Category: Financial Planning

Essential steps for Gen Xers caring for Aging Parents

Essential steps for Gen Xers caring for Aging Parents

Raising children is expensive. Adding medical or living costs for aging parents is enough to strain even a healthy family budget. The additional expenses of caring for an aging parent or parents can take a turn if a parent passes away or is incapacitated without a will or estate plan to guide the family. An estate plan or other legal documents, such as an advance medical directive and powers of attorney, enable trusted representatives to decide and act according to a parent’s wishes. A proactive estate plan can help alleviate financial burdens and smooth aging parents’ path into retirement for both generations. Here are six essential steps for Gen Xers caring for their aging parents:

Based on Kiplinger’s article, “What Gen X Needs to Know About Their Aging Parents’ Finances,” this article outlines steps in estate planning for your parents’ financial future through retirement and their quality of life as they age.

Understand your parents’ financial landscape. Identify their assets, including retirement accounts, investments, real estate and bank accounts. List their debts, from home mortgages to credit card balances—a comprehensive view of their financial health aids in planning their future needs. Consider guidance from an estate planning attorney for a more customized approach.

Familiarize yourself with your parents’ income sources, such as Social Security, pensions and additional retirement income streams. Know their financial inflows, gauge their ability to cover expenses and plan for any shortfalls effectively.

Ask your parents if they have an estate plan, including wills, trusts and other legal documents outlining their wishes for beneficiaries and asset distribution. If they do, is it comprehensive enough for long-term care, medical decisions if they are incapacitated and Medicaid? Address these topics early and facilitate additional planning, so their wishes are honored.

Anticipate future healthcare expenses and discuss potential long-term care needs with your parents. Do they have health issues and medication costs to save money for? Develop strategies to cover these costs through insurance, savings, or income-producing investments. Planning can mitigate financial stress and provide access to quality care in retirement. Consult an attorney to discuss Medicaid planning and avoid delays in the application process.

Family members worry more about scammers and the misuse of an older adult’s money today than in previous generations. Protect your parents from financial exploitation. Consider living trusts or powers of attorney, authorizing trusted family members to act and decide in your parents’ best interests, if necessary.

Seek guidance from a financial adviser and an estate planning attorney for retirement planning and intergenerational wealth transfer strategies. Collaborate with them to develop comprehensive strategies that address your parents’ financial needs, while safeguarding your retirement savings.

Proactive Gen Xers caring for aging parents can use these essentials steps to alleviate financial burdens and provide peace of mind for both generations. They can support aging parents as they plan for the family’s financial needs and future. If you would like to learn more about caring for aging parents, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Kiplinger (June 5, 2023) “What Gen X Needs to Know About Their Aging Parents’ Finances.”

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Protect Family Wealth from Third Generation Curse

Have you heard of the “Great Wealth Transfer?” It’s the period when Baby Boomers are projected to pass trillions of dollars to the next generation. Creating or updating an estate plan to protect family wealth from the third-generation curse requires communication between generations centered on the values leading to wealth creation and a financial education on how to preserve and grow wealth.

The anticipated $84 trillion expected to be bequeathed to Generation X, Millennials, and Gen Z beneficiaries sounds enormous, but the third-generation curse may leave heirs with far less than expected. Often, wealth is earned by one generation, grown by the second generation who witnessed firsthand how hard their parents worked to maintain their wealth, and mismanaged or wasted by the third generation members, who are too far from the original wealth creation to respect it.

Many estate plans are structured to address tax planning, but that’s only one aspect of estate planning. Communicating the “why” of the estate plan, including where the money came from, how it has been stewarded over the years, and what needs to happen to protect it, will help beneficiaries have a deeper regard for their inheritance.

Boomer values may differ from their heir’s values, but they may also be similar, as they use different language to describe the same thing. Clarifying these values and communicating with heirs may help to give context to their inheritance and its importance.

Understanding your priorities and values should ideally lead to an estate plan reflecting your wishes. For instance, if the family prizes education, your estate planning attorney may advise you to create a trust to fund advanced education. Such a trust should be accompanied by a letter of intent explaining your wishes and values to both trustees and heirs.

If you’re unsure about mandating the use of funds, you may have your estate planning attorney create a discretionary trust with a similar letter explaining what you’d like them to use the funds for and why it’s important to you. Because circumstances change, the trustee will have the flexibility to distribute the funds as they see fit.

