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Estate Planning Best Practices Gleaned from Famous Celebrity Deaths

Discussing death can be awkward, and many people would prefer just to ignore estate planning all together. However, ignoring—or even putting off—such planning can be a huge mistake, as these celebrity stories will highlight.

The next time one of your relatives tells you they don’t want to talk about estate planning, share these famous celebrities’ stories to get the conversation started. Such cautionary tales offer first-hand evidence of just how critical it is to engage in estate planning, even if it’s uncomfortable.

The Marley Family Battle
You would think that with millions of dollars in assets—including royalties offering revenue for the indefinite future—at stake, more famous musicians would at least have a will in place. But sadly, you’d be wrong. Legendary stars like Bob Marley, Prince, and Jimi Hendrix failed to write down their wishes on paper at all.

Not having an estate plan can be a nightmare for your surviving family. Indeed, Marley’s heirs are still battling one another in court three decades later. If you do nothing else before you die, at least be courteous enough to your loved ones to document your wishes and keep them out of court and out of conflict.

Paul Walker Died Fast and Furious at Just 40
While Fast and Furious actor Paul Walker was just 40 when he died in a tragic car accident, he had enough forethought to implement some basic estate planning. His will left his $25 million estate to his teenage daughter in a trust and appointed his mother as her legal guardian until 18.

But isn’t 18 far too young for a child to receive an inheritance of any size? Walker would have been far better advised to leave his assets in an ongoing trust, with financial education built in to give his daughter her best shot at a life well lived, even without him in the picture.

Most inheritors, like lottery winners, are not properly educated about what to do after receiving an inheritance, so they often lose their inheritance within just a few years, even when it’s millions.
Indeed, none of us has any clue when we’ll die, only that it will happen, so no matter how young you are or how much money you have—and especially if you have any children—don’t put off estate planning for another day. You truly never know when it’ll be needed.

Heath Ledger Didn’t Update His Estate Planning
Even though actor Heath Ledger created a will shortly after becoming famous, he failed to update it for more than five years. The will left his entire fortune to his parents and sister, so when he died unexpectedly in 2008, his young daughter received nothing, as she hadn’t been added to the will. Fortunately, his parents made sure their granddaughter was provided for, but that might not always be the case.

Creating an estate planning strategy is just the start—be sure to regularly update your documents, especially following births, deaths, divorces, new marriages, acquiring new assets, or retiring. Many estate plans fail because most lawyers don’t have built-in systems for updating your estate plans, but we do—mostly because we don’t want this to happen to your family.

Paul Newman Cut Out His Daughters Too
Though it’s a good idea to regularly update your estate plan, be sure your heirs know exactly what your intentions are when making such updates, or your family might experience significant shock by not knowing why you did what you did.

The final update to Paul Newman’s will, which was made just a few months before his death in 2008, left his daughters with no ownership or control of Newman’s Own Foundation, his legendary charity associated with the Newman’s Own food brand. Prior versions of Newman’s will—and indeed his own personal assurances to his family—indicated they’d have membership on the foundation’s board following his death.

Instead, the final version of his will left control of the foundation to his business partner Robert Forrester. Some allege that during his final months, when Newman was mentally unstable, he was secretly persuaded to change his estate plan to leave control of the Newman’s Own brand and foundation to Forrester. Newman’s daughters are currently fighting Forrester in court over the rights they believe they’re entitled to receive.

While changes to your estate plan may seem perfectly clear to you, make sure your family is on the same page by clearly communicating your intentions. In fact, if you are making significant changes to your plan, and your children are adults, we often recommend a full family meeting to go over everything with all impacted parties, and we often facilitate such meetings for our clients.

Muhammad Ali Made His Wishes Clear
Boxing great Muhammad Ali wanted multi-day festivities to be held in his honor, including a large festival, an Islamic funeral, and a dazzling public memorial at the KFC headquarters in Louisville, KY. Given such elaborate plans, he worked with his lawyers for years, ensuring his wishes would be properly carried out.

While you probably won’t need a multi-day festivity to celebrate your life, you may have wishes regarding how your life should be memorialized when you pass or how your care should be handled if you’re incapacitated. If you eat a special diet or want certain friends by your side while incapacitated, you have to make these wishes clearly known in writing or they very well might not happen. At the same time, you should spell out exactly how you want your remains cared for and what kind of memorial service, if any, you prefer.

