Think Investing Is a Game? Stop.

It’s easy to view the stories of market speculation that have dominated the news recently as cautionary tales for individual investors. But we can also look at the current moment as an opportunity to welcome a new group of investors to the market: those who have been drawn in by all the high-stakes action, and yet may want a consistent, long-term investment solution that doesn’t keep them up at night. This is probably a good time to mention that investing and gambling are not the same thing.

If you’re not the type of person who feels comfortable betting your life savings on a long shot, the good news is that you don’t have to find the next big stock to win in the stock market. Concentrating your whole investment on one or two companies means the stakes are high enough to expose you to unnecessary risk. Even if you manage to land a few big winners, our research has found that good luck is unlikely to repeat throughout a lifetime of investing. For every individual who got in and out of a hot stock at the right
time, there’s another who bought or sold at the wrong time. If you treat the market like a casino, not only do you have to pick the right stock, but also the right moment.

I’ve always believed you’re better off betting with the whole market than on individual stocks, through a low-cost, highly diversified portfolio. Then let time and compounding do their work. Compounding is the investor’s best friend: if an investment grows at a rate of 10% a year, that means a dollar invested has doubled every seven years.1 As a point of reference, the S&P 500 has grown at rate of 10.26% since 1926, though it’s worth noting that the path is rarely smooth.

With all the options now available to investors, putting together a solid investment plan —one that you can stick with—is key. Markets have never been so accessible, and information has never been so widely available. And despite the fact that stories of stockmarket gambling keep making the news, many investors have managed to enjoy growth in their investments using low-cost, highly diversified strategies like index funds

Indexing has turned out to be a good solution for many people. I was involved in the creation of one of the first index funds early in my career, and I’ve enjoyed watching the positive impact indexing has had on the industry. For those who want more customization and flexibility, there are ways to build on the strengths of indexing while correcting for some of its weaknesses. At Dimensional, we’ve been working on improving upon indexing for the past 40 years.

If you’re looking to become a long-term investor, commit to a long-term strategy that takes your own personal goals, situation, and risk tolerance into account. (A financial advisor can help with this part.) And remember that although the US stock market has returned about 10% a year on average, returns for individual companies and individual years can vary wildly. (We call these uneven distributions “fat tails.”) It’s always important to look at the big picture. A huge win on a stock bet today doesn’t mean much if you lose it tomorrow.

Investing is a lifelong journey. Making money slowly is much better than making—then losing—money quickly.

– David Booth
Executive Chairman and Founder

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Women Investors Need Advanced Estate Planning

Women who have significant assets set aside in investments should be prepared to accomplish both estate planning and asset protection planning together. NJ-estate-planning-women

A recent advisor authority study found that as the pandemic has raged throughout 2020 and 2021, many women investors have become more concerned about the state of their finances and are worried about the future. In that study approximately 75% of women who had over $100,000 in investable assets indicated that the pandemic had negatively impacted their ability to retire at the age of their choice.

Fewer than one third of the women investors who participated in the study had an optimistic financial outlook throughout 2020 and 2 in 10 said they will have to delay taking retirement income as a result of the impacts of the pandemic.

Although these findings are concerning, many women have turned to financial professionals and estate planning attorneys to help them to accomplish their individual goals and ensure that they have considered all possible places where they are exposed to risks.

Scheduling a consultation with a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer should be the first step in identifying how your estate or financial picture might have shifted as a result of the pandemic and the steps that you should take in order to protect yourself.       

How Does An Estate Planning Lawyer Connect to My Strategy?

Many people avoid the process of estate planning because they either assume they don’t need it or that it’s not affordable for them.

Plenty of people are under the impression that estate planning is only for the wealthy but this is definitely not the truth as every individual family and business owner can benefit from at least some basic estate planning. You will likely find after consulting with a local estate planning attorney that this is a relatively simple process that can be made more complex only when you need it. 

Furthermore, the costs can be tailored to fit your specific needs and benefits people of all tax brackets and salaries. One of the primary reasons to consult with an estate planning attorney is because it will make the process easier. You’ll understand that probate is a legal mechanism of transferring your property from your ownership to another person. This means that you have some important decisions to make about what property you’d like passed on and to who.

