What Should I Know About Finances for My New Blended Family?

What Should I Know About Finances for My New Blended Family? The blended family is a family dynamic that is increasingly common, which can make addressing financial issues much more of a challenge. In a blended family, a one or both spouses have at least one child from a previous marriage or relationship, and together they create what’s known as a new combined family.

CNBC’s recent article, “4 ways to help blended families navigate finances,” reports that a staggering 63% of women who remarry come into blended families, with 50% of those involving stepchildren who live with the new couple, according to the National Center for Family & Marriage Research.

The issues in a blended family can be demanding, so couples often delay having the “money talk.” This is an important piece of the family financial puzzle. Let’s look at some of the ways you can work on that puzzle:

  1. Get expert advice. Talk to an estate planning attorney about the specifics of your blended situation.
  2. Create a plan for merging relationship and money. Understanding the role money plays in combining two families is critical to the success of a healthy blended household. A basic step may be to draft a detailed plan of how the couple is going to care for one another in their marriage and in their family, in addition to how they will care for one another’s children. Try to determine the ways in which money plays a role in coming together. The more you can communicate and the more that you can exhibit a united front, even from a financial perspective, the stronger a couple will be.
  3. Collect documentation and monitor your money. It’s good to understand the work involved with the preparation and paperwork after divorce and remarriage. You’ll have a divorce decree or a domestic partner agreement, as well as instructions on child support and alimony. You also need to keep track of all the different financial accounts.
  4. Discuss your financial issues regularly. First, ask about the financial obligations to the ex-spouses. Make sure both spouses understand if there’s child support and/or alimony, as well as responsibility for paying for housing or their utility bills.

Reference: CNBC (November 23, 2019) “4 ways to help blended families navigate finances” 

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 to Spot Problems at Nursing Homes

How to Spot Problems at Nursing Homes: The best time to shop for a nursing home, is when you do not need one. If you wait until you can no longer safely or comfortably live on your own, you probably will not be in a position to do a lot of legwork to investigate facilities. Do your research well ahead of time, so you know the nursing homes in your area that provide high-quality care and, more importantly, the ones that have significant problems.

As you evaluate and compare facilities, you need to know how to spot problems at nursing homes. The marketing brochure, website and lobby might be lovely, but you should base your decision about a long-term care facility on much more data than those things. Here are some tips on how to dig for possible problems at nursing homes:

  • Online search. Check out the nursing home’s website to get an overview of the services it offers and the industry affiliations or certifications it has. Look at the daily menus to see if the meals are nutritious and have enough variety. Most people would not enjoy eating the same main course two or three times a week. Look at the activities calendar to see if you would be happy with the planned social events. On some websites, you can view the floor plans of the resident rooms.
  • Ask your primary care doctor to name a few facilities he would recommend for his parents, and those where he would not want them to live.
  • Local Office on Aging location. Every state has an Office on Aging. Contact them to get as much information as you can about safety records, injuries, deaths, regulation violations and complaints about local nursing homes.
  • Your state’s Long-term Care Ombudsman (LCO). Every state also has an Ombudsman who investigates allegations against nursing homes and advocates for the residents. Your state LCO should have a wealth of information about the facilities in your area.
  • State Online Database or Reporting System. Some states have online databases or collect reports about nursing homes.
  • Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website. Medicare maintains an online tool, Nursing Home Compare, that provides detailed information on nursing homes. Every nursing home that gets any funding from Medicare or Medicaid is in this database. You can enter the name of a specific nursing home or search for all the facilities in a city or zip code. The tool includes information about abuse at long-term care facilities. On the webpage, you can explore the Special Focus Facility section to find nursing homes with a history of problems.
  • Word of mouth. Ask your friends, relatives and neighbors to recommend a quality nursing home. Personal experience can be extremely valuable.
  • Make a short list of the top candidates. After you collect as much information as you reasonably can, narrow your options down to four or five facilities that best meet your needs and preferences.
  • Visit your top choices. There is no substitute for going to a nursing home and checking it out in person. Pay attention to the cleanliness of the place throughout, not just in the lobby. Give the facility the “sniff” test. Determine whether they use products to mask unpleasant odors, instead of cleaning thoroughly. See whether the residents are well-groomed and wearing fresh, clean clothes. Observe the interaction of the staff with the residents. Notice whether people who need assistance at mealtime, get the help they need without having to wait.
  • Take online reviews with a grain of salt. Fake reviews are all over the internet. If you see a nursing home with only a few reviews, and they are all five stars, be skeptical.

Once you gather this information, you will be ready in the event you need to stay in a nursing home for a short recuperation from surgery or longer term.

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.

References:

AARP. “Finding a Nursing Home: Don’t Wait Until You Need One to Do the Research.” (accessed December 5, 2019) https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/basics/info-2019/finding-a-nursing-home.html

CMS. “Find a nursing home.” (accessed December 5, 2019) https://www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/search.html

 

Caring for Your Aging Parents – Top 5 Questions and Answers

Caring for Your Aging Parents – Top 5 Questions and Answers: Caring for aging parents can be stressful. It’s a new experience, and one that you’re not always prepared for. The good news is that there are plenty of resources out there to help you navigate this new chapter in your life. To help get the process started, we’ve curated the top 5 questions that people have about caring for an aging loved one and have provided answers to those burning questions.