As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can help ensure your final wishes are carried out exactly how you want. But more importantly, we’ll help protect your family and keep them out of conflict and out of court in the event of your death or incapacitation. With a Personal Family Lawyer® on your side, you’ll have access to the exact same estate planning strategies and protections that A-List celebrities use, so don’t wait another day—contact us now to get started!

This article is a service of Marianne S. Rantala, 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 $750 session at no charge.

Common Estate Planning Issues You Must Navigate When Contemplating a Second (or More) Marriage

These days, second and even third marriages are fairly commonplace. And the estate planning issues that arise from multiple marriages can be highly complex and confusing.

Merging two families into one presents unique legal and financial challenges that can cause significant conflict and distress unless effective estate planning has been put into place early on. Here are a few of the most common issues that blended families should keep in mind when it comes to estate planning.

Keeping assets separate

If you get remarried and have children from your previous marriage(s), you need to think about how you want to balance providing for your new spouse and ensuring the children from your previous marriage are taken care of in the event you become incapacitated or when you die.

If you intend to keep your assets separate, so each spouse can pass an inheritance to his or her own children, you’ll need to create and maintain separate accounts. One account contains the assets you want to pass on to your children, and the other can be either a separate or joint account that contains the assets you want to share with your spouse.

If you and your spouse commingle your income and assets, then the new spouse will have claim and control of those assets when you die, which can leave your kids with nothing. Moreover, joint accounts can be subject to claims from a former spouse and/or creditors, so unless you want your new spouse to share that risk, keep at least some assets separate.

And, if you’re keeping assets separate, be sure to talk with us about how to do that properly, as it can get tricky, particularly when you start sharing some assets and buying new assets together.

Inheritance timing

If you have children for whom you want to leave an inheritance, you should think about how and when you want those assets passed on. For example, what if you die prematurely or your spouse is significantly younger than you? Do you want your kids to wait until the new spouse dies to claim their inheritance, or do you want them to receive it immediately following your death?

Establishing a trust can protect assets for each spouse’s children and stipulate when the kids receive their inheritance. You may want to provide your children with some of their inheritance, such as proceeds from a life insurance policy, upon your death and then release the rest at some point in the future. Or if your kids are very young, you may decide to leave that decision up to your spouse or a third-party successor trustee.

Trustee considerations

A common scenario for blended families is for one spouse to set up a living trust that names themselves as the trustee during his or her lifetime, with the surviving spouse named as successor trustee once they die. This is done to ensure the surviving spouse will be provided for life and the children will receive the remaining assets once the new spouse passes.

But the new spouse and your children may have conflicting interests, especially if the spouse is older. For example, the new spouse may choose to invest the assets conservatively, ensuring he or she has enough money to live comfortably for a few more decades. However, the children—particularly if they are younger—might be better off having the assets placed into higher-risk investments, which can offer better returns in the long run, but leave less income for the surviving spouse.

In this case, it’s best to name a neutral third-party as successor trustee, so both the children and surviving spouse’s interests can be balanced fairly.

That said, we do recommend leaving at least something to your children from a prior marriage immediately upon your death (in trust if your children are minors). By doing so, you can mitigate potential conflicts between your children and surviving spouse.

Incapacitation

Beyond finances, the issues of power of attorney and health-care directives must also be discussed. If one spouse becomes incapacitated, you must decide who you would want to make legal and medical decisions for you. If the children are young, it’s probably best to leave those decisions up to your surviving spouse. However, if your children are older, you may want them included in the discussion of how your health-care decisions will be made.

Comprehensive and effective estate planning is especially important for blended families. Indeed, it’s crucial that these families work with a professional who is trained in counseling blended families on how to properly protect their assets in a manner that’s best for both the spouses and any children involved.

As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we’re specifically trained to work with blended families, ensuring that you and your new spouse can effectively clarify and clearly document your wishes to avoid any confusion or conflict over how the assets and legal agency will be passed on in the event of one spouse’s death or disability. If you have a blended family, or are in the process of merging two families into one, contact us as your Personal Family Lawyer®, so we can discuss all of your options.

This article is a service of Marianne S. Rantala, 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 $750 session at no charge.

