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What Is A Residuary Beneficiary?

February 20, 2019

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

Selecting your primary and alternate beneficiaries is the first step to determining who will receive your property when you pass away. Outside of your will and trust, certain property passes directly through beneficiary designation forms, such as the proceeds from your life insurance policy and your brokerage accounts. Many people are not familiar with the concept of residuary beneficiaries.

Close-up of a fountain pen

Residuary beneficiaries should be named in your living trust and your will. A residuary beneficiary is a person who receives all property left under a document that is not received by anyone else, either because the person named did not survive to inherit it, or because no beneficiary was named for that property.

The residuary beneficiary can be thought of as like a backup, so it is one way to ensure that your property goes to someone you choose rather than someone the court chooses. The residuary beneficiary you name in a living trust will only get any trust property that is not specifically designated for other beneficiaries. Inside a will, your residuary beneficiary will get all of the property that is not left to another person or entity through any other method.

The residuary beneficiary does not have to be sought out as only a backup, however. Certain people leave all of their property to a residuary beneficiary and others will leave most to the residuary, naming specific gifts for a few primary beneficiaries. It is always good to have an alternate residuary beneficiary after you name the first person in the event that he or she is unable to accept this property due to passing away.       

Do I Need to Inform My Beneficiaries That They’ll Be Receiving Items from My Estate?

February 19, 2019

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

After you’ve crafted an estate plan, how do you feel about telling some or all your beneficiaries that you have left property behind. Does it matter whether or not you tell them exactly what you’ve left them? There are not any laws requiring you to inform your beneficiaries anything about your decisions.

You can provide for your beneficiaries without informing them at all. You might decide that there are good reasons, such as the possibility for family conflict that will lead you to decide not to reveal how you’re leaving your property. Letting your beneficiaries know what they’ll receive, however, gives them some peace of mind about the future and can help your loved ones plan ahead.

Happy family with husband, wife, child, grandfather and grandmother choosing food and drinks in bar

In many cases, however, informing beneficiaries of what they can expect to receive from your estate only serves as the basis for more family conflict. If siblings perceive that another member of the family has received more than their fair share, this can lead to conflict while you’re still alive, or even challenges to your existing estate plan after you pass away.

You might want to discuss with your estate planning attorney whether or not it makes sense to inform particular beneficiaries about what they can anticipate. With sentimental family heirlooms, your loved ones may have specific requests, and you might wish to honor these by not only naming these in your estate plan but informing the beneficiary that he or she can expect to receive it when you pass away. Be aware of the possible consequences, however, of sharing with only certain members of the family and excluding others. This approach in and of itself can also lead to family conflict.       

Should I Name A Couple as Co-Guardians of My Minor Child?

February 18, 2019

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

A will is the official estate planning document that you can use to name a guardian for your minor child in the event that something happens to you or you and the other parent. In many cases it can be tempting to name a couple as co-guardians. However, this is a poor idea to name more than one individual to serve as a guardian for your children.

Two children going in spring green field

This increases the possibility that those two people might disagree about the best way to raise a child. However, there is one specific situation in which it makes sense to name a couple as co-guardians. This is when you want to name two people to care for your children together.

For example, if you know another married couple that understands the implications of being named as guardians, and is comfortable serving in this role, this couple can act as the child’s surrogate parents. Both of these individuals will be allowed to do things for your child that would require legal authority, like taking them to a doctor’s appointment, or picking them up from school.

When you do choose to name a couple as co-guardians for your minor child, you must understand that these individuals have to agree on what is best for the children. Any critical difference of opinion between these two people would require intervention of the court, which could amplify the conflict and concerns expressed by your children.

If you name a couple that decides to get divorced while you are still alive, you need to schedule a meeting with your estate planning lawyer to revise your will, to name one or the other or a different person altogether to step in as the guardian of your minor child.

Select a couple that has a unified parenting style, is likely to stay together a long time and is capable of making joint decisions without conflict if you firmly feel that this is the best choice for you and your child.      

What Is A Primary Beneficiary?

