Category: Estate Planning

Consider a family meeting about estate planning

Consider a Family Meeting about Estate Planning

Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “It’s Never Too Late for a Family Meeting – Here’s How to Do Them Well” emphasizes that no matter the amount of wealth that a family has, wealth education is crucial to overall financial education, preparing for the future and to becoming a good steward of an inheritance. Consider a family meeting about estate planning.

Family meetings are a great way of bringing members of a family together with a goal of facilitating communication and education. This allows for sharing family stories, communicating values, setting goals to help ensure transparency and helping members across generations understand their roles around stewardship and wealth.

Here are some ideas on how to have an effective family meeting about estate planning:

Prepare. The host of the meeting should spend time with each participating family member to help them understand the reason for the meeting and learn more about their expectations. There should be a desire and commitment from the participants to invest time and effort to make family meetings about estate planning a success.

Plan. Create a clear agenda that defines the purpose and goals of each family meeting about estate planning. Share this agenda with participants before the meeting. Select a neutral location that makes everyone comfortable and encourages participation.

Have time for learning. Include an educational component in the agenda, such as an introduction to investing, estate planning, budgeting and saving, or philanthropy.

Have a “parking lot.” Note any topics raised that might need to be addressed in a future estate planning meeting.

Use a facilitator. Perhaps have a trusted adviser facilitate the meeting. This can help with managing the agenda, offering a different perspective, calming emotions and making certain that everyone is heard and understood.

Follow up. Include some to-do’s and schedule the next meeting to set expectations about continuing to bring the family together.

Consider a family meeting about estate planning that will allow all family members to feel they are included in decisions, and foster a better understanding of what their inheritance will look like.

If you would like to learn more about difficult family conversations, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Kiplinger (Sep. 1, 2021) “It’s Never Too Late for a Family Meeting – Here’s How to Do Them Well”

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The Estate of The Union Episode 10 out now

 

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understanding what a DNR does

Understanding what a DNR Order does

A do-not-resuscitate order, or DNR, is written document with instructions informing healthcare personnel not to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). However, The Petoskey News-Review’s recent article entitled “Do-not-resuscitate orders apply to use of CPR in critical situations” explains that many patients don’t have a complete understanding of what a DNR order does and its application to their medical care. The DNR is a legally binding order signed by a physician at a patient’s request that lets medical professionals know you don’t want to be resuscitated.

CPR is performed in only one situation — if a patient is unresponsive, doesn’t have a pulse and isn’t breathing. If that happens, medical personnel have two courses of action: (i) allow for a natural death; or (ii) try CPR. If you’re unresponsive, have no pulse and aren’t breathing, that is the only situation in which any medical provider should attempt CPR. Having a DNR doesn’t mean don’t treat. The fact that you have a DNR order means you should receive exactly the same treatment that another patient who doesn’t have a DNR receives, with all the same medications and procedures.

As such, patients should know the limitations that come with CPR.

If CPR is successful, it means just one thing – that someone has regained a pulse. That doesn’t have any implications about a patient’s cognitive or mental status after CPR is administered.

Research shows that the likelihood of CPR being successful (in regaining a pulse) is in the range of 15-20% of patients. Thus, out of 100 patients who experience cardiac arrest and have CPR, about 80 to 85 of the patients will still die.

Note that there’s a difference between a hospital DNR and an out-of-hospital DNR. An out-of-hospital DNR is for those who don’t want to be resuscitated, if they have problems at home or anywhere outside of a medical facility. Those forms follow the patient, whether they are at home or not.

You should discuss these sensitive matters and signing a DNR when no one’s under pressure from a medical emergency.

The main part of advance care planning is appointing someone you trust to speak for you, if you can’t speak for yourself. With an advance care directive, you can state your preference or opposition to a DNR order.

In addition, everyone should have a healthcare power of attorney, an advance directive, or a patient advocate designation. This is where you are selecting someone to make medical decisions, when you are unable to do so for yourself. Therefore, it is vital that the person you appoint has a complete understanding of what a DNR order does.

If you would like to learn more about DNRs and advance directives, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: The Petoskey News-Review (Sep. 23, 2021) “Do-not-resuscitate orders apply to use of CPR in critical situations”

The Estate of The Union Episode 10 out now

 

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benefits of a charitable lead trust

Benefits of a Charitable Lead Trust

The benefits of a charitable lead trust can be significant. A charitable lead trust is usually implemented after other basics are done, such as your will, powers of attorney and health care directive, says Tri City Business News’ recent article entitled “Charitable lead trusts do good while reducing estate taxes.”

