Category: Estate Planning

Avoid Adding Adult Children as Joint Owners

Avoid Adding Adult Children as Joint Owners

It is generally wise to avoid adding adult children as joint owners of your accounts. The conversation may concern a checking or savings account or both. Unsolicited advice usually goes something like this: “If you want to have your children to be able to pay your bills if something happens to you, you need to add them to the account.” While the intentions are good, a recent Spokane Journal of Business article advises otherwise: “Adding adult children to accounts can be problematic.”

People are made to worry even more when they are told that if there is no second name on the account, it will be frozen upon death and no one can access it until a lengthy and costly probate process has occurred.

To do the right thing, many people respond by adding their most responsible adult child to the account. They don’t realize they are creating more problems than they are solving. A better solution exists, and it should be something taken care of when preparing or revising your estate plan.

Why wouldn’t you want to add an adult child to your accounts? Simply put, your last will and testament doesn’t apply to a bank account if it is a joint account. Most bank accounts are owned with a “joint tenancy with right of survivorship.” This means if the primary owner, the parent, should die, the adult child becomes the sole owner of assets in the account, regardless of what your will says.

Assuming that your intention is to split the assets in the account among several beneficiaries, this may or may not happen. The new account owner is under no legal obligation to share the assets, as they are solely and legally entitled to these funds.

Another problem: if the child decides to split the funds and transfer them to siblings, the IRS may see this as a gift subject to the requirement to fill out a gift tax return.

By having a joint owner, you may also expose these assets to creditor claims. What if the child named on the bank account causes a car accident and is sued? Those assets are considered owned by the child and could be attached by a creditor. If your child gets divorced, those assets may also be part of a divorce settlement.

Estate tax reporting gets more complicated. The IRS places an additional burden on accounts held as joint tenants with the right of survivorship. If the child unexpectedly dies first, the law places the burden on the estate to prove the child did not own the asset.

Is there a solution? Yes, a power of attorney.

A power of attorney is a legal document allowing an agent to act on behalf of the parent, providing authorization without ownership. The parent’s goal is almost always to provide authorization and access, but not ownership.

The POA can be made effective immediately upon signing to allow the child immediate access to the account for bill paying. It can apply not only to bank accounts but to all assets. Alternatively, it can also be limited to specific assets.

Avoid adding adult children as joint owners of your financial accounts. Your estate planning attorney can create a POA to authorize an agent to give them as much or as little control as you want. You’ll be able to determine precisely what you do and do not wish your agent to do. If you would like to learn more about managing financial and retirement accounts, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Spokane Journal of Business (Nov. 9, 2023) “Adding adult children to accounts can be problematic”

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Navigating Estate Tax Planning

Navigating Estate Tax Planning

Read our BooksNavigating the intricacies of estate tax planning can be a daunting task. Understanding the nuances of the estate tax and implementing robust estate tax planning strategies can ensure that your beneficiaries enjoy the fruits of your labor without being overburdened by tax liabilities.

What Is Estate Tax and Who Is Subject to Estate Tax?

The estate tax, often called the “death tax,” is a tax levied on the total value of a person’s estate upon their death. If the estate exceeds certain thresholds, it becomes subject to federal estate tax, potentially diminishing the wealth passed on to heirs.

Understanding who is subject to estate tax requires knowledge of current tax laws, which often change. These laws dictate specific exemption amounts and continually adjust what constitutes a taxable estate.

Why Is Estate Tax Planning Essential?

Proactive estate tax planning is crucial to preventing your heirs from facing unexpected tax burdens. Without careful planning, a significant portion of the estate you’ve worked hard to build could end up in the hands of the government, instead of your loved ones.

Tax planning involves a comprehensive look at your assets and potential tax liabilities, ensuring that your beneficiaries are safeguarded. The goal is to reduce estate tax significantly, allowing more wealth to transition to the next generation.

How Can Trusts Benefit Your Estate Plan?

Incorporating trusts into your estate plan can be a strategic move to minimize estate taxes. Trusts, particularly irrevocable ones, allow you to transfer wealth from your estate, reducing the overall value subject to estate taxes upon your death.

Trusts offer control over assets even after death, ensuring that your wishes concerning asset distribution are honored. Grantor trusts and other types of trust arrangements are advanced estate planning tools that can significantly reduce your taxable estate.

Are Gift Taxes and Estate Taxes Interconnected?

Yes, gift taxes and estate taxes are closely linked. Strategically gifting assets during your lifetime can reduce your estate’s size, subsequently decreasing estate tax liability. However, it’s essential to understand the gift tax exclusion limits in your tax planning.

Large gifts that exceed these exclusions may still be taxable. These count towards your estate and are potentially subject to estate tax if they surpass the lifetime exemption limit. It’s wise to consider the long-term implications of gifting on your overall estate.

What Changes in Tax Laws Mean for Your Estate Planning Strategies?

Estate tax laws are not static; they undergo changes and adjustments that could impact your estate. These changes in tax laws could influence exemption thresholds, tax rates and what assets are considered part of your taxable estate.

Keeping abreast of these changes is critical. Working with a tax professional who understands the latest federal estate tax laws ensures that your estate plan remains effective and compliant, safeguarding your estate from increased tax liability.

Can You Minimize Estate Taxes with Charitable Contributions?

Making charitable contributions is an effective strategy to minimize estate taxes. Donations to qualifying charitable organizations can reduce your taxable estate’s size, while allowing you to contribute to causes you care about.

This estate planning tool requires proper documentation and adherence to tax laws to ensure that your estate benefits from the tax reductions applicable to charitable contributions.

Do All States Impose Own Estate Taxes?

Navigating estate tax planning isn’t just a federal matter. Several states impose their own estate taxes, with exemption thresholds and tax rates that differ from federal guidelines. State estate taxes can complicate estate planning, especially if you own assets in multiple states.

Understanding how state tax laws affect your estate is crucial. It involves complex considerations, particularly if you’re planning for properties in states with distinct estate or inheritance taxes.

How Does the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Affect Estate Tax Planning?

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act significantly impacted estate tax planning by increasing the federal estate tax exemption. This change means fewer estates will be subject to the estate tax. However, it is essential to remember that many parts of the Jobs Act are temporary.

Estate plans should consider future changes, possibly with lower exemptions. Careful planning and continual review of your estate strategy are necessary to adapt to legislative shifts and protect your estate from excessive taxation.

Closing Thoughts: Estate Tax Planning Takeaways

To encapsulate, here are the key points to remember in your estate tax planning journey:

  • Understand the implications of the estate tax on your assets.
  • Utilize trusts and lifetime gifts strategically to reduce estate size.
  • Keep updated with changes in tax laws, including state estate taxes.
  • Consider charitable contributions as part of your estate strategy.
  • Consult with a tax professional to navigate complex estate scenarios.

Navigating the complex rules around estate tax planning is challenging. Effective estate tax planning can preserve your wealth for future generations, ensuring that your legacy endures as you envision. If you would like to learn more about estate taxes, please visit our previous posts. 

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Tax Planning may Impact your Medicare Costs

Tax planning may impact your Medicare costs. How much retirees pay for Medicare Part B premiums is based on income levels, and an income increase of even $1 can trigger higher tax rates, explains the recent article, “Year-end tax strategies may affect how much retirees pay for Medicare. Here’s what to know” from CNBC.

Social Security beneficiaries will receive a 3.2% increase in benefits in 2024 based on the annual COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment). According to the Social Security Administration, this will result in an estimated increase of more than $50 per month, bringing the average monthly retirement benefit for workers from $1,848 in 2023 to $1,907 in 2024.

How much beneficiaries will actually receive won’t be known until December, when annual benefit statements are sent out. One factor possibly offsetting those benefit increases is the size of Medicare Part B premiums, which are typically deducted directly from Social Security monthly benefits.

Medicare Part B covers physician services, outpatient hospital services, some home health care services, durable medical equipment and other services not covered by Medicare Part A.

Medicare Part B premiums for 2024 have not yet been announced. However, the Medicare trustees have projected the standard monthly premium possibly being $174.80 in 2024, up from $164.90 in 2023.

Some beneficiaries may pay more, based on income, in what’s known as IRMAA or Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amounts. In 2023, it is the standard Part B premium for those who file individually and have $97,000 or less (or $194,000 or less for couples) in modified adjusted gross income on their federal tax return in 2021.

Monthly premiums can go up to as much as $560.50 per month for individuals with incomes of $500,000 and up, for couples with $750,000 and up.

Beneficiaries receive the same Medicare services regardless of the monthly Part B premium rate.