5 Common Estate Planning Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Since estate planning involves thinking about death, many people put it off until their senior years or simply ignore it all together until it becomes too late. This kind of unwillingness to face reality can create major hardship, expense, and mess for the loved ones and assets you leave behind.   I know from personal experience in losing my late fiancee, Joe.

While not having any estate plan is the biggest blunder you can make, even those who do create a plan can run into trouble if they don’t understand exactly how estate plans function.

Here are some of the most common mistakes people make with estate planning:

Not creating a will

While wills aren’t the ultimate estate planning tool, they’re one of the bare minimum requirements. A will lets you designate who’ll receive your property upon your death, and it also allows you to name specific guardians for your minor children. Without a will, your property will be distributed based on your state’s intestate laws (which are probably not in alignment with your wishes), and a judge will choose a guardian for your children under 18. Oh, and then your kids will get whatever you own outright, with no guidance, direction, or intention, as long as they’re over 18.

Not updating beneficiary designations

Oftentimes, people forget to change their beneficiary designations to match their estate planning desires. Check with your life insurance company and retirement-account holders to find out who would receive those assets in the event of your death.

If you have a trust, you’ll likely want the trust to be the beneficiary. This does not happen automatically upon creating a trust. You actually have to make the change. See the section below for more on funding your trust.

And you never want to name a minor as a beneficiary of your life insurance or retirement accounts, even as the secondary beneficiary. If they were to inherit these assets, the assets become subject to control of the court until he or she turns 18.

Not funding your trust

Many people assume that simply listing assets in a trust is enough to ensure they’ll be distributed properly. But this isn’t true. Some assets—real estate, bank accounts, securities, brokerage accounts—must be “funded” to the trust in order for them to be actually transferred without having to go through court. Funding involves changing the name on the title of the property or account to list the trust as the owner.

Unfortunately, most lawyers have been trained to create a trust, but not make sure assets are actually transferred into the trust. Crazy, right?!? But we see it all the time. And of course, when you acquire new assets after your trust is created, you must make sure those assets are also titled into your trust. However, most lawyers are not trained to make sure this happens either.

Part of being a Personal Family Lawyer® law firm means we make sure your assets are inventoried, titled properly, and the inventory is maintained throughout your lifetime, so your assets aren’t lost and do not get stuck in court upon your incapacity or death.

Not reviewing documents

Estate plans are not a “one-and-done” deal. As time passes, your life circumstances change, the laws change, and your assets change. Given this, you must update your plan to reflect these changes—that is, if you want it to actually work for your loved ones, keeping them out of court and out of conflict.

We recommend reviewing your plan annually to make sure its terms are up to date. And be sure to immediately update your estate plan following major life events like divorce, births, deaths, and inheritances. We’ve got built-in processes to make sure this happens—ask us about them.

Moreover, an annual life review can be a beautiful ritual that puts you at ease knowing you’ve got everything handled and updated each year.

Not leaving an inventory of assets
Even if you’ve properly “funded” your assets into your trust, your estate plan won’t be worth much if heirs can’t find your assets. Indeed, there’s more than $58 billion dollars worth of lost assets in the U.S. coffers right now. Can you believe that? And it happens because someone dies or becomes incapacitated but their assets cannot be found.

That’s why we create a detailed inventory of assets, indicating exactly where to find each asset, such as your cemetery plot deed, bank and credit statements, mortgages, securities documents, and safe deposit box/keys. And don’t forget digital assets like social media accounts and cryptocurrency, along with their passwords and security keys. We cover all of this in our plans.

Beyond these common errors, there are many additional pitfalls that can impact your estate planning. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we’ll guide you through the process, helping you to not only avoid mistakes, but also implement strategies to ensure your true Family Wealth and legacy will continue to grow long after you’re gone.

This article is a service of Marianne S. Rantala, 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 $750 session at no charge.

What to Expect From (and How to Prepare For) an Initial Estate Planning Meeting With Your Personal Family Lawyer®

Whether you’ve met with an estate planning attorney before or it’s your first time, it’s important to understand how working with a Personal Family Lawyer® is different than meeting with a traditional lawyer.

This article will explain what’s involved with such a consultation, and it may even inspire you to meet with us to get your estate planning started or updated. If you do decide to meet with us, I’ll share instructions on how you can do that, plus include a free offer at the end of this article to give you extra motivation to check us out.

Given our unique approach, an initial consultation with our office is quite different than an initial consultation with a typical estate planning attorney. A typical “initial consultation” would be a meet-and-greet-type of meeting in which the lawyer tells you the documents you need to put in place and quotes you a fee to provide those documents.

In such a meeting, however, it will likely be difficult for you to know exactly what you need for your unique family situation and how to make the right decision, outside of simply considering whether the cost of these documents fits within your budget or not. Unfortunately, deciding what you need based solely on the cost of documents will likely lead you to make choices that won’t actually serve and protect your family and assets.

In contrast, our initial meeting with you is a two-hour working session, called a Family Wealth Planning Session™. Prior to the Family Wealth Planning Session, we’ll send you a personalized package of materials that will guide you in locating and listing each of your assets.

What we consistently see is that surprisingly, many people do not have a clear awareness of what they own or where to find their assets. This is the reason there are more than $58 Billion (yes, Billion with a “B”) of lost and unclaimed assets held by state and federal agencies ($5.7 Billion in New York alone). Oftentimes people become incapacitated or die, and their family simply overlooks these assets.

We know you haven’t devoted years of your precious time and energy to build your family wealth only for your heirs to lose track of it when something happens to you. That’s one reason the Family Wealth Planning Session is so beneficial. Whether you decide to create a full plan or just redesign the one you have, at the very least your family will know what you have and how to locate it should anything happen to you.

Also, during your Family Wealth Planning Session, we’ll guide you through a complete understanding of what would happen to everyone you love and everything you own should something happen to you—whether it’s under your current plan or the plan the state has for you if you don’t have an estate plan yet. From there, you can decide if that plan is how you want things handled or if you’d want a different outcome, in which case we can design a plan to ensure things go exactly the way you want in your absence.

Finally, if you do decide to create a plan or redesign an existing one, you can select the type of plan you want based on the different packages we’ve created, which allow you to literally choose your fee based on what’s most important to you, what’s not important to you, and with a clear understanding of the impact of your choices.

The Family Wealth Planning Session is a true educational opportunity for you to ensure you’re doing the right thing by your loved ones. This investment of your time now will save your family countless hours of heartache and work down the road, while also keeping them out of conflict and out of court.

Unfortunately, death is unavoidable. But you can make it far easier on the people you love by the choices you make now. And facing the reality of this fact today allows you to make choices that will let you enjoy your life even more. Indeed, our clients report a huge level of relief after meeting with us, and they frequently say they wished they’d done it sooner.

We’d love to meet with you for a Family Wealth Planning Session. Normally, we charge $750 for these working sessions, but if you’re one of the first five families to schedule this month, you commit to doing the homework ahead of time, and you secure your Session with a credit card (which won’t be charged as long as you do your part), we’ll waive that Planning Session fee.

Simply give us a call to get scheduled. Or if you have a relative or friend who’d benefit by getting their affairs in order, pass along this article and tell them to call us. It’s our mission to keep the families in our community out of court and out of conflict, and it all starts with a Family Wealth Planning Session. Because, really, your family IS worth it.

This article is a service of Marianne S. Rantala, 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 $750 session at no charge.

Suze Orman Says This Is the Age You Should Retire—Not a Month or Year Before (and Here’s What She Misses)

If you’re middle aged or older, it’s likely that one of your most pressing concerns is not having enough money for retirement. And there’s good reason. According to the National Institute on Retirement Security, a full third of Americans between 55 and 65 have nothing saved for retirement.

And even if you’ve diligently saved, it’s difficult to predict if your savings will be enough. Today, many people are living into their late-80s, 90s, and even 100s. Because most Baby Boomers have lived comparatively healthier lives and had access to better healthcare than their parents, you may live even longer.

In light of these facts, a recent article in Money by renowned financial guru Suze Orman declares that the new retirement age for the majority of us is now 70.

While most plan to retire in their 60s, Orman believes this simply isn’t realistic anymore, not only because of increased lifespan, but also due to rising healthcare costs and the increased need to care for aging parents for longer periods.

Today’s eligibility age for full Social Security benefits is between 65 and 67. Of course, you can retire as early as 62 and receive partial benefits, but Orman says that claiming such partial benefits is “one of the biggest mistakes you’ll ever make.”

By waiting until 70, your annual benefit will be 76% higher, which will be hugely beneficial in the long run. Orman notes that for married couples it might be okay for the spouse earning less to retire at age 67, but the higher earner must wait until 70. The only exception is if one of you has a medical condition that prevents you from working or makes it unlikely you’ll live into your late-80s or 90s.

But delaying retirement doesn’t necessarily mean working full-time until 70. You might be able to work part-time or receive a reduction in your current job responsibilities. Orman says to start talking with employers about the possibility of part-time work or reduced duties at least two years before your planned downshift.

You also might consider switching jobs to something that requires less time and energy. Start looking now for educational and training opportunities to prepare for such a new position.

Another option (and one Orman misses) is to launch a freelance gig, or “side hustle,” which is probably your best bet for a secure retirement anyway.

Instead of thinking about retirement as a time to retire from life and work, start thinking about it as the time you can finally do what you’ve always wanted to do. Create a service offering around the passion project you didn’t think you could indulge during your working years.

Dreaming into—and even taking steps toward this side hustle—now is the place to start, no matter how close or far you are from retirement.

Your life experiences were given to you so you can give them back. Begin to consider who needs to hear what you’ve learned throughout your life, especially during the hard times, as that’s likely to be the source of your side hustle.

While this all may initially add to your retirement anxiety, rather than reducing it, you don’t have to go it alone. With us as your Personal Family Lawyer®, we’ll be in your corner the whole way, offering guidance and support, while helping with any legal, insurance, financial, and tax issues that might arise. Schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session® today to see where your retirement planning currently stands.

This article is a service of Marianne S. Rantala, 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 $750 session at no charge.

4 Cryptocurrency Risks and Scams and How to Navigate Them — Part 2

Last week, we shared the first part of our series on cryptocurrency risks and scams, and if you haven’t read it yet, you can do so here. In part two, we discuss two more common traps to be wary of when investing in digital currency.   http://rantala.com/blog/2017/12/26/4-cryptocurrency-risks-and-scams-and-how-to-navigate-them-part-1/

If you are considering using cryptocurrency as an investment vehicle, talk with us first.

  1. Pyramid/Ponzi Schemes That Will Trade For You

Because dealing with cryptocurrency can be a complex affair, online scammers have developed complicated cons similar to traditional pyramid and ponzi schemes. People have lost a lot of money in such scams, and unless you’re well-versed in the technology, they can be difficult to spot.

One giant red flag to watch for is giving your money to others who invest/trade for you, or if you only get paid when you recruit new members.

Also avoid buying upfront “packages” (The Gold Package) promising varying returns. And if you see the words “This isn’t a pyramid scheme” in the marketing materials, you may want to look a little more closely!

Unless you get to hold the keys to your private wallet containing your crypto directly or trade via a reputable exchange like Coinbase, you very well could be dealing with a scammer. And while plenty of people will make money in cryptocurrency pyramid/ponzi schemes, many will lose. That could include you or people you care about, if you get involved in crypto this way.

  1. Fake ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings)

While new cryptocurrency can be created without any public investment or offering, many use an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) to fund their startup initiative. ICOs are basically IPOs (Initial Public Offerings) for cryptocurrency and a highly effective way to crowdfund vast sums of money extremely quickly. In fact, recent ICOs have raised millions of dollars in mere minutes.

This speed comes from the fact that ICOs are barely regulated—a good thing if you’re looking to raise money quickly and avoid the rigorous and time-consuming regulations involved with traditional capital raising. But it can be bad, too, as the lack of regulation is a big neon welcome sign to scammers.

The lack of legal oversight has resulted in numerous fake ICOs being created by crypto con men, who go to great lengths to convince potential investors of their fake coin’s legitimacy. If you’re just getting started with cryptocurrency, it’s probably best to avoid ICOs until you really understand what you are investing in. In fact, that’s a good rule of thumb with any crypto investment, if you don’t understand the technology beneath it, start by learning that—and understand “what this crypto actually does”—before you invest. Contact us if you’d like help with that.

Of course, not all ICOs are fake, and if you’re tech-savvy, they can be quite lucrative. In fact, many tout ICOs as the future of venture capitalism and fundraising.