Question #1 – How do I ensure their legal affairs are in order?

No one likes to think about, much less talk, about the end of their lives. Unfortunately, burying your head in the sand can lead to costly and frustrating situations, once your loved one has passed. Of course, coming out and asking if your parents have an estate-plan in place may not be the most tactful approach. Consider these icebreakers to get a conversation started:

  • “Bob and I just met with our estate planning attorney last week to update our will. Do you and dad have an estate plan in place?”
  • “I was so troubled to hear that Uncle Harry passed and left Aunt Hilary with such a financial mess. Do you think you and mom have your affairs, so that doesn’t happen to one of you?”
  • “We just sent Jenny off to college and our attorney recommended a HIPAA release and power of attorney, just in case something happens to her and we need to step in. Do you have a power of attorney?”

Question #2 – How can I gain access to their health information?

It’s not uncommon for parents to withhold healthcare information from their children. This is often because they don’t want to worry their adult children or grandchildren. It may also be because they don’t want to admit that they have a serious healthcare issue. Sometimes, this lack of disclosure can lead to lapses in care.

If you believe you need access to your parents’ medical records, you have a few options.

  • Go to the doctor with your parents. Ask questions.
  • Ask your parents to make you their personal representative for healthcare matters.
  • Ask your parents to request in writing that medical records be sent to you.

If your parent is incapacitated and unable to give consent, the healthcare provider may share personal healthcare information, if they believe that disclosure is in your parent’s best interest.

Question #3 – Is it time to move them to a care home?

When the family home becomes unsafe for one or both of your aging parents, it may be time to consider some sort of alternative arrangement. Nursing homes are not the only alternatives, however. You might consider an incremental approach that includes things like:

  • In-home Care
  • Senior Daycare
  • Assisted Living Communities
  • Additional Dwelling Units

Discuss these options with your parents and other family members to determine what is best for the whole family.

Question #4 – Should they be driving?

Driving is one of the most important activities to one’s independence. Losing the ability to drive is naturally one of aging people’s top fears. Therefore, of course, you want to let them drive as long as it is safe for them to do so. Once reflexes begin to slow, flexibility declines, hearing levels decrease and peripheral vision narrows, it’s time to start assessing the safety of their driving.

How do you assess their abilities? Take a drive with them. See how they do with highways, traffic, driving at night and during inclement weather. It may not be that they need to give up driving all at once. Perhaps night driving becomes a problem at first. If that’s the case, ask them to agree to let you drive at night.

Question #5 – Am I partnering—or parenting my parents?

Often, when adult children are faced with caring for their parents, the go-to position is one of “parent.” It may be one you’re naturally disposed to, because you have children of your own. It could also be that you’re simply mirroring the role your parents played with you. While natural, this may not be the best approach, because your parents may perceive this new scenario as you taking their independence from them.

Instead of dictating terms and telling them how it’s going to be, reframe your roles from parent-child to partnership. Just because they may be lower on energy or losing memory function, doesn’t mean they can’t make decisions. Talk to them like the adults they are, making sure that each of you is maintaining boundaries and autonomy. You may find them more receptive to your help, which will make things much easier in the long run.

Resources:

The Healthy. “8 Questions You Must Ask to Keep Your Aging Parents Safe and Healthy” (Accessed November 29, 2019) https://www.thehealthy.com/healthcare/caregiving/questions-to-ask-your-aging-parents/

HHS.gov. “Under HIPAA, when can a family member of an individual access the individual’s PHI from a health care provider or health plan?” (Accessed November 29, 2019) https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/faq/2069/under-hipaa-when-can-a-family-member/index.html

 

New Law Set to Make Big Changes to Retirement Plans

New Law Set to Make Big Changes to Retirement Plans: Congress is expected to pass a spending bill that contains major changes to retirement plans. The bipartisan legislation is designed to provide more incentives to save for retirement, but it may require workers to rethink some of their planning.

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act changes the law surrounding retirement plans in several ways:

  • Stretch IRAS. The biggest change eliminates “stretch” IRAs. Under current law, if you name anyone other than a spouse as the beneficiary of your IRA, the beneficiary can choose to take distributions over his or her lifetime and to pass what is left onto future generations (called the “stretch” option). The required minimum distributions are calculated based on the beneficiary’s life expectancy. This allows the money to grow tax-deferred over the course of the beneficiary’s life and to be passed on to his or her beneficiaries. The SECURE Act requires beneficiaries of an IRA to withdraw all the money in the IRA within 10 years of IRA holder’s death. In many cases, these withdrawals would take place during the beneficiary’s highest tax years, meaning that the elimination of the stretch IRA is effectively a tax increase on many Americans. This provision would go into effect January 1, 2020.
  • Required minimum distributions. Currently, you must begin taking distributions from your IRAs beginning when you reach age 70 ½. Under the new law, individuals who are not 70 ½ at the end of 2019 can now wait until age 72 to begin taking distributions.
  • Contributions. The legislation allows workers to continue to contribute to an IRA after age 70 ½, which is the same as rules for 401(k)s and Roth IRAs.
  • Employers. The proposal increases the tax credit businesses get for starting a retirement plan and makes it easier for small businesses to join multiple-employer plans.
  • Annuities. The legislation makes it easier to include annuities in 401(k) plans by eliminating some of the fiduciary requirements used to vet companies and products before they can be included in the plan.
  • Withdrawals. The proposed new law would allow an early withdrawal of up to $5,000 from a retirement account without a penalty in the event of the birth of a child or an adoption. Currently, there is a 10 percent penalty for early withdrawals in most circumstances.

If the law passes as expected, workers will need to immediately reevaluate their estate plans. Some people have used stretch IRAs as an estate planning tool to pass assets to their children and grandchildren. One way of doing this has been to name a trust as the IRA’s beneficiary, and these trusts could have to be reformed to conform to the new rules. If a stretch IRA is part of your estate plan, consult with your attorney to determine if you need to make changes.  To read the bill, click here.

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.

 

Can You Tackle Elder Law on Your Own?

Can You Tackle Elder Law on Your Own?  What usually happens when people do their own estate planning or work on elder law issues, without a lawyer who has years of practice? They may not incur the costs on the front end, but the costs, in financial and emotional terms, often arrive just when the individual or their family is most vulnerable. That message comes through loud and clear in the article “Do-it-yourself elder law estate planning can be risky” from a recent article in the Times Herald-Record.

Let’s clarify the two different areas:

  • Estate planning is about leaving assets to heirs with a minimum of court costs, legal fees and avoiding will contests.
  • Elder law is concerned with protecting assets from the cost of long-term care and empowering people who will be able to make legal, financial and medical decisions on your behalf, if you become incapacitated.

Two of the most important documents in an elder law estate plan are the Powers of Attorney (POA) and health care proxies. If these forms are not prepared correctly, problems will ensue. In some states, like New York, the POA form is long and complicated. Banks and financial institutions will refuse to recognize the form, if they are not completed correctly.

A POA needs to include the “Statutory Gifts Rider,” which allows broad giving powers to the elder law attorney to save assets, even on the eve of the person being admitted to a nursing home. Someone who is not an elder law attorney is not likely to know what this is, or how to prepare it.

There will be similar issues to a do-it-yourself health care proxy. Here’s just one example of the many things that can go wrong: an agent may not make decisions about withholding certain extreme life support measures, even if they are in possession of a valid health care proxy. There needs to be a living will from the individual that explicitly states their wishes regarding withholding heroic means and/or artificial measures. Without the proper document, the person could remain on life support for months or years, even if this was not their wish.

A do-it-yourself approach leaves much to chance. As a result, the potential for problems is enormous. A far better solution that spares spouses and loved ones, is to work with an experienced estate planning lawyer. Can you put a price on peace of mind?

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: Times Herald-Record (Nov. 23, 2019) “Do-it-yourself elder law estate planning can be risky”

 

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.” 

 

Don’t Let Medicare Open Enrollment Go by without checking your benefits

Don’t Let Medicare Open Enrollment Go without checking your benefits: Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, during which you can freely enroll in or switch plans, runs from October 15 to December 7. Don’t let this period slip by without shopping around to see whether your current choices are the best ones for you.

During this period you may enroll in a Medicare Part D (prescription drug) plan or, if you currently have a plan, you may change plans. In addition, during the seven-week period you can return to traditional Medicare (Parts A and B) from a Medicare Advantage (Part C, managed care) plan, enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, or change Advantage plans. Beneficiaries can go to www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) to make changes in their Medicare prescription drug and health plan coverage.

According to the New York Times, few Medicare beneficiaries take advantage of open enrollment, but of those that do, nearly half cut their premiums by at least 5 percent. Even beneficiaries who have been satisfied with their plans in 2019 should review their choices for 2020, as both premiums and plan coverage can fluctuate from year to year. Are the doctors you use still part of your Medicare Advantage plan’s provider network? Have any of the prescriptions you take been dropped from your prescription plan’s list of covered drugs (the “formulary”)? Could you save money with the same coverage by switching to a different plan?

For answers to questions like these, carefully look over the plan’s “Annual Notice of Change” letter to you. Prescription drug plans can change their premiums, deductibles, the list of drugs they cover, and their plan rules for covered drugs, exceptions, and appeals. Medicare Advantage plans can change their benefit packages, as well as their provider networks.

Remember that fraud perpetrators will inevitably use the Open Enrollment Period to try to gain access to individuals’ personal financial information. Medicare beneficiaries should never give their personal information out to anyone making unsolicited phone calls selling Medicare-related products or services or showing up on their doorstep uninvited. If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud or identity theft, contact Medicare.

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Here are more resources for navigating the Open Enrollment Period: