Simple Mistakes to Avoid in Estate Planning

There’s so much information available today, good and bad, that it is not always easy to know which is which. Just as we should not perform surgery on ourselves, we are asking for problems if we try to manage our estate planning without professional help. That’s the good advice from the article “Examining three common mistakes of estate planning” from The News-Enterprise.

For one thing, the roles of power of attorney agent and executor are often confused. The power of attorney agent acts in accordance with a document that is used when a person is living. The power of attorney appointment is made by you for someone to act on your behalf, when you cannot do so. The power of attorney expires upon your death.

The executor is a person who you name to handle matters for your estate after your death, as instructed in your last will and testament. The executor is nominated by you but is not in effect, until that person is appointed through a court order. Therefore, the executor cannot act on your behalf, until you have died and a court has reviewed your will and appointed them to handle your estate.

Too many people opt for the easy way out, when it comes to estate planning. We hear that someone wants a “simple will.” This is planning based on a document, rather than planning for someone’s goals. Every estate plan needs to be prepared with the consideration of a person’s health, family relationships, and finances.

Many problems that arise in the probate process could have been prevented, had good estate planning been done.

Another mistake is not addressing change. This can lead to big problems while you are living and after you die. If you are healthy, that’s great—but you may not always enjoy good health. Your health and the health of your loved ones may change.

Family dynamics also change over time. If you only plan for your current circumstances, without planning for change, then you may need to make many updates to your will.

The other thing that will occur, is that your estate plan may fail. Be realistic, and work with your estate planning attorney to plan for the many changes that life brings. Plan for incapacity and for long-term care. Make sure that your documents include secondary beneficiaries, disability provisions, and successor fiduciaries.

Create an estate plan that works with today’s circumstances, but also anticipates what the future may bring.

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: The News-Enterprise (Nov. 18, 2019) “Examining three common mistakes of estate planning”

 

State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) for Seniors

State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) for Seniors: The Medicare system can be overwhelming and confusing, but you do not have to deal with questions and problems on your own. Every state has a program to assist Medicare beneficiaries. Click here to find your State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) for seniors. SHINE is Florida’s state health insurance assistance program.

How SHIPs Can Help You

You can get help in your local community with your Medicare questions. You get to talk face-to-face with a human being, who can provide personalized Medicare counseling and advice. He can walk you through many issues, including these situations:

  • You want someone to help you apply for Medicare.
  • You have questions about Open Enrollment.
  • You want to enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan or any other type of Medicare coverage.
  • You have questions about whether you should switch from one Medicare plan to a different one.
  • You do not know how to get new Medicare coverage and cancel your previous plan.
  • You want information about what your Medicare plan covers.
  • You need help understanding your out-of-pocket costs for medical care, like deductibles, coinsurance and uncovered expenses.
  • Learning how to locate doctors, hospital, and other health care providers, who accept your Medicare plan.
  • How to fill out forms to receive benefits.
  • How to appeal an adverse decision from Medicare.
  • How much your Medicare premiums will cost you.
  • Filing a complaint about a health care provider or Medicare plan.
  • Understanding your many options for coverage in addition to “original Medicare,” like prescription drugs, dental care, hearing aids and vision services.

Workers at SHIP centers receive professional training. They can keep your information confidential. Some centers have Spanish-speaking Medicare counselors to serve their local Medicare beneficiaries better.

Success Stories from Medicare Beneficiaries Who Use Their Local SHIP

Testimonials from people who have benefitted from using their local SHIP services reveal positive results. Caregivers say the local SHIP helped them understand their aging parents’ options for coverage. Counselors let people know about different types of coverage they did not know existed. People report they saved money and found the right Medicare plan through the help of a SHIP counselor.

People who are not comfortable navigating government websites can feel overwhelmed trying to handle their Medicare issues by themselves. Being able to sit down with someone who answers your questions can give a person peace of mind.

How Your Local SHIP Counselor Can Help with Your Medicare Questions

You might want to meet with a SHIP counselor if:

  • You had health insurance through your employer and are not familiar with having so many options for coverage.
  • You are turning 65 and have gotten so many mailings that you are overwhelmed.
  • You already have Medicare but are confused about the recent changes.
  • You want to reduce the amount of your Medicare premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
  • You need to change your coverage to help pay for things you need, like prescription drugs.
  • You need information to help your aging loved one.
  • You want to know why your claim got denied.