A charitable lead trust is a separate, standalone trust.

Let’s say there’s a married couple with some extra money who want to benefit a charity. The couple has an attorney draft a Charitable Lead Trust (CLT). The terms of the trust say that, for the lifetime of the couple (or the surviving spouse), the CLT will annually pay 5% of the trust to a qualified charity. At the death of the surviving spouse, the money left in the trust will go to the couple’s children. This is called a “split-interest” gift, where a portion of the gift to the trust goes to charity and a portion will ultimately go to the children.

The current interest rate is used to actuarially set the amount of the gift from the CLT going to the children, which the parents will use to file a gift tax return.

With a few exceptions, there’s no tax assessed on a gift like that. It’s just required by law to report gifts that size to the IRS.

In a low interest rate environment, the calculated (the actuarially determined) amount going to the children will appear to be lower. However, the actual amount could be much higher, based on the performance of the assets in the trust.

For the calculation, because the amount going to the children appears lower, the calculated amount going to the charity must be higher.

Neither the parents nor the children get anything from the trust during the parents’ lifetime. In that way, it’s like a will where nothing goes to the children until the deaths of the parents. What makes a charitable lead trust attractive is the added ability to give to charity and engage in potential wealth transfer tax mitigation.

In addition, a charitable lead trust has another benefit: it potentially provides a consistent and reliable stream of income to your favorite charity for years to come. As such, in addition to acting as a legally sanctioned wealth transfer technique, it provides a wonderful benefit to worthy organizations.

If you would like to learn more about charitable lead trusts, or other types of trusts, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Tri City Business News (Aug. 2021) “Charitable lead trusts do good while reducing estate taxes”

The Estate of The Union Episode 9 out now

 

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Estate planning for special needs children

Estate Planning for Special Needs Children

Part of providing comprehensive estate planning for families includes being prepared to address the needs of family members with special needs. Estate planning for special needs children comes with its own set of challenges. Some of the tools used are trusts, guardianship and tax planning, according to the article “How to Help Clients With Special Needs Children” from Accounting Web. Your estate planning attorney will be able to create a plan for the future that addresses both legal and financial protections.

A survey from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services revealed that 12.8 percent of children in our country have special health care needs, while 20 percent of all American households include a child with special needs. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) estimates that 26% of adults in America have some type of disability. In other words, some 61 million Americans have some kind of disability.

Providing for a child with special needs can be expensive, depending upon the severity of the disability. The first estate planning step for families is to have a special needs trust for your children, created through an estate planning attorney with experience in this area. The goal is to have money for the support and care of the child available, but for it not to be in the child’s name. While there are benefits available to the child through the federal government, almost all programs are means-tested, that is, the child or adult with special needs may not have assets of their own.

For many parents, a good option is a substantial life insurance policy, with the beneficiary of the policy being the special needs trust. Depending on the family’s situation, a “second to die” policy may make sense. Both parents are listed as the insured, but the policy does not pay until both parents have passed. Premiums may be lower because of this option.

It is imperative for parents of a child with special needs to have their estate plan created to direct their assets to go to the special needs trust and not to the child directly. This is done to protect the child’s eligibility to receive government benefits.

Parents of a child with special needs also need to consider who will care for their child after they have died, and have this clearly stated in their estate plan. A guardian needs to be named as early as possible in the child’s life, in case something should occur to the parents. The guardianship may end at age 18 for most children, but for an individual with special needs, more protection is needed. The guardian and their role need to be spelled out in documents. It is a grave mistake for parents to assume a family member or sibling will care for their child with special needs. The need to prepare for guardianship cannot be overstated.

The special needs trust will also require a trustee and a secondary trustee, if at some point the primary trustee cannot or does not want to serve.

It may seem easier to name the same person as the trustee and the guardian, but this could lead to difficult situations. A better way to go is to have one person paying the bills and keeping an eye on costs and a second person taking care of the individual.

Planning for the child’s long-term care needs to be done as soon as possible. A special needs trust should be established and funded early on, wills need to be created and/or updated, and qualified professionals become part of the family’s care for their loved one.

Having a child with special needs is a different kind of parenting. So estate planning for special needs children will also be different. A commonly used analogy is for a person who expected to be taking a trip to Paris but finds themselves in Holland. The trip is not what they expected, but still a wonderful and rewarding experience.