February 13, 2019

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

The word beneficiaries can be confusing, but it refers to institutions or people that you intend to leave property to. There are a few different types of beneficiaries including residuary beneficiaries, final beneficiaries, alternate beneficiaries, life estate beneficiaries and primary beneficiaries. Primary beneficiaries are those that you leave identified gifts of property to and usually involve a specific piece of property.

Primary beneficiaries can also be named for different items. Some people choose not to name primary beneficiaries at all, instead leaving all of their property to residuary beneficiaries. Residuary beneficiaries are those who receive property left in a trust or will that has not been specifically left to other beneficiaries.

Life Insurance Form Application Security Concept

Alternate residuary beneficiaries can also be named. Alternate beneficiaries are those individuals who can receive property items if the primary beneficiary is unable to receive it or has passed away. Life estate beneficiaries mean that an individual has certain rights to receive income from or the use of the property during their life, but never to become a full legal owner of the property.

Final beneficiaries are those who are eligible to inherit a piece of property after a life beneficiary passes away. Establishing both primary and alternate beneficiaries is recommended for each piece of individual property that you intend to pass down using a trust or a will. This is because you can avoid many confusing aspects of estate or probate planning, and can ensure that you have expressly considered each item most important for you to name.        

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Understanding Joint Tenancy

February 12, 2019

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

There are several different types of shared ownership when it comes to property. One of these is known as joint tenancy. Property that is held under a joint tenancy includes a written ownership document that identifies the owners as joint tenants with right of survivorship or as joint tenants.

Joint Tenancy Agreement Property Renting Estate Concept

Each tenant owns an equal portion of the property and the share of the first individual who passes away will go to survivors, even if there is a living trust or a will that has contradictory terms. Joint tenancy can only be created through a written document.

If you currently own property using the phrase joint tenants with right of survivorship, there will be no question about the portion of ownership that you have. The answer to whether or not something can be classified as joint tenancy depends on the state in which the property is located.

Make sure that if your current document says that you hold ownership with another individual using the term ‘or’ or ‘and’, you need to ensure that you have had this reviewed by an estate planning lawyer regarding the specific rules in your state.

The specificity of the writing in these documents is instrumental for outlining whether or not you have shared ownership.        

Considering Your Digital Legacy

February 11, 2019

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

When you’re making a comprehensive plan for your estate property, don’t forget all of the materials you have stored online, such as digital files, your social networking identities and access details, your accounts and your blogs.

Smiling young man analyzing his expenses and paying online

While you may not be able to line item each of these items through your will, you may still want to consider what will happen to them in the future. Here are some of the most important questions you need to consider in the process of evaluating your digital legacy:

  • Do you want your Facebook profile to be put into memorial status, left alone or deleted?
  • Do you want someone to make any final entries on your blog to notify individuals of the future of the site?
  • Do you want someone to have access to your email accounts after you pass away?
  • What should happen to the future of your domain names?
  • Do you have any online communities, such as a Facebook group that should be notified about your passing away?

Many people overlook these aspects in the process of estate planning, but as things in the world have become increasingly digitized, it is extremely important that you do everything you can to discuss your options with the help of an experienced estate planning lawyer.

If you want your survivors to be able to log into your online accounts as users, make sure that your final instructions left behind include login names and passwords. Your estate representative may be able to have limited access to your account, then this can be helpful if you choose not to leave login information.        

New Study Shows That Extremely Wealthy Americans Are Getting Younger

February 6, 2019

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 2:01 pm

The old estate planning myth is that people don’t need the help of a knowledgeable estate planning attorney until they have amassed significant wealth or are in their older years.

smiley successful couple with umbrella standing under money rain

This is a myth because everyone can benefit from the process of going through estate planning and discussing options directly with an attorney. All too often people realize all too late that their loved ones have been left to suffer the consequences of failure to carry out estate planning.

New studies show that younger Americans are amassing more significant wealth, and this highlights the need for advanced estate planning services such as asset protection planning. Since 2014, a survey of American investors who had $25 million or more in their possession determined that the average dropped by over 11 years.

The average age of a U.S. investor who has at least $25 million dropped to age 47. This indicates a significant generational transfer of wealth that could be beginning.

Although the sample size of this study was small, it could hold important implications for the future of estate planning. Individuals over age 65 currently hold more than one-third of U.S. wealth.

That number has not grown as quickly as the proportion of elderly Americans in the population. If you are contemplating putting together an estate plan that protects your wealth now and into the future, schedule a consultation with a lawyer today.     

Leaving your Furniture on the Front Lawn?

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 1:51 am

If you had just bought a new home and packed up all of your belongings to move, you wouldn’t just leave all of your furniture on the front lawn when you got to your new home, would you? Creating a trust and not funding, or moving, your assets into the trust is very much like that.

When looking into Estate Planning, a common misconception is that creating your trust/ signing your carefully planned trust documents is all that needs to be done. Whether you have a trust (revocable or irrevocable) or a will, it is crucial that you align yourassets with your trust.

Asset alignment, or “funding,” can refer to renaming your non-retirement assets (bank accounts, investments, stocks, etc.) under your trusts name, as well as designating your trust as a beneficiary for your retirement accounts and/or insurance policies.One of the main reasons for forming a trust is to avoid probate—a public, time-consuming and (for some states) costly process. Forming the trust is not enough to avoid probate; only the assets that are owned by your trust are protected.

So what goes where? The Asset Integration Worksheet we provide gives specific recommendations on what to do with each of your individual assets. What happens if I pass away before funding my assets? Thanks to the Pour-Over Wills we prepare, any assets that were not moved to your trust by the time you pass will “pour” into your trust, maintaining your privacy; however, they will likely need to go through probate.It is important that your assets align with your plan.

If you are interested in forming a trust to ultimately fund your assets into, or you are simply not sure how to start (or finish) your process, please give us a call 732-521-9455; we exist to help you!

Can I Leave Frequent Flyer Miles Behind in My Estate Plan?

February 5, 2019

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 2:08 pm

You might be able to include other assets outside traditional ones in your estate plan, including frequent flyer miles. Certain U.S. airlines will allow you to leave your accumulated miles in your will.

Clouds and sky as seen through window of an aircraft

You will need to contact the airline’s frequent flyer department directly to see whether or not they allow this. If they do allow it, make sure to ask questions about whether or not any limitations are exposed.

If the options are limited as to who will be able to take over your unused miles, such as a spouse, then you need to know this in advance so that you can name this person outright in your estate.

Some airlines will allow you to leave your miles to any beneficiary, however. If you are able to leave your miles, you want to state this specifically inside your estate planning documents and write them clearly. Make sure that you state that you are leaving your frequent flyer miles with the specific airline to a specific beneficiary.

Your estate planning lawyer can help you to document your plan for all of your personal property including your airline miles if you are able to transfer them.

Many different types of pieces of property and other valuable items such as your sentimental photos in your social media accounts could be passed on to your beneficiaries if you have a plan to do so. A consultation with an estate planning lawyer is the first step to making sure that you have considered everything.   

What Was Left Behind by Famous People in U.S. History?

February 4, 2019

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

Ancestor.com’s U.S. probate and wills collection provides vast details about what people in the past left behind to their loved ones.

Some of the most interesting items left behind by famous people in history include:

  • A snuff box left by U.S. Secretary of State, Daniel Webster, to his grandson.
  • An island given by railroad businessman, George Pullman, while awarding his twin sons only a few thousand dollars a year.
  • A $1 gift made to a grandchild of Paul Revere wherein everyone else received $500.

If it makes you concerned that so many intimate details of other people’s estates are available online, then you might wonder how these came to be available for public consumption to begin with.

This is because the information about assets being passed down to future generations was detailed in wills and wills become a matter of public record. Even if the initial intent of establishing such a will was for these details to remain private, you need to consider using a trust as opposed to a will.

An experienced and knowledgeable estate planning attorney can help you use a trust to enable additional privacy for your estate planning. Trusts are essentially written instructions that only you and the person selected as trustee need to know about.

This document does not go through probate like a will does and is much more private. You can also help to manage assets passed on to your loved ones by using a trust, which is not as easy to accomplish in a will.       

Five Common Goals Associated with The Estate Planning Process

January 30, 2019

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

If you’re like most individuals, you already know that estate planning is a good idea, but you might have put it off for one reason or another. There are five primary things that you can hope to accomplish in the estate planning process.

Leaving Behind Property

You might use a living trust, simple will or both if you do not have substantial wealth. You can also use other methods of passing on property such as beneficiary designations, transfer on death accounts or co-ownership. If you have a large estate, you may use ongoing trusts to pass on property.

Providing for Young Children

You will want to ensure that your young children will want to be cared for if you pass away before they become adults. You can name guardians in your will as well as managers to look after their inheritance.

Planning for Incapacity

One of the most important and overlooked aspects of estate planning is what would happen if you ever became unable to make financial and medical decisions for yourself. You can use a healthcare directive to name an individual who is able to make medical decisions on your behalf.

Avoiding Probate

One of the most common reasons to schedule a consultation with an experienced estate planning lawyer is avoiding probate. Probate is the court managed process for wrapping up an estate, but it can be expensive, long and complicated for heirs to sort out. A little planning makes probate fairly easy to avoid using joint tenancy, pay on death accounts and trusts.

Estate Tax

While many people will not owe federal estate tax, you may want to use your estate plan to reduce the taxes that could be owed after you pass away.

Make sure that you consult with an attorney who is thoroughly experienced in the process of establishing estate planning tools and strategies for your best interests.     

Does Every Will Go Through Probate?

January 29, 2019

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

Probate is a very common legal procedure that many people think of as an expensive and complex process. For simplified estates, however, probate might be a basic formality. Probate is the court’s way of a judge having discretion over the legal permission for assets to be passed on.

Probate Title On Legal Documents

If a person passes away with a will, then probate is necessary to implement the provisions of what’s inside that will. However, the probate process can also be triggered through state laws of inheritance if the individual passes away without a will and has property that must be distributed.

If the decedent owned accounts that fall outside the probate process, such as a retirement account, but the beneficiary has passed away prior to the owner of the account, probate law mandates that the account go through the court so that the funds can be passed to the individual who is legally entitled to receive them under state law.

Some people don’t want to go through the process of probating a will. If the decedent owned property that was not specifically organized to avoid probate, then there is no way for a beneficiary of an item to obtain legal ownership without the probate process. It is possible to avoid probate completely with careful planning carried out by an estate planning lawyer.

This can avoid certain taxes, reduce legal fees and ensure that the assets inside your estate are kept private. Schedule a consultation today with an experienced estate planning lawyer.   

Who Is A Trustee?

January 28, 2019

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

When you think of the process of estate planning, there are two likely instruments that pop into your mind; a trust and a will. Wills are relatively easy to understand since these are the primary documents through which you could pass assets on to future generations.

Estate Planning – Hand pressing a button on blurred background concept . Business, technology, internet concept. Stock Photo

The concept behind trusts, however, is somewhat more difficult. One of the most important questions you need to ask as you put together a trust is who will serve as the trustee. Your trust can serve a variety of purposes, and you can think of it as a way to control property.

The word trustee implies a certain amount of responsibility and it is certainly true that trustees have a fiduciary duty to their beneficiaries. This means that the trustee owes absolute loyalty to the beneficiaries, so it’s such that they cannot act in any way that they do not reasonably believe is in the best interests of the beneficiaries of the trust.

Decisions that are made in good faith that ultimately prove financially harmful, are typically not categorized as the fault of the trustee, although disputes can and do arise between beneficiaries and trustees over these issues.

Bad faith decisions, however, can cause legal actions and the trustee could even be held liable for lost funds. This makes it imperative to only select the right person to serve in the role of trustee over your assets. Scheduling a consultation with an estate planning lawyer can help you become more familiar with the different types of questions that you should ask when choosing a trustee.    

What Are the Pros and Cons of Using the Probate Process?

January 23, 2019

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

The probate process should run quickly and smoothly, but this is not always guaranteed and the leading reason why people choose to use estate planning strategies and tactics to avoid the probate process. Probate refers to the process of distributing an individual’s assets after he or she passes away through court supervision. 

The word probate on a stamp on a big folder of paperwork

One of the most important aspects that determines the process of probate is whether or not the individual has a last will and testament in place at the time of his or her death. Any assets that do not pass directly to the beneficiaries will go through the probate process.

Some of the assets that are exempted from probate include, life insurance policy, distributions and certain retirement benefits. Even if you believe that you have a relatively simple estate, it will still be in your best interests to avoid probate. This is because the probate process can swallow up resources and time that delay your loved ones’ ability to receive your assets but can also add further stress and can lengthen the amount of time that it takes to close out your estate by years or even months.

Taking care of your loved ones and ensuring that they receive your assets in a prompt manner in addition to receiving privacy are some of the leading reasons why people prefer to use estate planning tools such as trusts. The probate process may work well for small estates in certain instances, especially for those who died without a last will, but most other people will want to go through the process of ensuring that their assets are passed on quickly and effectively to their loved ones.      

What Are the Most Important Duties of a Will Executor?

January 22, 2019

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 2:01 pm

Establishing someone as the executor of your will requires advanced planning and careful thought about whether or not this person is indeed comfortable to serve in this role.

This requires telling this individual that you intend to install him or her as executor and ensuring that they feel confidence in their ability to serve in this role successfully. Understanding the duties of an executor in a will can help you to select the appropriate person to serve in this role.

3D illustration of FIDUCIARY title on Legal Documents. Legal concept.

Being selected as an executor is an obligation, as well as an honor. Prior to accepting, it’s important to understand exactly what you’re getting into.

When serving as an executor, you will distribute the individual’s personal property after arranging for the payment of the estate expenses and debts. Some of the most common duties tasked to an executor include:

  • Paying estate taxes and filing tax returns.
  • Establishing an account for paying bills and estate debts.
  • Filing the will for probate.
  • Choosing the type of probate.
  • Distributing assets.
  • Filing an inventory with the court.

Depending on the complexity of the individual estate, this could be a very large responsibility. Generally, executors tend to come from the creator’s children, siblings, parents or spouses. Many executors who are close family members do not ask for additional compensation, but an executor can receive payment as part of serving in this role.      

What Is Medicaid Crisis Planning?

January 21, 2019

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

Perhaps you are a loved one of adult elderly parents who may be in need of nursing home support and assistance or perhaps you are trying to help a friend who may need to go into a nursing home very suddenly.

Hole torn in a dollar bill with medicaid text

Paying for nursing home costs unexpectedly can quickly destroy a lifetime of savings. Long-term care costs can eliminate everything that you’ve accumulated over the course of your life. This means that it is important to retain the services of an experienced Medicaid crisis planning lawyer.

Medicaid crisis planning involves helping a person in a nursing home to save some of the assets before these are eliminated. A combination of strategies can be used in Medicaid crisis planning that can protect tens of thousands of dollars. Some of the strategies include assistance with the application process, understanding state statutes on Medicaid, and compliance with federal Medicaid law.

Relevant factors in a Medicaid crisis planning situation include the age and health of the estate owner, individual family circumstances such as divorce, the type of assets currently inside the estate and the value of assets currently inside the estate. A knowledgeable elder law attorney should step in quickly because timing is critical in Medicaid crisis planning. The sooner that you are able to take action, the more money can be saved.

Even if you have already been engaged in the spending down process for some time, if you still have significant assets to protect but are looking to go into a nursing home very soon, you need the support of a lawyer who will help you with this planning process.

Do You Really Need Help with Your Financial and Estate Planning?

January 16, 2019

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

There’s a strong chance that you don’t have the knowledge, patience, interest or time to deal with complicated financial matters. This is one of the biggest reasons why people end up pushing these important financial and estate planning considerations off your plate and into the wings. But it can be a big mistake to ignore financial and estate planning opportunities altogether. If you need assistance, it’s important to remember that you can get help. 

There’s no harm in seeking the services of experienced financial planners and estate planners. Make sure that any individual that you’re contemplating bringing into your personal life is thoroughly vetted. This means that they should come with reviews from other people who’ve had the opportunity to work with them and that they are willing to sit down with you during an initial consultation during which time they shouldn’t be focused on trying to sell you anything.

This person should be committed to understanding your individual perspective and primary concerns so as to create a plan going forward with you. The initial meeting is an important one for your consultation because it gives you a perspective of how this person chooses to work with clients and is your chance to ask questions about your next steps.

Impacts of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act Now Beginning to Affect Estate Planning

January 15, 2019

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

Many people might have overlooked the long-term implications of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This 2017 act, however, has marked a real change from previous estate tax planning towards lifetime planning.

Businessman Hand with usd dollar money

There are major opportunities to mitigate estate tax liabilities by gifting wealth and assets outright to beneficiaries or giving them to a trust for the benefit of future generations. This is due to the increase in exemption amounts or GST gift and federal estate taxes. 

These gifting opportunities present an annual chance to consult with an experienced estate planning lawyer about what is recommended in your case and how to use these strategies in what appears to be an ever-changing estate and tax planning environment. You deserve to have the input and advice provided by an attorney who remains competent and knowledgeable about all current issues in the estate planning realm.

The start of a new year is a great opportunity to reconnect with your estate planning lawyer and to discuss how changes in your estate planning can have positive impacts not just for you in the short term, but also for your loved ones and beneficiaries over the course of a long run. An estate planning lawyer is there to advise you as plans and goals change over the course of your life and to keep your estate plan updated and in line with those needs.     

Should I Put My Home in A Child’s Name?

January 10, 2019

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

Planning ahead for your future retirement and estate planning goals might lead you to question whose name is listed on the deeds to homes.

Classic white interior witn chair mirrors and open door

Sometimes it can be the right decision to put your home into your children’s names, but this can also create grounds for family conflict and problems if you have multiple children.

One major reason to think carefully about putting your home in your children’s name is the potential for you to need Medicaid in the future. You could face a five year look back if you have a need for Medicaid for any time in the near future.

When you attempt to get support through the Medicaid program, assets that you gave away to your loved ones during the preceding five years could still be classified as yours, making it difficult for you to qualify for Medicaid.

If your children wait to inherit the house, you will pass along possible financial issues for them, including a new cost basis valued at the time of your death. If they were to choose to sell the property shortly after that, they would have no taxable profit.

Other issues can emerge if you pass on the title to your home, since your property could become involved in their problems if there is a financial claim, divorce settlement, or lien placed on the property, since they would own a share of your home. A lawyer who specializes in estate planning can give you more specific advice about whether or not putting your home in your children’s names makes sense.     

What Role Does the Principal Play in Establishing A Power of Attorney?

January 9, 2019

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 9:12 am

A power of attorney document enables someone else to make decisions on your behalf when he or she is installed as the agent. If you sign a power of attorney, you are called the principal.

In many instances, an appropriately drafted durable power of attorney can avoid having to go through additional court procedures such as a conservatorship or guardianship and will instead empower the financial agents that you select while still of sound mind to make decisions for you when you are unable to do so. This is your primary role in establishing a power of attorney, but you must also think about whether or not you want this power of attorney to be only for specific actions or to occur after a specific event, like you becoming incapacitated.

3D illustration of “LEGAL ASSET” title on legal document

The agent of your power of attorney is also referred to as the attorney in fact. Without an appropriately executed power of attorney, if you were to become mentally disabled and unable to make your own decisions, your loved ones would have to go through the additional court process and payment of obtaining a probate court-supervised conservatorship to have an individual handle your financial and property affairs.

While no one wants to think about the possibility of not being able to make their own decisions, it could be a big mistake to avoid planning for this altogether because your loved ones would be the ones who end up paying the price. Schedule a consultation with an experienced estate planning lawyer to discuss to find out how a power of attorney can help you.     

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