Monroe Township NJ Estate Planning and Elder Law Attorney Blog | Neel Shah - Part 2
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Getting the Benefit of Reduced Time and Money Expended with Your Estate

October 22, 2018

Filed under: Asset Protection — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

There are many different reasons that you should put together an estate plan, not the least of which is giving yourself peace of mind. Some other examples of reasons to put together a comprehensive estate planning include control over your assets, privacy, and protections for your family.  

But one other thing to consider has to do with time and money, the most basic of elements that can influence your loved ones after you have passed away. Any estate that does not include a will is referred to as intestate succession and will go to probate court.

This is both slow and costly for your loved ones and the average probate decision can take anywhere from a year to a year and a half if there are complicated factors involved. In addition to this, you must consider the financial strain of such a decision. Consider that Prince’s estate has already paid out nearly $6 million in expenses to sort out the challenges with his lack of estate planning. While this is an extreme case, it’s just one example of just how much money can be wasted by failing to schedule a consultation with an estate planning attorney. The average cost of probate court can be anywhere from 2% to 3% of the estate’s net value, which could be excessive as associated attorney’s fees and court costs can add up. Since probate nearly always costs several times as much as hiring an estate planning professional, add this to your list of reasons why you want to have a consultation with an estate planning lawyer. Having a consultation with an attorney doesn’t necessarily obligate you to work with him or her for the future of your estate but it’s a good idea to ask your questions now and do everything you can to minimize the possibility that your loved ones will be faced with difficult decisions, the time expended and the court process and the general frustration of having to go through probate.

Avoid Family Infighting Over Wills by Using Estate Planning Documentation

October 17, 2018

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

The loss of numerous celebrities over the past couple of years has given us important opportunities to think about the value of estate planning overall. You might assume that you are immune from the problems that could be associated with the traditional distribution of an estate because you don’t have assets or wealth of the same size as a celebrity’s. 

However, this could be a big mistake because everyone can benefit from basic estate planning documentation simply if you wish to pass along guardianship of your minor child to someone else or if you wish to limit the number of conflicts that could come forward about your will or lack of will. Rock and roll star Prince and the queen of soul Aretha Franklin died without appropriate estate planning and passing without a will creates significant problems for your heirs.

Yet, according to recent studies completed by AARP, only two out of every five Americans over the age of 45 don’t have a will. If you die without a will, your estate is settled based on the individual state laws that determine who inherits what. This means that you have died intestate and your assets will be passed through intestate succession. The state is up for determining who will be able to receive your real estate, your personal property, and anything else that you own. Probate involves the legal process of transferring your property to rightful heirs and an administrator will need to be appointed by the judge to manage this process. Not only can this be problematic for your loved ones from the perspective of the amount of time that it takes to resolve these issues, but this can be costly and can also lead to fighting and further conflict among your loved ones as they are coping with your loss. A consultation with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney is the first step to figuring out your estate planning goals and means.

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.

 

Drawing a Connection Between Dementia and Financial Planning

September 27, 2018

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

It can be very difficult to understand the teamwork approach required to protecting yourself in the age of dementia. The very concept of financial or estate planning around dementia is a very complex matter since the development of the disease can vary from one patient to another. The way that the disease develops inside a patient’s body can be subtle or gradual and it can even develop abruptly in one person whereas slowly in another.

The symptoms of dementia and the diagnosis of dementia can leave loved ones feeling confused or even hopeless and the person who has been diagnosed with the condition may not realize the many ways in which his or her life is about to change.

Coping with these many mental and physical alterations mean that more mundane concerns like financial planning can be completely ignored. There are some important steps to take when you believe that dementia could be a risk. Financial professionals, designated decision makers, physicians, caregivers and elder care specialists can all provide some insight about how the person’s life might change in light of a dementia diagnosis. Since it can be impossible to understand just how quickly a dementia diagnosis can develop into a serious condition, you need to be prepared by considering the possibility early on when you notice the potential signs of dementia. estate-planning-dementia-planning

The sooner that you can consult with your physician and attorney regarding estate plans and necessary documents to have in place, the easier it will be to cope with an already difficult situation. If you do not currently have an estate plan but recognize the potential for a sudden incapacitating event or the diagnosis of an issue tied to cognitive decline like dementia, you need to take action sooner rather than later to protect yourself.

The support provided by an experienced estate planning or elder law lawyer can help to clarify many of the different issues you might not even have considered prior to speaking to a professional. Elder and estate planning lawyers who’ve worked with patients in this situation before would be familiar with many of the common obstacles, concerns and questions that you might bring to the table when trying to plan. Consulting with an attorney as soon as possible after receiving the diagnosis is instrumental, particularly if the disease were to develop rapidly.

 

Should You Share Your IRA Beneficiary Form Information with Your Financial Advisor?

September 26, 2018

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

Who needs to know what you’ve included on beneficiary forms? How does this make your estate planning easier or harder? 

An advisor who is not kept in the loop about your IRA decisions can become extremely confused or could even delay the process of your loved ones getting the necessary benefits after you pass away.

A common question asked by financial advisors who haven’t been kept in the loop is: where is the beneficiary form? One of the most valuable services that you can provide as a client of a financial advisor is to explain your decision-making process and provide your financial advisors with information about who you have chosen to be the beneficiary or primary in contingent beneficiary on your IRA.

More in depth planning conversations can be had between you and your financial advisor when he or she is aware of your decisions.

The beneficiary form review is important because as life circumstances change, you may need to update these materials and updating your other estate planning documents without also considering how the IRA beneficiary form can be affected could be a big mistake.

Beneficiaries could be forced to face unnecessary and unfortunate legal, financial and tax obligations. If this person is not clear in advance that they were named as a beneficiary in your IRA, they may struggle to figure out how to distribute these funds if there are no clear instructions, or more legal challenges. This often means expensive and time intensive family and legal disputes that don’t end well and can even rip families apart.

These mistakes can be very easily avoided by verifying that your beneficiary forms are updated accurately when you have told your financial advisor about what these include. Scheduling a consultation with your financial advisor at the same time that you review your estate planning documents with your estate planning lawyer on an annual basis can help to ensure that all of your individual needs have been taken into account.

 

 

Understanding the Power of Charitable Giving Options Following Tax Reform

September 25, 2018

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

Tax reform can have far reaping changes, impacts, and considerations for families who were thinking about or who are already involved in charitable giving. Understanding your options is important since giving to charity can help you to accomplish many individual goals regardless of the tax planning. The non-tax benefits associated with charitable giving are often important when it comes to planning as well as motivating your underlying decisions. 

According to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act 2017, many donors, aside from wealthy individuals making significant donations, will get any benefit from tax donations. This means that non-tax motives are the major giving motivation for donors than ever before.

It’s important to realize, however, that charitable giving can still take an important role in your financial strategy and that charitable giving can take many different forms. There are many ways to provide benefits to charities through a wide range of estate and financial plans. You might, for example, give bequests or gifts that could be deferred.

For those couples who wish to give to charity and do not have children, a simple adjustment to a scheme that would typically be tax oriented can reap significant charitable benefits for an organization since the couple’s most common goal is going to be to take care of one another. But they may wish to put together an estate plan that transfers all of their assets or many of their assets after both parties pass away.

On the death of the second person, an estate plan can help to accomplish this goal by passing on the necessary assets after selecting a charity in which both individuals are actively involved. Charitable giving often begins with a consideration of what you find important and consideration of the various goals and organizations you’ve been involved with over the course of your life can help to clarify this and give you clarity over how to proceed. A consultation with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney is a good first step.

 

Planning for the Future of Your Minor Children

September 24, 2018

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

Most people hope that they live to see their children well into adulthood. And grasping the possibility that this might not happen is difficult at best. But if your family members did suddenly have to cope with their loss of you, are appropriate plans in place? Are there other people who know they’ll be asked to step in? Are those plans written down in your will so that the appointed people can take action quickly, decreasing the stress of an already-painful situation?

When planning your estate, it is a big mistake to overlook the possibilities of planning that can affect your minor children. Many people only approach the estate planning process after their children are grown, which means they have dodged a major bullet by remaining healthy during the time that their children were under the age of 18. Planning for minor children is especially important for families of all sizes. First of all, planning for the minor children must consider who you want to be their guardian if something bad happens to you or the other parent. NJ-minor-estate-planning

Determining who can take care of your children is one of the most important decisions that you should make, and it is a good idea to document this sooner rather than later and it requires a great deal of thought put into it. Not everyone is interested in or cut out to be a parent. Furthermore, recognize that some people may not be in the financial position to take on the responsibility for your children or additional children. This financial consideration should certainly be factored into your overall decision.

Using your will to include a minor’s trust provision to address any inheritance for minor children will be enough. Make sure that you have appropriate plans in place to ensure that a teenager does not have the opportunity to mismanage the money. Once you insert a minor’s trust provision into your will and select a guardian, these are the foundational steps designed to protect children under the age of 18.

You might also consider developing a medical power of attorney that authorizes the same person responsible for your children’s care if something happens to you to make medical decisions for your child. Make sure that this person has the right documentation and is clear of the role that they may be asked to play in an emergency situation if something happens to you.

 

What Surviving Spouses Must Be Prepared to Do Immediately After Losing A Loved One

September 20, 2018

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

Does your estate plan tie in directly with that of your spouse? This is one of the most common approaches to estate planning, but it can have dangers if you haven’t considered individual plans beyond both of you. While it’s natural to have an estate plan that passes on assets to the other person when the first passes away, there’s a lot to consider when you lose a spouse. Many people have also reported it’s one of the most challenging things they’ve gone through in their life. Having a plan can make this difficult experience a bit easier. survivorship-planning-widow-tips

Make sure that you understand the important and difficult role that you may have to play immediately after losing a spouse. Being a surviving spouse is one of the most difficult roles to fill, but there are certain tasks that must be taken care of immediately. As soon as you are able to do so, you need to prepare your legal documents and plans to protect both yourself as well as your heirs. The sooner you can reach out to your estate planning attorney and probate lawyer, the easier this process will be. After a spouse passes away, most of the attention is typically diverted to administering the decedent’s estate.

This means that very little time is spent addressing the legal needs of the surviving spouse. However, there are important legal steps that must be taken during this time to protect the survivor. Legal documents must be reviewed immediately to ensure what will happen after the death of the second person and to verify that the surviving spouse is still protected during the course of his or her lifetime.

The surviving spouse should always have their own trust and will reviewed at this time. Many of these documents have an automatic provision that will apply to the treatment of the spouse that has now passed away, whereas others may address the treatment of the heirs.

A consultation with a lawyer is the only way to know for sure whether or not you have done enough in the estate planning process. It can be very difficult to sit down and talk specifics with an attorney, but many lawyers who are very familiar with this process approach the concept with care and consideration. The support of a lawyer is instrumental in helping you through this otherwise very difficult time, and the services of an attorney should be retained immediately.

 

How Can Better Financial Literacy Assist You with Your Estate Planning?

September 19, 2018

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

Do you have your finances in order? Do you know where you’d start if you wanted to make this a goal for the future? Most people get confused by the prospect of financial literacy and choose to put it off entirely. Others are not sure what financial literacy encompasses and get overwhelmed when they look into the basics. The good news is that foundational financial literacy doesn’t have to be difficult, but engaging in the process can have positive and far-reaching consequences for you.

Most people put off the process of estate planning to begin with, due to the belief that it doesn’t affect them or that they are not at risk of a sudden incapacitation or death. However, financial literacy development now can benefit you in numerous different ways. In order to be independent financially and to have a long-term plan that considers your retirement, long term care and estate planning needs, you must be financially literate.

Financial Literacy. Closeup Pen, calculator, cash and glasses.

It’s never too late to improve your knowledge about financial issues. Searching the internet, taking a financial literacy class and reading magazines and newspapers can also help you get a better understanding of money matters. Purchasing financial tools will also assist you with determining where in your financial life you are maybe falling short. For example, a financial calculator can help you to determine interest rates, loan payments, cash flow and percentages.

A financial dictionary can give you a better understanding of many of the most common terms used in relation to financial advice. Starting an investment club or asking for expert advice can also be instrumental in giving you a better method of understanding critical financial issues.

When your financial literacy improves, you would better understand not only how to protect yourself now and well into the future with your retirement but also how to support your loved ones and beneficiaries if something were to suddenly happen to you. Most people wrongfully assume that estate planning is only about assisting your loved ones after you have passed away. However, the truth is that estate planning also serves an important purpose in the process of planning for incapacitation. Incapacitation documents should be drafted by an experienced estate planning lawyer.

 

Make a Plan to Manage Your Loved One’s Digital Estate

September 18, 2018

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

Within an estate, some of the most important assets you want to list might be physical. But they also could be harder to tap into, especially if those assets are digital in nature.

Think about your own digital presence- how many accounts do you have online, and how many of these have personal or sentimental personal information stored there? Do you have a way for your personal representative or executor to get access to these materials, and quickly? If not, you need to consider incorporating the digital aspects of your estate in your overall planning process.

More estate planning lawyers are including digital assets, passwords, and instructions in overall estate plans. These help to ensure your appointed persons can take action and quickly if something were to happen to you. Preserving or memorializing your digital accounts might be very important to you.

The process of closing out someone’s estate can be overwhelming or even confusing if you’re not fully prepared but digital assets can further complicate this situation. The emotional and taxing process of settling a deceased family member’s estate is already difficult in and of itself. Visiting probate court, sorting through personal possessions, distributing assets, and notifying agencies are just a handful of the tasks that must be completed. However, you must now also consider what to do with a person’s digital estate as far as determining which personal memories and photos to keep and how to store critical financial information. Some people who have already gone through the step of establishing a digital will can make this process much easier for an executor.

Social Media Networking Global Communications Connection Concept

However, far too many people who pass away do not have a digital will established already. Email providers and social media companies may have their own means of assisting an executor to settle someone’s digital estate. Examples of companies that have done this already include Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Yahoo.

Make sure that you keep a recorded copy of what you wish to do with your digital assets and the various storage information necessary for an executor to tap into this quickly. In the event of an emergency situation, such as an unexpected loss of a loved one, being able to find these critical documents can make this difficult process that much easier. The support of an experienced estate planning attorney is strongly recommended to verify that you’ve considered all critical issues in closing out a loved one’s estate.

 

Care for Your Pet Can Be Incorporated into Your Estate Planning

September 17, 2018

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

Most people care a great deal about their furry friends and consider them family members, which is why estate planning for your pets is so important. One of the easiest ways to accomplish your planning needs around your pet is by using a pet trust. An estate planning attorney can help to draft this for you, and this is particularly important if you have animals who you suspect may outlive you.

Birds are an excellent example of a type of species that can outlive their human counterparts, and the trust drafted by an estate planning attorney can be tailored to you and your pet’s needs. The trust operates in the following manner. You are responsible for putting money in the trust for the care of your individual pet or multiple pets. You might need to identify relevant sanctuaries or people to care for the animal on your behalf. estate-planning-pets

Put sufficient funds inside the trust in order to compensate the person or a sanctuary for veterinary care and food. You can also specify who is eligible to receive any money that is left inside the trust when the pet passes on. This can give you a great deal of peace of mind that your loved one will continue to be cared for.

It can be an unfortunate situation when your beloved pets cannot be cared for by your family members, putting your furry loved ones at risk of having to go to a shelter or an area they are unfamiliar with. Putting together a pet trust can allow you to earmark funds specifically for your pet’s individual care, and also specifies if the animal passes away before those funds are needed, who is eligible to receive those assets. This gives you confidence and peace of mind that even if you are no longer able to care for your furry friends, someone else will.

Should I Put My Child on My House Title?

September 13, 2018

Filed under: Last Will & Testament — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

Are you thinking about estate planning and real estate and planning to add a child to the house title? Many people may miss out on the possible property tax increases associated with this.

A parent usually would add a child to the title of the parents’ home for estate planning purposes, which means that the parent wants the property to go to a specific child after the parent has passed away. However, failing to consider all of the various estate planning aspects associated with this as well as the tax implications can be especially confusing.

It can be very difficult for parents to handle their estate planning this way since the unintended tax consequences may affect everyone involved. There are other ways to ensure that the title of a person’s home passes down to the children wanted without adding those people specifically to the title. Equality among children seems like a good idea on the surface, such as when a person wants to add multiple children to the title, but there are flaws in this kind of logic. First of all, parents cannot necessarily assume that a child will outlive them. 

A joint ownership of the home could lead one child to become the sole owner of the home. There are often smarter ways for parents to own the property, such as putting the home inside a living trust and determining who will become the owner of the home when the parent passes away.

A living trust takes into account various changes in life that can occur from the day that the trust is structured through when the parent dies. Furthermore, the parent might also put together a will that designates the beneficiaries of his or her estate by naming the individual who will get the home upon the parents’ death. In other cases, you may be eligible to use a transfer on death instrument that designates who is able to receive the home when the parent passes away. Future tax issues should also be considered. A real estate taxing body or your local tax successor officer should certainly be contacted to discuss the relevant issues involved and how to avoid unintended tax consequences that can follow your heirs for years to come.      

Aretha Franklin’s Death Highlights Estate Planning Concerns

September 12, 2018

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

Every time that a celebrity passes away, it provides an important opportunity to understand their estate planning dos and don’ts. All too often, even those celebrities who have access to the most professional resources and could certainly benefit from the tax opportunities associated with estate planning, far too many of these people make mistakes that leave their loved ones behind to suffer the consequences. 

When Aretha Franklin passed away in August from advanced pancreatic cancer, it appears that she left no trust or will, despite the fact that the estimated value of her estate is around $80 million, and this includes the rights to several of the songs that became famous under her name. Her four sons have listed themselves as interested parties associated with the estate, but one of those sons indicated that the decedent passed away without a will. The estate’s personal representative might be Franklin’s niece and more information is likely to emerge regarding her estate planning or lack thereof it. The entertainment lawyer working for Franklin said that for years, he had tried to get her to put together a trust, since it would have kept matters of her estate private and kept the family out of probate. Furthermore, he said that it would have helped to expedite things if she were to suddenly pass away and the lack of a will or trust can lead to a much higher chance of contest and disputes surrounding estate planning. Franklin was known for being extremely private, which makes the fact that she did not engage in traditional estate planning processes that much more confusing and unexpected.      

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