Category: Estate Tax

Complete a Complete Estate Plan

When it comes to planning, the focus is typically on making you better prepared for the future. That means limiting taxes, creating wiser investment strategies, knowing when it’s best to claim Social Security and developing sustainable retirement income plans. All of these help you on the path to your financial future and your long-term goals. But The Brainerd (MN) Dispatch reports in “3 common estate planning questions, answered,” that there is, however, one exception. That’s estate planning. While much of financial planning primarily benefits you, your estate planning primarily benefits your family and loved ones. 11-14-16

The basic component of your estate plan is your will but there may be other parts you need. Depending on your estate, you may want to consider a trust, in addition to healthcare directives, powers of attorneys and guardian designations. You should also remember that your will isn't necessarily the only instruction when it comes to distributing your assets. The beneficiary designations on your retirement and brokerage accounts, and the life insurance policies you own will take precedence over what you say in your will. Review beneficiary designations regularly to be sure the money in your accounts or the death benefit on a life insurance policy goes to the right person.

A trust can be complicated, so talk with an estate planning attorney to see if it makes sense and whether you'll actually benefit from using a trust. If most of your assets are covered by beneficiary designations or owned in joint tenancy, those assets are already exempt from probate, so they won’t necessarily benefit from a trust strategy.

The executor or the personal representative is the person who will be responsible for carrying out the instructions in your will, settling your debts and paying taxes on your estate. As far as selecting an executor, it should be someone with the capacity to carry out the needed tasks of the position. It also needs to be someone who is willing to serve and is familiar with your situation such as a family member or a close family friend.

If you don't spend every last dollar you have to your name on the day you die, you'll need to have an estate plan. Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to develop one.

Reference: The Brainerd (MN) Dispatch (Sept. 23, 2016) “3 common estate planning questions, answered”

A Few Words of Advice for Getting Married in Your Golden Years

If you're in your senior years, you may want to think twice before tying the knot. The love bug can bite at any age, and that can include pain in your wallet. This advice comes from The Hartford (CT) Courant in its recent article “Fit to Be Tied? Think Twice About Marriage in Your Golden Years.”

A late marriage can mess up your previous plans for your estate, personal finances, as well as any advance directives for your end-of-life health care. It can also impact decisions you've made and will make, in addition to those of your spouse and heirs. 11-11-16

No one is saying that older folks shouldn’t marry. They just need to be aware of the impact it may have on their plans. Elder law attorneys advise that those thinking about marriage later in life, at the time when personal wealth is typically the highest, understand the laws on the property rights of both spouses.

Property owned jointly or exclusively by either spouse is deemed to be marital property when it comes to divorce settlement or settling an estate in many states. If you understand the applicable property rights before the marriage, it’ll let you modify your wills, powers of attorney, health care proxies and designated beneficiaries to avoid legal conflicts in the future. Those who marry later in life must face several estate planning issues younger couples don’t. For example, there may be an accumulation of considerable assets or both may have children from earlier relationships.

Marriage is a legal contract between two people that can only be ended by death, annulment or divorce. The laws concerning marriage typically aim to protect the rights and interests of both spouses. One spouse can’t entirely “disinherit" their surviving spouse, regardless of what he or she writes in a will. Under the law of some states, a surviving spouse is entitled to the income generated from a third of their late spouse’s estate for the rest of their life after all its liabilities are settled.

A good idea to eliminate possible hard feelings is a professionally drafted prenuptial agreement. This document details the legal course to be followed in the event of divorce and decreases the possibility of major disagreements.

Reference: The Hartford (CT) Courant (Sept. 24, 2016) “Fit to Be Tied? Think Twice About Marriage in Your Golden Years”

How Not to Do It: Spending the Inheritance on Royal Souvenirs and Strippers

For the Scripps family, who were heirs to a media fortune, they simply spent their millions. According to an article on CNBC.com, “The Greed Report: Not a billionaire? You still need an estate plan,” they took luxury cruises around the world and family outings to strip clubs. 11-10-16

Melissa Scripps bought Queen Elizabeth II's coronation chair and Queen Victoria's nightgown. Like his mom, son Michael liked to buy war memorabilia and guns. Oh, and he married a stripper.

When the well ran dry, the family started to fight. Mother and son turned on each other, one family member went to prison and tarnished a name once associated with entrepreneurship and philanthropy. This tragedy provides some lessons for the rest of us.

Everybody needs estate planning in some form or another—it doesn't need to be complex in many situations but everyone needs a plan, even those with social problems, financial problems and marital problems.

A good estate plan will consider all of those problems and keep your assets in the family and away from the government and taxes.

Estate planning doesn’t have to be complex or expensive. Estate planning is sometimes 95% social work and 5% legal, some attorneys say. The legal part they know—it's the social part that takes time. The Scripps family probably should have spent more time on the social part as well: Melissa Scripps' attorney said that at the time she inherited the family fortune, she had never held a real job and only had a high school education.

Maybe some more estate planning might have prevented the Scripps’ century-old legacy from turning into a gigantic family feud.

Reference:  CNBC.com (Sept. 22, 2016) “The Greed Report: Not a billionaire? You still need an estate plan”

Want Estate Planning? No, You Need It!

Estate planning is a need, but too often it gets moved down to the list for tomorrow.

There are many reasons people put off estate planning, like discussing death and dying. The (Memphis TN) Daily News recently published an article, entitled “Estate Planning – It’s a Need,” that explained how one person might be a great choice for guardian, trustee, power of attorney or executor. However, what if when the time comes they’ve moved or don’t want the responsibility. What does your family do then? 11-09-16

What if a person named in the will needs to be removed later? What if estate laws change or your circumstances change and there’s a better option?

There will always be changes in our lives. We may live to see our children grow to be adults when they no longer need a guardian. Then again, about that time our parents will age and may need a guardian. We switch jobs, get promoted or get laid off. Investments go up and down. Laws will change, and new legislation will be enacted. These are all important factors on the list of what needs to be addressed in estate planning.

Estate planning is important and it requires significant time and effort. Without a comprehensive estate plan much or all of what you’ve achieved in your life could be lost or given to unintended beneficiaries.

A good way to plan is to draft your will like you were going to die today. Once you have that done, create a review system to ensure your will remains relevant and up-to-date. Talk with a qualified estate planning attorney and let him or her guide you through the process.

Effective estate planning will typically reduce your taxes and those of your estate. In addition, it can save time and expense when settling an estate.

Develop a good working relationship with an experienced estate planning attorney.

Instead of the surviving spouse or children searching for hours through papers and trying to determine what to do next, you should consult with an attorney who will have the documents in hand to help guide the process with minimal impact on the grieving family.

Reference: The (Memphis TN) Daily News (Sept. 23, 2016) “Estate Planning – It’s a Need”