Three Big Estate Planning Errors
October 7, 2015
Way too many people are trying to handle their estate planning without the help of an attorney or financial advisor, says an article on thestreet.com.
Actually, 38 percent of those with investable assets of $1 million or more have not sought professional help with their planning, the story says.
The biggest mistakes people make, according to the story , are:
- Failing to sign a will. If you make a will, but don’t sign it, you have no will.
- Tax errors. Many people with assets worth less than the $5.43 million federal exemption for estate taxes think they don’t need estate planning. There are many other benefits to having an estate plan than saving on federal taxes. For example, many states, including New York, have their own estate taxes.
- Negligence. If you have an estate plan but it is out of date, that can be a big mistake. You must periodically review and update your plan.
Some Barriers To Estate Planning
September 23, 2015
Estate planning revolves around preparing for a future that you won’t be alive to see. Not a pleasant thought. That’s why so many people put it off. They just don’t want to think about a world without them in it. It is scary.
However, those fears result in procrastination, indecision and inattention, according to a story on financial-planning.com.
Fear is a huge reason for procrastinating, the story says. Plus, people are busy in the here and now. But the story says folks should actually fear doing nothing.
People often put off action because of indecision, the story says. They can’t decide on a guardian for their children, for one thing. But that choice can always be changed, it notes.
Inattention is also a problem. Maybe you have a will but it hasn’t been revisited in years. Things can change in time. That’s why it is important to take another look at your will every year or so.
Can You Prevent Alzheimer’s?
September 16, 2015
At this point, there is no test that can say once and for all that someone will develop Alzheimer’s disease.
There are plenty of unknowns. The cause isn’t even known. But we do know that if you have a first-degree relative with it, your risk increases.
An article on cnn.com, however, says doctors are getting as much information as they can about patients and are using it to give them an early intervention plan to prevent the disease, even if it is not known whether the person will get it.
A New York doctor cited in the story spends hours with patients, assessing cognitive function, performing lab work and doing a physical assessment.
Patients leave with recommendations on stress reduction, sleep management, exercise, medications, vitamins and education. Most are children of parents who had Alzheimer’s.
A few different programs are outlined in the story. One program at the University of Alabama gives patients risk assessments.
The article also includes a list of 10 things that are good for your brain as outlined by the American Alzheimer’s Association.
Home value on the rise? Save fix-up receipts
September 9, 2015
In some places, especially in California, New York, and Massachusetts, home prices have increased smartly over the last decade, says a story in the New York Times.
In those places, single homeowners with gains of over $250,000 and couples with gains of more than $500,000 could end up paying federal taxes of up to 23.8 percent on real estate gains over those amounts when they sell, the story says.
More state taxes might also apply.
If this is you, there is some paperwork you should start filing away and keep until you sell the home. This is the paperwork for any improvements you have made to your home. The cost of those improvements count against the gain. Even a single remodeling can offset the gains by into the six figures.
The number of affected individual is highest in cities with the greatest real estate gains. An estimated 20 percent of homes in Los Angeles could be affected, for example.
The story recommends getting IRS Publication 523: Selling Your Home. It lists all the things you can subtract from your gain. Additions count; repairs don’t.
If you live in a condo, your monthly condo fees or special assessments might count.
But you must have receipts for every one of these things.
Estate Planning vs. Business Transition: What’s The Difference?
September 2, 2015
Many folks confuse estate planning with business transition. They are actually quite different.
A story on columbustelegram.com says estate planning involves the transfer of wealth and assets of an individual, both personal and business related, from one person to another person or entity.
Business transition concerns the transfer of a business asset or entity from an existing owner seeking to exit, to new ownership. Usually, the transition occurs during the life of the existing owner. If it occurs after the owner dies, it is usually part of an estate plan.
There are many similarities between estate planning and business transition plans, but the greatest difference is in the timing. Estate plans consider the transfer of assets beyond the life of the owner, while the business transfer plan considers transfers during the life of the owner. They can actually work together in tandem.
This Is How Technology Will Soon Change Aging
August 26, 2015
New technology is changing everything about how we live, including how we age.
All types of gadgets are doing things for us to help us monitor our health and safety. And many more advances are coming.
An article on the huffingtonpost.com lists a number of advances that are expected to be seen in the next decade that will make aging easier. They include:
- Speaking street signs. These will help as our vision declines.
- Self-driving cars. This is self-explanatory. We can still “drive” even when we are not really able to do so safely on our own.
- Doctors visits on Skype. We won’t have to go to the doctor’s office as often.
- Remote patient monitoring. Devices will do things like check our blood pressure and send the info to our doctor’s office.
- Online medical records. These are already here in some cases. You can have all your information in front of you and you can send it along to another doctor for a second opinion if necessary.
- Robot caregivers. They will be able to lift patients out of bed and into a wheelchair, for example.
- Lighting anytime. You will soon be seeing lights on menus, for example.
- Smart homes. These will include walk-in tubs, stair lifts, easy-to-reach cabinets and appliances that speak to each other.
Estate Plan 14-Point Checklist
August 19, 2015
Plenty of Americans have estate plans that are incomplete or don’t address important issues.
An article on marketwatch.com lists a 14-point checklist to help create a sound estate plan.
The most important thing it recommends is to find a qualified estate planning attorney and a financial advisor.
The items your plan should include are:
- Your will.
- Durable power of attorney.
- A power of attorney or proxy for health care.
- Revocable living trust.
- A form where you list all your assets and where they are located.
- A do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order written by a doctor.
- A legacy letter where you pass on your values to the next generation.
- A talk with your attorney about whom you want to receive your assets.
- A decision on who you want making medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated.
- A list of how you want your assets distributed.
- A decision on whether you want to name a guardian for any minor children.
- A discussion on the tax consequences of your estate plan.
- Review the steps necessary to protect online information.
- Letters to your spouse and family concerning your wishes about life support.
Trump Card of Estate Planning
August 12, 2015
Naming of a beneficiary is estate planning’s trump card.
An article on unionleader.com details what happened to a recent widow, who learned her deceased husband’s life insurance money was going to his first wife.
The man had changed his will to make his second wife the beneficiary of his estate but he failed to change the designation on his life insurance. There was nothing the second wife could do. Beneficiaries trump wills.
Such beneficiary designations are involved in life insurance, certain bank accounts , annuities and retirement accounts.
If no beneficiary is named, the probate process could be involved for your heirs, the story notes.
So it is important to review beneficiary designations periodically. You should name a primary and secondary designee. And it is best not to name minors or the profoundly disabled. Better to have a trust be the designee in these cases.
Medicare or Obamacare?
August 5, 2015
If you are approaching age 65 and are currently getting your health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), should you stay on your plan or switch to Medicare?
In most cases, you should go on Medicare, according to an article on elderlawanswers.com.
While you may be able to keep your marketplace plan after turning 65, it could be expensive.
One incentive to switch to Medicare is that if you are receiving a subsidy under Obamacare, you will lose that subsidy once you are eligible for Medicare, in most cases.
Even more importantly, if you stay in your marketplace plan after Medicare eligibility, you could be subject to late fees when you do sign up for Medicare Part B, which overs outpatient care. Part B has a monthly premium that changes from year to year and if you don’t sign up as soon as you are eligible, you are subject to a 10 percent penalty for each year that enrollment is delayed. There may be exceptions, however, if you are on an employer’s plan.
There may be a few cases where the very wealthy might be better off staying on a marketplace plan, as the cost may be less than the premiums for Medicare Part B, which are income-based.
But the Medicare Rights Center advises against this. In most cases, the benefits will be greater on Medicare.
A Million Dollar Guide To Estate Planning
July 29, 2015
Estate planning is critical for everyone, but once your estate hits near $1 million, it gets more complicated.
Unless your estate is worth more than $5.43 million – $10.86 million for a married couple – you are exempt from federal estate taxes. But some states impose their own at a lower threshold.
A story in Forbes says there are a few things to pay attention to. These include:
- Understanding wills vs. trusts
Most folks start with a will. They are easy and inexpensive. But for those estates that are more complicated, such as those worth at least $1 million, a will may not be enough. Trusts should be considered. They keep your information private, for one thing. There are several kinds. Living or revocable trusts are popular. They can be changed while you are alive.
- Give it away while you are alive
You can start giving away money while you are alive. You can give $14,000 per year or $28,000 per year per couple to a child, grandchild or anyone else without it counting as a gift under the federal gift-tax exclusion. For every dollar you move out of your estate, your heirs save 40 cents in taxes.
- Irrevocable trusts are an option
If your assets exceed the $5.43 million threshold for federal estate taxes, you may want to consider an irrevocable trust. Assets are removed from your estate. What you put into the trust counts against the threshold, but not growth or appreciation. That growth occurs outside your estate.