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.
Estate Planning For The Blended Family
July 22, 2015
In estate planning, it can be more tricky when a blended family is involved. In many cases, family dynamics can become permanently ruffled.
With the number of remarriages rising, many families now include children, stepchildren, former spouses and in-laws.
These families need advance wealth planning with specific goals, according to a story in Forbes.
The main is where your money goes when you die.
Most remarried couples want to make sure the surviving spouse is cared for if one passes away. They want the children from their prior marriages to be the ultimate beneficiaries. The challenge is to design a plan that keeps everyone happy.
One tip to keep in mind is to make sure your beneficiary assignments are up to date on retirement plans and insurance policies. You probably don’t want your former spouse getting the money.
Another good idea is to set up a trust to spell out the distribution of assets. Make sure to take care in naming the trustee. If you name your wife, she may not be as generous to your children from your prior marriage as you would have been.
A prenuptial agreement is also a good idea, the story says. And make sure the terms jibe with what is in your will.
Remarried spouses should also discuss living wills and powers of attorney. If the new spouse is designated the health care agent, the children should know.
Don’t Let Divorce Interfere With Estate Planning
July 15, 2015
When a long-married couple divorces, it can be particularly difficult when it comes to retirement and estate plans.
Assets, including retirement accounts, can be complicated to divide, and the presence of children can require the complete revision of existing estate plans, according to a story on estateplanning.com.
The major steps to ending up with a fair and accurate division of assets are:
- Knowing what is yours. Separate property is stuff owned by one party before the marriage and any inheritances or gifts received by either spouse, either before or after the marriage. But the definition of separate property can change, if, for example, an inheritance is deposited in a joint account. Marital property is any property acquired during the marriage. This can include pension plans, 401(k)s and life insurance.
Considering trusts. A trust can make sure that second spouses cannot disinherit children from a prior marriage
- Updating beneficiary forms. These can override wills.
- Keeping good records. Go over your documents every few years.
Do Singles Need An Estate Plan?
July 8, 2015
Many people think estate planning comes into play once a person dies. But it is when we start getting older that it actually becomes important.
An article in the Denver Post points out that estate planning is more than just a will. It also involves setting up a durable power of attorney for both medical and financial decisions in case you become unable to manage.
A person who is married has a spouse to act as such an agent. But a single person doesn’t necessarily have that asset.
So if you become incapacitated, a judge might give that power to one of your relatives. If there aren’t any, a judge could appoint a stranger.
In any case, the story says, whether you are married or single you should have a plan in place. Most Americans don’t even have a will, the story says.
Estate Planning Step By Step
June 24, 2015
Lots of people dread the process of estate planning.
However, it can be made easier if done step-by-step, according to an article on emporiagazette,com.
Step 1. Buy life insurance. If something were to happen to you, this might allow your family to stay in the house and your children to go to college.
Step 2. Prepare your will. This is the key estate planning document. Without one, your assets are distributed to your heirs as defined by state laws.
Step 3. Think about a living trust. Depending on your situation, you may need to go beyond a will. This will allow your assets to go directly to your heirs without the public and costly probate process getting in the way.
Step 4. Be sure your beneficiary designations on IRAs, life insurance policies and such are up to date.
Step 5. Make final arrangements by setting up a “payable on death” account at your bank to cover funeral arrangements.
But make sure you do all this in consultation with a qualified estate planning attorney.
When An Elderly Relative Gives Away Money
June 17, 2015
What can you do when you find out an aged parent or other relative has been giving away large sums of money to an unrelated caregiver or someone else?
In a post on elderlawanswers.com, a writer said his 82-year-old father-in-law had given $3,000 to a caregiver so she could by herself a car. He had also purchased her some clothes.
The writer asked if there are laws against caregivers accepting large gifts. The caregiver had been hired by an agency. He wanted to know if the agency should have a policy against employees accepting such gifts.
The columnist answered that if the father-in-law is competent, he can do whatever he wants with his money. If he is not competent, he said, there may be ways to get the money back. But it might cost more than $3,000 to do so.
The column also suggested that there may be a protective services organizations that could take on the fight pro bono.
But it was suggested that steps be taken so it does not happen again. For example, if the father-in-law is competent, he might be willing to share control of his assets through a durable power of attorney, trust or joint account. If not competent, the family might need to seek court-appointed conservatorship over his finances.
The column suggested seeking the help of an elder law attorney if such issues arise.
Estate Planning’s Trump Card
June 10, 2015
The scenario: Fran’s husband, Ed, died recently. Then she learns that his life insurance proceeds are going to his first wife, Sally. She calls her lawyer, incredulously, believing that this cannot be true. Fran was the beneficiary of his estate.
It turns out that Ed had failed to update the beneficiary assignment on his life insurance policy. By law, Sally is entitled to the money. The beneficiary assignment trumps the will.
The lesson: periodically review your beneficiary assignments. That is a key concept of estate planning.
A story on wmur.com says assets whose beneficiary assignments trump wills or other estate directives include:
- life insurance policies
- retirement plans
- employment contracts
- employee stock options
As a result, even making a last minute adjustment to your will cannot trump beneficiary assignments on these matters. Make sure you review yours regularly.
Revocable Living Trust A Key Tool
June 3, 2015
A revocable living trust is a key state planning tool that is used to determine who gets what when you die.
Most of these living trusts are “revocable” because you can change them as your circumstances or wishes change, according to a story on CNBC.com.
They are dubbed “living” because you make them while you are alive.
Many folks use them to avoid probate, a court-supervised process of closing an estate that can be expensive and time consuming.
The assets in your revocable living trust pass directly to your beneficiaries without going through probate.
Such a trust also provides a level of privacy as it is not made public on your death. A will is public record.
Free Symposium On Aging And Dementia – June 6th
June 2, 2015
Symposium focuses on African-Americans and Alzheimer’s
The Alzheimer’s Association Rochester & Finger Lakes Region and Mt. Olivet Baptist Church will host a free symposium on aging and dementia, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 6 at 141 Adams St.
Check out this story on http://on.rocne.ws/1HT2A2N
Story Of Frugal Vermont Man Offers Lessons
May 27, 2015
Did you read the story of Ronald Read, a gas station attendant and janitor in Vermont who died recently at age 92 with an estate worth $8 million?
Read was able to accumulate all that wealth because he lived frugally and invested wisely, in dividend paying blue chip stocks. He held his stocks in certificates so it took effort to sell them.
And on his death all of his money went to charity.
Thus, he didn’t have to pay the tax man.
An article in the Washington Post lauds Read for his financial wisdom and frugality but raises one point: he didn’t have to hold off until his death to give his money away. If he had done it differently, he might have lived to see the fruits of his gifts.
But, otherwise, Read did a lot of things right. There are some lessons to be learned.