Furthermore, you’ll need to think about important people who may be installed in critical roles as a result of your estate plan. Two common examples are guardians that you may choose for your minor children and the executor of your estate who is responsible for estate administration. 

Your attorney will help you walk through what you want to happen with your estate and execute the property legal documents to achieve that. Your attorney will also determine which items should be included in the estate, if a trust should be established, how much your estate might actually be worth, and consider any insurance policies and tax related issues associated with your estate. Schedule a consultation with an estate planning lawyer today to learn more.          

 

Think Carefully About How You Divide Your Estate with Children

If you have multiple children that you intend to be beneficiaries of or executors in your estate, be careful about trying to apply things equally rather than fairly. Having multiple children and leaving them each behind a stake in the house can cause more conflicts than you ever intended.

Imagine, for example, that you have six children and all of them now equally own a portion of a vacation home or original home once you pass away. This means that either all of them will need to come to terms about what happens with the property or the property will need to be sold and divided among six parties in the event that they cannot come to a conclusion. 

Furthermore, naming multiple children as executors of your estate also leaves challenges regarding unified decisions. Especially if the children you intend to install in this role have different personalities and views over how things should be handled, this can delay the administration of your estate and increase family conflict.

There is still the possibility that a fight could occur without a will in place since the state will determine who receives what property, but having multiple executors serve at the same time or attempting to divide property, like a home, equally over multiple people can create far more problems than it would ever be worth. It is better to consider consulting with an estate planning attorney about the creation of a trust to empower these unique decisions and have them all working together.      

 

Are Fees Taken Out of an Estate for an Executor Legal?

If a loved one, such as a sibling or a parent passes away and you are the beneficiary of that estate, it is natural to have plenty of questions about how various estate actions can impact you.

An executor will need to be appointed to manage the administration of the estate. The executor plays numerous different important roles in administering this estate including the process of identifying and cataloging all of the assets in the estate.

An executor is said to have a fiduciary responsibility to the beneficiaries of the entire estate. This means that they need to approach each aspect of their job with due diligence, document things clearly, and avoid any self-dealing or activities that benefit them and not the other beneficiaries. It could be very problematic for other beneficiaries like siblings to realize that the person appointed as executor has taken questionable actions or failed to account for different things they have done. 

Bear in mind though that they can be filled with conflict when a family member questions how an estate is managed by another relative. You are entitled, however, as the beneficiary of an estate to an accounting of the assets, expenses, income, liabilities and distributions of the estate. You will want to speak with an experienced probate dispute attorney if you find yourself in this situation.

The Three Major Elements Your Estate Plan Should Include

Most people are familiar with the basic idea behind a will. A will allows you to accomplish a couple of different things with your estate planning strategy. Some of the most important ones include the ability to name a guardian for your minor child and to decide who will receive your assets when you pass away.

However, there are other things you can accomplish in your estate planning strategy and three crucial elements should be included in the core of every estate plan. These include who receives what when you pass away, who is responsible for executing your wishes as it relates to the administration of your estate, and who is appointed to handle your affairs if you become incapacitated while you’re still alive. 

Each of these can create unique estate planning conflicts and issues but having a plan that addresses estate planning concerns both during your life and afterwards will ensure that you have thought through these complex issues and decrease the possibility of challenges that could arise for you or your loved ones in the future. 

No one wants to find themselves in the position of not having completed appropriate estate planning documents as this could leave your loved ones in a difficult situation trying to sort out what you want. Schedule a consultation with an estate planning lawyer in your area to learn more about this process and what you can accomplish.       

 

What Are Some of the Easiest Ways to Avoid Probate?

Probate has different processes in every state depending on where your loved one lived at the time they passed away. But it generally refers to the legal system through which that person’s individually owned property is passed on after their death. There are many different reasons and options available to avoid probate.

The most common method of avoiding probate is by using jointly held assets that include a right of survivorship. Bank accounts and real property can be placed on the name of more than one person, typically two spouses, in order to allow that property to seamlessly be passed on to the survivor after death.

The benefit of having an asset held in this manner is simplicity because the property will not be frozen when the first spouse passes away and the surviving member has the right to continue to use in possession as well as the option to transfer the property. Jointly held property, however, should still be outlined in an estate plan.

At some point, both property owners will pass away and the plan needs to include instructions regarding the distribution of that property. There is no protection for separate beneficiaries when it comes to jointly held property so the services of an estate planning lawyer should be used to ensure that this is protected especially in blended families.

 

Should I convert my Term Life Insurance to Permanent Life Insurance?

The decision as to whether or not to convert from a term policy to a permanent life insurance policy is very fact-specific and dependent upon the family circumstances.

There have been circumstances where term policies were taken for a temporary reason. It may have been because children were younger, or for a business purpose such as a buy/sell policy. However, as the term marches on, or sometimes comes close to expiration, the importance of those temporary reasons varies extremely. For example, if one has a child or spouse who is dependent on the insured and their earning capacity (such as a special needs situation or a nonworking spouse), there might be a need for financial security well after the term would have expired. In this situation, it does make sense to consider a conversion. However, many circumstances must be considered. In addition to the need, the financial means to pay for the insurance is a huge factor. Will the insured or the owner have the capacity to continue paying premiums on a permanent policy, which are generally higher than a term policy. What other insurances are available? What is the health situation of the insured-they qualify for a new policy today?

It is recommended that you do not wait until the end of the term or close to the end of the term to convert a policy if you have already recognized the need for permanent insurance. The insured health circumstance is unpredictable, as it might give rise to an increased premium, or even a lack of insurability, which is a high risk to take. However, if you choose not to convert your policies, you may elect to self-insure. This usually means allocating certain savings for potential future needs. The decision of whether or not to let a term policy expire should be made proactively. It is a factor in one’s financial plan just like any other financial consideration.

Feel free to contact us If you need help deciding whether or not you should convert a term life policy into a whole life, universal life, or other types of life insurance policy”

FANMAG: Because FAANGs Are So Yesterday

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • FANMAG returns have been extreme relative to their contemporaries, but not their predecessors—their performance has been in line with the average top performers throughout US stock market history.
  • The FANMAGs were the big winners from a broader group of large tech companies, most of whom have lagged the market.
  • Following the popularity of the FAANG stocks, FANMAGs are the current fad. But history suggests fad-based investing is no substitute for broad diversification and a consistent approach.

A handful of large technology stocks have garnered attention for outsize returns in recent years. Collectively referred to by the FANMAG acronym, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Microsoft, Apple, and Google (now trading as Alphabet) all substantially outperformed the US market1 in the eight calendar years that they have all been public companies (Facebook went public in May 2012).2 Emerging as winners from among a large number of companies that fared less well during 2013–2020,3 these juggernauts bested most of their surviving peers with annualized outperformance versus the US market ranging from 7.31 (Alphabet) to 42.58 percentage points (Netflix), as shown in Exhibit 1.

While this performance dazzled investors and dominated headlines during 2013–2020, a more complete picture emerges when accounting for the many companies whose investors were less fortunate over the period. As shown in Exhibit 2, of the 10 largest US technology stocks as of January 2013, all but Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, and Amazon underperformed the US market over the same period that elevated their tech peers to financial market stardom.

Exhibit 3 shows the hypothetical growth of wealth for an investor who put $1 in each of the 10 largest technology stocks and the US market in January 2013. While the $1 invested in Amazon and Apple, for example, would have grown to $12.63 and $7.18, respectively, by November 2020, the returns of their non-FANMAG tech contemporaries would have failed to even surpass the US market.

FANMAG returns certainly stand out among those of their contemporaries, but the range of individual stock outcomes has often been immense. A historical look shows that FANMAG performance has been quite ordinary in the context of past top-of-the-market performers. Drawing on stock return data since 1927, Exhibit 4 indicates that historical top performers often experienced larger outperformance relative to the US market than the FANMAG stocks realized during 2013–2020. For example, Apple’s 2013–2020
annualized excess return of 13.00 percentage points places it at the 93.67 return percentile among all US stocks that were trading in January 2013 and survived the eightyear period that followed. However, the average outperformance of stocks at the 93.67 percentile over eight-year rolling periods from 1927 to 2020 was 15.60 percentage points, or about 2.60 percentage points higher. With the exception of Netflix, the same holds for
the other FANMAG stocks, with historical outperformers at the same return percentile outperforming the market by more than the FANMAG stocks did in 2013–2020.

