Category: Funeral Planning

Burial Insurance can give you Peace of Mind

Burial Insurance can give you Peace of Mind

Burial insurance can give you peace of mind when you are already emotionally fragile after the death of a loved one. Burial insurance—also called end-of-life insurance, final expense, or funeral insurance—is a whole life insurance policy that’s designed to pay for the costs of your burial. These costs may include a memorial service, cremation costs, a headstone for your grave or other expenses associated with end-of-life arrangements.

Bankrate’s recent article entitled “Burial insurance” explains that if you have your affairs in order, your family already knows what will happen when you die. You may have given instructions for how you’d like your body to be treated, as well as ideas for your memorial service or what you want written on a tombstone.

However, all of these things cost money. If you don’t want your family to be stuck paying those costs, you may want to consider a burial policy.

Because the payout for burial insurance is small compared to many regular life insurance policies, the premiums can also be quite affordable. The policies are easy to purchase and don’t require a medical exam. However, there may be a waiting period and the policy may offer only limited benefits in the first two years.

Burial insurance policies cover all the normal costs incurred by someone’s death, such as:

  • Embalming
  • Memorial Service
  • A casket
  • Flowers
  • Cremation costs
  • A burial plot
  • The cost of transporting the body and/or remains
  • A headstone; and
  • Payment to clergy.

One type of burial policy, called a guaranteed issue life insurance policy, is available without any medical or health questions. It’s designed for those who are seriously ill and can’t get a policy any other way.

If all the appropriate arrangements have been made, the process of filing a burial insurance claim should be fairly smooth. Allow burial insurance to give you that peace of mind at an extremely difficult time. If you would like to read more about funeral expenses, and other issues related to probate, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Bankrate (March 5, 2021) “Burial insurance”

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Funeral Trust is an Option for Final Expenses

Funeral Trust is an Option for Final Expenses

A funeral trust is an option for final expenses. A funeral trust is an inter vivos trust created by an individual, while alive, with the objective of covering final expenses associated with future funeral arrangements.

Anyone competent and of legal age can set up a funeral trust. Family members can open a trust for immediate family members, such as parents, siblings, spouses, children, or stepchildren.

Bank Rate’s recent article entitled “The pros and cons of funeral trusts” advises to first choose a reputable funeral home provider.

You can accomplish this by looking at online reviews or use local word of mouth recommendations to find the top funeral home provider with a good reputation.

Funeral trusts are also sold through insurance companies, in which case they’re typically funded with single-premium whole life insurance. Next, see how much your funeral will cost and check the funeral cost limitations set by your state.

You can then compare the various methods of funding a prepaid funeral trust. Cash, savings bond, CD’s, payment plans, or final expense insurance (burial life insurance) may be used to fund a prepaid trust.

Consider consulting an elder law attorney. He or she can help consumers understand the legalities and tax requirements involved in funeral trusts.

You then need to confirm that proceeds from the trust will be accepted as payment. If the funeral home you selected won’t accept the funds from the trust as payment for services, your family could be left confused and frustrated after your death.

Ask an elder law attorney about relocation regulations before opening your funeral trust. You should confirm that if you move across state lines, the trust can be changed to the new state. If you relocate, be certain that you change the trustee and beneficiary to the new funeral home you’ll use.

Make certain that family members are aware of your plans. You can provide your executor and all your heirs with a copy of the trust, as well as contact information for the funeral home and the beneficiary if different.

You then need appoint an independent trustee, who will audit the funeral bill for reasonableness and pay any excess to the family.

Finally, don’t forget to fund the trust. A funeral trust is an option for final expenses, but only if it is properly funded. If you would like to learn more about funeral planning, and additional issues related to probate, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Bank Rate (Feb. 8, 2021) “The pros and cons of funeral trusts”

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Becoming an Executor should be considered Carefully

Becoming an Executor should be considered Carefully

Becoming an executor should be considered carefully before accepting or refusing. These decisions are usually made based on relationships and willingness to help the family after a loved one has died. Knowing certain processes are in place and many are standard procedures may make the decision easier, according to the useful article “Planning Ahead: Should you agree to serve as an executor?” from Daily Local News.

