Why Is a Power of Attorney Important?

Why Is a Power of Attorney Important? A son who is preparing to help his mother with her legal and financial affairs asks what legal documents he needs to obtain in the article “Tips for becoming a power of attorney” in Hometown Life. He is concerned about a sibling who is estranged from the family and could cause problems in the future. Can he protect his mother and himself?

The first thing he needs to do is obtain a medical power of attorney for the mother, and a durable power of attorney. These are two separate powers of attorney that will give the son the legal right to handle both her financial affairs and her medical care.

With the documents, he will be able to speak directly to her healthcare providers, including her doctors, and to make end-of-life decisions on her behalf. An unhappy family member could indeed cause problems, especially when it comes to major decisions.

The durable power of attorney is geared for legal or financial issues, including handling the mother’s day-to-day money tasks and making decisions about her investments and assets, including the family home.

Having both of these documents, gives the son the ability to do what is necessary for his mother, while also protecting him from an uncooperative family member. However, there are more tasks to be done.

First, he needs to find out if she has an estate plan, including a will, a trust or even any other powers of attorney. He should find out if they are current, and if they still reflect her wishes.

If she has an estate plan, he’ll need to find out when it was last updated and see if it needs to be revised. If she does not, she needs to meet with an experienced estate planning attorney to create a plan to distribute assets according to her wishes and create any needed trusts.

He should also collect her medical information, so he knows who her doctors are and what medications she is taking. He also needs to understand her medical insurance coverage and see if she has the protection that she needs from health care costs.

For her financial affairs, the son needs to gather up information about her accounts, including passwords and login information. The mother should add the son as a signatory to her bank accounts and brokerage houses.

He should also get the names and contact information of any financial professionals she works with. That includes financial advisors, insurance agents and CPAs. It would be wise to get the last two years of her tax returns. This could be invaluable in helping to understand her assets.

It is our goal to provide our clients with the highest level of legal services in the areas of Last Will and Testaments, Living Trust, Irrevocable Trusts, Estate Planning, Probate, Asset Protection, and complete Business Planning. If you or someone you know needs information on Florida estate planning, please contact us today at 239-449-8191 to schedule your free consultation.

Reference: Hometown Life (Dec. 6, 2019) “Tips for becoming a power of attorney”

 

Preparing for the Inevitable: The Loss of a Spouse

Preparing for the Inevitable: The Loss of a Spouse: Becoming a widow at a relatively young age, puts many people in a tough financial position, says the article “Preparing for the Unexpected Death of a Spouse” from Next Avenue. At this point in their lives, they are too young to draw Social Security benefits. There is no best time, but this is a hard time to lose the prime breadwinner in the household.

Women are more likely than men to lose a spouse, and they are typically left in a worse financial position than if their spouse dies before they are old enough to take retirement benefits.

One of the best ways to plan for this event, is for both spouses to have life insurance. This can replace income, and term life insurance, if purchased early in life, can be relatively affordable. The earlier a policy is purchased, the better. This can become a safety net to pay bills and maintain a lifestyle.

Another key component for surviving early widowhood, is being sure that both members of the couple understand the couple’s finances, including how household bills are paid. Usually what happens is that one person takes over the finances, and the other is left hoping that things are being done properly. That also includes knowing the accounts, the log in and password information and what bills need to be paid at what dates.

Having that conversation with a spouse is not easy, but necessary. There are costs that you may not be aware of, without a thorough knowledge of how the household works. For instance, if the husband has done all of the repairs around the house, maintaining the yard and taking care of the cars, those tasks still need to be done. Either the widow will become proficient or will have to pay others.

Couples should work with an estate planning attorney and a financial advisor, as well as an accountant, to be sure that they are prepared for the unexpected. What survivor’s benefits might the surviving spouse be eligible to receive? If there are children at home age 16 or under, there may be Social Security benefits available for the child’s support.

Discuss what debt, if any, either spouse has taken on without the other’s knowledge. Any outstanding medical bills should also be discussed. The last thing a loved one should have to cope with when a spouse passes, is a tangle of debt. However, this often happens.

If the spouse was a veteran, the surviving spouse might be eligible for benefits from the Veterans Administration. Find out what information will be needed to apply for benefits.