Creating or updating an estate plan to protect your family wealth from the third-generation curse will give everyone the peace of mind they crave. When the estate plan is completed, have a series of conversations with family members about what’s in the plan and why. They don’t need to know every detail, but broad strokes will go a long way in letting them know what you’ve done, your wishes, and your hopes for their future. If you would like to learn more about planning for future generations, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Kiplinger (March 12, 2024) “How Estate Planning Can Thwart the ‘Third-Generation Curse’”

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Cognitive Decline is Overlooked in Estate Planning

Cognitive Decline is Overlooked in Estate Planning

Estate planning is a roadmap for transferring a person’s assets upon their death. It preserves their value and lays out the distribution of assets to the beneficiaries. One overlooked but essential aspect of estate planning is a strategy to manage and maintain an estate’s assets if the owner loses cognitive functioning and cannot make rational or mentally sound decisions. Planning for cognitive decline is often overlooked in estate planning.

A recent case highlighted by Alan Feigenbaum in J.D. Supra’s article “Confronting Cognitive Abilities in Well-Rounded Estate Planning” reminds us of the complexities and challenges that can arise when cognitive decline is not adequately addressed in estate planning.

The case involves an 80-year-old retired advertising executive, referred to as K.K., who suffered from severe delusions. Influenced by a fraudulent business associate, K.K.’s delusions led to misguided investments that resulted in a significant financial loss. Despite the clear signs of cognitive impairment, K.K. continued to engage in financial decisions that jeopardized his estate’s financial well-being.

K.K.’s son filed a petition to appoint him guardian of his father’s estate to prevent further loss. This situation underscores the need for an estate plan that includes managing the assets and protecting the estate’s value, if the individual is cognitively or mentally impaired.

  • Plan Early and Consider Cognitive Decline: Begin estate planning early and include provisions to carry out plan directives, if cognitive functioning is impaired.
  • Incorporate Safeguards: Estate plans should have safeguards, such as durable powers of attorney and trusts, which empower trusted individuals to manage your affairs if you become incapacitated.
  • Regular Reviews and Updates: Review and update your estate plan regularly to reflect changes in circumstances, including health status.
  • Professional Guidance is Key: Navigate the complexities of estate planning with an experienced estate planning attorney. An attorney will structure your estate plan to address potential cognitive decline.

K.K.’s court case underscores why cognitive decline is overlooked in estate planning. A well-rounded estate plan includes a strategy to protect and manage assets when an individual lacks the cognitive capacity to make decisions. Proactive strategies prevent financial loss and reduce the emotional turmoil when caring for a cognitively impaired loved one. Estate planning gives you the peace of mind that your wishes will be honored, even in mental decline. If you would like to learn more about planning for cognitive decline, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: JD Supra, (March 2024), Confronting Cognitive Abilities in Well-Rounded Estate Planning

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Considering Medicaid Asset Protection Trusts?

Considering Medicaid Asset Protection Trusts?

Medicaid, a joint state and federal program, provides health coverage to low-income individuals of all ages. Qualifying for Medicaid requires meeting strict income and asset limits, which vary by state and the type of Medicaid coverage sought. If you are considering Medicaid Asset Protection Trusts, there are a few things to know.

These limits pose a significant hurdle for many, especially those needing long-term care. According to an ElderLawAnswers article, this is where Medicaid Asset Protection Trusts (MAPTs) come into play. MAPTs offer a legal avenue to protect assets, while preserving eligibility for Medicaid benefits.

A MAPT is an irrevocable trust established during your lifetime that transfers ownership of assets to a trust, so Medicaid excludes them from the resource limit during eligibility qualification. Once transferred, you no longer own the assets directly, which helps you to meet Medicaid’s eligibility criteria. Appoint a trustee other than yourself to manage the trust and to transfer the assets, such as real estate or stocks, into the trust’s name correctly.

Key Considerations:

  • Timing is Crucial: A MAPT must be created and funded with Medicaid’s 60-month lookback period in mind. Assets transferred into the trust within this period may penalize your Medicaid eligibility.
  • Living Arrangements: Transferring your home into a MAPT doesn’t mean you have to move out. You can still reside in your home, although the trust technically owns it.
  • Income and Benefits: You can receive income from the trust’s assets. However, this income may affect your Medicaid eligibility.

Medicaid Asset Protection Trusts are a valuable strategy for individuals looking to qualify for Medicaid without sacrificing their assets. If you are considering Medicaid Asset Protection Trusts, work with an attorney to understand how these trusts work and the financial considerations involved, so you can make informed decisions about your long-term care planning. If you would like to learn more about elder law, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: ElderLawAnswers: What Are Medicaid Asset Protection Trusts?

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The Complexities of Co-Owning a Vacation Home

The Complexities of Co-Owning a Vacation Home

Dreaming of a vacation home you can escape to at any moment is wonderful. However, the reality of co-owning that slice of paradise with friends or family might be more complicated than you think, explains Better Homes and Garden’s article, “What You Need to Know Before You Buy a Vacation Home with Friends or Family.” Let’s dive into the complexities and considerations of co-owning a vacation home, inspired by insights from experts in the field.

Co-owning a vacation home often starts with a dream shared among friends or family. It’s an appealing idea, especially when the cost of owning a vacation spot on your own seems out of reach. The idea of pooling resources to afford a better, more luxurious property in a prime location is tempting. It promises a place to stay and a shared investment, potentially increasing in value over time.

The main attraction of co-owning is financial efficiency. You can access better properties in desirable locations without shouldering the entire financial burden alone. It allows more frequent visits to your favorite vacation spot and turns an otherwise unreachable dream into a tangible reality. Owning a property with others can also create deeper bonds and shared memories that last a lifetime.

However, with the benefits come significant risks and potential pitfalls. Co-ownership can lead to financial disputes, disagreements over property use, maintenance responsibilities and even conflicts about the property’s future. What happens if one owner wants out of their part of the property or if one owner passes away unexpectedly? What if personal circumstances change, affecting

Before jumping into co-ownership, having detailed conversations about every aspect of the property’s future is crucial. Discussing and agreeing on a budget, usage schedules, guests, pets and even decor can prevent misunderstandings down the line. It’s also wise to consider legal structures, like becoming tenants in common or forming an LLC, to manage the property, ensuring that all agreements are in writing to protect everyone involved.

Getting legal advice from an estate, real estate, or business attorney when considering purchasing joint-owned property is essential. A trusted attorney can help draft a comprehensive co-ownership contract with your friend or family member that outlines each owner’s rights, responsibilities, financial commitments and the procedures for resolving disputes or selling shares in the property. This agreement safeguards your financial interest in the vacation home, ensuring that it remains a source of joy rather than a cause of strife.

Co-owning a vacation home offers a unique opportunity to make your dream of a getaway spot a reality. However, it’s not without its challenges. By prioritizing open communication, financial clarity and professional legal advice, you can navigate the complexities of co-ownership. Remember, the goal is to create a space that enhances your life and relationships, not one that leads to unnecessary stress or conflict. Your estate planning attorney will help you fully grasp the complexities of co-owning a vacation home. If you are interested in learning more about managing real property in your estate plan, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Better Homes and Gardens (June 29, 2023) “What You Need to Know Before You Buy a Vacation Home with Friends or Family”

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The Estate of The Union Season 3|Episode 3

The Estate of The Union Season 3|Episode 3 is out now!

The Estate of The Union Season 3|Episode 3 is out now! Taxes come in all favors. Sales taxes, excise taxes, capital gains taxes, etc. We are all concerned about our income taxes as we approach April 15th. Many of us will believe we pay way too much, and nobody will feel like they should pay more! But there’s another tax to be concerned about: The Death Tax.

 In this edition of The Estate of the Union, Brad Wiewel dissects the Death tax and it’s first cousin, the Gift Tax and explains them in a way that everyone can understand. He also sheds like on what is going to happen on January 1, 2026 – unless Congress changes the law; so, stand by!

 

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 3|Episode 3 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.

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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.

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Business Owners needs Succession Planning

Business Owners needs Succession Planning

Business owners typically have a high percentage of their net worth tied up in the business and sometimes the real estate where it operates. What’s surprising is how little attention is often given to the succession plan. Business owners need succession planning, says an article from Accounting Today, “The two sides to succession plans for private businesses.”

Starting with the operational side, who will take over the business owner’s work when they die, become incapacitated, or retire? If a business founder is in the weeds of the business, this is a big issue. The owner must have extensive conversations with key employees to discuss the details.

Multigenerational family ownership isn’t always the cure for a succession plan. Second- or third-generational roles must be planned, so capable people fill them. Bloodline succession doesn’t always work for running a business.

These conversations regarding roles, compensation and equity incentives must be very detailed. Not all employee leaders are willing to pour their lives into a privately owned business for the benefit of heirs without an incentive plan.

On the financial side of succession, who will become the owners of the deceased’s shares, and what financial arrangements will be made for that transfer? Businesses with the least amount of animosity and grief are those who have done the hard work: they have the business evaluated by an outside professional and having clear plans for how the successor owners will own and operate the business.

How will the transfer of the business take place in the future? An estate planning attorney should work with the business’ accountants, financial advisors, insurance brokers and other professionals to develop a clear plan for the business and the family.

If the owner is contemplating retirement, will they count on the income from the business operations to fund their retirement, or will they sell their shares to family members or outsiders? Who will oversee this transfer if the business owner becomes incapacitated?

Business owners needs succession planning for a privately held business. It is a lengthy process requiring input from skilled professionals, and ideally, it should begin the moment the business is well-established. There’s always time to tweak an existing plan, but never time to plan in an emergency. If you would like to learn more about business succession planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Accounting Today (Feb. 13, 2024) “The two sides to succession plans for private businesses”

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Use Qualified Disclaimer to avoid Inheriting IRA

Use Qualified Disclaimer to Avoid Inheriting IRA

The rules governing inherited Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) have changed over the years. They have become even more complex since the passage of the original SECURE Act. The inheritor of an IRA may be required to empty the account and pay taxes on the resulting income within 10 years. In some situations, beneficiaries might choose to use a Qualified Disclaimer to avoid inheriting the IRA, according to a recent article, “How to Opt Out of Inheriting an IRA” from Think Advisor.

Paying taxes on the distributions could put a beneficiary into a higher tax bracket. In some situations, beneficiaries may want to execute a Qualified Disclaimer and avoid inheriting both the account and the tax consequences associated with the inheritance.

Individuals who use a Qualified Disclaimer are treated as if they never received the property at all. Of course, you don’t enjoy the benefits of the inheritance but don’t receive the tax bill.

Suppose the decedent’s estate is large enough to trigger the federal estate tax. In that case, generation-skipping transfer tax issues may come into play, depending on whether there are any contingent beneficiaries.

An experienced estate planning attorney is needed to ensure that the disclaimer satisfies all requirements and is treated as a Qualified Disclaimer. It must be in writing, and it must be irrevocable. It also needs to align with any state law requirements.

The person who wishes to disclaim the IRA must provide the IRA custodian or the plan administrator with written notice within nine months after the latter of two events: the original account owner’s death or the date the disclaiming party turns 21 years old. The disclaiming person must also execute the disclaimer before receiving the inherited IRA or any of the benefits associated with the property.

Once you use the qualified disclaimer to avoid inheriting the IRA, it must pass to the remaining beneficiaries without the disclaiming party’s involvement. The disclaiming party cannot directly decide who will receive their interests, such as directing the inherited IRA to go to their child. If the disclaiming party’s child is already named as a beneficiary, their interest will be received as intended by that child.

The person inheriting the account must execute the disclaimer before receiving any benefits from the account. Even electing to take distributions will prevent the disclaimer from being effective, even if the person has not received any funds.

In some cases, you may be able to disclaim a portion of the inherited IRA. However, these are specific cases requiring the experience of an estate planning attorney. If you would like to learn more about inherited IRAs, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Think Advisor (Feb. 8, 2024) “How to Opt Out of Inheriting an IRA”

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Bypass Trust is a pivotal Estate Planning Tool

Bypass Trust is a pivotal Estate Planning Tool

A bypass trust, also known as a credit shelter trust or B trust, is a pivotal estate planning tool. It’s designed to help minimize estate taxes and ensure that a larger portion of your assets reaches your intended beneficiaries. A bypass trust works by allowing a surviving spouse to benefit from the trust assets during their lifetime, while preserving the trust principal for the next generation.

One of the primary benefits of a bypass trust is its ability to shield assets from estate taxes. This trust type strategically utilizes the federal estate tax exemption, allowing couples to effectively double the amount exempted from estate taxes. When one spouse passes away, the assets up to the estate tax exemption amount can be transferred into the bypass trust, thus reducing the taxable estate of the surviving spouse.

In the bypass trust arrangement, the trust is split into two separate trusts when the first spouse dies. The survivor’s trust is revocable and contains the surviving spouse’s share of the estate, while the deceased spouse’s share is transferred into the bypass trust, which becomes irrevocable. This separation allows for efficient estate tax management.

The surviving spouse plays a crucial role in a bypass trust. They have access to the trust income and, in some cases, the principal for certain needs. However, the trust assets remain in the trust and are not considered part of the surviving spouse’s estate, thus avoiding estate taxes upon their death.

Selecting a trustee for a bypass trust is an essential decision. The trustee manages the trust assets and ensures that they are used according to the terms of the trust. It’s essential to choose someone who is trustworthy and understands the financial and legal responsibilities involved.

Setting up a bypass trust requires careful planning and drafting by an experienced estate planning attorney. The trust document must outline the terms of the trust, including how the assets will be managed and distributed. This process also involves making decisions about beneficiaries and trustees.

Bypass trusts are closely tied to tax law, particularly federal estate tax laws. How a bypass trust is structured can significantly impact the estate taxes owed. Understanding current tax laws and how they affect your estate plan is crucial.

A bypass trust is most beneficial for couples with substantial assets that exceed the federal estate tax exemption amount. It’s an effective way to reduce estate taxes and ensure that more of your estate goes to your beneficiaries rather than to tax payments.

The landscape of estate planning and tax law is constantly evolving. It’s important to stay informed about changes in the law and how they may impact your estate plan. A bypass trust remains a relevant and pivotal tool in many estate planning strategies.

If you’re considering a bypass trust as part of your estate plan, consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney is essential. They can help you understand if a bypass trust is the right option for your situation and guide you through the process of setting one up. If you would like to learn more about bypass trusts and estate taxes, please visit our previous posts. 

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Endowed Scholarships create an Important Legacy

Endowed Scholarships create an Important Legacy

Endowed scholarships are powerful tools in the realm of charitable giving, often used as a part of comprehensive estate planning. An endowed scholarship is a significant philanthropic commitment that involves establishing a fund to provide scholarships to students, typically in perpetuity. It’s a donation and a long-term investment in future generations, aligning with the donor’s values and interests. Endowed scholarships can be established during a donor’s lifetime or through estate gifts, allowing individuals to create an important legacy reflecting their passion for education and student support. For a detailed overview of how endowed scholarships function within charitable giving and estate planning, see The National Association of Charitable Gift Planners.

To endow a scholarship means providing a stable funding source by creating an endowment fund. An endowment fund is typically a large sum of money that is invested. The earned income from the investments is used to fund the scholarship. The principal amount of the endowment remains intact, allowing the scholarship to be awarded yearly indefinitely, based on the income generated.

In estate planning, establishing an endowed scholarship can offer a meaningful way to memorialize a loved one or to honor family and friends, while also providing tax benefits. It serves as a lasting testament to the donor’s commitment to education and charitable giving, ensuring that their philanthropic goals continue to be met even after they are gone.

Establishing an endowed fund involves careful planning and collaboration with financial or philanthropic advisors. The donor needs to decide on the amount to endow, which should align with their financial capabilities and the objectives of the scholarship. The process also involves legal considerations, since the terms of the scholarship and the fund’s administration must be clearly defined and documented. A comprehensive guide on endowment funds can be found at The Council on Foundations.

Legal and financial planning is crucial in creating a scholarship fund. This involves drafting the terms of the scholarship, deciding on the fund’s management and ensuring that the scholarship aligns with the overall estate plan. The donor must also work with the chosen educational institution or charitable organization to set up the fund and define how the scholarship will be administered.

There are numerous benefits to establishing an endowed scholarship for both the donor and the recipients. From a donor’s perspective, endowed scholarships provide a way to make a significant, lasting impact while also reaping financial rewards. They can lead to potential income tax deductions and be a part of a strategic plan for estate gifts, reducing the taxable estate.

For scholarship recipients, an endowed scholarship represents a reliable source of tuition assistance, often making the difference in their ability to pursue higher education. These scholarships can be designated according to the donor’s wishes, targeting specific fields of study, financial need, or other criteria, thus allowing donors to support areas they are passionate about. One of the most important aspects of establishing an endowed scholarship is setting the criteria for scholarship recipients. This process allows donors to personalize their scholarship according to their values and the impact they wish to make. Criteria can include academic merit, financial need, specific areas of study, or any other factors the donor deems important.

Balancing the donor’s wishes with institutional policies is key. While the donor can designate the scholarship according to their preferences, they must also ensure that the criteria are feasible and aligned with the institution’s policies and regulations. Naming a scholarship can be a very meaningful way to honor family, friends, or personal causes. It ensures that the donor’s or the loved one’s name is associated with educational support and philanthropy for years to come.

Effective management of the endowment is crucial to ensure its longevity and impact. This involves prudent investment strategies to grow the principal amount, while generating sufficient income to support the scholarship. Regular reviews and adjustments to the investment strategy are necessary to align with market conditions and the scholarship’s objectives.

Donors and institutions may also seek additional contributions to the scholarship fund. These contributions may be made by the donor, family members, or others who share the donor’s vision, thus helping to grow the fund and increase its impact over time.

Incorporating endowed scholarships into an estate plan can have significant tax implications. Donors can benefit from income tax deductions for their contributions to the scholarship fund. By reducing the taxable estate, endowed scholarships can also be an effective tool in estate planning, potentially lowering estate taxes.

Endowed scholarships are more than just financial aid; they offer a unique opportunity to create an important legacy of support, ensuring that the donor’s passion for education and charitable giving continues to make a difference for many years. If you would like to read more about endowed scholarships, and other forms of charitable giving, please visit our previous posts. 

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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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