A family member or friend is very often asked to serve as executor when the surviving spouse is the only or primary beneficiary and not able to manage the necessary tasks. In other instances, estates are complex, involving multiple beneficiaries, charities and real estate in several states. The size of the estate is actually less of a factor when it comes to complexity. Small estates with debt can be more challenging than well-planned large estates, where planning has been done and there are abundant resources to address any problems.

Prepare while the person is alive. This is the time to learn as much as you can. Ask to get a copy of the will and read it. Who are the beneficiaries? Speak with the person about the relationships between beneficiaries and other family members. Do they get along, and if not, why? Be prepared for potential conflict with the estate.

Find out what the person wants for their funeral. Do they want a traditional memorial service, and have they paid for the funeral already? Any information they can provide will make this difficult time a little easier.

What are your responsibilities as executor? Depending on how the will is prepared, you may be responsible for everything, or your responsibilities may be limited. At the very least, the executor of an estate is responsible for:

  • Locating and preparing an inventory of assets
  • Getting a tax ID number and establishing an estate account
  • Paying final bills, including funeral and related bills
  • Notifying beneficiaries
  • Preparing tax returns, including estate and/or inheritance tax returns
  • Distributing assets and submitting a final accounting

If the person has an estate planning attorney, financial advisor and CPA, meeting with them while the person is alive and learning what you can about the plans for assets will be helpful. These three professional advisors will be able to provide help as you move forward with the estate.

These tasks may sound daunting but being asked to serve as a person’s executor demonstrates the complete trust they have in your abilities and judgment. Therefore, becoming an executor should be considered carefully. Yes, you will breathe a sigh of relief when you complete the task. However, you’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing you did a great service to someone who matters to you. If you would like to learn more about the role of the executor, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Daily Local News (June19, 2022) “Planning Ahead: Should you agree to serve as an executor?”

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Be Cautious when Buying Funeral Services

Be Cautious when Buying Funeral Services

Planning a funeral is stressful. It is important to be cautious when buying funeral services. People usually don’t buy funeral services frequently, so they’re unfamiliar with the process. Add to this the fact that they’re typically bereaved and stressed, which can affect decision-making, explains Joshua Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, an advocacy group. In addition, people tend to associate their love for the dead person with the amount of money they spend on the funeral, says The Seattle Times’ recent article entitled “When shopping for funeral services, be wary.”

“Grieving people really are the perfect customer to upsell,” Slocum said.

The digital age has also made it easier to contact grieving customers. Federal authorities recently charged the operator of two online cremation brokerages of fraud. The operator misled clients and even withheld remains to force bereaved families to pay inflated prices.

The Justice Department, on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission, sued Funeral & Cremation Group of North America and Legacy Cremation Services, which operates under several names and the companies’ principal, Anthony Joseph Damiano. The companies, according to a civil complaint, sell their funeral services through the websites Legacy Cremation Services and Heritage Cremation Provider.

These companies pretend to be local funeral homes offering low-cost cremation services. Their websites use search engines that make it look like consumers are dealing with a nearby business. However, they really act as middlemen, offering services and setting prices with customers, then arranging with unaffiliated funeral homes to perform cremations.

The lawsuit complaint says these companies offered lower prices for cremation services than they ultimately required customers to pay and arranged services at locations that were farther than advertised, forcing customers to travel long distances for viewings and to obtain remains.

“In some instances when consumers contest defendants’ charges,” the complaint said, the companies “threaten not to return or actually refuse to return” remains until customers pay up.

Mr. Slocum of the Funeral Consumers Alliance recommends contacting several providers — in advance, if possible, so you can look at the options without pressure. And ask for the location of the cremation center and request a visit. Also note that cremation sites in the U.S. are frequently not located in the same place as the funeral home and may not be designed for consumer tours.

