What Does an Estate Planning Attorney Really Do?

Vents Magazine’s recent article, “Understanding What an Estate Planning Attorney Does,” explains that estate planning is a legal set of instructions for your family about how to distribute your wealth and property after you die. Estate planning attorneys make sure the distribution of property happens according to the decedent’s will.

An estate planning attorney can provide legal advice on how to prepare your will after you pass away or in the event that you experience mental incapacity. They will have all the information and education on all the legal processes, beginning with your will and moving on to other important estate planning documents. They will also help you to understand estate taxes.

An estate planning attorney will also help to make certain that all of your savings and property are safe and distributed through the proper legal processes.

Estate planning attorneys can also assist with the power of attorney and health care directives. These documents allow you to designate an individual to decide issues on your behalf, in the event that you become mentally incapable of making decisions for yourself. They can also help you with a guardian who will look after your estate.

It’s important that you select the right estate planning attorney to execute the legal process, as you’ve instructed in your estate plan. You should only retain an attorney with experience in this field of law because other legal counsel won’t be able to help you with these issues—or at least, they may say they can, only to find out later that they’re not experienced in this area.

You also want to feel comfortable with your estate planning attorney because you must disclose all your life details, plans and estate issues, so she can create an estate plan that’s customized to your circumstances.

If you choose the right attorney, it will save you money in the long run. They will help you save from all the estate taxes and make all the processes smooth and easy for you and your loved ones.

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: Vents Magazine (December 12, 2019) “Understanding What an Estate Planning Attorney Does”

 

What Happens If I Don’t Have an Estate Plan?

What Happens If I Don’t Have an Estate Plan? It’s so much better to have a will than not to. With a will, you can direct your assets to those whom you wish to receive a legacy, rather than the default rules of the State. This is according to a recent article in the Houston Chronicle’s entitled “Elder Law: Will you plan now or pay later?”

You should also designate an independent executor. You may want to have an estate planning attorney create a special trust to provide for family members who are disabled, along with trusts for minors and even adult children.

Here are three major items about which you may not have considered that may require changes to your estate plan or motivate you to get one. Years ago, the amount a person could leave to beneficiaries (the tax-free exemption equivalent) was much lower. You were also required to either use it or lose it.

For example, back in 1987 when the exemption equivalent was $600,000 per taxpayer, a couple had to create a by-pass trust to protect the first $600,000 upon the first to die to take advantage of the exemption. The exemption is $11.58 million in 2020, and the “portability” law has changed the “use it or lose it” requirement. There may still be good reasons to use a forced by-pass trust in your will, but in some cases, it may be time to get rid of it.

Next, think about implementing planning to have some control over your assets after you die.

You could have a heart attack, a stroke, or an unfortunate accident. These types of events can happen quickly with no warning. You were healthy and then suddenly a sickness or injury leaves you severely disabled. You should plan in the event this happen to you.

Why would a person not take the opportunity to prepare documents such as powers of attorney for property, powers of attorney for health care, living wills and medical privacy documents?

It’s good to know that becoming the subject of a court supervised guardianship proceeding is a matter of public record for everyone to see. There is also the unnecessary expense and frustration of a guardianship that could’ve been avoided, if you’d taken the time to prepare the appropriate documents with an estate planning or elder law attorney.

Why would you want to procrastinate making a will and then die suddenly without ever taking the time to make your will? Without a valid will, your family will have to pay more for a costly probate proceeding.

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: Houston Chronicle (Jan. 16, 2020) “Elder Law: Will you plan now or pay later?”

 

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”

 

The Many Responsibilities of Inheriting a Home

The Many Responsibilities of Inheriting a Home: When you inherit a home, there are three key factors to consider: the financial and legal responsibilities of the home, the tax liabilities of the home and what you’ll eventually do with the home. All of these different things relate to each other, explains Million Acres in “A Guide to What Happens When You Inherit a House.”

Let’s look at taxes first. There’s no federal tax associated with inheriting a house, but some states have inheritance taxes. For most situations, this inheritance does not lead to an immediate tax liability. When a property is inherited, the IRS establishes a fair market value for the property, which is the new basis for the property. This is a step-up basis. It is the valuation that is used to set future taxes, when the property is sold.

Capital gains are a tax relating to the profits generated from selling an asset, in this case, a house. The step up in basis means the heir only has to pay capital gains taxes, if the home is sold. The taxes will be the difference between the fair market value set at the time of the inheritance and the selling price.

If the property has a mortgage, heirs will need to know what type of mortgage it is and if it is assumable or due on sale. Most mortgage companies allow heirs to take over the payments, according to the original loan terms. However, if there is a reverse mortgage on the home, the unpaid balance is due when the person who took out the reverse mortgage dies. This usually requires the heirs to sell the home to settle the debt.