It will cost you nothing to meet with a counselor at your local SHIP. The government pays for the SHIP programs.

Medicare.gov. “State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs).”  (accessed November 26, 2019) https://www.medicare.gov/Contacts/#resources/ships

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.

 

How Much Will I Really Spend in Retirement?

How Much Will I Really Spend in Retirement? People are living longer today, compared to previous generations. This means that their retirement savings need to last longer. As a result, you’ll need to be certain that you’re calculating your retirement spending accurately.

Kiplinger’s recent article, “Planning for Retirement? You’re Probably Underestimating Your Spending,” explains that general figures and trends don’t consider a person’s health and many other factors. Still, you should anticipate a lengthy retirement, which makes it even more critical to understand your cash flow and break out your expenses.

It’s not uncommon for people to totally underestimate their post-retirement spending. They don’t see the many additional expenses they’ll incur after ending their employment or selling their business. The common notion is that as you get older, you spend less. However, there are new expenses that come with retirement and current costs that you may not be accounting for.

Let’s look at the four main types of expenses that prospective or new retirees need to plan, when creating a budget. Educating yourself in these areas will help to have a comfortable retirement.

  1. Formerly business-subsidized expenses. For many, the job provides more than a salary. It can include health benefits, cell phones and health club memberships. To avoid some surprise when you retire, make a list of the expenses that are now covered by your employer or business. Some you might be able to do without, while others may be a necessity in retirement.
  2. Overlooked expenses. Many people do the majority of their primary spending on one credit card. However, when they estimate their spending for retirement, they forget about spending on other credit cards and regular services and charges that may be paid for by cash or check, such as landscaping, housekeeping and real estate taxes. Prior to retirement, go through all your expenses and how they’re being paid. This should help flesh out a thorough understanding of your spending.
  3. Health care expenses. Even if you hit retirement without a major accident or illness, you’re still probably going to spend a good portion of your income to stay that way. A recent study found that a healthy male-female couple retiring at 65 in 2019 can expect to spend $285,000 on health care over their retirement years. Medicare begins at 65 and covers many expenses, but there are many common health care costs that are not covered, such as dental and vision services, prescription drugs (unless you buy a supplemental plan, such as Part D), and long-term care. Out-of-pocket costs can also shoot up, if a senior has a serious or chronic disease, like a heart condition.
  4. Recurring non-recurring expenses. You may get a new car or need a major repair in your house. These are considered non-recurring expenses you commit to sparingly, or just once in your life. However, big purchases and unexpected costs occur more often than you’d imagine. It’s a good practice to plan for at least one “one-time purchase” each year to cover these unanticipated bills.

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.

 

What Estate Planning Documents Do You Need?

What Estate Planning Documents Do You Need? Wouldn’t your children be relieved to learn that you’ve done all the necessary advance planning so that if you should become incapacitated, someone has been properly appointed to help with health care and financial decisions? The Tennessean suggests that you “Give your loved ones peace of mind with legal documents” so that your spouse and your family will be able to take the necessary steps to give you the care and dignity you (and they) deserve.

Here’s a checklist of the documents that everyone should have in place:

Power of Attorney for Health Care. When you have mental capacity, you can make your own decisions. When you do not, you need someone to be appointed who knows your beliefs and wishes and has the ability to advocate for you. Ideally, you should name one person to be your agent to minimize arguments. Talk with your family to explain who has been named your power of attorney for health care, and if need be, explain why that person was chosen.

Power of Attorney for Finances. There are different kinds of POA for finances. The goal of the POA for finances is so they can make decisions on your behalf, when you become incapacitated. Some states use “springing” POA—but that may mean your family has to go through a process to prove you are incapacitated. Check with an estate planning elder law attorney in your state to see what the laws are.

Advance Directive. This describes what kind of life sustaining treatment you do or do not want if you are in a coma, are terminally ill or have dementia. You can direct whether you want CPR, tube feeding, and other life-sustaining procedures to be withheld, if your quality of life is diminished and there is no hope of improvement. This will help your family to know what you want in a time when emotions are running high.

Last Will and Testament. Have a will created, if you don’t already have one. This directs distribution of your assets to your wishes and does not leave them to the laws of your state. Not having a will means your family will have to go through many more court proceedings and people you may not want to receive your worldly possessions may get them.

Trusts. Talk with your estate planning attorney about placing assets in trust, so they are not subject to the public process of probate. Your wishes will be followed, and they will remain private.

Reference: Tennessean (Nov. 16, 2019) “Give your loved ones peace of mind with legal documents”

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.

 

10 Common Estate Planning Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

10 Common Estate Planning Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

People plan on having a good day, a good year, a good retirement and a good life. But why stop there? Why not plan for a good end of life, too?

End of life or estate planning is about getting plans in place to manage risks at the end of your life and beyond. And while it might be uncomfortable to discuss or plan for the end, everyone knows that no one will live forever.

Estate planning and end of life planning are about taking control of your situation. Death and long-term care later in life might be hard to fathom right now, but we can’t put off planning out of fear of the unknown or because it’s unpleasant. Sometimes it takes a significant event like a health scare to shake us from our procrastination. Don’t wait for life to happen to you, though.

Here are 10 common estate planning mistakes people make and suggestions for how to take action.

1. Not having a real plan in place

I use the term “real plan” because everyone has some type of plan in place — it’s just likely a poorly designed plan for your situation with little thought behind its development. If you don’t have a will or trust in place, state succession laws and the probate process will help determine where your assets go. Do you really want your estate and end of life care determined by state laws and the court system?

Solution: Be proactive and meet with an estate planner and financial planner to set up an end of life and estate plan .

 2. Not updating plans over time

Estate planning isn’t a “set it and forget it” matter. Simply having a plan isn’t enough. Estate plans need to be updated after major life events, when your goals shift or when public policy changes.

For example, if you move to a new state, you need to review your estate plan. Legal instruments like wills, trusts and powers of attorney are state law driven documents, and moving can cause issues. If a new family member is born or someone dies, beneficiary designations might need modifications. And changes at the state or federal government level (e.g., the Tax Cut and Jobs Act passed in late 2017) can severely impact estate planning.

Solution: Revisit your estate plan any time you (or the government) experience a big life change.

3. Not planning for disability and long-term care

Seventy percent of people age 65 will need long-term care before the end of their life. A private room in a nursing home costs more than $100,000 a year, and a home health aide costs more than $50,000 a year.

Long-term care is likely the largest unfunded retirement risk retirees face today, and it’s easy to see why when you look at the numbers.

Considering the facts, it’s clear that no estate plan is complete without some planning for things like disability and long-term care. When you’re still working, disability planning is about making sure you have the right amount of short-term and long-term disability insurance. As you move into retirement, the focus will shift to long-term care planning — how you want to receive it and how you want to fund it.

Solution: Look into disability and long-term care insurance sooner than later. Every year you wait, the price goes up. Discuss your options with your adviser. In the case that long-term care insurance is not feasible, speak with an Elder Law attorney to review your options.

4. Not planning for estate tax liability

Estate tax liability feels like a rich person problem, which is true at the federal — but not necessarily the state — level. After the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017, the federal exemption for 2019 is $11.4 million per person. This means a couple can exclude up to $22.8 million in a taxable estate from federal estate taxes. However, after 2025, the law reverts back to the previous $5 million exemption amount, indexed for inflation.

Currently, the government is in need of revenue and is looking toward new taxes as a solution. A wealth tax, raising income taxes or increasing estate tax revenue will likely all be on the table over the next few years.

Solution: Be cognizant of new taxes as you plan — and be aware that a number of states also have inheritance and state estate taxes.

5. Improper ownership of assets

End of life planning can expose oversights surrounding asset ownership. The first mistake people make is not owning property jointly as spouses. On specific occasions, spouses may want to keep property separate. But when titled properly, it creates creditor protections and efficiencies in transferring property upon the first spouse’s death.

Improper ownership of assets could also be where a business owner accidentally titles business property in their own name, or when retirement accounts are put into a trust when the goal is to keep them outside the trust.

Other times, people think they’re outsmarting the system by deeding real estate property to their kids or selling property for $1. These transactions are actually treated as completed gifts, potentially creating a gift tax liability or at least a requirement to file a gift tax return form to the IRS.

Taking asset ownership too lightly or improperly executing it can cause problems when it pertains to estate and end of life planning.

Solution: Figure out what your assets are and understand how they fit into your estate plan.

6. Lacking liquidity

Asset liquidity is important to have during life and especially after death. If your estate needs to be split among children, a surviving spouse or other heirs, it needs to have the proper amount of liquidity. Life insurance is an efficient way to create estate liquidity, help split up wealth and pay off debts.

If you’re a business owner, liquidity ensures your heirs have the cash they need to operate your business immediately upon your death. If you have a buy-sell agreement or other plan to transfer your business within your estate plan, liquidity is crucial — without enough liquidity, the buy-sell agreement could cease to continue.

Solution: Sit down with a trusted financial professional to determine how much liquidity makes sense for you and how you should go about creating it.

7. Not considering the impact of income taxes on you and your beneficiaries

Certain assets left to heirs can create unintended income taxes for your beneficiaries. While many people are aware that their IRAs and 401(k)s are subject to required minimum distributions (RMDs) after age 70.5, you might not know that inherited accounts can also be subject to RMDs. A 401(k) or IRA inherited by an adult child is subject to RMDs and these RMDs could impact the beneficiary’s tax situation. Money will have to come out of the account each year, and in most cases with traditional IRAs and 401(k)s, the entire distribution is taxable. The RMD is taxed as ordinary income and stacks on top of an individual’s current earnings.

If an heir is a professional in their peak earning years, the distribution will likely be taxed at the highest marginal tax rate. This isn’t ideal as it decreases the total wealth passed down.

Solution: If the original account owner does Roth conversions while living, their beneficiary could avoid taxes upon withdrawal because typically Roth distributions are non-taxable. You’d have to pay taxes to convert a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA, but then you’d experience tax-free growth. If heirs are in higher tax brackets than you are, it can make sense to convert before the heirs receive the accounts.

8. Not planning for minor children/beneficiaries

Although it sits at No. 8 on this list, one of the most important goals of estate planning is to make sure your children are cared for in the case of you and/or your spouse’s untimely death.

You also need to have a proper will in place that designates a guardian. (Make sure you ask the relative or friend before listing them as the designated guardian.) Beyond naming a guardian, spell out instructions for how the money should support the children — too often people leave money to the guardian to manage at their discretion.

Solution: Get life insurance to provide for your children, and make sure your will designates a guardian.

9. Not incorporating charitable gifting and bequests

Whether it’s a local nonprofit, church or alma mater, we like to give back to our community. Why not incorporate charitable giving into your estate plan?

The Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 continues to prevent Americans from itemizing many deductions and, in turn, from receiving any tax benefits for their charitable contributions. Tax benefits aren’t the sole reason people give to charity, but they’re a nice bonus.

Solution: Certain estate planning and gifting techniques, like donor-advised funds and charitable remainder trusts, allow charitable giving that maximizes the federal tax benefits.

10. Not reviewing impact of beneficiary decisions on retirement accounts

As you learned from No. 7 on this list, most retirement accounts are subject to required minimum distribution rules once the account owner turns 70.5. The goal of qualified retirement accounts is to provide tax, investment and creditor protection benefits to encourage and support retirement savings. However, since retirement accounts can be one of the largest assets that an individual owns, they can represent a large part of their estate. As such, it’s important to consider how to pass along the account and which beneficiaries are the best to inherit a retirement account.

Once the account owner dies, the creditor protections on 401(k)s and IRAs fall off for the most part and heirs are required to spend down the accounts. Further complicating the situation is the fact that wills and trusts don’t have much control over what happens to our retirement accounts. Instead, the driver for who inherits IRAs and 401(k)s is the beneficiary designation on the account.

In some situations, it is best to leave retirement accounts to the surviving spouse. However, in other situations you might want to split up an account between children, grandchildren, a charity or a spouse. If your heirs have creditor issues it can make sense leaving the IRA or 401(k) to a trust. But generally speaking, under today’s tax and legal system we want to start by leaving retirement accounts directly to most beneficiaries and only use trusts if the situation requires it.

Solution: Beneficiary designations drive IRAs and 401(k)s, therefore, make sure these documents are up to date with the current and contingent beneficiaries aligning with your goals.

No one-size-fits-all plan exists for a good end of life or estate plan. Start with goal-based planning — determine what you want to accomplish and how your situation is unique. End of life planning ties into many areas of your life, so it’s important to be proactive and work with a team of qualified professionals like attorneys, tax professionals, insurance specialists and a financial planner.

Take the time to sit down and plan for a good end of life, so your heirs and assets survive and thrive.

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 TrustsEstate 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.kiplinger.com/slideshow/retirement/T021-S014-10-common-estate-planning-mistakes-to-avoid/index.html

Written by Jamie Hopkins, Esq., LLM, MBA, CFP®, RICP®. He serves as Director of Retirement Research at Carson Wealth and is a finance professor of practice at Creighton University’s Heider College of Business.

What If Only One Parent Is Willing to Plan?

Making matters much worse for one family, is the fact that while the mother is willing to speak with an estate planning attorney and make a plan for the future, the father won’t even discuss it. What should this family do, asks the article from nwi.com titled “Estate Planning: Can one spouse plan?”

Planning for your eventual demise and distribution of your worldly goods isn’t as much fun as planning a vacation or buying a new car. For some people, it’s too painful, even when they know that it needs to be done. There’s nothing pleasant about the idea that one day you won’t be with your loved ones.

Although contemplating the reality is unpleasant, this is a task that creates all kinds of problems for those who are left behind, if it is not done.

Unfortunately, it is not unusual for one parent to recognize the importance of having an estate plan and the other parent does not consider it to be an important task or simply refuses. In that case, the estate planning attorney can work with the spouse who is willing to go forward.

Some attorneys prefer to represent only one of the spouses, especially in a case like this. Spouses’ interests aren’t always identical, and there are situations where conflicts can arise. When a couple goes to the estate planning attorney’s office and wishes the attorney to represent both of them, sometimes the lawyer will ask for an acknowledgment that the lawyer is representing both of them as a couple. In the event that a disagreement arises or if their interests are very different, some attorneys will withdraw their representation. This is not common, but it does happen.

The estate planning lawyer usually prefers, however, to represent both spouses. Married couple’s estates tend to be intertwined, with real property jointly owned as husband and wife, or husband and husband or wife and wife. Spouses are usually named beneficiaries of life insurance and retirement accounts. Even in blended family situations, this holds true.

If the father in the situation above won’t budge, the mother should meet with the attorney and create an estate plan. The problem is, she may not be able to plan effectively for the two most common and usually the most valuable assets: their jointly owned home and retirement accounts.

If the home is owned by the spouses as “entireties property,” that is, by the couple, she can’t make changes to the title, without her spouse’s consent. One spouse cannot sever entireties property, without both spouses agreeing. Some retirement plans are also subject to the federal law ERISA, which requires a spouse’s consent to change beneficiaries to someone other than the spouse.

Even with these issues, having a plan for one spouse is better than not having any plan at all.

The only last argument that may be made to the father, is that if he does not make a plan, the laws of the state will be used, and few people actually like the idea of the state taking care of their estate.

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 TrustsEstate 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: nwi.com (Nov. 17, 2019) “Estate Planning: Can one spouse plan?”

 

Making Inheritance Talks Easier

Conversations about money and finances can be problematic for many families. Those very same people you grew up with, aren’t always on the same page, especially when the inheritance is the topic, says The New York Times in a recent article “Tips to Ease Family Inheritance Tensions.”

Find a common interest. You may be very different, but you also have a lot in common. The sibling relationship is a long-running one, so focus on preserving or repairing that relationship.

Bring in help to facilitate discussions. If family history makes it too difficult to manage, bring in an estate planning attorney or financial advisor to mediate the conversation. Having an unbiased person to run the show can keep things on track, make sure all viewpoints are recognized and help the group get to a productive conclusion.

Listen to each other. The simplest task may also be the hardest. It’s so easy to fall into old behavior patterns (i.e., the bossy older sister, the brother who goes along to get along). Don’t interrupt each other and check in to make sure everyone is feeling okay about how the conversation is going.

Advice to parents. Even if you don’t have a mega-wealthy family, you may all benefit from having an outside person, like an estate planning attorney or corporate trustee, to be named as a trustee. The more financially competent sibling could be the trust advisor, who can give advice but does not make the final decision. This keeps everyone a little more arm’s length from the decision making.

Talk with your family about money. Inheritances are frequent sources of friction among siblings. Not knowing how they are going to share in the family assets, how it is going to be structured and what expectations are, can create considerable tension within the family. Many families do not talk with their children about money, but that’s a big mistake. Not comfortable with the idea of a conversation? Then write down your motivation for your decisions about how the family wealth is going to be distributed and ask your estate planning attorney to make it part of your documents. It won’t be legally binding, but it may provide your children with some further insights.

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 TrustsEstate 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 239-418-0169 to schedule your free consultation.

Reference: The New York Times (Nov. 6, 2019) “Tips to Ease Family Inheritance Tensions.” 

 

Why Shouldn’t I Delay Making Big Gifts?

The unified federal estate and gift tax exemption for 2020 will jump up to $11.58 million or effectively $23.160 million for married couples.

Market Watch’s recent article, “Get your estate plan in order (this means you),”says that, despite these huge big exemptions and the fact you’re not currently exposed to the federal estate tax, your estate plan may still need updating to reflect the current tax rules.

You may be exposed to the federal estate tax in the future, even though you’re okay right now.

Let’s look at some issues, regardless of whether or you’re “rich” enough to be worried about exposure to the federal estate tax. Year-end is a good time to conduct your estate planning self-check, so let’s get started.

Update beneficiary designations. A will or living trust doesn’t override the beneficiary designations for life insurance policies, retirement accounts and other types of investment accounts. This includes accounts, such as life insurance policies, annuities, IRAs, other tax-favored retirement accounts and employer-sponsored benefit plans. The person(s) named on the most-recent beneficiary form will get the money automatically if you die, regardless of what your will or living trust document might state.

Designate secondary beneficiaries. Designate one or more secondary (contingent) beneficiaries to inherit, if the primary beneficiary dies before you do. Consider this possibility.

Update property titles. If you’re married and own property with your spouse as joint tenants with right of survivorship (JTWROS), the surviving spouse will automatically get sole ownership of the property when the other spouse dies. The major advantage of JTWROS ownership is that it avoids probate. The property automatically goes to the surviving joint tenant.

Name guardians. One of the main purposes of a will, is to designate a guardian for your minor children (if any). The guardians must care for your children, until they reach adulthood.

Any life event could require changes in your estate plan. In addition, the federal and estate and gift tax rules have been unpredictable in the past, along with the state death tax rules. Talk with your estate planning attorney today.

Reference: Market Watch (November 11, 2019) “Get your estate plan in order (this means you)” 

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 TrustsEstate 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 239-418-0169 to schedule your free consultation.

 

Blended Families Need More Thoughtful Estate Plans

Estate planning for blended families is like playing chess in three dimensions: even those who are very good at chess can struggle with so many moving parts in so many dimensions. Preparing an estate plan requires careful consideration of family dynamics, and those are multiplied in blended families. This is another reason why estate plans need to be tailored for each family’s circumstances, as described in the article “Blended families have unique considerations in estate planning” from The News Enterprise.

The last will and testament is often considered the key document in an estate plan. But while the will is very important, it has certain limitations and a few commonly used estate planning strategies can result in unpleasant endings, if this is the only document used.

Spouses often leave everything to each other as the primary beneficiary on death, with all of their children as contingent beneficiaries. This is based on the assumption that the second spouse will remain in the family home, then will distribute any proceeds equally between the children, if and when they move or die. However, the will can be changed at any time before death, as long as the person making the will has mental capacity. If when the first spouse dies, the relationship with the surviving children is not strong, it is possible that the surviving spouse may have their will changed.

If stepchildren don’t have a strong connection with the surviving spouse, which occurs frequently when the second marriage occurs after the children are adults, things can go wrong. Their mutual grief at the passing of the first spouse does not always draw stepchildren and stepparents together. Often, it divides them.

The couple may also select different successor beneficiaries. The husband may name his wife first, then only his children in his will, while the wife may name her husband and then her children in her will. This creates a “survival race.” The surviving spouse receives the property and the children of the spouse who passed won’t know when or if they will receive any assets.

Some couples plan on using trusts for property distribution upon death. This can be more successful, if planned properly. It can also be just as bad as a will.

Trust provisions can be categorized according to the level of control the surviving spouse has after the death of the first spouse. A trust can be structured to lock down half of the trust assets on the death of the first spouse. The surviving spouse remains as a beneficiary but does not have the ability to change the ultimate distribution of the decedent’s portion. This allows the survivor the financial support they need, giving flexibility for the survivor to change their beneficiaries for their remaining share.

Not all blended families actually “blend,” but for those who do, a candid discussion with all, possibly in the office of the estate planning attorney, to plan for the future, is one way to ensure that the family remains a family, when both parents are gone.

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 TrustsEstate 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 239-418-0169 to schedule your free consultation.

Reference: The News Enterprise (November 4, 2019) “Blended families have unique considerations in estate planning”

 

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