Note that the FTC’s Funeral Rule predates the internet and doesn’t require online price disclosure. Likewise, most states don’t require this either.

It is wise to be cautious when buying funeral services. Last year during the pandemic, the government issued a warning about fraud related to the funeral benefits. They said FEMA had reports of people receiving calls from strangers offering to help them “register” for benefits. If you would like to learn more about planning for a funeral, and other related topics, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Seattle Times (May 15, 2022) “When shopping for funeral services, be wary”

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The Estate of The Union Season 2, Episode 2 – The Consumer's Guide to Dying is out now!

 

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The Estate of The Union Season 2, Episode 2 – The Consumer's Guide to Dying is out now!

The Estate of The Union Season 2, Episode 2 – The Consumer’s Guide to Dying is out now!

The Estate of The Union Season 2, Episode 2 – The Consumer’s Guide to Dying is out now!

Dealing with a funeral home after the death of a loved one is something no one relishes.

In this episode of the Estate of the Union, we interview Nancy Walker, the Executive Director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Central Texas, a non-profit that helps people navigate this unpleasant task. Nancy hits on the perils of the process and even discusses “natural burials.” Learn what the organization is and how they are an important resource for making educated choices and arrangements prior to end of life.

This is fun, innovative and informative. Despite the topic, you will love it!

To learn more about Nancy Walker and the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Central Texas, please visit their website: www.fcactx.org

We’ve got fifteen episodes posted and more to come. We hope you will enjoy them enough to share it with others. These are available on Apple, Spotify and other podcast outlets. Click on our logo to listen on Spotify.

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 2  – The Consumer’s Guide to Dying can be found on Spotify, Apple podcasts, or anywhere you get your podcasts. Please click on the link below to listen to the new installment of The Estate of The Union podcast. We hope you enjoy it.

The Estate of The Union Season 2 premiere - Millennials’ Mysteries Uncovered Part 2

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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Benefits of Pre-Planning Your Funeral

Benefits of Pre-Planning Your Funeral

Yahoo Life’s recent article entitled “Should You Pre-Pay for Your Own Funeral as Part of Estate Planning?” says there are major benefits to pre-planning and even pre-paying your funeral now—no matter what your age or health status.

Most deathcare professionals agree that funeral pre-payment has valuable benefits for people of all ages and health statuses.

A major benefit to pre-planning and pre-paying is the emotional support and relief they offer family members and friends.

Maggie McMillan, vice president of the Los Angeles-based Wiefels Group and All Caring Solutions Cremation and Funeral Services, explains that “if and when the unexpected happens, you want everyone to already know what your wishes are, because that will make it easier when hard emotions inevitably come up after you are gone.”

Knowing that your family is prepared and taken care of with prepayment can also help alleviate your own stress and better your mental health.

Additional benefits of pre-planning for your funeral are that, depending on what method of pre-payment you get, you can often lock in a price guarantee on services and merchandise based on current pricing on the day that you plan. This can protect your family from industry inflation and price fluctuation.

Funeral costs double every decade, on average. Therefore, if you’re looking at pre-paying for a service that costs $3,000 today but didn’t pre-pay and pass away 10 years later, your fees might be upwards of $6,000 for the exact same service.

For some people, all aspects of pre-planning and paying may not seem the right option.

For instance, a plan that isn’t transferable to different states doesn’t make sense for individuals who move around frequently.

In that case, talking to loved ones about what your final wishes are (including where you’d like to end up, and the disposition method) would be a relief for them, in case the unthinkable happens.

Reference: Yahoo Life (Feb. 17, 2022) “Should You Pre-Pay for Your Own Funeral as Part of Estate Planning?”

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Letter of Instruction is Resource for Executors

Letter of Instruction is Resource for Executors

A letter of intent is frequently recommended for parents of disabled children to share information for when the parent dies. However, a letter of intent, or a letter of instruction, is also a helpful resource for executors, says the article “Planning Ahead: For detailed instructions consider a letter of instruction” from The Mercury. This is especially valuable, if the executor doesn’t know the decedent or their family members very well.