Talk with your estate planning attorney to make sure that all proper documents have been prepared. This includes a last will and testament, power of attorney, health care proxy and any trusts.

It is our goal to provide our clients with the highest level of legal services in the areas of Last Will and Testaments, Living Trust, Irrevocable Trusts, Estate Planning, Probate, Asset Protection, and complete Business Planning. If you or someone you know needs information on Florida estate planning, please contact us today at 239-449-8191 to schedule your free consultation.

Reference: Next Avenue (Dec. 18, 2019) “Preparing for the Unexpected Death of a Spouse”

 

Facts and Figures for Older Workers and Retirees in 2020

Facts and Figures for Older Workers and Retirees in 2020: A new year always brings change, and this year is no exception. From Market Watch, the article “Numbers that older workers and retirees need to know in 2020” provides key information for this new year.

Retirement Plan Changes. Limits for how much can be saved in 401(k), 403(b), Thrift Savings Plan, and most 457 plans have increased by $500 to $19,500 for 2020. If you are 50 and older, the “catch-up” contribution has also increased by $500, so you can now save an additional $6,500 in those accounts.

For those with SIMPLE retirement plans, which are usually from small businesses with 100 or fewer employees, you can increase savings by $500 to $13,500.

What hasn’t changed—if you have an individual traditional IRA, you can save $6,000, with a catch-up contribution of $1,000.

Social Security Changes. The Social Security Administration reports that the average monthly benefit in 2019 was $1,356.05. This will rise by 1.6% in 2020, which will mean an increase of $21.69 per month. Last year, some 63.8 million Americans took Social Security benefits. It was the first year since the program began in 1935 that spending topped $1 trillion.

Another change to Social Security in 2020 is the longer period of time to reach full retirement age. For people born in 1958, this now increases to 66 years and eight months. If you were born in 1958, you’ll need to be that age to collect your full retirement benefit. The longer period is also going to increase in 2021 and 2022—making the full retirement age 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later.

That doesn’t mean people can’t get Social Security benefits earlier—you can elect to take benefits as early as age 62—but you’ll receive less. If you take benefits at age 62, they’ll be 75% of the monthly benefits because you will have added 48 months. At age 65, you’ll receive 93.3% of full benefits because of adding an additional 12 months. If you are taking spousal benefits, there are more numbers to consider.

Medicare Changes. The good news was the increase from Social Security. The bad news? Standard monthly Part B premiums will increase 6.7%, from $135.50 in 2019 to $144.60. That’s the minimum premium. Depending upon your premium, they could go as high as $491.60 per month. Medicare officials blame higher drug prices on the increase.

Health care costs are part of a rising tide of costs facing retirees and older workers. Considering how few Americans have enough money saved for retirement, this is going to become more of a national issue as boomers and millennials age. It should serve as a reminder for all—save as much as you can for retirement, starting now.

It is our goal to provide our clients with the highest level of legal services in the areas of Last Will and Testaments, Living Trust, Irrevocable Trusts, Estate Planning, Probate, Asset Protection, and complete Business Planning. If you or someone you know needs information on Florida estate planning, please contact us today at 239-449-8191 to schedule your free consultation.

Reference: Market Watch (Dec. 28, 2019) “Numbers that older workers and retirees need to know in 2020”

 

Business Owners Should Start End-Game Planning Now

Business Owners Should Start End-Game Planning Now: Most parents understand that the ultimate goal of child-rearing is to help a child become an independent adult. For the business owner, this means building a business that would continue after they have retired or passed away. However, when it comes to estate planning, says the article “Why Business Owners Should Think About Estate Planning Sooner Than Later,” from Forbes, many business owners think only about their personal assets and their children.

For a successful business owner who wants to see their business continue long after they have moved on to the next chapter in their lives, the best time to start succession planning is now.

Succession and estate planning should not be something you wait to do until the end of your life. Most people make this mistake. They don’t want to think about their own mortality or what will happen after they’ve died. Very rarely do people realize the value of estate planning and succession planning when they are engaged in a start-up or when their companies are just getting solid footing. They are too busy with the day-to-day concerns of running a business than they are with developing a succession plan.