If you would like to read more about special needs planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Accounting Web (Sep. 13, 2021) “How to Help Clients With Special Needs Children”

The Estate of The Union Episode 9 out now

 

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Prevent Asset problems with thoughtful Planning

Prevent Asset problems with thoughtful Planning

Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “5 of the Worst Assets to Inherit” says that if you’re planning to leave an inheritance to others, you should take care in what you leave them. Some assets can cause problems. However, you can prevent asset problems with thoughtful estate planning and the help of an experienced estate planning attorney.

Let’s look at five of the worst assets to inherit and what you can do to help manage them before you pass away:

Timeshares. A timeshare is a long-term agreement where you get to use a vacation property. These contracts are notorious asset problems in estate planning and are difficult to end. If you pass away, and include the timeshare, your children may be responsible for the ongoing contract costs. Allow your children to decide at your death whether they want to take over the contract. They can refuse to accept it then—even if your will left them the timeshare—by making a formal disclaimer of the asset.

Potentially Valuable Collectibles. This may be a coin collection, rare stamps, or a piece of artwork. Note that the capital gains tax rate on collectibles goes up to 28%, much higher than the maximum 20% long-term gains rate on other investments. When you die, your heirs receive a step-up-in-basis, meaning when they sell they receive tax-free what the collectible was worth on the day you die. Even so, there are some substantial risks to leaving valuable collectibles as an inheritance. One problem with collectibles is that thy may be difficult to value. If you have any valuable collectibles, tell your heirs where they’re located, their estimated value and the dealers they should work with after you’re gone, so they don’t run into trouble.

Guns. Firearms can also get complicated as an inheritance because of the amount of regulation. They aren’t the type of asset that you can simply hand over to a person without the proper registration or permit. There are a number of state and federal rules, depending on your state of residence and the type of gun.

Vacation Properties. Inherited vacation properties can be a potential financial and emotional asset problem, especially if you’re planning to leave one to multiple family members. Disagreements can arise over how often each can use the property, who owes what for the repairs, whether they should sell and whether they should buy one of them out and at what value, especially if one heirs is living far away and doesn’t want their share. Even if the siblings are on good terms, a vacation property has expenses, like maintenance, property taxes, insurance and any remaining mortgage. These costs could outweigh the value of the vacation property to your heirs. If you have a vacation home, begin these discussions early with your heirs and determine if they even want the property and, if so, can you get them to agree on the terms.

Any Physical Property (Especially with Sentimental Value). Disagreements among heirs can happen over any type of physical property, like a favorite chair or Mom’s silverware. These sentimental items are a common asset problem and can be tough to divide in your estate planning. Moreover, it’s harder to tell what some of these items are worth. Avoid these issues and start planning the distribution of your physical property ahead of time. It is important to be clear on who will receive what to prevent arguments.

You can prevent asset problems with thoughtful estate planning. Sit down with your family and have a frank and honest discussion about what assets should – and should not – be included in your estate plan. If you would like to read more about what to include in your estate planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Kiplinger (Sep. 14, 2021) “5 of the Worst Assets to Inherit”

The Estate of The Union Episode 9 out now

 

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gift-tax is treated differently by IRS and Medicaid

Gift-Tax treated differently by IRS and Medicaid

Different government agencies have different rules for the same things. It’s a hard lesson, especially for those who try to use their $15,000 annual gift tax exclusion for asset protection for long term care. The results are not good. The gift-tax is treated differently by IRS and Medicaid.

A recent article from The News Enterprise makes it clear: “Medicaid and IRS don’t view gift-tax-exemption in same way.”

To understand the exclusion better, let’s start by looking at what the amount is being excluded from. The IRS generally allows each person to gift a total of $11.7 million in gifts during their lifetime and after death without incurring a gift tax. There are exceptions, but this is true in most cases. However, that first $15,000 given to each person within each calendar year is excluded from the total amount.

If a woman gives her three children $15,000 each per year for five years, she has given away a total of $225,000. However, this amount is not deducted from the $11.7 million that she is allowed within her lifetime non-taxable gift amount.

However, if the same woman gave her children $16,000 each for five years, the extra $3,000 per year must be deducted from her lifetime non-taxable gift limit. Unless she reaches the $11.7 million after her death, her estate will still not pay taxes on the gifts. She will be required to file a form every year letting the IRS know that she is reducing her limit.

The $15,000 gift tax exclusion each year simplifies the ability to give gifts without cumbersome reporting requirements. However, it creates huge—and costly—problems when used in an attempt to become eligible for Medicaid. This federally funded program was created to help low-income people pay for medical and nursing home care. A person’s assets and any financial transactions made within a five-year lookback period are considered when determining eligibility.