For disabled children, legal documents address specific issues and aren’t necessarily the right place to include personal information about the child or the parent’s desires for the child’s future. Estate plans need more information, especially for a minor child.

The goal is to create a document to make clear what the parents want for the child after they pass, whether that occurs early or late in the child’s life.

For a disabled child, the first questions to be addressed in the estate plan concern who will care for the child if the parent dies or becomes incapacitated, where will the child live and what funds will be available for their care. Once those matters are resolved, however, there are more questions about the child’s wants and needs.

The letter of intent can answer questions about the special information only a parent knows and is helpful in future decisions about their care and living situation.

The letter of intent concerning an estate should also include information about wishes for a funeral or burial and contain everything from directions for the music list for a ceremony to the writing on the headstone.

Once the letter of intent is created, the next question is, where should you put it so it is secure and can be accessed when it is needed?

Don’t put it in a bank safe deposit box. This is a common error for estate planning documents as well. The executor may only access the contents of the safe deposit box after letters of administration have been issued. This happens after the funeral, and sometimes long after the funeral. By then, it will be too late for any instructions.

Keeping estate planning documents in a safe deposit box presents other problems. If the bank seals the safe deposit box on notification of the owner’s death, the executor won’t be able to proceed. This can sometimes be prevented by having additional owners on the safe deposit box, if permitted by the bank . Any additional owners will also need to know where the key is located and be able get access to it.

The better solution is to keep all important documents including wills, financial power of attorney, health care powers, letter of intent, living wills, or health care directives, insurance forms, cemetery deeds, information for the family’s estate planning attorney, financial advisor, and CPA, etc., in one location known to the trusted person who will need access to the documents. That person will need a set of keys to the house. If they are kept in a fire and waterproof safe in the house; they will also need the keys to the safe.

If the parents move or move the documents, they’ll need to remember to tell the trusted person where these documents have moved., Otherwise, a lot of work will have been for naught. A letter of instruction can be an enormous resource for executors looking to fulfill your wishes. Work with an experienced estate planning attorney to include one in your planning. If you would like to learn more about letters of instruction, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: The Mercury (Jan. 19, 2022) “Planning Ahead: For detailed instructions consider a letter of instruction”

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The Estate of The Union Episode 13: Collision Course - Family Law & Estate Planning

 

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The Estate of The Union Season 2, Episode 2 – The Consumer's Guide to Dying is out now!

The Estate of The Union Episode 9 out now!

The Estate of The Union Episode 9 out now! In the latest installment, Brad Wiewel of Texas Trust Law chats with Grace Cook of Harrell Funeral Home about a subject that is often overlooked – pre-planning your funeral.

Planning a funeral can be a daunting task for loved ones still grieving. It can also be an overwhelming financial burden on the family. Pre-arranging your own service will help to ease the burden of your loved ones.  It will also alleviate any questions, problems or differences, which can occur among family members. The arrangements you make will reflect your exact wishes and desires. You can give this gift of love by providing meaningful final instructions.

Brad and Grace share a lively discussion of the common problems she sees with funeral planning, as well as some of the more unique and special ways families have arranged memorials for the deceased. It can seem like a heavy subject, but pre-planning your funeral might be the last, best plan you ever make!

In each episode of The Estate of The Union podcast, host and lawyer Brad Wiewel will give valuable insight into estate planning, making an often daunting subject easier to understand.

It is Estate Planning Made Simple!

Harrell Funeral Home is the largest family-owned funeral home in Austin and the surrounding areas. You may reach them at harrellfuneralhomes.com.

The Estate of The Union can be found on Spotify, Apple podcasts, or anywhere you get your podcasts. Please click on the link below to listen to the new installment of The Estate of The Union podcast. The Estate of The Union Episode 9 out now. We hope you enjoy it.

The Estate of The Union Podcast Episode 9 out now

Texas Trust Law/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. 