However, any estate planning attorney who has been practicing for more than a few years knows that this is a big mistake. Securing assets and business planning sooner, not later, is a far better way to go.

Business continuity is the first concern for entrepreneurs. It’s not an easy topic. It’s far better to have this addressed when the owner is well and the business is flourishing. Therefore, the business owner is making decisions and not others, who may be emotionally invested but not knowledgeable about the business.

A living trust and will can put in place certain parameters that a trustee can carry out. This should include naming the individuals who are trusted to make decisions. Having those names and decisions made will minimize the amount of arguing between recipients of assets. Let them be mad at you for your choices, rather than squabbling between each other.

Create a business succession plan that designates successor trustees who will be in charge of managing the business, in the event of the owner’s incapacity or death. A power of attorney document is used to nominate a fiduciary agent to act on your behalf if you should become incapacitated, but a trust should be considered to provide for a smoother transition of the business to successor trustees.

By transferring a business to a trust, the inconvenience and costs of probate may be avoided and assets will be passed along to chosen beneficiaries. Timely planning also preserves business assets, since they can take advantage of advanced tax planning strategies.

Estate and succession planning is usually not top-of-mind for young business owners, but it is essential planning. Talk with an experienced estate planning attorney to get yourself and your business ahead of the game.

It is our goal to provide our clients with the highest level of legal services in the areas of Last Will and Testaments, Living Trust, Irrevocable Trusts, Estate Planning, Probate, Asset Protection, and complete Business Planning. If you or someone you know needs information on Florida estate planning, please contact us today at 239-449-8191 to schedule your free consultation.

Reference: Forbes (Dec. 30, 2019) “Why Business Owners Should Think About Estate Planning Sooner Than Later”

 

If I’m 35, Do I Need a Will?

If I’m 35, Do I Need a Will? Estate planning is a crucial process for everyone, no matter what assets you have now. If you want your family to be able to deal with your affairs, debts included, drafting an estate plan is critical, says Wealth Advisor’s recent article entitled “Estate planning for those 40 and under.”

If you have young children, or other dependents, planning is vitally important. The less you have, the more important your plan is, so it can provide as long as possible and in the best way for those most important to you. You can’t afford to make a mistake.

Talk to your family about various “what if” situations. It is important that you’ve discussed your wishes with your family and that you’ve considered the many contingencies that can happen, like a serious illness or injury, incapacity, or death. This also gives you the chance to explain your rationale for making a larger gift to someone, rather than another or an equal division. This can be especially significant, if there’s a second marriage with children from different relationships and a wide range of ages. An open conversation can help avoid hard feelings later.

You should have the basic estate plan components, which include a will, a living will, advance directive, powers of attorney, and a designation of agent to control disposition of remains. These are all important components of an estate plan that should be created at the beginning of the planning process. A guardian should also be named for any minor children.

In addition, a life insurance policy can give your family the needed funds in the event of an untimely death and loss of income—especially for young parents. The loss of one or both spouses’ income can have a drastic impact.

Remember that your estate plan shouldn’t be a “one and done thing.” You need to review your estate plan every few years. This gives you the opportunity to make changes based on significant life events, tax law changes, the addition of more children, or their changing needs. You should also monitor your insurance policies and investments, because they dovetail into your estate plan and can fluctuate based on the economic environment.

When you draft these documents, you should work with a qualified estate planning attorney.

It is our goal to provide our clients with the highest level of legal services in the areas of Last Will and Testaments, Living Trust, Irrevocable Trusts, Estate Planning, Probate, Asset Protection, and complete Business Planning. If you or someone you know needs information on Florida estate planning, please contact us today at 239-449-8191 to schedule your free consultation.

Reference: Wealth Advisor (Jan. 21, 2020) “Estate planning for those 40 and under”

 

Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples

Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples: For some couples, getting married just doesn’t feel necessary. However, they don’t enjoy the automatic legal rights and protections that legally wed spouses do, especially when it comes to death. There are many spousal rights that come with a marriage certificate, reports CNBC in the article “Here’s what happens to your partner if you’re not married and you die.” Without the benefit of marriage, extra planning is necessary to protect each other.

Taxes are a non-starter. There’s no federal or state income tax form that will permit a non-married couple to file jointly. If one of the couple’s employers is the source of health insurance for both, the amount that the company contributes is taxable to the employee. A spouse doesn’t have to pay taxes on health insurance.

More important, however, is what happens when one of the partners dies or becomes incapacitated. A number of documents need to be created, so should one become incapacitated, the other is able to act on their behalf. Preparations also need to be made, so the surviving partner is protected and can manage the deceased’s estate.

In order to be prepared, an estate plan is necessary. Creating a plan for what happens to you and your estate is critical for unmarried couples who want their commitment to each other to be protected at death. The general default for a married couple is that everything goes to the surviving spouse. However, for unmarried couples, the default may be a sibling, children, parents or other relatives. It won’t be the unmarried partner.

This is especially true, if a person dies with no will. The courts in the state of residence will decide who gets what, depending upon the law of that state. If there are multiple heirs who have conflicting interests, it could become nasty—and expensive.

However, a will isn’t all that is needed.

Most tax-advantaged accounts—Roth IRAs, traditional IRAs, 401(k) plans, etc.—have beneficiaries named. That person receives the assets upon death of the owner. The same is true for investment accounts, annuities, life insurance and any financial product that has a beneficiary named. The beneficiary receives the asset, regardless of what is in the will. Therefore, checking beneficiaries need to be part of the estate plan.

Checking, savings and investment accounts that are in both partner’s names will become the property of the surviving person, but accounts with only one person’s name on them will not. A Transfer on Death (TOD) or Payable on Death (POD) designation should be added to any single-name accounts.

Unmarried couples who own a home together need to check how the deed is titled, regardless who is on the mortgage. The legal owner is the person whose name is on the deed. If the house is only in one person’s name, it won’t become part of the estate. Change the deed so both names are on the deed with rights of survivorship, so both are entitled to assume full ownership upon the death of the other.

To prepare for incapacity, an estate planning attorney can help create a durable power of attorney for health care, so partners will be able to make medical decisions on each other’s behalf. A living will should also be created for both people, which states wishes for end of life decisions. For financial matters, a durable power of attorney will allow each partner to have control over each other’s financial affairs.

It takes a little extra planning for unmarried couples, but the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you have prepared to care for each other, until death do you part, is priceless.

It is our goal to provide our clients with the highest level of legal services in the areas of Last Will and Testaments, Living Trust, Irrevocable Trusts, Estate Planning, Probate, Asset Protection, and complete Business Planning. If you or someone you know needs information on Florida estate planning, please contact us today at 239-449-8191 to schedule your free consultation.

Reference: CNBC (Dec. 16, 2019) “Here’s what happens to your partner if you’re not married and you die”

 

Fixing an Estate Plan Mistake

Fixing an Estate Plan Mistake: When an issue arises, you need to seek the assistance of a qualified and experienced estate planning attorney, who knows to fix the problems or find the strategy moving forward.

For example, an irrevocable trust can’t be revoked. However, in some circumstances it can be modified. The trust may have been drafted to allow its trustees and beneficiaries the authority to make certain changes in specific circumstances, like a change in the tax law.

Those kinds of changes usually require the signatures from all trustees and beneficiaries, explains The Wilmington Business Journal’s recent article entitled “Repairing Estate Planning Mistakes: There Are Ways To Clean Up A Mess.”

Another change to an irrevocable trust may be contemplated, if the trust’s purpose may have become outdated or its administration is too expensive. An estate planning attorney can petition a judge to modify the trust in these circumstances when the trust’s purposes can’t be achieved without the requested change. Remember that trusts are complex, and you really need the advice of an experienced trust attorney.

Another option is to create the trust to allow for a “trust protector.” This is a third party who’s appointed by the trustees, the beneficiaries, or a judge. The trust protector can decide if the proposed change to the trust is warranted. However, this is only available if the original trust was written to specify the trust protector.

A term can also be added to the trust to provide “power of appointment” to trustees or beneficiaries. This makes it easier to change the trust for the benefit of current or future beneficiaries.

There’s also decanting, in which the assets of an existing trust are “poured” into a new trust with different terms. This can include extending the trust’s life, changing trustees, fixing errors or ambiguities in the original language, and changing the legal jurisdiction. State trust laws vary, and some allow much more flexibility in how trusts are structured and administered.

The most drastic option is to end the trust. The assets would be distributed to the beneficiaries, and the trust would be dissolved. Approval must be obtained from all trustees and all beneficiaries. A frequent reason for “premature termination” is that a trust’s assets have diminished in value to the extent that administering it isn’t feasible or economical.

Again, be sure your estate plan is in solid shape from the start. Anticipating problems with the help of your lawyer, instead of trying to solve issues later is the best plan.

Reference: Wilmington Business Journal (Jan. 3, 2020) “Repairing Estate Planning Mistakes: There Are Ways To Clean Up A Mess” 

It is our goal to provide our clients with the highest level of legal services in the areas of Last Will and Testaments, Living Trust, Irrevocable Trusts, Estate Planning, Probate, Asset Protection, and complete Business Planning. If you or someone you know needs information on Florida estate planning, please contact us today at 239-449-8191 to schedule your free consultation.

 

Include Fido or Fluffy in Estate Planning

Include Fido or Fluffy in Estate Planning: If you are a pet owner, you no doubt make plans for your pet when you go on vacation. If you are a very dedicated pet owner, perhaps you have already made provisions in your will or created a pet trust. If your pet outlives you, then such a trust can provide for your pet. However, what about if you become mentally or physically incapacitated, asks Next Avenue’s article “How to Make Plans to Provide Care for Your Pet If You Can’t.”

What would happen if you had Alzheimer’s and there was no plan for you or your pet? A legal process could be initiated by a family member to establish a court-supervised guardianship or conservatorship and a judge would decide who would be responsible for you and your legal and financial affairs. This person would also be responsible for decisions about your pet, since pets are treated as property by the law.

The guardian might understand how important your pet is to you, but they just as easily might not. If they decide that your beloved pet is a burden, or they don’t want to spend money on your pet’s care, they have the legal power to send the pet to a shelter or give the pet away. Writing a will with a provision or two about your pet’s care won’t help, because the will does not take effect until you die.

One option is to have an estate planning attorney prepare a durable power of attorney document, with a person named to act as your agent. This person would be legally empowered to make decisions about your finances and property, including your pet(s), without intervention by the court. However, that won’t solve the problem either.

The power of attorney document won’t include details on how you want your pet to be cared for. Those details will be entirely up to the person who serves as your power of attorney.

A revocable trust is an alternative. The document can be used to explain, in detail, exactly what your wishes are for your pet (as well as any other property placed in the trust). The person designated as your trustee now has a legal obligation to carry out your wishes. You can say what you want to happen to your pet if you become incapacitated, and how much money from the trust is to be spent on pet care, food, veterinarian care, grooming, toys, etc.

Your revocable trust document can also designate a caretaker for your pet or state that the pet should go to a no-kill pet shelter. You can, if you wish, use the trust document to ensure that the caretaker is paid for taking on the responsibility of caring for the pet and reimbursed for any pet expenses.

You can also direct that your pet be brought to you for regular visits, if you need to live in an assisted living facility or a nursing home. You can also instruct that you want to be placed in a facility that has a robust pet therapy program or a “house pet” that lives at the facility.

Another option is to create a standalone pet trust. This trust is solely focused on your pet and its care. All funds in the trust are designated to pay for the pet’s care and services of a caretaker. The trustee could be the caretaker or someone else. This could give you even more control over what happens to your pet.

Speak with an estate planning attorney who has helped pet owners set up plans for their pets. It’s recommended that this be taken care of as soon as possible. We never know when an illness may strike, or an accident occur.

It is our goal to provide our clients with the highest level of legal services in the areas of Last Will and Testaments, Living Trust, Irrevocable Trusts, Estate Planning, Probate, Asset Protection, and complete Business Planning. If you or someone you know needs information on Florida estate planning, please contact us today at 239-449-8191 to schedule your free consultation.