But no venture capitalist would ever fund a startup without proper vetting, and the same applies to altcoins. Check the background of the people directly involved with the project and those serving as advisors. Use Google and social media like LinkedIn to verify these are real people with stellar reputations, and their advertised skills and knowledge match those found on online resumes and CVs. And make sure you understand what the cryptocurrency proposes to do and that you believe the team behind it can accomplish that goal, as with any business investment you would make.

And as with any investment, beware of deals that promise unrealistically high returns and/or just sound way too good to be true—that’s sign they likely are.

If you’re serious about adding cryptocurrency to your family’s investment portfolio, take the next step in your education by contacting your Personal Family Lawyer®. As your trusted advisor, we’ll help you incorporate cryptocurrency into your family’s financial and estate planning, so you can get the most bang for your crypto buck.

 This article is a service of Marianne S. Rantala, 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 $750 session at no charge.

4 Cryptocurrency Risks and Scams and How to Navigate Them — Part 1

It’s no secret that Bitcoin and other brands of cryptocurrency are one of the hottest new investment opportunities.  And if you’re not already invested, you may be considering how to get in, what exactly is the best way to get in, and you should definitely be considering risks and potential scams that are easy to get caught by if you’re not eyes wide open on the issues surrounding cryptocurrency.

Launched in 2009, Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency, and since then, it has evolved from something only computer geeks and hackers talked about into a global phenomenon that’s transformed how the entire world views money.

Bitcoin is still the most popular—and valuable—digital currency. As of November 2017, a single Bitcoin was worth more than $10,000, with the currency’s total market capitalization at roughly $158 billion.  Bitcoin’s smashing success spawned a legion of other coins, known as “altcoins,” such as Ethereum, Litecoin, and Ripple, and the global market value for all cryptocurrency is currently more than $300 billion.

The huge amounts of money transitioning into the world of cryptocurrency has attracted equally large numbers of investors, looking to tap into this seemingly boundless source of new money. However, because it’s largely unregulated, involves extremely complex technology, and offers significant anonymity, the cryptocurrency market has also garnered the attention of cyber criminals.

Indeed, cryptocurrency’s brief history is filled with stories of people losing major money through hacking and a variety of other traps and scams. As with any new investment opportunity, the key to safety with cryptocurrency is education. While you should always do your own research before investing, here are a few of the most common scams to watch for and how to know whether investing in or using cryptocurrency is right for you.

  1. Shady Exchanges

A cryptocurrency exchange is an online platform for trading one cryptocurrency for another or for fiat currency like the U.S. dollar. These platforms are where you buy in and cash out your cryptocurrency, so they’re essential to the crypto market. Exchanges typically charge a fee for each transaction and are based on current market rates or rates set by sellers/brokers.

Bitcoin’s popularity has caused the number of exchanges to explode, but not all exchanges are trustworthy. In the past, major exchanges have disappeared overnight and taken all of the digital currency with them, while others offer horrible customer service, and/or make getting your money out extremely difficult.

Your best bet is to stick with the largest, most popular exchanges like Coinbase, Kraken, and Bittrex. That said, legitimate smaller exchanges are out there and can be used safely, provided you’ve done your research. Indeed, there are numerous websites that rank and review crypto exchanges for quality, security, and customer service. If the reviews are largely negative, note that it’s difficult to cash out your altcoins, or mention the customer service is exceptionally poor and/or slow, steer clear.

  1. Picking Your Wallet

In order to store cryptocurrency, you’ll want a digital wallet, as that’s the safest way to hold your cryptocurrency. Exchanges are for buying and selling, but not the safest for storing.

Your cryptocurrency wallet doesn’t actually “store” money like a traditional wallet; rather, it stores passcodes, known as keys, that allow you to send and receive digital currency to and from the wallet. There are many different wallets available, but not all of them are totally secure.

Wallets come in two forms: hot and cold. A “hot” wallet stores your cryptocurrency in a location that’s connected to the internet—exchange-based wallets, desktop wallets, and mobile wallets. Because they’re connected to the internet, hot wallets are the most convenient, but that also makes them vulnerable to hacking. A “cold” wallet, conversely, stores your cryptocurrency in a location that’s completely offline. Ironically, the most secure type of wallet for storing digital currency is a cold “paper” wallet.

Paper wallets involve printing out your keys and storing them in a secure location. While paper wallets are the most secure option, if you lose the codes, it’s the same as losing paper currency—you’re screwed, meaning there is no way to recover your investment. Paper wallets are also inconvenient—you have to send your money back to an exchange to use it—which can be a pain if you’re using cryptocurrency on a daily basis.

If you primarily use cryptocurrency as a long-term investment, you should store all of your crypto in a paper wallet. If you’re receiving, spending, or trading frequently, however, you should use both a hot/online and paper/offline wallet. Like real-world wallets, store the money you need for the day in your hot/online wallet, but keep the majority of your funds in a paper/offline wallet for safekeeping.

In all cases, whether you have crypto in a hot wallet, paper wallet, or directly in an exchange, make sure you’ve given the details of where it’s stored and how to access it to the people who need to know in case you’re incapacitated or when you die. Otherwise, it’s completely lost. If the people you love don’t know how to find and access it, it’s the same as it not existing at all. Please talk with us about this if you have any cryptocurrency now that may not have been included in your estate plan, or if you do obtain any in the future. Remember: if your family doesn’t know how to access it, it will be lost if you become incapacitated or when you die.

In addition to safety, investing in cryptocurrency comes with an array of other legal, financial, and tax issues you’ll need to consider. The good news is, as your Personal Family Lawyer we can guide you through these challenges and help you incorporate cryptocurrency investments into your family’s overall financial and estate-planning strategies. Contact us today to get started.

Next week, we’ll continue with part two in this series on cryptocurrency risks and scams. http://rantala.com/blog/2018/01/04/4-cryptocurrency-risks-and-scams-and-how-to-navigate-them-part-2/

This article is a service of Marianne S. Rantala, 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 $750 session at no charge.

Want to Be an Awesome Parent? Stop Stressing and Spend More Time on Self-Care.

All parents have undoubtedly felt guilty at some point for not spending enough time with their children. A large part of this guilt comes from our culture. American parents are pressured to dedicate superhuman levels of time and energy to caring for their children to ensure optimal development.

This notion is so prevalent, it’s even garnered names like “helicopter parenting” and “intensive mothering.” Trouble is, this style of child rearing is extraordinarily taxing on one’s mental and physical health. Not to mention, many believe such obsessive control not only doesn’t work, but may actually harm a child’s development.

If you’re nagged by such guilt, there’s good news. Recent research suggests that worrying about the amount of time you spend with your kids is totally unwarranted. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that for children aged 3 to 11, there was no statistically significant association between the amount of time they spent with their mothers and their outcomes in terms of behavioral health, emotional health, or academic performance.

The study did find that teens experienced less delinquency when they spent more time with their mothers. However, this outcome occurred with teens who spent an average of six hours a week with the family—not exactly a massive commitment. What’s more, the study found when parents are stressed, anxious, and guilty, spending time with kids can even be harmful. Perhaps becoming aware of this now can let you off the hook and free up your time for self care first.

“Mothers’ stress, especially when mothers are stressed because of juggling work and trying to find time with kids, may actually be affecting their kids poorly,” study co-author Kei Nomaguchi said in an interview with the Washington Post.

As with everything in life, successful parenting involves finding a healthy balance between caring for your kids and caring for yourself. It’s vital—for you and your children—to develop a self-care routine that allows you to devote regular periods of time each day to relaxing and recharging your mental, physical, and spiritual resources.

There are countless self-care methods, but one of the easiest, least expensive, and most effective practices is mindfulness meditation. Although the word often conjures up images of monks, monasteries, and mountaintops, meditation is no longer the sole domain of celibate yogis and wandering ascetics.

Today, meditation is practiced by millions of Americans, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof. And it’s not just childless hipsters who meditate. Even the busiest parents are sitting quietly each day to reduce stress and cultivate mindfulness—the ability to maintain non-judgemental awareness of one’s moment-to-moment experience.

The reason meditation has grown so popular? It works. Dozens of clinical studies have shown that meditation offers myriad benefits: stress reduction, decreased emotional reactivity, increased relationship satisfaction, enhanced memory, sharper focus, and expanded cognitive flexibility.

Some of you are probably thinking you can’t possibly add another item to your daily to-do list; however,  meditating for just 10 to 15 minutes a day is enough to generate results. And once you experience meditation’s benefits, you’ll likely wonder how you ever got by without it.