The Estate of The Union Season 2, Episode 2 – The Consumer's Guide to Dying is out now!

Episode 7 of The Estate of The Union Podcast

We are estate planning and probate attorneys and we experience death weekly. The saddest aspect of our work is knowing that most, if not all, of the great stories of our clients’ lives have died with them. This can be heartbreaking for future generations. The solution to this dilemma is to capture those memories NOW. In episode 7 of The Estate of the Union podcast, Brad interviews Michael O’Krent with Life Stories Alive.

Mike’s company videotapes life stories so that generations of family members can grasp the essence of the individual loved one, not just the inheritance. Brad and Mike discuss what to expect when recording your life story and how the process works with Life Stories Alive. Brad talks about his personal experience recording his story for his loved ones, and Mike shares some touching stories of how impactful these video presentations can be for both the storyteller and the viewer.

Take the time to record these special stories while you can. The Money will be spent, but the memories can endure forever.

In each episode of The Estate of The Union podcast, host and lawyer Brad Wiewel will give valuable insight into estate planning, making an often daunting subject easier to understand.

It is Estate Planning Made Simple!

The Estate of The Union can be found on Spotify, Apple podcasts, or anywhere you get your podcasts. Please click on the link below to listen. We hope you enjoy it.

If you would like to learn more about Michael O’Krent and Life Stories Alive, please visit their website www.lifestoriesalive.com

Episode 7 of The Estate of The Union podcast is out now

www.LifeStoriesAlive.com

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. 

assets not covered by a will

Assets not Covered by a Will

A last will and testament is one part of a holistic estate plan used to direct the distribution of property after a person has died. A recent article titled “What you can’t do with a will” from Ponte Vedra Recorder explains how wills work, and the types of assets not covered by a will.

Wills are used to inform the probate court regarding your choice of guardians for any minor children and the executor of your estate. Without a will, both of those decisions will be made by the court. It’s better to make those decisions yourself and to make them legally binding with a will.

Lacking a will, an estate will be distributed according to the laws of the state, which creates extra expenses and sometimes, leads to life-long fights between family members.

Property distributed through a will necessarily must be processed through a probate, a formal process involving a court. However, some assets are not covered by a will and do not pass through probate. Here’s how non-probate assets are distributed:

Jointly Held Property. When one of the “joint tenants” dies, their interest in the property ends and the other joint tenant owns the entire property.

Property in Trust. Assets owned by a trust pass to the beneficiaries under the terms of the trust, with the guidance of the trustee.

Life Insurance. Proceeds from life insurance policies are distributed directly to the named beneficiaries. Whatever a will says about life insurance proceeds does not matter—the beneficiary designation is what controls this distribution, unless there is no beneficiary designated.

Retirement Accounts. IRAs, 401(k) and similar assets pass to named beneficiaries. In most cases, under federal law, the surviving spouse is the automatic beneficiary of a 401(k), although there are always exceptions. The owner of an IRA may name a preferred beneficiary.

Transfer on Death (TOD) Accounts. Some investment accounts have the ability to name a designated beneficiary who receives the assets upon the death of the original owner. They transfer outside of probate.

Here are some things that should NOT be included in your will:

Funeral instructions might not be read until days or even weeks after death. Create a separate letter of instructions and make sure family members know where it is.

Provisions for a special needs family member need to be made separately from a will. A special needs trust is used to ensure that the family member can inherit assets but does not become ineligible for government benefits. Talk to an elder law estate planning attorney about how this is best handled.

Conditions on gifts should not be addressed in a will. Certain conditions are not permitted by law. If you want to control how and when assets are distributed, you want to create a trust. The trust can set conditions, like reaching a certain age or being fully employed, etc., for a trustee to release funds.

Work with an experienced estate planning attorney to fully understand what assets are covered – and not covered – by a will; and whether further planning, such as a trust, is right for you.

If you would like to learn more about wills and how to distribute assets, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Ponte Vedra Recorder (April 15, 2021) “What you can’t do with a will”

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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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