In 2024, the monthly Part B premiums will be based on 2022 federal tax returns. Beneficiaries need to pay attention to how their incomes may change when implementing year-end tax strategies.

For instance, if you do a Roth conversion, taking pre-tax funds from a traditional IRA or eligible qualified retirement plan like a 401(k) and moving them to a post-tax retirement account, you’ll trigger income taxes, which may trigger higher Medicare Part B premiums later.

Tax planning may impact your Medicare costs. People who do end-of-year tax loss harvesting, selling off assets at a loss to offset capital gains owed on other profitable investments, may reduce adjusted gross income and future Medicare premiums.

If you’re taking distributions from IRAs and want to make charitable donations, you might want to make those donations directly from your retirement account, known as a qualified charitable distribution. These funds don’t appear on your tax return and won’t increase income taxes or future Medicare premiums. If you would like to read more about Medicare and tax planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: CNBC (Oct. 12, 2023) “Year-end tax strategies may affect how much retirees pay for Medicare. Here’s what to know”

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Selling the Family Home when a Loved One needs Nursing Care

Selling the Family Home when a Loved One needs Nursing Care

When an aging relative decides the time is right to move into an assisted living or continuing care facility, families face many decisions. This is often a difficult but necessary step for older individuals with trouble living independently or planning for their future needs. Selling the family home when a loved one needs nursing care can be a challenge. A recent article from Herald—Standard, “How to handle selling a home when moving into an assisted living facility,” offers suggestions to help families navigate the process.

First, speak with an estate planning attorney to have a trusted, responsible family member be named Power of Attorney. Individuals moving into assisted living may not have any cognitive problems at the time of the move. However, selling a home for a family member who develops dementia can present complex challenges. Only a person with legal capacity may transfer their home to a new owner. Having a Power of Attorney allows a family member to step in and manage the transaction without needing to go to court and have a guardian named.

Talk about the situation and the sale with the aging family member. They will need time to process the idea of selling their home and moving. Homeowners make untold sacrifices and compromises to buy and maintain their homes, so the decision to sell a beloved home is almost always very difficult and brings out a range of emotions.

Throughout this process, an open and honest dialogue about what can be achieved by selling the home and improving their quality of life will be helpful.

Sorting through belongings is an extremely hard task. A lifetime of memories and a loss of their independence are all wrapped up in the contents of a home. It will be impossible to take the entire contents into a one or two-bedroom apartment. Take the time to sort through belongings with your family members and select certain items to give them a sense of home in a smaller space.

If possible, try to pass on some items to younger family members. Most importantly, handle this process with as much compassion as possible.

Keep all relevant people involved and current throughout the process. This is particularly important if the family members are scattered in different states. Adult children who live far away and can’t be active participants in this process shouldn’t be dismissed and left out. Open communication with other family members will minimize the chances of objections when the sale and move take place.

Finally, because this is perhaps the largest and last financial transaction, make sure the sale of their home is done with an eye to their estate plan. Selling the family home when a loved one needs nursing care may cause tax issues. There may be ways to minimize tax exposure for the individual and their estate plan. Confer with an estate planning attorney to avoid any missteps. If you would like to learn more about managing property in your estate plan, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Herald-Standard (Oct. 27, 2023) “How to handle selling a home when moving into an assisted living facility”

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The Difference Between Guardianship and Power of Attorney

The Difference Between Guardianship and Power of Attorney

Navigating the intricate landscape of elder law can be daunting, especially when faced with the decision between guardianship and power of attorney for elderly parents. This article sheds light on the difference between guardianship and power of attorney, providing clarity on which approach might be the best fit for your family’s unique situation.

What Exactly Is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document that empowers an individual, often referred to as the “agent” or “attorney-in-fact,” to act on behalf of another, known as the “principal”. This authority can span a myriad of areas, from handling financial matters to making pivotal medical decisions.

  • Deciphering the Power of Attorney Document: The power of attorney document delineates the extent of the agent’s authority. For instance, a medical power of attorney focuses on health care decisions, while a financial power of attorney pertains to managing financial assets, like bank accounts.
  • The Significance of Durable Power of Attorney: This variant of power of attorney remains valid even if the principal becomes incapacitated due to conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It’s imperative that this durable power of attorney must be prepared with precision, ensuring the agent’s ability to act remains unaffected by the principal’s mental state.

