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(Past letters in case you missed them)

April 12, 2023 /Estate Planning

Dear Mr. Settles,


          Thank you for helping with probating mom’s stuff, although it was not as daunting as we imagined, we would like to streamline the process for our children and remember you mentioning how to go about doing that.  Can you please summarize the process so I can share it with my wife?              -Dwyane  


Hi Dwyane,


It was a pleasure working with you and your sister. Anyways, think of probate as conveying property of a deceased person by a judge and, due to the formalities, it is often cumbersome and time consuming.


So, a good way to avoid probate is to keep the judge out of it, and title your stuff so that it transfers automatically at death to designated beneficiaries.  In this regard, please check all of your financial accounts to make sure that you have designated both primary and secondary beneficiaries.  These are often reflected as POD or Payable on Death designations.


As to your real estate, I can put that into a Lady Bird Deed, where the property would go to the beneficiaries automatically at death.  The Lady Bird deed would not limit your use or sale of the property, or limit changing beneficiaries by a new deed. 


Finally putting your property into a Trust would avoid probate as well as the above examples.  But the trust is the Cadillac of estate plans and requires some time to put together and maintain, because it addresses a more complex distribution due to young beneficiaries, tax matters, or the special needs of a beneficiary.


April 26, 2023 - Pull over/No Insurance


Dear Phil,

I was driving home from work late one evening and got pulled over by the police.   I was puzzled about why I was getting pulled over and when I asked the officer, she told me that there was no record of insurance on the car I was driving.   Well, I knew that wasn’t right because I had paid the premium on my new policy over a week ago and showed her my paper certificate and I was on my way.  

How is it that the police can pull me over, and waste a bunch of my time, when I am doing absolutely nothing illegal?  

       - Steve


Dear Steve,

If the police have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity afoot, no matter how slight, they can make an investigatory stop or pullover.  In your case I am guessing that the officer used her on-board computer and ran your plates through the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN) and it came back as uninsured. 

Two times per month the Secretary of State sends information to the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN) regarding whether vehicles are insured, as required to be by state law.   By relying on the LEIN information, the officer had a reasonable suspicion that your car was being driven without insurance, which justifies the stop.  Whether the suspicion was ultimately true has no bearing on the matter.  This is the same analysis used in determining whether to suppress evidence seized by the police during an ‘illegal stop’.



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