Just ask Shana Smith, mother of two and author of Meditation for Moms and Dads: 108 Tips for Mindful Parents and Caregivers. Her book intimately details how meditation made her a better mother and kept her healthy and sane during parenthood’s most trying stages. Indeed, she believes meditation is not only possible for busy parents, it should be mandatory.

“If I forget to meditate, I’m much more likely to be overwhelmed by parenting’s physical, mental, and emotional demands,” she said. “With meditation, these demands are more easily kept in perspective within life’s bigger picture.”

Maintaining perspective on life’s big picture is a critical part of estate planning as well. During a Family Wealth Planning Session, as your Personal Family Lawyer®, we’ll help you assess what’s most important for your family’s well-being and security and protect those assets in a comprehensive estate plan. To this end, estate planning—like meditation—can reduce anxiety and stress over your children’s future, allowing you to take better care of both your kids and yourself.

Tax Benefits of Buying a Second Home

Buying a second home can provide you with a place to relax, unwind, and escape from it all. It can also provide you with substantial savings if you take advantage of these tax benefits of buying a second home. Let’s hope these tax benefits survive the pending tax overhaul being contemplated in Congress right now!

Mortgage Interest
Mortgage interest paid on up to $1.1 million in debt on your first and second homes is fully deductible. Typically, this rule only applies if you treat your second home as a home and not a rental property. But some mortgage interest may still be deductible if you occasionally rent out your second home. To benefit from this deduction, you must use the property for 14 days or more than 10% of the number of days you rent it out a year, whichever is longer.

Tax-Free Profit
You can take up to $500,000 in profit from the sale of a home tax-free if it is your primary residence and you meet the two-year ownership and use requirement. Typically, you do not get the same tax benefit from the sale of a second home. But people have taken advantage of this rule by converting their second home to their primary residence before the sale, thus reaping the tax-free profit.

But in 2009, Congress added a few more restrictions to limit the amount of tax-free profit you can take from a second home. Now, a portion of the profit from the sale of a second home is taxable. The portion is determined by the ratio of the amount of time after 2008 you treated the residence as a second home or rental property and the amount of time you owned it.

Buying a second home can offer many benefits. But to maximize the value of your investment, work with a lawyer to make sure you are not overlooking any potential legal, insurance, financial, or tax problems or opportunities. You must meet other requirements—such as living in the home for two years before you sell it—to take advantage of some of these tax benefits. A Personal Family Lawyer® can help you ensure you meet the requirements, so you can reap all the benefits of owning a second home.

This article is a service of Marianne S. Rantala, 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 $750 session at no charge.

Ready to Write Your Will? Consider This Before You Go It Alone or Online.

A last will and testament is the most commonly thought of document when it comes to an estate plan. But, really, it’s a very small part of an integrated plan that ensures your family stays out of Court and out of conflict when something happens to you.

Don’t think you can just write your own Will and that will help your family. Instead, consider the reality that trying to do so could actually create far more trouble for them down the road. They need you to get professional support from someone who can help you look at what you own, who you love, what would happen to you, and everyone you love, if and when something happens to you.

Death is unavoidable. And incapacity may happen before that. Facing these matters head-on leads you (and your loved ones) to having the best life possible. Otherwise, it’s the people you love who get stuck with everything you weren’t willing to take care of now.

Unfortunately, if you go it alone, you may miss important facets of what happens in the event of your incapacity or death. For example, you may think that a Will is sufficient, when what you really need is a trust to keep your family out of Court.

Or, you may think your kids are adequately protected because you have a Will, but you may really need a full Kids Protection Plan® and without it your kids could end up in the care of strangers, even if just temporarily. Before you do anything, get educated and empowered to do what’s right.

The right plan for you begins with knowing what you have. Then, being clear on what is necessary to keep your family out of court and conflict and keep your assets out of the State Department of Unclaimed Property. If you are ready to write your Will, that’s great. And, come see us first.

The biggest mistake you can make is not facing the reality of death, the second biggest mistake is facing it alone. If you need help getting started, consult with a Personal Family Lawyer®. We’ll help you through the process so you can make sure your loved ones are protected and your wishes are honored.

This article is a service of Marianne S. Rantala, 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 $750 session at no charge.