Guardianship: An Overview

Guardianship establishes a legal relationship where a guardian is court-appointed to make decisions for someone unable to do so themselves.

  • Guardianship Proceedings: Initiating guardianship requires one to file a petition in the probate court. If the court ascertains that the individual is no longer able to care for themselves or their assets, it may appoint a guardian.
  • Differentiating Guardian of a Person from Guardian of an Estate: While the former is tasked with personal and medical decisions, the latter oversees financial matters. The guardian’s responsibilities, whether it’s a duty to provide care or manage financial assets, hinge on the terms of the guardianship.

Power of Attorney or Guardianship: Which Path to Choose?

The choice between power of attorney and guardianship is contingent on the specific needs of the elderly individual.

  • Comparing Decision-Making Power: Both the agent (under power of attorney) and the guardian have a shared duty to provide for the best interest of the individual. However, a guardian typically possesses a more expansive level of decision-making power.
  • Flexibility and Autonomy: With a power of attorney, the principal gets to choose the person who will act on their behalf. In contrast, in a guardianship proceeding, the court has the final say, which might not always resonate with the individual’s preferences.

When Is Guardianship the Answer?

Guardianship becomes indispensable when an elderly parent is incapacitated and lacks a power of attorney.

  • The Process of Seeking Guardianship: If there’s a belief that an elderly parent is vulnerable, it becomes imperative to file a petition for guardianship. Consulting an elder law attorney can streamline the guardianship proceeding.
  • Guardianship vs Power of Attorney Post-Incapacitation: In the absence of a durable power of attorney, guardianship emerges as the sole recourse if an individual becomes incapacitated.

Can Power of Attorney and Guardianship Coexist?

Indeed, it’s possible to have both mechanisms in place, although their interplay can be intricate.

  • Roles and Boundaries: An adult child might be designated as the agent for financial matters under a power of attorney, while a professional guardian could be entrusted with medical decisions.
  • Harmonious Operation: Both the agent and guardian must act in the best interest of the individual, ensuring their comprehensive well-being.

Making the Right Choice for Your Family

Deciding between power of attorney and guardianship demands careful contemplation.

  • Engage with an Elder Law Attorney: Their expertise can offer tailored guidance, helping you traverse the complexities of elder law.
  • Factor in the Elderly Parent’s Desires: Their voice is paramount in the decision-making matrix, ensuring that their autonomy and dignity are preserved.

Key Takeaways:

  • Power of Attorney is a legal instrument allowing individuals to designate someone to act on their behalf.
  • Guardianship is a court-sanctioned role for those incapacitated and unable to make decisions autonomously.
  • The distinction between the two hinges on the individual’s circumstances and the extent of decision-making power required.
  • Both mechanisms can coexist, though their roles might differ.
  • Engaging with an elder law attorney is pivotal to making an informed decision tailored to your family’s needs.

Work closely with your estate planning attorney to ensure you understand the difference between power of attorney and guardianship. If you would like to learn more about guardianship, please visit our previous posts.  

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Retirement Planning Mistakes to Avoid

Retirement Planning Mistakes to Avoid

Planning for your golden years is no small feat. A robust retirement plan is a treasure map to comfort and security in your later life. However, the road to a stress-free retirement is often littered with potential mistakes. Identifying common retirement planning mistakes and knowing the mistakes to avoid can save future retirees from headaches and financial instability.

Are You Underestimating Health Care Expenses When Your Retire?

One retirement mistake made often is underestimating health care costs. It’s easy to overlook long-term care and other health expenses, especially if you’re currently in good health. However, healthcare expenses can deplete your retirement savings faster than anticipated.

As you age, healthcare becomes an integral part of your expenses. Considering potential needs like long-term care, which Medicare does not usually cover, is crucial. Working with a financial planner can help you factor these costs into your retirement plan, ensuring your nest egg is equipped to handle future medical expenses.

Is Your Investment Portfolio Too Aggressive or Conservative?

Your investment strategy plays a pivotal role in your financial security. One of the common retirement mistakes is maintaining an inappropriate investment risk level. As you approach retirement, financial advisors often recommend gradually shifting towards more conservative investments to preserve capital. However, being overly cautious can also impede the growth of your retirement savings.

Discussing your risk tolerance and retirement timeline with a financial advisor is essential. They can help rebalance your portfolio to protect your assets, while still capitalizing on market opportunities.

Have You Neglected Tax Planning?

Tax planning is often overlooked in retirement planning, which can lead to unexpected tax burdens on your retirement income. Without proper planning, everything from social security benefits to withdrawals from your retirement account could be taxed, significantly shrinking your usable income.

Strategies like investing in Roth IRAs, where qualified withdrawals are tax-free, or setting aside funds to handle tax obligations, can be beneficial. It’s advisable to consult with a financial advisor or someone who can provide tax or legal advice to optimize your retirement plan for tax efficiency.

Do You Rely Solely on Social Security Benefits at Full Retirement Age?

A common mistake is assuming that social security benefits will be sufficient as your sole source of income. However, these benefits are designed to supplement your retirement savings account and usually don’t suffice for a comfortable retirement on their own.

It’s essential to have additional sources of income. Strategies like investing, setting up annuities, or continuing part-time work can help ensure a steady income flow throughout retirement, enhancing your financial security.

Are You Withdrawing Too Much, Too Soon?

Careful planning for how much you withdraw in the early years of retirement ensures that you don’t outlive your savings. Retirees sometimes start by withdrawing larger amounts. However, this approach can compromise their financial health in the later stages of retirement.

Setting a sustainable withdrawal rate as part of your retirement plan, considering factors like life expectancy and inflation, is prudent. Financial planners recommend the “4% rule” as a starting point, adjusting as necessary based on individual circumstances and market conditions.

Have You Failed to Consider Inflation?

Inflation can erode the purchasing power of your retirement savings over time, a reality that retirees cannot afford to ignore. A common retirement mistake is failing to factor inflation into retirement planning.

Investing in inflation-protected securities or assets that tend to increase in value over time can help your savings grow in step with or outpace inflation. Regular consultations with your financial advisor can help adjust your strategies to mitigate inflation’s impact.

Did You Forget to Plan Your Estate?

Beyond securing your lifestyle post-retirement, it is also essential to consider how your assets will be distributed upon your death. Without an estate plan, your heirs may not receive the assets you intend to leave them, and legal complications could arise.

Estate planning involves setting up wills, trusts and designating beneficiaries, ensuring that your wishes are honored. Discussing your desires with an experienced estate planning attorney will help ensure that your estate plan is comprehensive and legally sound.

Summary: Key Takeaways to Remember

To wrap up, here are the essential points to remember to avoid these common retirement planning mistakes:

  • Plan for health care costs: Factor in expenses like long-term care and unexpected medical bills.
  • Balance your investment portfolio: Ensure your investments align with your risk tolerance and retirement timeline.
  • Don’t neglect tax planning: Understand potential tax obligations on your retirement income.
  • Supplement social security benefits: Identify additional income sources to bolster your social security income.
  • Adopt a sustainable withdrawal rate: Use strategies like the “4% rule” to avoid depleting your savings prematurely.
  • Protect against inflation: Invest in assets that can counteract the rising cost of living.
  • Establish an estate plan: Prepare the legal mechanisms for asset distribution after your death.

Incorporating these strategies can help you avoid these common mistakes as you plan for retirement and set you on a path to a comfortable and secure retirement. If you would like to learn more about retirement planning, please visit our previous posts.

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Consider using a Trust Be for Long-Term Care

Consider using a Trust Be for Long-Term Care

More than a few seniors who are retired or nearing retirement lose sleep worrying over being able to afford the expense of long-term care, including nursing home care, which can cost thousands monthly. The fallback option for many Americans is Medicaid; according to a recent article, “Long-Term-Care planning using trusts,” from the Journal of Accountancy., Medicaid is a joint federal-state program requiring spending down assets. One option is to consider using a trust for long-term care.

To be eligible for long-term care through Medicaid, a person’s “countable” assets must fall below an extremely low ceiling—in some states, no more than $2,000, with some provisions in some states protecting the “well” spouse. States vary in terms of which assets are counted, with many exempting a primary residence, for example.

For many people, planning for Medicaid for long-term care may consider the use of an irrevocable trust. The basic idea is this: by transferring assets to an irrevocable trust at least five years before applying for Medicaid for long-term care, the Medicaid agency will not count those assets in determining whether Medicaid’s asset ceiling is satisfied.

If the planning is done wrong, there is a risk of not qualifying, thereby defeating the objective of creating the irrevocable trust. In addition, any tax planning may be undone, causing liquidity and other problems.

