skilled attorney and has elected for you to avoid common pitfalls seen in forms and self drafted wills. 

When a person has passed away with a validly signed and executed Will, the heirs typically go through the probate process. The first step is to identify the Executor nominated in the Will. This person doesn’t have authority to act as the Executor until they are appointed by the court. The nominated Executor is the person who presents the Will to the court for probate.  In Texas, even if you are nominated in a decedent’s (the person who passed away) Will, you still have to meet certain qualifications in order to serve as the Executor.  Under the Texas Estates Code, Section 304.003 you cannot be:incapacitated

  1. incapacitated
  2. a felon, 
  3. a non-resident who has not appointed a resident agent, 
  4. a corporation not authorized to act as a fiduciary
  5. a person whom the court finds unsuitable 

Once the nominated Executor is identified, this person files an Application to Probate the Will and for Letters Testamentary. After they file this Application they must ask the court clerk to post notice on the courthouse notifying all interested parties that an Application has been filed. This notice must be posted for at least 10 days prior to any hearing. Once the notice has been posted, then you can set a hearing. Each county has what we call “local rules” on how we go about setting a hearing, in Bexar County, if you are represented by an attorney you are allowed to go to a hearing the first Monday after the 10 day waiting period is expired. 

At the hearing, the Executor has to prove to the court that the Will is a validly signed and executed Will. If it meets the legal requirements to be a valid Will and passes the muster of the Court,  then, the court will sign an Order approving (aka probating) the Will and appoint the Executor to serve. Before the Executor can receive the Letters Testamentary (which are the letters giving them the authority and authorization to act as Executor of the Estate) the Executor must swear to carry out their duties as detailed by law and the Will.  Once the Executor is sworn in, they will receive the Letters Testamentary and begin their job as Executor. 

Once appointed, the Executor’s job begins. They must collect all of the assets of the estate, send proper notices to creditors, send notices to beneficiaries, file the last income tax return of the decedent, and distribute assets.  There are certain time requirements for each of these things to be done. In general, there is a deadline to file certain paperwork with the court at 30 days from being appointed, 60 days and then again at 90 days. The paperwork the must be filed includes proof that proper notices were sent to the appropriate persons and entities, and and Inventory detailing the assets in the estate.  Depending on the type of assets that need to be distributed and the beneficiaries, assets may begin to get distributed as early as 90 days after the Executor is appointed and sometimes it is much longer. 

5 Estate Plan Myths Debunked

There are many myths and misconceptions about Estate Plans. I have complied a list of the 5 most common myths about estate planning.

1. “I don’t have an estate, so I don’t need an estate plan.” 

This claim cannot be further from the truth! An estate plan is important regardless the size of the estate. An estate plan contains important medical and financial documents. There are at least six essential documents every person over the age of 18 should have in place. 1) Durable Power of Attorney; 2) Medical Power of Attorney; 3) HIPAA Release 4) Declaration of Guardian; 5) Directive to Physicians; 6) Last Will and Testament.

Durable Power of Attorney – This document allows you to name an individual to make financial decisions in the event you are unable to make those decisions. It allows you to designate someone to pay your bills and manage your accounts so you are not behind when you regain abilities. Furthermore, in the event you are incapacitated, a durable power of attorney will allow your family to avoid the costly and time-consuming experience of Guardianship.

Medical Power of Attorney – The medical power of attorney is similar to the durable power of attorney, except instead of designating an individual to make financial decisions, you designate an agent to make medical decisions.

HIPAA Release (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) - The HIPAA release is a document where you designate people you want to have access to your medical information. Doctors are legally limited in the amount of information they can share regarding your health care information and this documents enables the doctors to speak freely with the people you designate.

Directive to Physicians- This document is often referred to as the “Living Will”. Sometimes people confuse the “Living Will” with the Last Will and Testament. These are two completely different documents.
The Directive to Physicians, or “Living Will” is where you designate your desires of care in the circumstance that you are in a terminal or irreversible condition. Although this decision can be difficult, a Directive to Physicians allows you to stay in the driver’s seat of your health. Furthermore, it reduces your families stress because your wishes are known.

Declaration of Guardian – I describe this document as our back up to the Durable and Medical Powers of Attorney. In the event that you must have a Guardian named this document permits you to designate who you want to be your guardian. Having this simple document can save families thousands of dollars in lengthy litigation.

Last Will and Testament - The Last Will and Testament is a document where you designate how you would like to pass your property, as well as, where you name the guardian for your children in the event you pass away with minor children. This document ensures that your desires and intentions are followed and avoids a more costly intestate process.

In fact, it is people with smaller estates that hurt the most when no plan is in place. When you find yourself dealing with an unexpected incapacity or death the legal fees to have someone appointed to make financial decisions and medical decisions tend to cost exponentially more than it does to put together an estate plan with an attorney. These expenses can really take a toll on smaller estates. Often, just by having the documents contained in an estate plan, a family can save the money and headache of dealing with the courts. 

2. “I already have a Living Will, I don’t need another Will.”

This statement makes me cringe. A Living Will and a Will (or Last Will and Testament) are two completely different documents. The technical term for a Living will is “Directive to Physicians”. I prefer to use this statutory term, “Directive to Physicians” rather than the term “Living Will”, because I believe the term “Living Will” is confusing. 

  • The Directive to Physicians is the document were you decide whether you would like all life sustaining treatment or you choose to be let go gently in the event you are in a terminal or irreversible condition. This is an important piece of an estate plan, but it is just one piece and it is NOT a Will or a Last Will and Testament. 
  • The Last Will and Testament is the document were you designate who will care for your children, who you would like to handle your estate, and who you would like to inherit as beneficiaries when you pass away.

