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.

 

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

 

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/

 

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

 

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”

 

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”

 

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.