Reference: Next Avenue (Jan. 10, 2020) “How to Make Plans to Provide Care for Your Pet If You Can’t”

 

12 Ways to Be Happier in 2020

12 Ways to Be Happier in 2020: Even historians of happiness like myself freely admit that we still know relatively little about the subject, especially regarding how to generate more of it in our everyday lives. Some of the most brilliant minds since antiquity have struggled with understanding the nature of happiness. (Even the term itself remains nebulous.) Happiness is an emotion, after all, and one of the more ambiguous ones, making it difficult if not impossible to realize it simply because one desires to.

Despite the major obstacles facing those wanting to be happier, many of us have pursued it with considerable vigor. The gap between the desire for greater happiness and the finding of it has caused much frustration and consternation over the years, a failure of sorts that continues to this day. The emergence of a happiness movement powered by “positive psychology” represents the most direct and grandest attempt to enable people to be happier, but I’m not convinced that any significant degree of any emotion can be concocted or conjured up by self-determination and/or discipline.

Still, findings from the abundance of research in the field lead us to some apparent core truths regarding happiness and its sources. Here, then, are what I propose to be 12 essential ingredients of happiness based on my deep dive into the subject. Listing a dozen pithy actions obviously does not do justice to the enormity of the subject, but is a worthwhile exercise, given how many of us are searching for greater happiness, especially as a new year and a new decade beckon.

  1. Stay positive. Optimism, accentuating the positive rather than the negative, has always been strongly correlated with high levels of happiness. Seeing the glass as half-full rather than as half-empty (to use another cliché) is vital to maintaining the most basic rule of life: that it is worth living.
  2. Find purpose. A good reason to get up in the morning goes a long way to being a happy person. Having a sense of direction, setting and reaching goals, and taking pride in accomplishments are all woven into the fabric of happiness.
  3. Reside in the present. Living as much as possible in the moment, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, is a guiding principle of happiness. Today is infinitely more valuable than yesterday or tomorrow, making those living in the now much more likely to be happy than those thinking about what might have been or what might be.
  4. Face reality. Regular reality checks help one manage one’s expectations and keep the ups and downs of life in perspective, all things happy people tend to do. In addition, accepting the truth that unhappiness is an essential part of life is, ironically enough, one of the keys to happiness.
  5. Appreciate what you have. Taking pleasure in and being grateful for what one has chases away common scourges of unhappiness like envy and disappointment. Comparing oneself (or one’s stuff or social media photos) to others is a road better not taken, as is attempting to “have it all,” as of course there is no all to have.
  6. Embrace humbleness. Being aware of your limitations is, oddly enough, a prime way to feel really good about yourself. The happiest people on Earth also seem to be the most modest, something a few world leaders might keep in mind.
  7. Emanate kindness. Adopting a philosophy of and approach to life simply around being kind is a powerful source of happiness for oneself and others. Buddhism is heavily steeped in the idea of compassion, most notably, and it is hard to argue with the kindness of the monks and the Dalai Lama.
  8. Be generous. Enabling the wellbeing of friends, family, and complete strangers is a winning formula for personal happiness. Giving can be a more rewarding experience than receiving, folk wisdom that is borne out by study after study.
  9. Strive for patience. An awareness of the vicissitudes of time and the imperfections within us all serve as a valuable tool in achieving happiness. Life is about the means rather than the ends, something we tend to forget while we’re scurrying around to get things done.
  10. Remain curious. Viewing life as an endless opportunity to learn and/or experience things is a wonderful path to happiness. Preserving at least a little of the child within is, to me, a very underrated thing to do.
  11. Keep faith. This can be in a higher power (although it doesn’t have to be), but it’s the view that there is some kind of grand design or order to the universe. This is integral, for many, to happiness. Some perfectly content people may see life as a random series of events, but for my money accepting the idea that there is something bigger than oneself adds a whole other level to our limited time here.
  12. Spread the love. I’m convinced that filling one’s life with as much love as possible is the ultimate avenue to happiness. In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make, wise words indeed that should guide us into next year—and beyond.

It is our goal to provide our clients with the highest level of legal services in the areas of Last Will and Testaments, Living Trust, Irrevocable Trusts, Estate Planning, Probate, Asset Protection, and complete Business Planning. If you or someone you know needs information on Florida estate planning, please contact us today at 239-449-8191 to schedule your free consultation.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/psychology-yesterday/201912/12-ways-be-happier-in-2020