3. “I have a Will so I can avoid probate.”

False! Probate is the proceeding where we prove the Will is actually the Last Will and Testament of the Deceased, that it meets all of the legal requirements,  and the court appoints the Executor to act on the behalf of your estate.  In your Will you typically have the opportunity to name who you would wish to serve as Executor. The person does not become the Executor until they are appointed and take an oath with the court.  The person you name as Executor in your Will cannot act on the behalf of your estate until the Will is probated.

Fortunately, the probate process is a relatively straightforward in Texas. Having a Will allows families to avoid the extra cost that often occur in the intestate process, which is the process most families must go though when there is no will. 

4. “I don’t need a Will because everything will just go to my spouse.”

Not necessarily.  It is never safe to assume your estate will “automatically” pass to your spouse.  There are so many factors that can affect who property passes to. I have seen countless situations were spouses mistakenly thought their house or other property was going to go to their surviving spouse but they end up having to share the asset or it went to to someone else instead. It is important to sit down with an attorney and account for each of your assets to make sure they pass to the people you want.

5. “After I get a Will there is no need to have it redone.”

Unfortunately this is not true. You should review your estate plan annually and with an attorney at least every five years. You should review it annually to make sure it is what you still desire. Life is constantly changing and depending on the events that have occurred in your family, such as, death, adoption, birth of a new child, or increase or decrease in the size of your estate your estate plan will too. 

Bravery, Courage & Vulnerability

A friend of mine recently shared Brené Brown's TEDx talk on shame, vulnerability and the key to wholehearted living. After watching both TED talks, I hopped right on to Amazon and bought her book Daring Greatly. I've been told I started out of order... so I plan to purchase her earlier books. But let me just tell you...Worth. Every. Penny. Before you go any further, see for yourself and watch this video:

I'll go ahead and save you a Google search and give you the link to buy the book, too.  Click here.  (This isn't even an affiliate link, I get no financial benefit from sharing this)

Brené Brown points out that our fatal flaw is associating vulnerability with weakness. But she then explains that vulnerability isn't weakness at all. It takes great strength and courage to be vulnerable. Let's take the image of boxers going into a boxing ring. Once they enter the ring, they are exposed and vulnerable to getting hit. Heck, they are guaranteed to get hit.  A part of vulnerability is being aware of your weakness and being courageous in spite of the fear of getting hit. Boxers know where their weakness is - that's why you see them hold their gloves up and guard their head and face. I am sure many of you haven't thought "man, that guy (or gal) sure is vulnerable by going into the boxing ring". Most of us think about their strength and are impressed with their ability to take a hit. 

I think estate planning is similar. It takes courage to face your fears. These conversations make us feel vulnerable because we are coming to face our own mortality. We acknowledge we are not invincible. Having a will, or a power of attorney, is like keeping your gloves up and blocking your face. It's taking care of the most important things, your husband, your wife, your kids, your parents, your family. We cannot step in to the boxing ring without getting hit [and spoiler alert: if you're living life--- you are already in the boxing ring]. So put your gloves up. Block your face, and guard your weaknesses.


Asked & Answered: What is Probate?

You may have heard of the illusive term of “probate”. I hear people use the term in my business quite frequently, but often it sounds like the person who is using the term isn’t quite exactly sure what it is.  I have had people lead conversations with “How do I avoid probate?”, but they are not quite sure what it is that they are trying to avoid — or the why. It is completely understandable too. Most people are not confronted with probate on a regular basis. Most of the time you are only facing probate when someone in your family or a close friend has passed away, it isn't a frequent occurrence people tend to face. That is why I am here. To help clear the cob webs, and maybe even walk through the process with you. 

Probate at its most basic definition is the court process we go through to allow us to transfer assets from the name of the deceased person to the name of their beneficiaries or heirs. 

To dive in a bit deeper, it’s the court process we go through to prove a Will is valid and ask the court to appoint the Executor to carry out the wishes of the deceased person as stated in the Will.  This means having a validly executed Will will not help you avoid probate. 

The next question then is:  What does the probate process look like? Check out next month’s article in the Asked & Answered series to find out! 

Tough Conversations

Tough Conversations

This is about having the tough conversation of making sure your family is protected in the event something happens to you. It ensures your children are safely placed in the hands of loved ones rather than spending the night in a CPS office or a stranger's home. It's the peace of mind knowing your family will be taken care of if you are not around or able to do it yourself. 

To my fellow mamas, I hear you and I am here for you.

Well, here we go. This is my first blog post as Principal and Founder of Batsche Law. I am filled with a lot of excitement and anticipation. I am excited about what Batsche Law means to my family and I am excited about what it could mean to yours. My hope is Batsche Law will be a resource to families and after interacting with my firm will feel a sense of understanding, a sense of overwhelming peace, and security.

I am most exited about my virtual law office. My virtual law office allows me to serve clients all over the state of Texas. So whether you are in El Paso, Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Brownsville, or somewhere in between, I am here to help you. I am here to simplify the law. I am here to help you understand how the law effects you and your family and most importantly, I am here to show you what you can do about it. 

I too, am a mother. The constant wondering and questioning is a feeling that is all to familiar. I desire to protect and cherish my son, and to make sure I have things appropriately set up for him. I know the constant daily worry we have for our babes.

Am I doing enough?

Am I doing too much?

To my fellow mamas, I hear you and I am here for you. 

Let Batsche Law help. Allow me to give you confidence in knowing that if you are not here, your babes will be taken care of; let me help you find the rest in knowing you’ve taken care of this small and necessary piece of designating guardians for your child; let me help you take care of this piece so you can focus on everything else. 

Life is crazy, overwhelming and here at Batsche Law we desire to be a beacon of stillness, rest and confidence.