Some people plan to qualify for Medicaid even though they have asset levels as high as $2 million or more. Much of this may be the family’s primary residence, especially in locations like New York City, with its elevated real estate market. Costs at nursing homes are equally high, with nursing homes costing private-pay patients upwards of $20,000 a month, or $250,000 per year.

Timing is a key part of planning for Medicaid. Many estate planning attorneys recommend clients consider planning in their mid-to-late 60s or early 70s to move assets into a Medicaid Asset Preservation Trust, also called a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust.

This is because of Medicaid’s five-year lookback period. Most states have a five-year look-back period for both nursing home and home health care. If any transfer of countable assets has been made within the preceding five years of applying for long-term-care Medicaid, there will be a penalty period when the person or their family must pay for the care. The penalty is typically measured by the length of time the transferred assets could have paid for care, based on the average costs of the state or the region.

While there is no way to know when a person will need long-term care, statistically speaking, a person in their mid-to-late 60s or early 70s can expect to be healthy enough to satisfy the five-year lookback.

Why not simply make gifts to children during this time to become eligible for Medicaid? For one reason, there’s no way to prevent a child from spending money given to them for safekeeping. A trust will protect assets from a child’s creditors, and if the child should undergo a divorce, the assets won’t end up in the ex-spouse’s bank accounts.

Using a trust for Medicaid planning could be combined with gifts made to children or assets placed in trust for children, depending on the individual’s financial and familial circumstances.

The creation of a Medicaid Asset Preservation Trust is critical. The estate planning attorney must seek to accomplish two things: one, to say to Medicaid that the settlor, or creator of the trust, no longer owns the assets. At the same time, the IRS must see that the settlor still owns these assets and, therefore, receives a basis step-up at death.

If you are considering a trust for long-term care, an experienced estate planning attorney will be needed to advise you and create a Medicaid Asset Preservation Trust to meet the Medicaid and IRS requirements. If you would like to learn more about long-term care planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Journal of Accountancy (Oc. 9, 2023) “Long-Term-Care planning using trusts”

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Houses make horrible Wealth Transfer Vehicles

Houses make horrible Wealth Transfer Vehicles

Houses make for horrible wealth transfer vehicles. Bequeathing a house can mean passing along financial burdens, red tape, home maintenance responsibilities, potential family conflict and housing market volatility, says Kiplinger’s recent article, “Your Home Would Be a Terrible Inheritance for Your Kids.”

Communication about plans is critical. A study from Money & Family found that 68% of homeowners plan to leave a home or property to heirs. However, 56% haven’t told them about their plans. That will surprise the recipients who may or may not want or be able to service an inherited home.

Suppose you bequeath a house to an heir or heirs. In that case, they’ll have to make an immediate plan for home maintenance, mortgage payments (if necessary), utilities, property taxes, repairs and homeowners’ insurance. Zillow says this can amount to as much as $9,400 annually, not including mortgage payments.

The psychology of the home. Owners often have deep emotional attachments to their homes. Therefore, when people gift their homes to children and heirs, they’re not just giving an asset — they’re endowing them with all the good memories that were made on that property. Emotional connections to the home can be nearly as powerful as a strong attachment to a living being.

Beneficiaries may struggle to make practical choices about the inherited property because of the home’s sentimental value. This emotional aspect can cloud judgment and hinder the effective management and allocation of assets.

The financial burdens and family conflicts for beneficiaries. Inheriting a home entails a range of financial responsibilities that can quickly add up.

Property taxes, insurance premiums, ongoing maintenance costs and unexpected repairs can strain beneficiaries’ financial resources dramatically. If beneficiaries already have their own homes, inheriting an additional property can exacerbate financial burdens and potentially hinder their own financial goals, retirement plans and aspirations. The passing of a family member can also sometimes lead to conflicts among heirs, potentially exacerbating existing fractures in relationships among siblings and other family members. These are just a few reasons why houses make for horrible wealth transfer vehicles.

According to a 2018 study, nearly half (44%) of respondents saw family strife during an estate settlement. Disagreements can cause tension, strain relationships and even result in lengthy legal battles. If you would like to learn more about managing real property in your estate planning, please visit our previous posts. 

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RLT can Help with Planning for Incapacity

RLT can Help with Planning for Incapacity

Planning for potential disability and mental incapacity is part of a comprehensive estate plan. Women, in particular, are at a higher risk of becoming disabled, with 44% of women 65 and older having a disability. Most people understand the value of an estate plan. Nevertheless, few know how to that a Revocable Living Trust, or RLT, can help with planning for incapacity, as explained in the article “Incapacity Planning: The Hidden Power Of A Revocable Trust” from Financial Advisor.

Revocable Living Trusts are highly effective tools to protect assets against failing capacity. Although everyone should have both, they can be more powerful and efficient than a financial Power of Attorney. An RLT offers the freedom and flexibility to manage your assets while you can and provides a safety net if you lose capacity by naming a co-trustee who can immediately and easily step in and manage the assets.

Cognitive decline manifests in various ways. Incapacity is not always readily determined, so the trust must include a strong provision detailing when the co-trustee is empowered to take over. It’s common to require a medical professional to determine incapacity. However, what happens if a person suffering cognitive decline resists seeing a doctor, especially if they feel their autonomy is at risk?

Do you need an RLT if you already have a financial Power of Attorney? Yes, for several reasons.

You can express your intentions regarding the management and use of trust assets through the trust. A POA typically authorizes the agent to act on your behalf without specific direction or guidance. A POA authorizes someone to act on your behalf with financial transactions, such as selling a home, representing you and signing documents. The co-trustee is the only one with access to assets owned by the trust, while the POA can manage assets outside of the trust. Having both the POA and RLT is the best option.

Trustees are often viewed as more credible than a POA because RLTs are created with attorney involvement. POAs are often involved in lawsuits for fraud and elder abuse.

Suppose there is an instance of fraud or identity theft. In that case, RLTs provide another layer of protection, since the trust has its own taxpayer ID independent of your taxpayer ID and Social Security number.

Your co-trustee can be the same person as your POA.

Adding a trusted family member as a joint owner to accounts and property provides some protection without the expense of creating a trust. However, it does not create a fiduciary obligation, enforceable by law, for the joint owner to act in the original owner’s best interest. Only POAs or trustees are bound by this requirement.

Once a POA is in place, it is wise to share it with all institutions holding accounts. Most of them require a review and approval process before accepting a POA. Don’t wait until it’s needed, when it will be too late because of incapacity, to have a new one created.

If you know that planning for incapacity is in your family’s future, consider how an RLT can help. Talk with your estate planning attorney about planning to create an RLT and POA to ensure that your assets will be protected in case of incapacity. If you would like to learn more about incapacity planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Financial Advisor (Oct. 18, 2023) “Incapacity Planning: The Hidden Power Of A Revocable Trust”

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The Estate of The Union Season 3|Episode 2

The Estate of The Union Season 2|Episode 11 is out now!

The Estate of The Union Season 2|Episode 11 is out now!

Sylvia Holmes makes a fabulous guest! She is a Travis County Justice of the Peace and she does much, much more than marry people. In this edition of The Estate of the Union, she describes what happens in the “Peoples Court” in an entertaining and insightful way. It’s everything from evictions to speeding tickets to truancy.

If you’ve ever wondered about where Judge Judy gets her cases for her TV show, Judge Sylvia shares that secret too!

We’ve got more than 30 other episodes posted and more to come. We hope you will enjoy them enough to share it with others. If you would like to learn more about Judge Holmes and JP Court, Precinct 3, please visit their website: www.traviscountytx.gov/justices-of-peace/jp3. The Travis County, Precinct 3 live stream can be found here: justiceofthepeacetraviscou8356

 

 

In each episode of The Estate of The Union podcast, host and lawyer Brad Wiewel will give valuable insights into the confusing world of estate planning, making an often daunting subject easier to understand. It is Estate Planning Made Simple! The Estate of The Union Season 2|Episode 11 is out now! The episode can be found on Spotify, Apple podcasts, or anywhere you get your podcasts. If you would prefer to watch the video version, please visit our YouTube page. Please click on the links to listen to or watch the new installment of The Estate of The Union podcast. We hope you enjoy it.

The Estate of The Union Season 2|Episode 4 – How To Give Yourself a Charitable Gift is out now!

 

Texas Trust Law focuses its practice exclusively in the area of wills, probate, estate planning, asset protection, and special needs planning. Brad Wiewel is Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. We provide estate planning services, asset protection planning, business planning, and retirement exit strategies.

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 Texas Trust Law to schedule a complimentary consultation.
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