Ways Couples Can Approach Estate Planning
February 10, 2016
A nationwide survey indicates one in three couples has no life insurance. Nearly half say they would be unprepared financially if their spouse died.
An article in USA Today lists five things couples can do to prepare to take care of their spouse and family if something happens.
- Decide how much life insurance you and your family need.
- Know the details of your spouse’s life insurance policy.
- Draft a will.
- Store all your records in a secure place where your spouse can find them.
- Talk to your spouse about your final wishes.
Don’t Let Emotion Stop Your Planning
February 3, 2016
Estate planning can be emotional, as it deals with your death.
Even when dealing with business estate planning, emotion plays a big role. You are dealing with people who may work for you.
Emotions can rise up with a death occurs in a family-owned business, says an article in Forbes.
It may have to do with hurt feelings between kids, one who may be involved in the family business and one who isn’t.
Or it can have to do with contesting of a will.
Closely-held businesses can evoke emotions when one owner dies and the remaining owners may get into valuation disputes with the dead person’s survivors.
The article says estate planning won’t necessarily avoid emotions but it can help control the adverse effects of disputes and disagreements.
There are techniques — buy-sell agreements, trusts, escrow and such — that can mitigate problems.
Art Is Tricky For Estate Planning
January 27, 2016
Investors in art are generally encouraged not to invest in art, but to collect it.
They are told to buy what they like and not to buy things they hope to increase in worth.
Still, financial matters must be considered by collectors, especially when it comes to inheritances, says a story in the New York Times.
Art does grow in value and it can become a more significant part of their financial and tax lives over time.
There are often unpleasant tax consequences for heirs, the story says.
Specialty advisors exist to handle these issues. But it can be tough to put a value on certain pieces of art. Better to get a lowball estimate from an independent appraiser if you are gifting the piece.
If you are giving the art to a museum, it is best if the appraiser can bump up the value to maximize the tax write off.
The overall message, however, is that planning for art is tricky. However, there are opportunities to make out well tax wise if planning is done right.
Blood Test Eyed For Alzheimer’s
January 20, 2016
Scientists reported recently that they are nearing development of a blood test that can detect Alzheimer’s disease, a breakthrough that would let doctors to begin intervening at the earliest, most treatable stage.
The news was disclosed in October at a meeting of the American Osteopathic Association, according to a story on sciencedaily.com.
The test uses autoantibodies as blood-based biomarkers to detect the presence of a variety of diseases, including Alzheimer’s. Those found to have the markers would be encouraged to make lifestyle changes that could slow the development of the diseases.
In Alzheimer’s, the brain begins to change years before symptoms emerge.
There is at present no definitive blood test to detect the disease.
Save on Estate Planning Fees
January 13, 2016
Estate planning is important, but it isn’t inexpensive. Yet there are ways to save on the costs.
An article in Time gives five steps to take to better understand and, as a result, lower the costs of estate planning.
- Understand what is needed. Talk to your financial advisor and do some reading so you understand the basics before you get started. At the least you’ll need a durable power of attorney, health care advance directive and a will. You may also want a trust.
- Discuss cost up front. Ask any potential estate planning attorney how they charge – it may be by the hour or a flat fee. Ask if they offer a free consultation.
- If you select an attorney with a flat fee, find out what that includes.
- Choose an experienced attorney with whom you share a rapport.
- Show up at your first meeting prepared. Ask what documents you will need and bring them.
Estate Planning For Fido
January 6, 2016
What will happen to your beloved pet when you die?
An article in the Sioux City Journal recounts the time when a pet owner died and the woman who was caring for her took the cats to a shelter where they were eventually adopted.
If she hadn’t, she says, who knows what would have happened to them.
The caregiver was following the patient’s wants, which were spelled out in an estate plan. The plan left money so the cats could be taken to the special shelter, which cares for cats until they are adopted – providing money is set aside.
The caregiver says pet owners should have a document saying how many pets they have, where they are, the number of their vet and the name of a trusted friend who has agreed to take care of the pets if necessary.
But the pets are best off included in your estate plan. The article suggested going on line to the ASPCA web site where there is a primer on how to set up a trust. It recommends finding an estate planning attorney to get started.
Troubled Adult Children Can Cause Money Issues
December 30, 2015
If you are a parent of an adult child suffering from a mental health or addiction issue, the problems facing you are many. Near or at the top is usually the financial cost.
Along with that is the issue of who will care for the child when you are no longer around. And how will that care be paid for?
An article in the New York Times says there are real financial steps that parents can take that won’t worsen their child’s condition, enable an addiction or run afoul of limits on the amount of assets they can have and still get government benefits.
A starting point is a special-purpose trust, which can provide care for the child and peace of mind for parents. This trust is different from a special-needs trust, often used to pay for extra things not provided by government programs.
Special-purpose trusts can be used to provide children with a hint of the life they might have enjoyed were it not for their mental illness or addiction.
The trusts can be used to fill in during periods when things are not going well for the child. It can also ease the burden on siblings.
The trusts generally must have someone in charge of distributions. And parents are advised not to include a clause that says the money will go to the child at a certain period of time. That is because the child, even if doing well, could always have a breakdown or relapse.
Estate Planning and Second Marriages
December 23, 2015
Second marriages are common nowadays. However, if you aren’t careful, you could end up disinheriting your kids.
To ensure that doesn’t happen, make your kids the primary beneficiaries of your life insurance policy, create a trust for them or place certain property under joint ownership with them, according to a story on
But the last one is not recommended, the story says. It could place the property under the risks of divorce or bankruptcy.
The article also suggests updating your will to say who gets what.
Also, make sure to update beneficiary designations on life insurance policies or retirement plans. However, if you have been divorced that may not be possible.
Creating an irrevocable trust to provide for your new spouse and your children is a good idea, it says.
And you probably should have had a prenup before getting hitched again.
It is best to consult with an estate planning attorney before you get into trouble.
Beware “Fill-in-the-Blank” Estate Planning
December 16, 2015
An estate plan with a will or trust that is poorly developed can easily go up in smoke.
Time, thought and preparation is needed, according to a story on statesmanjournal.com.
For kids, consider a plan that does not pay them outright but provides them with guidance on how to spend their inheritance, for example, on college or retirement. Without such guidance, most inheritances are exhausted within 18 months.
For non-profits, consider setting up a charitable fund with as little as $25,000 that goes on for generations. It can keep families in touch and together.
For a blended family, make sure that you don’t unintentionally disinherit your spouse or children. You want to support your spouse and take care of your children. A simple will or trust may be inadequate.
For special needs, make sure an outright inheritance does not disqualify them for government benefits.
If you make a plan that gives different size inheritances to different children, explain why.
And be careful in appointing a trustee. Naming one child over another can lead to disputes.
Regulating Adult Day Care Programs
December 10, 2015
New York State Comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli has conducted many audits and analyses of municipalities and programs throughout the state. His role is to assess how taxpayers’ money is being used.
Recently, Adult Day Care Programs in New York were the subject of one such audit. Comptroller DiNapoli stated, “Absent a universal licensing or registration requirement, no agency has a complete accounting of all the adult day service programs that are operating in the state.”
He estimated that there are 500 adult day care centers operating in New York State without regulation or licenses – Does that concern you?
The New York State Office for the Aging monitors adult day services funded by the state, but there are many more unregulated programs operating without oversight.
Inadequate care is often cited as an issue at these centers. We expect increased oversight to help reduce that problem.
In the meantime, if you have a vulnerable elder in a day care program, before entrusting their safety to strangers, check the following resources: http://www.memberofthefamily.net/nursing-homes / http://www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare / http://www.health.ny.gov/facilities