You Have a Will, is That Enough?

Last will and testament with pen and glasses concept for legal dRoughly half of all Americans don’t have a will, so if you’ve already taken this vital step to protect your assets and successors then congratulations are in order – you’re already ahead of the curve. While a will is a necessary document that every person who owns assets should have, it is still a relatively simple document that may not cover everything you want it to. You may want to consider creating an estate plan that involves the use of a living trust, plus other important documents like a power of attorney for finances and health care directives.

To over-simplify it, an estate plan is a more comprehensive way than a will to instruct how your estate is to be distributed after your death, and how your assets should be managed if you become disabled and unable to make financial or health care decisions. Estate plans can save you and your successors substantial amounts of money in court costs, legal fees, and taxes. Consider the following items when creating an estate plan:

Do you have/are you expecting children/grandchildren? This is one of the most important factors to consider when creating an estate plan. Beyond appointing a guardian to take care of minor children, you may also need to appoint a conservator who will manage the assets your successor(s) will inherit when they reach the age of majority.

You may have assets that already contain a beneficiary designation such as a transfer on death (TOD) account. If not, then your will may be used to instruct who will receive such assets.

Minimize probate and maximize privacy. An estate plan that uses a living trust will allow your heirs to move through the administration process as quickly and efficiently as possible. With only a will, a process called probate must be used at your death. Information brought forward in probate court is public knowledge and all of the terms of your will plus the assets you own will become part of the public record. Also, probate can be very expensive. Even an uncontested probate could take longer than a year to pass through probate court and attorney’s fees and court costs can start to add up. Constructing an estate plan with an attorney before probate can help avoid most of these costs and loss of privacy.

Consider your digital information. One thing that’s often forgotten, but necessary in today’s digital age, is what happens to your online information after you die? Many of our day-to-day activities are conducted online and this may present issues for your family after you die. For example, if you invest or bank online, it can be an incredible hassle for your heirs to decode your online financial life. Consider storing your passwords in a safe place and then give access through a power of attorney to someone you trust who will be able to help your family manage your online footprint. An estate planning attorney will be able to sit down with you and go through your online accounts and help you decide which ones will need attention in the event of your death or disability.

Location and size of your estate. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 doubled the size of the federal estate tax exemption to $11.2 million for a married couple. That means unless your estate is larger than $11.2 million, you may be exempt from paying federal taxes on it. However, depending on where you live you may be subject to state-level estate taxes. There are currently 17 states, and the District of Columbia, that impose some sort of estate or inheritance tax.

There are many other factors to consider when constructing an estate plan, some of which can be complicated. Please do not hesitate to reach out to our office by calling 267-288-5765, if you wish to discuss how best to protect your legacy.

Why May is Special for Elder Law Attorneys – Part 1

Senior Married CoupleMay is National Elder Law Month, as designated by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.  It is a way to acknowledge the profession that supports seniors and their families with all of their planning needs. And while that sounds great, many people still ask, “What do elder law attorneys do?” Part 1 of this series, “Why May is Special for Elder Law Attorneys” will explore several ways elder law attorneys help seniors and their loved ones.

Elder law attorneys help seniors and their loved ones plan for the possibility of needing long term care.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 10 people age 65 or older has Alzheimer’s dementia.  This number is predicted to double by 2050. Alzheimer’s is also the most expensive disease in the country, with no known cure. In 2017, the average lifetime cost of care for someone with dementia was $341,810.

A diagnosis of dementia can wreak emotional and financial havoc on a family. Elder law attorneys help take the financial stress off of families by discussing options to find and pay for appropriate care without losing the family home or a lifetime of savings.

The emotional and financial cost to family caregivers is also quite alarming.  83% of all caregiving comes from family members, friends, or unpaid caregivers. 30-40% of family caregivers suffer from depression.  In 2011, a MetLife study estimated that women caregivers lose over $324,000 in lost wages and social security benefits over their lifetime. Male caregivers lose an estimated $283,000 in lost wages and social security benefits over their lifetime.

The family caregivers who are trying to work and provide care to a parent or loved one also need a legal plan. Elder law attorneys work closely with family members and caregivers to make sure they have proper legal documents in place should their health fail, or if they lose employment due to unpaid caregiving.

If it’s not in writing, it won’t be honored.

Elder law attorneys work closely with seniors to understand what should happen if they can no longer make financial decisions or health care decisions. For example, if mom develops dementia and can no longer pay the monthly bills, who will she want to have authority to access her bank account in order to get the bills paid? What type of care does she want if her dementia advances to the point that she can’t communicate her wishes? Does she want to live at home as long as possible? Does she want a private room if she’s in a facility? These are just a few questions that elder law attorneys discuss with clients, which then get put into legal documents so that mom’s wishes will be fulfilled.

