October, 2018 | Shah & Associates, P.C. Estate Planning & Business Law Blog
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Does My Life Insurance Policy Pass Through Probate?

October 16, 2018

Filed under: Life Insurance — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

Probate assets and non-probate assets raise all kinds of questions for people approaching the estate planning process. It can be difficult to figure out which of your assets needs to proceed through the probate process and which could be passed down to your heirs outside of traditional probate.

A life insurance policy is one example of an item that passes outside of probate due to the use of beneficiary forms. Beneficiary forms are used to establish who you would like to receive your assets, when you pass away, from a life insurance policy. This is different from a will, which articulates items of personal property and can even name a guardian for a minor child. life-insurance-estate-planning

Your life insurance policy will pass to the primary beneficiary or contingent beneficiary after you pass away based on the beneficiary forms you updated and maintained with your own life insurance company. This makes it very important to update all of these materials based on any major changes in your life, such as the birth of a child or grandchild or getting a divorce.

Since your life insurance company will rely entirely on these forms to pass down your assets after you pass away, you need to make sure that you have maintained updated paperwork directly with your life insurance company so that there is no confusion or misapplication of life insurance proceeds when you pass away. Your life insurance policy should be included in your comprehensive estate planning. Make sure you sit down with an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss your options.

What Role Do Financial Advisors Play in Estate Planning?

October 15, 2018

Filed under: Finances — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

If you’ve already made an appointment to discuss your estate planning options, it’s possible that your estate planning attorney recommended that you have other professionals in your corner, such as a CPA or accountant or even a financial advisor. 

The truth is, much like estate planning professionals, not everyone thinks the same way about the financial planning process. It’s in your best interests to do appropriate due diligence and research to figure out whether the financial advisor you intend to work with is the right fit for you. 

One of the easiest places to start in your search for financial advising support is to ask your estate planning attorney directly. If he or she is active in the community, they may already have a relationship with a financial advisor they trust.

This can be beneficial to you because since your estate planning professional already has a regular and ongoing relationship with this other party who has the expertise, it will be easy for them to coordinate together as you develop or change your estate and financial plans.

Entrusting your future plans to a team of people who are thoroughly supportive of you and aware of any changes in the laws will be critical for you as you go forward and it can be much easier for you to accomplish your goals knowing that multiple people are looking out for your best interests. Getting a referral from your current estate planning attorney is often the first stage for identification of a financial advisor and you can continue to do research on your own and ask friends and family members who have had a good experience with other financial advisors if you are not able to come up with someone you are interested in working with.

Which Recipients Are Exempted from A Period of Medicaid Ineligibility Triggers?

October 9, 2018

Filed under: Medicaid — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

Transferring assets is one of the most complicated aspects of planning ahead for Medicaid. In fact, it often requires a knowledgeable estate planning attorney who has been practicing in the field for many years to give you a better understanding of what is required with regard to Medicaid asset transfers. 

A well-meaning asset transfer could end up becoming a significant problem if it triggers a period of ineligibility during which the person who desperately needed that support and payment is no longer able to tap into Medicaid. Transferring assets to certain recipients will not trigger a period of Medicaid ineligibility, however.

The following people are considered exempt recipients.

  •   A disabled or blind child.
  •   A spouse or a transfer to another person as long as the transfer of those of assets was for the spouse’s benefit.
  •   A trust for whom the beneficiary is a disabled individual under age 65, who is the sole person to receive the benefits of the assets.
  •   A trust created for the benefit of a disabled or a blind child.

Furthermore, there are special exceptions that apply to the transfer of a person’s home. A Medicaid applicant may be eligible to transfer his or her home to other individuals without incurring a transfer penalty, but due to the fact that Medicaid rules can be especially complex, it is strongly recommended that you can consider a consultation with a knowledgeable estate planning and elder law lawyer who is familiar with the state-specific rules and can help advise you about the process.