The condition of the inherited home often determines what heirs decide to do with the house. If it hasn’t been maintained and needs major work, it may be easier to sell it as-is, rather than undertake renovations. Heirs are responsible for taxes, insurance and maintenance. However, if the house is in good shape, it may make sense to keep it.

What happens when siblings inherit a house together? That can get complicated, if each person has a different idea about what to do with the house. One may want to sell now for cash, while another may want to rent it out for income. What ultimately happens to the property, may depend on how well the siblings communicate and make decisions together.

Often the best option is to simply sell the home, especially if multiple heirs are involved. Note that there are costs associated with the sale of the house. This includes any outstanding debts, like a mortgage, the cost of fixing up the home to prepare it for sale, closing costs and fees and real estate agent commissions. If there is a profit on the sale of the home from the tax basis at the time of inheritance, the heirs may need to pay short-term or long-term capital gains tax, depending on how long they held the property.

Talk with an estate planning attorney about managing the sale of the family home. They will be able to guide you, advise you about taxes and keep the family moving through the process of settling the 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 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: Million Acres (December 4, 2019) “A Guide to What Happens When You Inherit a House”

 

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.

 

Estate Planning: How to tell your children they’re not getting an inheritance
how to tell your children they're not getting an inheritance

Estate Planning: How to tell your children they’re not getting an inheritance

Estate Planning: How to tell your children they’re not getting an inheritance:  I saw this article yesterday that I wanted to share this with our followers.

Dear Pete, 

My wife and I are beginning to put together our estate plan, and we’ve come to an interesting conclusion. We don’t want to pass any of our money onto our adult children. They’re not bad people, and they’ve done nothing wrong. It’s just that we think our money can serve a bigger and better purpose in our community. Is there anything wrong with not leaving an estate for your children? – Robert, Columbus, Ohio.

Peter the Planner:

You can do whatever you want with your money and not feel bad about it.

You’ve hit on a topic about which I happen to be very opinionated. Your money is your money. My parents and my in-laws’ money is theirs, and I don’t possess an ounce of ownership of it.

I’ve had the opportunity to witness hundreds of wealth transfers over the past 20 or so years. Some have gone smoothly, and some have gone horribly wrong. I’ve seen seemingly simple situations get butchered with poor planning, and I’ve seen horrendously complicated situations resolved without a hitch.

To help you understand how to execute your wishes cleanly, I want to show you how these situations usually go off the rails.

The ugliest estate settlements I’ve seen involve two specific problems: The first is poor communication, and the second is outdated wishes.

Before we go much further, it’s important for you to know I’m not giving you legal advice. Please consult a licensed attorney to help you with the specifics.

What I’ve learned over the years is money and family get messy when clear expectations and appropriate communication are lacking.

For instance, let’s assume you’ve had a very lucrative career and everyone knows you’re loaded, including your presumed heirs. If you never talk about your desires for your estate, then your family and friends will probably fill in the blanks. Does this make them bad? Of course not. In some cases, your heirs will make financial planning decisions based on what you haven’t told them. They may view your silence as a polite discreteness.

Frankly, I don’t like to see people make financial planning decisions based on limited knowledge of a loved one’s finances and wishes for those finances. But it’s as common as the involuntary “bless you” after a sneeze.

The next element which complicates this matter is the natural progression of your values and wishes for your money. What seems like a good idea for your money today might not feel that way 20 years from now. And if your change in plans isn’t reflected in your estate documentation, chaos will ensue. You must walk a thin line between a commitment to your wishes and constant monitoring of the conditions around you.

If you want to leave your assets to someone other than your family, begin to communicate that plan now. I know it’s easier to let people sort out their feelings after you’re long gone, but hashing out your plan with loved ones will allow you to make them part of the process. You will, of course, want to make sure you leave funds to pay for your final expenses, and arguably a token of your appreciation for sorting out your affairs. You certainly don’t want to burden them financially while they’re grieving.

Now for the trickiest part: If your reality or your kids’ reality changes, you may want to adjust your estate plan. Maybe you think your adult children don’t need any money because they’re on solid ground, but a turn of fortune or health could leave them in a lurch. In that case, you can make the appropriate changes to your estate plan.

As you’ve learned throughout life, assumptions are bad. Don’t assume your children know your plans. Talk to them directly about what you’re thinking, and help them understand it.

You don’t owe them money, but you certainly owe them honesty.

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.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/12/15/estate-planning-wrong-to-not-leave-children-inheritance/4385107002/

 

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”

 

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.

 

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