What most people don’t know is that Medicaid does not allow the gift tax exclusion to be used for the lookback period.

Remember the woman who gave her three children $15,000 each year for five years? If she goes into a nursing facility in the fifth year, after giving her final set of gifts, the IRS won’t count any of those gifts made against her lifetime gift tax exemption. However, Medicaid will count the full amount—$225,000—as if those assets were available to pay for her care. The penalty period will make it necessary for her or her family to pay for care, possibly for five years.

To take advantage of the annual gift tax exclusion safely when Medicaid may be in the future, an estate planning attorney can create an Intentionally Defective Grantor Trust to hold assets. This is a hybrid trust used to separate assets from the grantor just enough to begin the five-year lookback period while holding property within the grantor’s taxable estate, allowing for a continuing opportunity to take advantage of the annual gift tax exclusion without triggering a new five-year look back at each gift.

The gift-tax exemption is treated differently by IRS and Medicaid because they work under different rules. Understanding what each agency requires can protect the family and those needing nursing home care without creating expensive and stressful results. In addition, some Medicaid planning techniques may work in some states but not in others.

If you would like to learn more about the gift tax, and other estate taxes, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: The News Enterprise (Sep. 14, 2021) “Medicaid and IRS don’t view gift-tax-exemption in same way”

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The Estate of The Union Episode 9 out now

 

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protect loved ones from financial elder abuse

Protect Loved Ones from Financial Elder Abuse

In 2021, more than 6.2 million people in America live with some form of Alzheimer’s disease and need some type of memory care. At the same time, financial abuse and scams, especially those targeting people 65 and older, are on the rise, says the Better Business Bureau. It is important to protect loved ones from financial elder abuse.

Individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia face unique challenges when it comes to financial elder abuse and scams, according to a recent report “Protecting you or a loved one from financial elder abuse and scams” from Idaho News 6. The increasing number of Alzheimer’s diagnoses increases chances of needing in-home, memory care or skilled nursing care at some point, making it increasingly important to plan ahead. When there is no advance planning, financial devastation and the potential for financial elder abuse occurs.

Planning starts with an experienced estate planning attorney who can help the family prepare these four basic documents:

  • Last Will and Testament
  • Financial Power of Attorney
  • Health Care Power of Attorney
  • Living Will/Advanced Directive

There are additional documents, depending upon the individual’s situation, including a Durable Power of Attorney, used to give another person the ability to make decisions for property, business and financial matters. In cases of future incapacity, this is extremely important.

Power of Attorney: This appoints an “agent” who can make financial decisions on behalf of the “principal.” The POA creates a fiduciary relationship between the agent and their principal, wherein the agent must act in the best interest of the principal, above their own interest. The selection of a POA is very important, since it is a big responsibility.

The Principal should also name a successor agent, in case the primary agent is not able or willing to take on their role. Understand the possibility of abuse of power by the agent before finalizing any documents. An agent who abuses their powers or reaches beyond their powers can be prosecuted.  However, it is best to make a good choice from the start and try to avoid problems.

Most of us get all the right protection in place for our homes, cars and have health insurance in place. However, the chances of needing long-term care for a dementia are actually higher than having your house burn down.

Planning for incapacity and protecting loved ones from financial elder abuse can be accomplished with the help of an estate planning attorney. Have the conversations with your attorney and your family early and get going.

If you would like to learn more about elder abuse, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Idaho News 6 (Sep. 14, 2021) “Protecting you or a loved one from financial elder abuse and scams”

The Estate of The Union Episode 9 out now

 

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understanding of how a conservatorship works

Understanding how a Conservatorship Works

Kiplinger’s recent article titled “Britney Spears’ Sad Song … Warning: This Could Happen to You” says that conservatorship is a topic that’s been in the news lately with Britney’s recent court battle. Most people do not have an understanding of how a conservatorship works.

In Britney’s case, while there has not been any evidence alleged of actual fraud or financial abuse in her conservatorship, she lost nearly all control over her finances, her business affairs and the most personal aspects of her life.

She also doesn’t want her father to be the person to hold that much power or control over her life.

A judge can take charge of an individual’s personal and financial decisions and appoint a third party to make decisions almost on an unlimited basis. These proceedings can exact a significant emotional toll and be tremendously expensive and time-consuming.

Conservatorship can happen to anyone, if and when you’re too disabled (due to an accident or illness) or too incompetent (due to infirmity of mind, old age or dementia, or a similar condition) to handle your own affairs.