My loved one is in the hospital and can’t come home – now what?

It can be very stressful for a spouse and children when a parent becomes ill and can no longer live at home safely. It can also be very expensive, putting the family’s home and savings at risk.

Elder law attorneys help families find and pay for the best long-term care possible. Unfortunately, 24 hour care at home or in a facility can cost families thousands of dollars a month. Therefore, it is often appropriate to look at other funding sources, like Medicaid or Veterans Benefits, to help offset the cost of care. Elder law attorneys help families explore options, and make the best decision for the loved one needing the care.

We will continue exploring how elder law attorneys help seniors and their families in Part 2 of “Why May is Special for Elder Law Attorneys.” In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like more information about how we can help you or a loved one, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 267-288-5765.

 

What to Consider in Retirement Planning

retirement moneyMost people dream of the day they can retire. The problem is that many do not move beyond dreaming to planning. Planning can be done no matter what your age, but experts encourage people to start as early as possible. Retirement planning can seem like a daunting endeavor for many people as they focus on day-to-day financial obligations. Many people have no idea where to start. A few simple questions can help people of any age plan for retirement.

What does retirement look like to you?

This is an essential question to ask when beginning to plan for retirement. A good starting place is to start jotting down your ideas and, if married, your spouse’s ideas for retirement. Maybe travel is in your plan. If not travel, then how do you plan to spend your time? Will you want to downsize your home? Many people find that the home where they raised their family is too large or more than they wish to maintain. Will you continue working? If so, how much do you wish to work. Part-time or contract work can give more flexibility while still providing a source of extra income.

What assets do you have?

This is the beginning of financial planning for retirement. Look not just at your bank account and retirement accounts, but also property you own. Other assets to consider are collections that have significant financial value. Also, take stock of other investments that will be used to fund your retirement.

How is your health?

Personal health can play a large factor in retirement planning. The first step is to make sure you are up to date on all of your health screenings and check-ups. Once your health has been evaluated, you can better assess your plans for retirement. Health can affect finances and quality of life in retirement. There is no better time than the present to evaluate lifestyle and, if necessary, improve health habits to improve your quality of life and extend it.

When should you take social security?

There is no easy answer to this question and it is really a case-by-case decision that an attorney or financial professional can help you make. In the most basic terms, waiting longer to take benefits will increase the monthly benefits you receive. However, for many, this is not an option. It is important to assess your expenses and make the most informed decision possible with help from informed professionals.

How can I cut expenses to save more?

This is an excellent question for people of any age to consider. Cutting expenses can provide for extra savings to throw into your retirement plan. Cutting expenses can also help when creating a budget for retirement. If you can cut in some categories, then you can reallocate to other categories in order to be able to live more comfortably in the future. Paying off debt also becomes more manageable when other expenses can be cut.

How do I need to plan for the unexpected?

There is never any guarantee that the retirement you plan becomes reality. Many unexpected events can and will arise in retirement. These events can put a financial strain on a family, so it is important to plan a contingency for these events. This also good time to talk family and think about future care needs. Good health today does not guarantee it in the future – in fact, the possibility of needing long term care increases with each year we grow older. Creating a plan that includes legal and financial considerations helps get all family members on the same page and can greatly reduce stress should the unexpected occur.

Considering these questions can help you to begin working on a retirement plan that will fit your needs in the future.  An attorney can also help you with the legal side of planning for retirement, especially when considering the possibility of needing long term care in the future. The destination (retirement) is easier when the roadmap is clear and you have a plan for bumps in the road.

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us at 267-588-2765.

 

Choosing the Right Trustee

Choosing the Right Trustee

When planning for your loved ones’ future, you may consider creating a trust to protect assets set aside for them. If you create a trust, you will need a reliable and trustworthy person to name as the trustee who will manage the trust. Choosing the correct trustee is an important decision because he or she will be responsible for carrying out your wishes when managing the trust.

The trustee will be responsible for duties such as managing investments, paying bills, preparing tax returns, and managing other accounts within the trust.

Before choosing a trustee, consider the following points that will help you determine who will be best suited for the role.

1. A trustee must be over the age of eighteen and capable of managing his or her own affairs successfully.

2. The trustee should be completely trustworthy and committed to the beneficiary’s best interests.

3. The trustee should be able to make sound judgments and have a strong understanding of his or her duties as the trustee. While not required, legal or financial expertise is valuable.

4.  If a person is going to be the trustee of a special needs trust, knowledge of public benefits and how to avoid invalidating these benefits is beneficial.

5. The trustee should be someone who is healthy and will be able to continue managing your trust for many years to come.

6.  A trustee should have the time to devote to managing your trust effectively. If the person you are considering is very busy, you should consider other candidates before making your final choice.

7.  If you don’t know someone who would be a suitable trustee, consider hiring a professional trustee or institution to manage your trust. Professional trustees may include a trust company, accountant, lawyer, or investment manager or advisor. However, professional trustees or institutions do charge a fee or percentage to manage your trust.

8.  Consider co-trustees if you would like to have a trusted friend or family member and a professional trustee manage your trust together.

9.  Understand your family dynamics when selecting a trustee. If you are choosing a family member to be the trustee, try to avoid conflicts between family members and explain to other relatives why you have chosen a particular person to be the trustee.

10. If you make a relative or friend your trustee, decide who will be the successor in the event that the person is no longer able to manage your trust.

After you have chosen a trustee, it is advisable to reexamine your choice every few years to ensure that your trustee is still the best choice for your needs. If circumstances change, you may need to assign a different trustee who is better suited to the required responsibilities.

If you need assistance preparing a trust or choosing the right trustee, contact Newman Elder Law. If you want to learn more about our elder law services, click here.

Source:

http://www.elderlawanswers.com/how-to-choose-a-trustee-15384

Planning for Special Needs Children

Special Needs KidsIt’s no surprise that having a special needs child is both challenging and rewarding.  Not only are there school and medical issues to consider, there are also the financial needs of your child.  Planning for your child’s financial well-being should be an important part of your estate plan especially since improved healthcare has allowed children with conditions such as cerebral palsy and Down’s Syndrome, to live longer.

What do you need to do to provide for your special needs child?  These things can help during the special needs child planning process.

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What Happens to Digital Accounts When You Die?

Facebook login screenSocial media is great, since it lets you can connect with faraway friends and family.  MP3s and online television networks like Hulu and Netflix are fun as well, since they give you the opportunity to enjoy music and television programs on any device and on your schedule.  Of course, let’s not forget about how great email is. Write a message, hit send and it’s off.

Have you ever given any thought to what will happen to your digital accounts when you die?  Like most people, you probably haven’t given much thought to your digital accounts, since it isn’t a physical thing or even an asset.  Still, it is something that you need to consider because your online accounts don’t just disappear when you die. According to Intel Security, the average person has 27 different logins.  Yikes! That’s a lot of passwords to manage, so it would make sense to set up a plan for your digital assets after your death.

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When to Seek Professional Help

When it comesWhen to Seek Help from an Elder Law Attorney to our family members, we like to think that we know what is best for them.  For the most part that is true. After all, these are people we grew up with or in the case of family by way of marriage, got to know over the years.

Yet there are times, in particular when loved ones get older and need help, that the question, “Should I seek professional help?” arises with respect to the health and financial affairs of your loved one.

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What is the Difference between Guardianship and a Power of Attorney?

Power of Attorney vs Guardianship for seniorsBoth a power of attorney and guardianship are tools to assist someone who is unable to make financial or medical decisions for him or herself by appointing an agent or guardian to act in their stead. However, these tools differ in their responsibilities and the freedom and control they give to the elder or person with special needs.

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Present and Future Social Security Outlooks for Older Americans

Social Security Word CloudYou are now in your late 50’s and getting closer to retirement.  As you were working, discussions about Social Security benefits have been prevalent in the mouths of the government, the media, family and friends.

Everyone relies on Social Security, but it is especially important to those that are older.  Recently, older Americans have been feeling the pressure from wages not increasing and pensions becoming smaller and smaller.  This pressure is only likely to grow in the future.  How do you make sure that your plans for the future will be viable?

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Do You Have A Plan For Your Future?

iStock_000011860918SmallDespite concerns about finances and health, most people look forward to retirement. The idea is that people will have more time for personal interests since they no longer have to work or care for small children.

Of course, things aren’t always ideal.  A serious illness, dementia, or even death can mean that retirement won’t be so golden.  While many health issues can’t be prevented, they can be planned for, especially since a stroke, complications from diabetes or osteoporosis can lead to long-term care situations, such as assisted living or nursing home placement.

How do you plan for a future that may include chronic health issues when you aren’t sure what the future may hold for you?  These things can help:

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