The support of an estate planning attorney is instrumental in outlining your long-term goals and helping you to avoid mistakes that could be especially problematic for you or your loved ones into the future. A consultation with an estate planning attorney can be the first and one of the most important steps in the planning process.

Should You Create A Financial Plan for Living Alone Before the Death of a Spouse?

October 8, 2018

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

It can come as a significant shock if your beloved spouse passes away before you have had the opportunity to address a solo financial plan, and yet this happens to far too many widows and widowers every single day. Developing a financial plan in advance of the death of a spouse is important for protecting your best interests whenever possible. 

Most people who are married plan for their future with a spouse, not without one. But your decision to plan for a contingency could prove instrumental if something happens to your spouse suddenly.

A recent study, for example, found that more than half of widows did not have a plan for what would happen if either one of the parties to the marriage suddenly passed away. And the majority of retirees who are married share that did not have enough financial preparation to retire on their own if their spouse passed away.

Both members of a couple should consult with an estate planning lawyer to discuss spousal estate plans.

Getting help from a trusted and competent advisor is essential and putting together estate planning documents that address the vast majority of your concerns is important as well. An elder law attorney and an estate planning attorney can tell you more about how the documents you currently have and strategies currently in use, such as the reliance on a trust, can help you to articulate short and long-term plans. You may need to address whether or not you have enough life insurance. It is critical to get the necessary amount of insurance in case of a premature or unexpected death. A financial professional can determine through several different methods, whether or not you have enough life insurance, including an analysis of financial needs, capital retention or human life. The bottom line is that you need to understand what financial resources are available to you and how you may be eligible to tap into these if something were to happen to you or your spouse suddenly. Scheduling a consultation with a knowledgeable elder lawyer is the first step.

What You Need to Know Before You Purchase Long Term Care Insurance for Future Protection

October 4, 2018

Filed under: Long Term Care — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

If you have read any of the recent studies or had a personal connection to someone who had to enter a nursing home suddenly, you might have questions about long term care insurance. Long term care insurance can be a critical financial stop-gap to assist you and your loved ones if you needed advanced medical care and did not want to have the payments for this pulled from your personal resources.

However, there may be some alternatives available to you, so before you purchase a long-term care insurance policy, make sure you have done your research. One of the most common phrases told to people who are purchasing an LTCI policy is to lock in the rates.

Thousands of people who purchased a long-term care policy were told at the time that they bought it, that it was smart to take out their policy now because the premiums could become extremely expensive. However, the premiums on LTC insurance can increase at any time, since within the fine print of your policy there is likely a statement that your rates are subject to future increases. This means that nothing was ever guaranteed to you as far as your insurance cost. 

One of the reasons that premiums have increased for LTC insurance policies is because insurance companies misjudge the cost of claims and the duration of claims. In 1980, the numbers for LTC expenditures across the United States were $30 billion. However, by 2015 that number had jumped to $225 billion. This can raise questions about whether or not it is the right idea to purchase a long-term care insurance policy. You might choose instead to use a whole life insurance policy that has a chronic illness rider.

This could help to protect you in the event of the majority of long term care protection problems. One of the major perks to using these types of policies is if you were to gain an inheritance or to sell your home, you could have a safe place to hold your money until you need it.

Mortality tends to increase alongside the cost of long term care and ultimately this favors the return inside a life insurance contract. Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney is also a solid tool to consider exploring in the event of trying to protect your best interests for your loved ones.

 

Will A Parent’s Medicaid Benefits Be Jeopardized with A Testamentary Trust?

October 3, 2018

Filed under: Trusts — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

One of the most common questions presented to estate planning attorneys has to do with approaching Medicaid planning in the right way. Medicaid planning requires advanced knowledge and plenty of experience in this field because the rules surrounding Medicaid are subject to change and are state specific. estate-planning-NJ-trust

One question that you may have in relation to your elderly parents is about Medicaid benefits. If your elderly loved one currently lives in a nursing home and you are worried about the surviving spouse who may pass away first, this can raise questions about whether or not the benefits will stop. People should always have their estate planning documents created in the past thoroughly reviewed when initiating the Medicaid planning process or a Medicaid application.

There are specific rules about how many assets a person is allowed to have to maintain eligibility for Medicaid. If your loved one, who is currently in a nursing home for which the bills are being paid through Medicaid, receives a sudden inheritance that puts him or her over the cap, that person could lose benefits at least temporarily until the inheritance was used up on nursing home expenses.

A testamentary special needs trust could be an option depending on the circumstances of your loved ones. The first spouse’s estate or a portion of it would flow into the trust, following the payment of all debts. Then an adult child or someone else can be named as the trustee and the trustee is eligible to use the funds to provide for services that might not be covered by Medicaid, such as second medical opinions, transportation, private care giving services, special therapies, and more.

The money will then be able to pass onto other beneficiaries rather than going to Medicaid when that parent passes away. However, this requires complex planning techniques and insight from an experienced attorney. Schedule a consultation with an estate planning lawyer today.

 

Did Aretha Franklin Die Without A Will?

October 2, 2018

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

You might not assume that your own estate could qualify as celebrity news after you pass away, but there are key takeaways hidden in the do’s and don’ts of most celebrities. Some purposefully chose not to settle their estates with proper strategies in advance, and plenty of those cases end up being legal battles for many years to come. The more wealth and assets inside the estate, the more important it is to plan.

 

Court filings that were made on August 28th indicated that queen of soul, Aretha Franklin passed away without a will; posing many different questions and concerns over conflict for her family members and would be beneficiaries. Plenty of celebrity passings have indicated estate planning problems or the dangers associated with lack of estate planning entirely. We can learn important lessons from these celebrities and avoid putting family members through challenges when you pass away. estate-planning-NJ

The estate of Aretha Franklin will be left for the courts to sort out in what will most likely be a proceeding held in a very public manner. This follows other celebrities prior to Aretha, such as Amy Winehouse and Prince, whose estate planning nightmares left years of probate administration and related conflicts for their family members. Even for people who have normal sized estates can put their family members in a difficult situation when a loved one passes away without a will.

This causes financial and tax related hassles that could have been avoided. Furthermore, family members who do not agree with a current version of a will or who argue that they should be entitled to more benefits can delay the probate administration proceedings significantly and make things much more difficult for all family members involved by arguing and continuing court proceedings for many years to come.

You can learn from the mistakes of these many celebrities by having a will in place and one that is regularly revisited with the help of an experienced estate planning lawyer. An estate planning lawyer can make things easier for you as well as your loved ones by articulating the plan that addresses your individual concerns and needs.

 

Key Reasons to Avoid the Guardianship System

October 1, 2018

Filed under: Guardianship — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

If you don’t take the appropriate planning, guardianship laws could prove problematic for you or your loved ones. No one wants to be in the position of having to go through a court battle when their loved one is in need of support or additional care. If you don’t have an appropriate estate plan drafted with the help of an estate planning attorney in your area, however, your state’s guardianship laws can become problematic sooner than you expect. Determining when someone is in need of a guardian can be a difficult question in and of itself. A person who has recently been diagnosed with dementia might need to have a guardian created for them, but this can raise questions about whether or not the person has enough clarity of mind in order to pass on this power to someone else.

Dealing with issues such as a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s can rattle families to their core and things that can easily fall of the list are planning for guardianship, but it is an important question to consider regarding who may be able to step in and take care of a loved one who could very shortly be unable to take of themselves. 

Establishing circumstances related to guardianship is critical because it can be hard to make the call about when a person has passed the point of being able to take care of themselves. Depending on the speed at which a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s advances, this can come sooner or later, but everyone involved in this situation needs to be informed about their rights and further details.

The support of a lawyer can help to clarify any misconceptions that you might have surrounding the process of establishing guardianship. Many people are aware of the different types of guardianship nightmares that can develop in your individual state. Make sure that you avoid this by considering ample steps that you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones.