How Is an Estate Guardian Different from a Minor Guardian?

In the event of incapacity or death, you probably have estate planning strategies in place to help you and your loved ones adjust. Many people think about the estate planning process as the process of planning for people. You are planning for the people that you leave behind, and some of the most important people to think about are your children.

This means thinking carefully about whether or not you need a minor guardian. If you and the other surviving parent are no longer able to care for your child because of a sudden accident or death, that child will still need a guardian and you have the ability to name the person you want to serve as guardian through the court. There are two different types of guardians to evaluate as part of your estate planning. The first is the guardian of the person and the second is the guardian of the estate. The personal guardian is the individual who is responsible for taking care of day to day needs like shelter, clothing, food and medical care. The guardian of the estate, however, is responsible for managing the property and the money of the person who needs a guardian.

These individual roles are very important and should be evaluated carefully with you and the other parent should you both be on the same page about what will happen to your child. Having these conversations now is not easy but can be important to reduce the stress and frustration in the future. Do not hesitate to get help from an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer right now.

 

Tuning Out the Noise

For investors, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the relentless stream of news about markets. Being bombarded with data and headlines presented as affecting your financial well-being can evoke strong emotional responses from even the most experienced investors. Headlines from the so-called lost decade– the 2000s, when the S&P 500 ended below where it
began–can help illustrate several periods that may have led market participants to question their approach.

*March 2000:
Nasdaq Stock Exchange Index Reaches an All-Time High of 5048*April 2000:
In Less Than a Month, Nearly a Trillion Dollars of Stock Value Evaporates*October 2002:
Nasdaq Hits a Bear-Market Low of 1114*September 2005:
Home Prices Post Record Gains*September 2008:
Lehman Files for Bankruptcy, Merrill Is Sold

While these events are more than a decade behind us, they can still serve as an important reminder for investors. For many, feelings of elation or despair can accompany headlines like these. We should remember that markets can be volatile and recognize that, in the moment, doing nothing may feel paralyzing. However, if one had hypothetically invested $10,000 in US stocks
in January 2000 and stayed invested, that would be worth approximately $32,400 at the end of 2019.1

When faced with short-term noise, it is easy to lose sight of the potential long-term benefits of staying invested. While no one has a crystal ball, adopting
a long-term perspective can help change how investors view market volatility and help them look beyond the headlines.

THE VALUE OF A TRUSTED ADVISOR
Part of being able to avoid giving in to emotion during periods of uncertainty is having an appropriate asset allocation that is aligned with an investor’s willingness and ability to bear risk. It also helps to remember that if returns were guaranteed, you would not expect to earn a premium. Creating a portfolio investors are comfortable with, understanding that uncertainty is a part of investing, and sticking to a plan may ultimately lead to a better investment experience.

However, as with many aspects of life, we can all benefit from a bit of help in reaching our goals. The best athletes in the world work closely with
a coach to increase their odds of winning, and many successful professionals rely on the assistance of a mentor or career coach to help them manage
the obstacles that arise during a career. Why? They understand that the wisdom of an experienced professional, combined with the discipline to forge ahead during challenging times, can keep them on the right track. The right financial advisor can play this vital role for an investor. A financial advisor can provide the expertise, perspective, and encouragement to keep you focused on your destination and in your seat when it matters most. A survey conducted by Dimensional Fund Advisors found that, along with progress towards their goals, investors place a high value on the sen se of security they receive from their relationship with a financial advisor, as Exhibit 2 shows.

Having a strong relationship with an advisor can help you be better prepared to live your life through the ups and downs of the market. That’s the value of discipline, perspective, and calm. That’s the difference the right financial advisor makes. For a short video on this topic, please see
us.dimensional.com/perspectives/tuning-out-the-noise.

Sources: Dimensional Fund Advisors LP is an investment advisor registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

 

If a New Jersey Home Is Sold from a Trust, What Happens to Taxes?

What happens when a home inside a trust is sold?

Someone who serves in the role of trustee is responsible for administration of a trust. Sometimes this can be for a loved one who recently passed away. Knowing what to do in this situation could be very complicated if you were not involved in the original estate planning.

Typically, assets that are transferred into an irrevocable trust will be considered a completed gift and not included in the estate for estate tax purposes, meaning that there would not immediately be a step up in basis for the fair market value of that home based on the death of the deceased. However, irrevocable trusts may be drafted so that the settlor of the trust retains certain powers and rights saying that gifts to the trust are incomplete.

This is why it is so important to understand how to appropriately use a trust in your estate planning strategies. If you are a trustee currently serving in this role, you may also wish to get help from an experienced and knowledgeable probate lawyer.

A probate lawyer can help you navigate the process of closing out estate administration. If you want to avoid these questions and the possible confusion for your loved ones in the future, set aside time to speak with an estate planning lawyer today about creating your own plan.       

How to Understand the Personal Representative Role

When you complete your estate planning the core document that you’ll likely complete is a will. In this will you will name a personal representative or an executor who is responsible for estate administration when you pass away. The executor or personal representative is an individual responsible for administering your estate and in creating a will you have the ability to name this person.

Bear in mind that the person selected to serve in the role of personal representative, however, can decline it. Your will should name this person and you should also go the extra step of informing them of your intention to name them. If you have already been named the personal representative of someone’s estate and you have questions about your responsibilities, this is a common issue and one that you should broach with an experienced probate lawyer.

By having a conversation with a family or friend that you wish to name as your personal representative, you will make sure that they understand these responsibilities and are comfortable in serving in this way. Far too many family members find themselves in the difficult situation of attempting to navigate probate when they never anticipated being in this position.

When naming a personal representative you should also think carefully about some of the other issues to address in your estate plan, such as naming a guardian for any minor children or whether or not you intend to make gifts to charity. The establishment of a trust can help to support the will that you create as well. Do not hesitate to get help from an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer when you need to create your estate plan.

 

Why Planning for Partners is Important Even if You Are Unmarried

Estate planning is a process that should be devised with the help of an estate planning attorney to be aligned with your individual needs. Every person has their own unique situation that should be evaluated as part of the estate planning process and of course, the priorities and strategies may look different for a married couple versus an unmarried person.

The laws are not the same for unmarried partners in the event of a break up or the death of the other partner. With appropriate planning in place guided by an estate planning lawyer, unmarried partners can put documents in place to support their intents for key issues like property division. A cohabitation agreement, for example, might address how the assets will be managed during the relationship but also in the event of one partner’s death.

These common priorities can be addressed even if you are not married. Even if you intend to get engaged and ultimately married to the same person it’s important to think about how you could accidentally expose you or them to unnecessary problems in court by failing to put together their estate plan. For example, waiting until you get married could leave you exposed for the entire length of your engagement. If something happens to you or your partner during this time, when documents like a durable power of attorney or a will could have proved helpful, this can add unnecessary stress and problems to an already difficult time.

 

Is Probate Required in the State of New Jersey?

There are three clear exceptions to when probate is not required but for the vast majority of estates, probate will be required. Probate is the formal process for closing out the administration of a person’s estate and involves paying their final debts and distributing any remaining assets to their heirs. Is-NJ-probate required

Even in cases in which the decedent did not leave clear instructions about the transfer of their assets in a will, probate must still be opened to account for the formal administration issues. As mentioned above there are three specific circumstances when probate is not required. First of all, specific assets that might not require court supervision because they transfer automatically at death are not included in the probated estate.

Consider life insurance policies and retirement accounts that have stated beneficiaries great examples of this. In some rare occasions, probate might not be required for certain estates that fall below a certain economic threshold which eliminates the need for any core supervision.

Finally, if the deceased individual created a living trust for the purposes of estate planning which held assets that belonged to them, only those assets that are included in the living trust do not transfer through the probate process. Probate could still be required in this situation but not for those assets that were properly titled into the living trust. For more information about the New Jersey probate process, set aside time to speak with an experienced lawyer.

What Is the Difference Between a Family Trust and a Will?

Wills and trusts are two very different types of controlling and distributing your assets after you’ve passed away. One important distinction between a trust and a will is that you can also create and fund a trust while you are alive. With no will in place the state determines what happens to your estate and everything that you owned while you were alive.

This is known as the rules of intestate succession and it might not match your individual preferences for the transfer of your estate. A will allows you to specify who you want your assets to go to. Trusts allow the person creating the trust, also known as the grantor, to do mostly whatever they want with assets with some limitations. The primary benefits of doing this are that a trust avoids the probate process.

Generally speaking trusts can be used for any family and amount of wealth but are very popular with those individuals and families who have greater than $2 million in assets so that they are able to keep the matters of their estate private. For more information about creating your own estate plan, now is the perfect time to review whether or not your plan is in line with state and federal laws and to meet with an accomplished estate planning attorney to discuss your next steps.

Swing in Small Value Stocks Shows Benefits of Staying the Course

Value stocks, or those with low relative prices, have outperformed higher-priced growth stocks in the US over the long term. Similarly, the stocks of smaller companies have fared better than the stocks of bigger ones in the US.
But the performance of these stocks has varied at different points in history.

As the global pandemic rocked markets in March 2020, large growth stocks outdid small value stocks by 19.6%, the greatest monthly margin on record. From March through September, the large growth index beat small value by a cumulative 38%.

But history has shown that a disappointing period for a premium can be followed by a quick turnaround, and that’s what happened beginning in October 2020.
Through March 2021, the small value index saw its own
noteworthy outperformance: 63% over that span, among
the best stretches since the 1920s.

History hasn’t presented a reliable way to predict when
small value stocks will outperform. Swings can be swift
and sharp—staying invested is the best way to capture
expected gains over the long term.

Sources: Dimensional Fund Advisors LP is an investment advisor registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

What Can Happen without Proper Estate Documents?

If your loved ones are left to figure out the mess of your estate after you’re no longer around to help provide context, that’s not a gift. In fact, it can cause added stress and grief during an already difficult time in their lives. But that’s not the only reason that your estate can cause problems. Skipping an estate plan because you assume your estate is too small, you’re too young, or that the state’s procedures for passing on your assets is “just fine” can all lead to unintended consequences.

One of the biggest reasons for people to skip estate planning is because they are married already and assume that they don’t need additional support. After all, the spouse is legally connected, right? It’s not always as simple as your spouse getting your assets, and there might be situations in which you want to diversify a default plan to give all your assets to a spouse.

 

Estate planning attorneys often are asked what will happen without properly drafted estate planning documents in place. This is a tough question, as the answer relies on the specific circumstances of each individual.

If you’re married, you and your spouse should work together to determine how property will be distributed after you pass away. This includes whether or not any property will go to children after the death of the first spouse and whether or not distributions made to children should be on an equal basis.
If you’re part of a blended family, the planning conversation is even more important. You should never fall for the assumption that property will just go to the surviving spouse right away. Sometimes, the value of the property and the names attached to it might go into a share split between children and a spouse, or even the deceased person’s siblings or parents.

But it’s not just about your assets and how they’ll be handled if you pass away. What about life planning decisions that could be incorporated into a power of attorney? Those are also important. State laws will step in to manage your estate if you haven’t done it, but this will rarely reflect your personal preferences and desires. It’s far smarter to plan ahead with the help of an estate planning lawyer.

Will an Estate Tax Exemption Change Impact You?

Most people today are not impacted by the estate tax exemption amounts. That’s because the amounts are so high that all but those with a high net worth don’t have to worry about that at a federal level.

But the current high federal levels might not last forever. There are proposals on the table that would reduce the amounts, meaning that many more people would have to think about estate tax exemption planning. This could include the use of strategies over your lifetime to minimize what’s in your taxable estate as well as strategies for what happens to your assets at your death, too.

Based on current proposals, this would reduce a married couple’s exemption amount from a current combined $23.4 million down to just $7 million. There are a few options available to you if you and your loved ones want to discuss what this means for your family. It’s expected that no matter what the change is, that this could come into effect over the next couple of years and that multiple changes might hit estate taxes during this time.

This makes it all the more important to have a trusted estate planning lawyer to help you with exemption amounts. You might want to take advantage of gifting, for example, if you are suddenly thrust into that estate tax threshold. You could also use other means, like a life insurance policy, to help cover the gap when it comes to paying additional tax if your estate did hit that threshold.

The proposed STEP bill would add a tax on asset gains that are transferred at death as well. This means that the capital gains tax at the time of the asset transfer would apply and subject those estates with more than $3.5 million to estate taxes if all currently proposed legislation is passed. While a complicated thing to understand given the connection between multiple laws and proposed legislative changes, the bottom line is the same: a client would no longer be able to benefit by holding on to assets until they pass away if these laws are passed.

With so much at stake and still in flux, one of the best things you can do is find an experienced NJ asset protection planning and estate planning lawyer to help you plan ahead and adjust as needed.

Are Concerns About Inflation Inflated?

KEY TAKEAWAYS
*Recent Dimensional research suggests that simply staying invested helps outpace inflation over the long term for a wide range of asset classes.

*The protection offered by inflation-indexed securities still appears to be the
most effective for investors who are particularly sensitive to unexpected
inflation.

*Our analysis of data from 1927–2020 covers periods with double-digit US
inflation as well as periods with deflation.

US consumer prices were up by 5.4% for the year ending June 2021, the largest annual increase since August 2008.1 Naturally, inflation is at the center of attention for many US investors.

Our recent paper US Inflation and Global Asset Returns provides some good news for investors looking to outpace inflation over the long term. But it also contains some sobering facts for investors trying to hedge against inflation through alternatives to inflation-indexed securities.

INFLATION OUTPACED
Exhibit 1 shows average real returns (that is, returns net of inflation) to different asset classes in years with high (above-median) inflation from 1927 to 2020. We consider a total of 23 US assets that span bonds, stocks, industries, and equity premiums. Over this period, inflation averaged 5.5% per year in high-inflation years. While average real returns were mostly lower in years with high inflation compared to years with low inflation, the exhibit shows that all assets except one-month T-bills had positive average
real returns in high-inflation years.

The analysis over 1927–2020 is useful because it covers periods with double-digit US inflation (like the 1940s and ’70s) as well as periods with deflation (like the Great Depression, 1929–32). But we find similar results over the most recent 30-year period (1991–2020), when US inflation was relatively mild and stable. Over this period, we also expand our analysis to non-USD bonds, developed- and emerging-market equities, real estate investment trusts (REITs), and commodities. Overall, outpacing inflation over the long term has been the rule rather than the exception among the assets we study.

INFLATION HEDGED
Despite the reassuring findings presented above, emphasizing growth assets that have historically outpaced inflation may not be appropriate for everyone. If you’re highly sensitive to inflation and have a low tolerance for market risk, you’ll likely want some exposure to inflation-indexed securities (such as TIPS and inflation swaps), and with good reason: they are designed to provide inflation protection. While stocks from certain industries, REITs, commodities, and value stocks are sometimes considered “inflationsensitive”
assets, the data provide little support that they are good inflation hedges.

Nominal asset prices already embed the market’s expectation of inflation. So inflation concerns are really about the negative impact of unexpected inflation on the real value of your invested wealth. An asset is therefore most useful as an inflation hedge when its nominal returns move closely with unexpected inflation. In the paper, we find mostly weak correlations between nominal returns and unexpected inflation. For the few exceptions where the correlations are reliable, such as for energy stocks and commodities over 1991–2020, the assets’ nominal returns have been around 20 times as
volatile as inflation, and more than half of their nominal-return variation has been unrelated to inflation. Exhibit 2 illustrates this by showing how the annual nominal returns to energy stocks and commodities differ dramatically from the annual realizations of inflation. If the goal is to reduce the variability of future purchasing power, it is questionable that hedging with something this volatile will effectively achieve that.

INFLATION DEFLATED
What will next month’s inflation reading be? How will it compare to market expectations? Is the rise in inflation temporary or long-lived? Nobody has a crystal ball. Fortunately, we don’t need a crystal ball to address inflation in our portfolios. The data suggest that simply staying invested helps outpace inflation over the long term. And for those of us who are particularly sensitive to unexpected inflation, the protection offered by inflationindexed securities still appears to be the most effective.

DATA APPENDIX
US inflation
The annual rate of change in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U, not seasonally adjusted) from the Bureau of Labor
Statistics.

US government securities and long-term corporate bonds. The returns to US government securities (one-month T-bills, five-year notes, and long-term bonds) and long-term corporate bonds are from Morningstar (previously from Ibbotson Associates).

US equity portfolios and factors. The US equity market is proxied by the Fama/French Total US Market Research Index. The US industry portfolios are the 12 Fama/French industry portfolios. The US style portfolios (small cap value and growth and large cap value and growth) are from the Fama/French six portfolios sorted on size (market cap) and book-to-market equity. The US size and value premiums are proxied by the Fama/French size and value factors. The returns to all of the above are from Ken French’s data library: https://mba.tuck.dartmouth.edu/pages/faculty/ken.french/data_library.html.

GLOSSARY
T-bills: Short-term debt issued by the US Treasury Department.

Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS): Bonds issued by the US Treasury Department that provide protection against inflation. The
principal of a TIPS increases with inflation and decreases with deflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. When a TIPS matures,
the investor is paid the adjusted principal or original principal, whichever is greater.

Inflation swaps: An inflation-swap agreement is a two-sided contract in which one party receives floating payments tied to the actual
inflation rate and pays fixed payments based on expected inflation and the inflation risk premium for a given notional amount and period.

Nominal return: The rate of return on an investment without adjusting for inflation.

Real return: The rate of return on an investment after adjusting for inflation.


By: Wei Dai, PhD -Head of Investment Research and Vice President

Mamdouh Medhat, PhD – Researcher

References:  Eugene Fama and Ken French are members of the Board of Directors of the general partner of, and provide consulting services to,
Dimensional Fund Advisors LP.

The information in this document is provided in good faith without any warranty and is intended for the recipient’s background information
only. It does not constitute investment advice, recommendation, or an offer of any services or products for sale and is not intended to provide a sufficient basis on which to make an investment decision. It is the responsibility of any persons wishing to make a purchase to inform themselves of and observe all applicable laws and regulations. Unauthorized copying, reproducing, duplicating, or transmitting of this document are strictly prohibited. Dimensional accepts no responsibility for loss arising from the use of the information contained herein.

“Dimensional” refers to the Dimensional separate but affiliated entities generally, rather than to one particular entity. These entities are Dimensional Fund Advisors LP, Dimensional Fund Advisors Ltd., Dimensional Ireland Limited, DFA Australia Limited, Dimensional Fund Advisors Canada ULC, Dimensional Fund Advisors Pte. Ltd., Dimensional Japan Ltd., and Dimensional Hong Kong Limited. Dimensional Hong Kong Limited is licensed by the Securities and Futures Commission to conduct Type 1 (dealing in securities) regulated activities only and does not provide asset management services.
UNITED STATES: Dimensional Fund Advisors LP is an investment advisor registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Is Your Estate Plan Portable Enough?

There was a time in the past where people would have settled down and stayed in mostly the same location for the majority of their adult life, but that time has passed and the need for portability is now. With a mobile world people are changing jobs and even homes more than ever. Your estate plan, if you move from one state to another, is not as portable as you might expect.

Many people are under the impression that estate planning begins and ends in meeting with an estate planning lawyer to discuss basics, such as your will. It is certainly true that this is the cornerstone of a strong financial and estate plan but it must be updated or amended when any major life changes occur, including moving to a new location. Laws relating to probate and wills are not federal so each state has their own set of laws that will address what is or isn’t a valid will, trust, power of attorney or other estate planning documents.

While portions of your estate plan could be portable because a will that was validly executed and is recognized in another jurisdiction can be recognized in your new state, you’ll want to verify this as soon as you move to your new location. This is a good opportunity to discuss any other changes in your life that would warrant an update in your estate planning strategy. Finding the right attorney to help you execute on initial versions and updates to your estate planning strategy can help you heirs avoid unfortunate and unnecessary complications in the future.

 

What Are the Most Important Retirement Milestones to Keep in Mind?

Every kind of retirement benefit will have a separate eligibility age and your age can play a big role in how much you will be able to get from social security and what you’d need to do to avoid retirement account penalties. Consider these important ages in your retirement plan to make sure that you are aware of these milestones.

They include:

  • Medicare eligibility starts at age 65
  • At age 62 you can start to receive social security payments, although some people wait longer
  • Attempt to max out your retirement accounts younger than age 49
  • Leverage the benefits associated with catch up contributions starting at age 50
  • Contact your 401(k) company as your withdrawal age might be 55
  • Retirement age for your IRA is 59 and a half
  • Full retirement age for social security is age 67 for younger generations, although it is 66 for most baby boomers
  • You may be able to maximize what you take from social security payments if you delay claiming these until age 70

Having a team of financial professionals including an estate planning lawyer can help you to accomplish many of the most important goals and ensure that you are on track for a solid retirement. If you are curious about how to match your retirement with your estate planning intentions, speak to an estate planning attorney today.

 

Who Needs to Be Notified After a Loved One Passes Away?

The passing of a loved one presents unique emotional challenges related to grief as well as issues of how to handle their administrative affairs in the short term. Once someone has been appointed to handle probate, that executor will be the person responsible for closing out the estate and taking actions on behalf of the estate.

However, what happens in the days and weeks immediately following someone’s death? Who needs to be notified? How does this affect a spouse or other family member?

One of the first phone calls to make is to Social Security. This is to notify them that the family member has passed away, and you will need the loved one’s Social Security Number in order to do this effectively. While on the phone, if you’re the spouse, you might have questions about what to do with a recently-deposited Social Security check. They will notify Medicare or Medicaid, but it’s a good idea to place a separate call to Medicare as well to ensure that the person is unenrolled from any programs.

Contact all three major credit bureaus to make sure they know this person has passed away; unfortunately, some scammers use obituary info as a way to try to steal someone’s identity and open new lines of credit before the credit bureaus know about the death. You can avoid this by placing a call to all of them immediately after Social Security is informed.

When it comes to credit cards, proceed cautiously. If this was a joint account and you were not the primary account holder, the account could be closed and this could impact your credit or block you from access to finances during this very challenging time.

Did you know that for communication purposes, there is a deceased “Do Not Contact” list? You can also contact the USPS so that they do not forward or continue to deliver mail to someone who has passed away. To make sure your family member’s name shows up on the deceased do not contact list, visit this site: https://www.dmachoice.org/.

What Kind of Goals Can I Achieve with an Estate Plan?

Most people are under the impression that estate planning is all about distributing your assets after you pass away or believe that it’s only for extremely wealthy families. However, all individuals and families can benefit from creating an estate plan. By ensuring that you have a comprehensive estate plan aligned with your needs, you are able to accomplish multiple goals at once.

Without an estate plan, the issues associated with passing on your assets will be left to the courts and an appointed administrator to handle. Most people want to exercise some layer of control beyond that with their personal planning.

Some of the goals that you can accomplish with your estate planning include:

  • Allowing you to enjoy your current lifestyle or your intended retirement lifestyle.
  • Keeping your affairs private when you pass away.
  • Leaving behind a lasting legacy for your loved ones.
  • Dramatically lowering your estate, gift, income and generation skipping taxes.
  • Protecting your assets not just today but for many generations to come.
  • Ensuring that your wishes are carried out in an end of life situation.

From irrevocable trusts to wills to powers of attorney, life insurance trusts, family limited partnerships and more, the support of an experienced estate planning attorney can prove invaluable when it is time to accomplish your estate plan.

Need more help or have other questions about your personal plan? We’re here to guide you through that process or help you with updating an existing estate plan. Schedule a time to speak with our NJ estate planning lawyer today to get assistance with your needs.

What Documents Should Be Kept in a Place Easy for My Loved Ones to Find?

Planning ahead is a critical aspect of your comprehensive estate planning and it doesn’t stop just at the creation and signing of your documents. While creating and signing these documents is certainly a key component of ensuring that your wishes are respected and that you have answered many of the most important questions around the topics of estate planning, it’s imperative that your loved ones be able to access the information necessary to carry out these wishes.

These documents need to be stored and quickly located if something happens to you. Either your spouse or other family members should have access to the following materials in case of an emergency:

  • Email account information.
  • Pins or passwords to access your phone or your computers.
  • A list of insurance policies and financial accounts, including passwords, login details and websites to access that login information.
  • List of your intangible and tangible property.
  • Your health care and financial power of attorney documents.
  • Any estate planning documents that outline your wishes, including a will or a trust.

In the immediate aftermath of an accident impacting your ability to take care of yourself, or in the sudden event of your passing away, you need the support of your family members to be able to take action quickly. If they don’t know where to find these important documents, their ability to take action for your estate plan could be extremely limited.

 

How to Tell if a Will Was Revoked or Replaced

While you’ll create your will while you’re still alive, it will be one of your loved ones sorting through your paperwork to find it once you pass away. If you have multiple documents or it’s not easy for them to find, it’s easy to make mistakes about what the will includes or if it’s the most recent version.

Storing only the most recent version of your will makes it simpler for your personal representative to be completely clear that they have the right version. Previous wills should ideally be destroyed.

If you’re keeping copies of old wills as possible evidence that your executor might need if a family member comes forward with those older wills, sort them by date with the newest at the front. You might even leave behind a letter for your executor stating that there are previous but invalid versions of your will if you are concerned about the possibility of a will contest. If you’re the executor right now, check the dates on all the wills. If they all include a statement about revoking prior wills, the most recent one is the accurate one.

If you find a will that has handwriting on it, such as notes in the margins, this might be notes for editing. See if you can contact the estate planning lawyer who helped your family member draft the will. If you can only find a copy of the will, keep searching. You’ll want an original to submit to probate court.

If no valid version of the will can be found intestate succession rules might apply.

 

What Is the Role of a Fiduciary in My Estate?What Is the Role of a Fiduciary in My Estate?

There are many different terms associated with the administration of a trust, a will or an estate. One common example is the term fiduciary. This refers to an individual who has the legal obligation and power to act on behalf of someone else in situations that require honesty, trust and loyalty.

Fiduciaries have a legal responsibility to act in the best interests of the person who is delegated this responsibility or the beneficiaries associated with the strategies in question.

Fiduciaries can serve in a variety of roles in your estate, both during your life and after you pass away. Fiduciaries can include professionals like bankers, accountants, real estate agents, mortgage brokers, business advisors and financial advisors. One of the most common ways that you will come into contact with a fiduciary is by determining who will serve in the role of executor of your estate.

The executor of your estate should be someone that you trust to handle the important aspects of closing out your formal estate. This requires careful consideration of the beneficiaries and assets in play and the complexities associated with administering your estate.

 

 

 

The Next Normal

A year ago, at the end of March 2020, the S&P 500 was down nearly 20%1 and the world was scrambling into lockdown. Many experts wrote articles telling us where we would be in a year. I don’t remember reading any that said the S&P 500 Index would be up 56% over the next 12 months. But that’s what happened.

I didn’t predict any of that. I never do. Last June, I spoke about the Old Normal and how we should be prepared for market downturns once or twice a decade, while accepting we just can’t know when they’ll happen. We can’t predict financial crises, but we should plan for them. That’s why I always recommend having a trusted financial advisor, a fiduciary who puts your interests first, who can help you understand the range of possible outcomes and create a plan tailored to your goals and acceptable levels of risk.

If you stayed in the market, it might be time for a victory lap. Dimensional’s US Core Equity 2 Portfolio, which holds a diversified mix of broad US equities and is Dimensional’s largest core portfolio, returned nearly 72%, as Exhibit 1 shows. Within the US market, small cap value stocks2 were among the hardest hit. Dimensional’s US Small Cap Value Portfolio was down 39% in the first three months of 2020 and subsequently returned a showstopping 112% over the next 12 months.

Sticking to long-term investment plans in the face of such extreme uncertainty wasn’t easy. I have so much appreciation for what the financial advisors we work with went through to keep their clients in the market, and nothing but admiration for what they achieved.

We were all stressed out last March. There was pressure to “do” something, to make changes just for the sake of reacting. People might get out of the market in an effort to reduce uncertainty. But getting out of the market can actually increase uncertainty because it can force investors to make a difficult decision: choosing the best time to get back in.

This highlights something I’ve long believed to be true: while all investments have risk, many people who think they’re investing are actually gambling. It is a really simple distinction for me; if you’re trying to time short-term market movements, you’re gambling.

Staying focused on a long-term strategy during times like the past year is hard work. Short periods like the first quarter of 2020 and the past year are not signals of future performance, but reminders of just how hard being a long-term investor can be. We didn’t know returns like that would come this year, but we knew we needed to be in the market to capture them when they do show up.

As I’ve said before, every crisis is different, but I think the best way to deal with them is always the same. We can’t control crises, but we can control our response to them. You want to be prepared to deal with the unexpected before it happens. Not when you’re stuck in the middle of it.

What is the Next Normal? It’s expecting uncertainty and committing to a plan that addresses it. It’s rising above the temptation to make changes when things get tough. It’s understanding the difference between investing and gambling. And it’s remembering how good it feels when things work out according to plan.

If you don’t already have a plan that includes crises among the range of possible outcomes, it’s never too late to create one. This is not the last crisis any of us are likely to experience. If we make thoughtful planning the New Normal, we’ll all be ready for the Next Normal.

By: David Booth
Executive Chairman and Founder

References: 

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Shorting Stocks and the Open Market

In 1984, 33-year-old Gary Kusin started an educational software retailer named Babbage’s. Started in Dallas, Texas, Babbage’s quickly expanded from educational software to focusing on Atari and Nintendo video games. Little did Gary know at the time, but his company would one day become a symbol of a market movement and capture the attention of households, Congress and regulators across the United States. But before we get into what Gary Kusin’s small company became, we need to understand a few key terms and mechanics of a stock market.

Stock markets are exchanges, and in their simplest form are simply open-market auctions. Think Sotheby’s or a local estate auction, where potential buyers raise their paddle until only one buyer remains – but at a much larger scale. Thousands of buyers meet thousands of sellers every day through brokers on stock exchanges,(2) and the items of interest are shares of a company’s stock. Generally, none of the money in these transactions goes to the company; rather the two parties barter for existing shares of the stock. Most of this activity has moved digitally, but the fundamentals are the same: every transaction has a buyer and a seller, and presumably both sides think they are getting a good deal.

Occasionally an investor may see a stock that they believe is overvalued. In other words, they believe that buyers are willing to pay more for that stock than what it is actually worth. For those brave investors who are so convicted that a stock price is trading higher than its true value, a process exists for them to bet against the company. Through a broker, the investor connects with another investor who owns shares of the stock, borrows the shares and then sells them. This is called shorting the stock. Assuming the price of the stock declines, the investor can buy back the shares at a lower price and return them to the lender, pocketing the difference in price. However, just as a bank may monitor a borrower’s creditworthiness, the lender of the shares needs protection to ensure that the borrower will eventually be able to repay the loan. The broker of the deal monitors how much it would cost for the borrower to purchase the shares compared to how much money the investor has available in their account. If the price of the stock rises too much, the broker can demand the investor either put more cash into their account or return the shares. If the investor is forced to return the shares, they must go back out to the market, find a buyer willing to sell, and repurchase them. This, known as a margin call in financial jargon, essentially just protects the lender against someone taking on a loan they can’t repay.

So, what does all this have to do with a software retailer from the 80s? In 1999, fifteen years after being founded, Barnes & Noble purchased Babbage’s for nearly $200 million.(4) Three years later, Babbage’s was combined with other similar retailers, and the company went public under a new name, GameStop.(5) Now, nearly 20 years after going public, GameStop has become a stock market phenomenon with the stock price jumping from $18.84 on December 31, 2020 to $325 at the end of January, a 1,625% jump in a single month.

For those watching the financial media (or social media for the matter), the obvious question is how can this happen? Well, a lot of investors were betting against GameStop at the end of last year – a lot. In fact, every share of GameStop had been borrowed and sold, at least once. In January, more investors started to take interest in buying shares of GameStop, partially spurred by speculative investors in an online forum, and that demand pushed the price of GameStop higher. As the price continued to climb, the investors who had borrowed shares were forced to either put more money into their account or buy shares at a higher price to close their loan. As the price of GameStop’s stock climbed, more investors bought shares to cover their loans, which created more demand for shares of GameStop’s stock, which continued to push the price higher. This phenomenon is called a short squeeze, and the cycle continued throughout January, with the stock hitting a high of $483 on January 28.

What does this all mean for your portfolio? Honestly, not a lot if you are our Investment Management client. You own thousands of stocks to mitigate the risk of any short-term dysfunction of any single name in the markets. Investors who bet against GameStop were wrong, at least for now, and they had to buy a lot of GameStop stock to make up for their error. If margin calls didn’t exist, January may have looked very different for the price of GameStop’s stock. But, margin calls exist to protect lenders and they functioned as expected. Thousands of buyers met thousands of sellers, and they agreed to exchange shares of a stock for an agreed-upon price. And if you are not our client & need to know what it does mean, feel free to contact us.

We know that on any given day, the stock market can look like a casino with random outcomes. But, when viewed over longer horizons, the outcomes are logical. That is why we continue to encourage our clients to look past the daily noise – no matter how entertaining – and keep a long-term focus. And in case you’re wondering, I don’t think that it’s a good time to buy GameStop’s stock.

Sincerely,

Neel Shah

 

Resources: 

This information is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as specific investment, accounting, legal or tax advice. Investing involves risk including loss of principal. Information from sources deemed to be reliable but its accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. IRN-21-1776