If your estate plan addresses this with a chain of command to act on your behalf, no formal court proceedings would be required. Your wishes can be honored, and all the drama like that which Britney Spears has endured can be avoided.

If you are under age 60, there is a four to five times greater likelihood that you’ll become disabled, due to an accident or illness, for a period of more than one year, than your chances of dying. This is because modern medicine can often prevent death but not cure the illness or condition causing the disability. If you’re over age 60, there’s a 70% chance that, during your remaining lifetime, you’ll be too disabled or incompetent to act for yourself, for a period of at least two to 2½ years.

However, Britney Spears’ battle to end her court-ordered conservatorship took an unexpected turn recently, when her father and the conservator of her estate, Jamie Spears, filed a petition to end the arrangement. Mr. Spears cited his daughter’s pleas at two separate court hearings over the summer in his request to terminate the 13-year conservatorship.

“Recent events related to this conservatorship have called into question whether circumstances have changed to such an extent that grounds for establishment of a conservatorship may no longer exist,” the filing states. The bottom line is this: if you, or a loved one come to that point in life, understanding how a conservatorship works is the first step toward beginning that process – and avoiding some of the more difficult problems reflected in Britney Spears’ case.

If you would like to learn more about conservatorship, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Kiplinger (July 14, 2021) “Britney Spears’ Sad Song … Warning: This Could Happen to You”

The Estate of The Union Episode 9 out now

 

www.texastrustlaw.com/read-our-books

Beneficiary Controlled Trust can protect your legacy

Beneficiary Controlled Trust can Protect your Legacy

When beneficiaries receive their inheritance in their own names, a legacy becomes vulnerable to creditors, lawsuits, divorce and a second estate tax when they die. Complicating matters further, if the heir receives means-tested government benefits, their benefits may be lost if they receive a direct inheritance. Having each beneficiary’s inheritance go into their own Beneficiary Controlled Trust can protect your legacy.

There is a solution, explains the article “What a Beneficiary Controlled Trust Can Do to Secure Your Legacy After You Are Gone” from Kiplinger. Properly created and funded, the beneficiary may control, use and enjoy their inheritance with less risk than outright ownership. A Beneficiary Controlled Trust protects loved ones from the ups and downs of life. Divorce, lawsuits, creditor claims, bankruptcy are all unpleasant, but they do happen.

A Spendthrift Trust is used for beneficiaries who cannot be trusted to make good financial decisions, or who have people in their lives who can’t be trusted. It’s like a spigot on a garden hose. The trustee decides when the beneficiary should receive access to assets, how much and when.

In a Beneficiary Controlled Trust, the beneficiary can also be the controlling trustee. The beneficiary has the same level of control as they would with outright ownership. They can make investment decisions. Assets, including real property or investment accounts, are owned by the trust.

After inheritance, the primary beneficiary has the ability to alter the level of control or protection, if they are concerned about upcoming risks. If the risk is particularly strong, for example, a contentious divorce, the primary beneficiary may resign as a trustee and appoint a trusted family member or professional to act as a trustee.

Another trust is a HEMS trust, one limited to providing distributions for the beneficiary’s Health, Education, Maintenance and Support. HEMS trusts are used to avoid estate tax. However, in some states, certain creditors, including divorcing spouses or health care providers, are permitted to pierce the trust and access assets.

If the primary beneficiary of a Beneficiary Controlled Trust wishes to enhance asset protection, they can appoint an independent trustee who serves as the distribution trustee. They may make distributions to the beneficiary at their discretion, which can provide another level of protection. The beneficiary may not wish to giver such broad discretion to an Independent Trustee, as in the case of Brittney Spears. This can be minimized by giving the primary beneficiary the right to remove and replace the Independent Trustee. The beneficiary won’t have direct control over the distributions, but they decide who will manage the trust. The person may not be a related party or subordinate person.

Taxes should always be a consideration when creating trusts. Your estate planning attorney should review goals, concerns, and your unique situation to determine which type of trust works best for you and your family. If you have concerns about how your assets will be managed after you pass, a Beneficiary Controlled Trust can protect your legacy.

If you would like to learn more about the various types of trusts available, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Kiplinger (Sep. 13, 2021) “What a Beneficiary Controlled Trust Can Do to Secure Your Legacy After You Are Gone”

The Estate of The Union Episode 9 out now

 

www.texastrustlaw.com/read-our-books

Information in our blogs is very general in nature and should not be acted upon without first consulting with an attorney. Please feel free to contact The Wiewel Law Firm to schedule a complimentary consultation.
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