A defining trait of the FANMAG performance is that these outsize returns have come from among the largest companies in the US, implying they were meaningful contributors to the overall US market’s return. However, historical data show that this too is nothing new.
Defining a stock’s return contribution as its total return weighted by its beginning-ofperiod market capitalization weight, we see that Apple’s contribution to the US market for the period 2013–2020 was 19.68%. How does this figure compare to other top return contributors? Exhibit 5 illustrates the top return contribution and the annualized US market return over rolling eight-year periods since 1927, revealing instances of return contributions by the likes of AT&T, General Motors, and General Electric that were
comparable to, or even exceeded, that of Apple in 2013–2020.

FOTW (FLAVOR OF THE WEEK)
If history is any guide, the FANMAG acronym will eventually be replaced by another trendy name. For example, stock market historians will remember the Nifty Fifty in the 1960s and 70s, a set of 50 blue-chip stocks like Coca-Cola and General Electric. The early 2000s witnessed increasing adoption of the acronym BRIC, representing investment opportunities in the fast-growing emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China. More recently, the WATCH companies—Walmart, Amazon, Target, Costco, and Home Depot—have also gained traction in the market’s lexicon.

While documenting trends in finance is entertaining, there is little evidence that investors can spot these trends in advance in a way that would enable market-beating performance. Moreover, concentrated bets on high-flying stocks can expose investors to idiosyncratic risks and a wider range of possible outcomes. By contrast, a sound investment approach based on financial science emphasizes the importance of broadly diversified portfolios that provide exposure to a vast array of companies and sectors to help manage risks, increase flexibility in implementation, and increase the reliability of outcomes.

–  Kenneth French, PhD
Director and Consultant

_____________________________________________________________________

Resources: 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. Named securities may be held in accounts managed by Dimensional. This information should not be considered a recommendation to buy or
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UNITED STATES: Dimensional Fund Advisors LP is an investment advisor registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
CANADA: These materials have been prepared by Dimensional Fund Advisors Canada ULC. Commissions, trailing commissions, management
fees, and expenses all may be associated with mutual fund investments. Unless otherwise noted, any indicated total rates of return reflect the
historical annual compounded total returns, including changes in share or unit value and reinvestment of all dividends or other distributions, and do not take into account sales, redemption, distribution, or optional charges or income taxes payable by any security holder that would have reduced returns. Please read the prospectus before investing. Mutual funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently, and past performance may not be repeated.
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Any Adult Child with a Serious Illness Needs a Health Care Power of Attorney

Having a child who is critically ill is the worst nightmare for every parent. This can be even more problematic when your child is legally classified as an adult because once they turn 18, you do not have the automatic ability to make decisions for them or see their health care records.

If your child is of college-age or has turned 18 in their senior year of high school and is taken to the hospital when you were not around, the hospital legally is not able to provide you with information about their condition without proper consent. If your child is critically ill and has passed out and is unable to provide consent, this can create a medical nightmare for you and your loved ones.

Make sure that you consider the needs of the entire family when crafting a health care power of attorney and providing appropriate consent that aligns with HIPAA requirements.

An estate planning lawyer can help you create these documents based on who needs to receive what details and create these documents for your entire family including any adult children who are currently coping with a serious illness and rely on your assistance to manage it or help with their health care concerns. For more information, schedule a consultation with an estate planning lawyer.

What’s the Difference Between Medical Directives and Durable Powers of Attorney?

 

It is certainly difficult to think about but there is the possibility that at some point in the future you will become incapacitated and will not be able to handle day to day decisions regarding your health care or your finances. 

This is one of the most common reasons to establish an estate plan with the help of a lawyer who has experience in this field. Your lawyer can advise you about the questions you should go through in the process of what to consider when establishing these important documents. 

You can avoid extensive court proceedings that your loved ones would have to go through if you became incapacitated by doing your planning now. You can create a durable power of attorney for health care and for finances to appoint an attorney in fact, also known as an agent, to make decisions on your behalf. The documents that you’ll need to cover these key issues include a medical directive, also known as a living will, a durable power of attorney for health care, and a durable power of attorney for finances. Your living will specifically gives directions to any health care providers about wishes or plans you have around end of life care.

A durable power of attorney for health care, however, gives another person the authority to carry out your wishes listed in the medical directive and to make any other medical decisions as needed. 

Finally, a durable power of attorney for finances gives someone else authority over your assets, such as the ability to pay your mortgage if you are unable to do so. You should have all of these documents in place if you wish to have comprehensive protection should something happen to you.

Can I Revoke a Living Trust?

A living trust is also referred to as a revocable trust which, as the name implies, empowers you to make decisions while you are still alive about the purpose of the trust or even its existence. This is because a revocable trust is a flexible financial structure or legal entity that empowers the person who creates it to remove, alter or change the trust assets or to amend the trust itself or alter beneficiaries at any point during their lifetime.

The very nature of a revocable trust is such that you can decide in the future that the terms or beneficiaries need to be updated. These small changes can be accomplished through small amendments, bigger changes might need to be achieved through revoking the trust altogether. 

If you wish to dissolve a revocable trust, it’s important to take the necessary steps to do so. You will need to remove all of the assets that have been transferred into it as a first step in dismantling a revocable trust you have already created. You would then want to fill out a formal revocation form to create a paper trail and written evidence of your intention to dissolve the trust. 

Sign this and get it notarized. Your local area might also require an additional step of filing that paperwork with a local probate or estate court. To make sure that you have all of the details managed in the revoking of an existing living trust, work directly with an estate planning lawyer who has experience in this field.     

Need a NJ estate planning lawyer to help you create or revoke a trust? Reach out today.

Does My Executor Need to Have the Skills of an Accountant or Attorney?

Most people choose a family member or close friend to serve as an executor or a personal representative of their estate. This means that when you pass away, this person once approved by the court will be able to handle the administration of your affairs and the closing out of your estate.

You are not obligated to choose a friend or family member to serve in this role and many people turn to other individuals or organizations. A professional, such as an accountant or attorney might be the right choice in the event that you do not find anyone in your family or current net worth to serve in this role.

An effective executor should bring certain qualities to the table, including being ethical, organized, committed to doing the best possible job, careful about protecting the best interests of the beneficiaries, and being tactful. As an executor, it is not necessary to have the expertise or skills brought to the table by an accountant or an attorney. However, it is common for personal representatives who are dealing with complex estates or those who are not familiar with all the responsibilities of serving in this role to engage in the services of these professionals to help with the management of the estate.

When retaining these professional services to assist with probate administration, payments will be made to these individuals from the estate itself. Serving as an executor does not require any professional certifications or licensure but it can be beneficial to think about the financial obligations and understanding of the person that you choose to appoint in this role.

Is It Enough to Tear Up My Durable Health Care Power of Attorney to Revoke It?

When a durable power of attorney for health care or living will is given to you voluntarily by another person, you always maintain the ability to revoke it so long as you are legally competent. One of the easiest ways to do this is to consult directly with your estate planning lawyer. Your lawyer might recommend the creation of a written statement that formally revokes this document.

Once you have created this written statement you might need to provide it to everyone who has a copy of your durable health care power of attorney. You should provide a copy of the revocation to the former power of attorney agent and every health care provider that might have previously had dealings with your former power of attorney agent. It is recommended that you destroy all copies of a revoked durable power of attorney for health care. However, you need to follow these additional steps to ensure that all of the aspects of closing out this initial power of attorney have been addressed.

As you can see, it can be somewhat complex to revoke a power of attorney but if it is the right decision for you at this point in time, you may need the support of an estate planning lawyer to guide you through the process and ensure that you have taken care of all of the details. Bear in mind that when you revoke a power of attorney and do not establish a new one, there is no one appointed in this role to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.

How We Embraced The ‘Swirl’

A Taoist story tells of an old man who accidentally fell into the river rapids leading to a high and dangerous waterfall. Onlookers feared for his life. Miraculously, he came out alive and unharmed downstream at the bottom of the falls. People asked him how he managed to survive.
“I accommodated myself to the water, not the water to me. Without thinking, I allowed myself to be shaped by it. Plunging into the swirl, I came out with the swirl. This is how I survived.”

Think back to March when the government shutdowns were starting. Think about the forecasts and predictions being made.

By late March, the S&P 500 had sold off over 30% of its value from its high in the middle of February, and small caps had sold off even more. Looking back on the markets and the dreary expectations, would you have expected global markets to post double-digit returns for the year? Would you have guessed that emerging market stocks would perform in line with the S&P 500 for the year, with both markets up over 18%?(3) What about small caps? Would you have expected U.S. small cap stocks to return 20% for the year when there was so much uncertainty around whether many of these companies could survive the pandemic?

The changing landscape from COVID benefited companies like Amazon and Zoom, so their growth during the year made sense, but would you have expected Tesla to post such extraordinary gains? The stock closed 2019 at less than $84 per share, but by the end of 2020, it was trading over $700 per share.(5) Tesla was added to the S&P 500 in December with a total market value of over $600 billion, making it the largest stock ever added to the index.(6) Looking back, we would like to believe we saw it coming (or at least that the signs were there), but if we are honest – doubling down on Tesla in January 2020 looked like a bet against the ‘smart money.’ At the end of 2019, roughly one out of every five shares of Tesla were betting on the stock price falling, not going up!

When I look at 2020, I am reminded that whether we are talking about industries or individual stocks, predicting the market is extremely difficult. Some people get lucky, but the skill to have repeat performance is rare. A recent study performed by S&P Dow Jones found that the top-performing funds from June 2010 through June 2015 were more likely to liquidate or change their investment style than to continue to outperform over the next five years. And that is the smart money – these are funds managed by professionals that invest millions in trying to be the best and have the “edge”.

We call this the loser’s game, and we choose not to play it – you are working & have worked too hard to accumulate your wealth. Instead,
  •  We have designed our clients portfolios to flow with the markets, not to time or try to predict the markets;
  • We invest across hundreds of stocks, dozens of countries and all sectors;
  • In 2020, amidst the uncertainty, we rebalanced our client’s portfolios to take advantage of lower prices and (if possible) tax losses harvested to offset capital gains in other areas of your portfolio – we focused on what we could control;
  • We continue to balance the stock risk in your portfolio with high quality fixed income to dampen changes in your total portfolio value; and
  • We stick with the strategy that we decided upon before the emotions took over.
In other words, we plunge with the swirl, and we come out with the swirl – this is how we help you progress towards achieving success with your financial plan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inflation Could Harm Your Retirement Without Careful Planning

Many people work their entire lives for the hope of a well-deserved and peaceful retirement. With increasing longevity and the rising costs of health care, however, it’s important to make sure not to exclude the possibility of inflation impacting your estate planning.

Your retirement funds might make sense now and your projected retirement savings could cover a good portion of your day to day living expenses, but if you have not fully incorporated the possibility of long term care expenses or the rising cost of inflation, your cost of living could spike significantly.

Consider that even a 3% increase in inflation would mean that the general cost of living can double within just 24 years. Even if you are not 24 years away from retirement, increasing longevity means that you might spend a few decades in retirement after exiting the workforce and relying on all of your retirement funds for that entire period. Health care expenses are also growing at a much faster rate than general expenses.

In fact, over half of retirees in a recent study said that they were concerned that rising health care costs and one of the biggest risks to their overall retirement security, and those risks are only expected to increase. For example, overall health care costs are anticipated to rise by 5.5% every single year over the next 10. Making a plan now and consulting with your financial and estate planning professional can help you to have a holistic approach towards your own financial future.

What You Need to Know About Affording an Estate Plan

The majority of Americans don’t have a plan in place but estate planning is not only for wealthy individuals and business owners. A basic plan can include a power of attorney, a living will, and a will.

Fewer than one third of people living in the United States today have even one or more of these documents, according to a 2020 research survey by Caring.com. The perception of cost is one of the biggest hinderances to people scheduling a consultation with an estate planning lawyer, but in some cases, the perceived cost is much higher than the real cost.

Getting an estate plan in place requires you to do some work in advance to decide what you want to accomplish with your estate plan and to look for an attorney who offers the ability to complete all of those documents or strategies together. A standard will meets the basic needs of most people and often doesn’t cost as much as you think but this is a critical document because you will appoint who will oversee the distribution of assets and manage creditors, and you’ll name a guardian if you have minor children.

Wills can become complicated if you have advanced family dynamics, such as if you or your spouse have been married before or have a mixed family. But you’ll want to have the ability to discuss your options with an estate planning lawyer particularly if you want your loved ones to be able to avoid probate. Ask around and get recommendations for estate planning lawyer so that you have a broad reach in terms of the approach they take to your planning as well as the overall cost.

Your Home & Estate Planning: Avoid This Mistake

Sadly, far too many children face the loss of their elderly parents and then have to take on the complicated task of selling a parent’s home. In the event that the will states that the children will receive the proceeds from the real estate’s sale, there are two potential outcomes that could occur based on whether or not the parent had appropriate estate planning in place.

Either children are eligible to receive the full proceeds of the parent’s home with no capital gains tax responsibility or they will instead owe tens of thousands of dollars to the IRS by paying this. This inadvertent and simple mistake happens when parents add their children to the title while they are still alive. It makes sense that you want the house to be able to pass to your kids so you retitle it in their name as well as yours so that the house automatically transfers.

However, this perceived kindness can end up costing your beneficiaries thousands of dollars in unnecessary taxes. It is far better to have an estate planning strategy in place that can help you to accomplish these goals without generating massive tax liabilities. It can be very difficult to go through the process of discovering these challenges after the fact and you definitely don’t want your loved ones attempting to cope with this on their own. Make sure that you work directly with an estate planning lawyer and a financial professional to ensure that you’ve taken care of all of the details related to your estate planning so that assets like your home can pass as easily as possible to your loved ones.

What Role Does a Representative Payee Play in Estate Planning?

 

The Social Security Administration defines a representative payee as a person or entity that is designated to manage or receive supplemental security income or social security income payments on behalf of a beneficiary. This is usually associated with those recipients of government benefits who are not able to manage their own income.

Representative payees are formally appointed by the Social Security Administration based on an application. More often than not this is a family member of the beneficiary but it can also be an organization. The beneficiary’s current personal needs should be the chief factor in determining the representative payee. This same person who also serves as trustee of a beneficiary’s special needs trust or the beneficiary’s agent under a power of attorney can also become the representative payee.

The representative payee has to do a number of different tasks associated with managing these benefits, including the opening and managing of a joint bank account as a representative payee in the beneficiary’s name.

Having these additional estate planning documents in place can help to draw the connection between the role that the representative payee plays for the beneficiary and can enable this party to make important financial decisions on behalf of a party who is otherwise unable to do so on their own. For more questions about the estate planning documents needed when you have a loved one with special needs in your family, set up a time to speak with an estate planning lawyer.

Study Finds High Net Worth Individuals Preparing for Possible Tax Increases

 

Tax increases on local or the state level could be levied against real estate in the near future. A new CNBC millionaires’ survey identified that 43% of millionaires shared that they already pay too much in taxes. Many of those millionaires are bracing for a potential tax hike in the next year due to the new presidential administration.

The survey included 750 people who had investible assets of larger than $1 million. The wealthy expect some form of tax increases due to the new administration as well as soaring deficits and spending. Those who responded to the survey said they planned few changes in their financial strategies or investments due to potential tax increases.

However, 16% of them said that they planned to make changes to their giving or estate planning. If you are part of a high net worth couple or family, it’s a good idea to consult with an experienced tax professional in addition to an estate planning lawyer to discuss your next steps and to create a plan for potential tax increases.

No matter what changes are on the horizon, you could on your team of professionals to help you adapt and create a plan in line with state or federal changes or even shifts in your own strategy or family.

The support of a dedicated estate planning lawyer can help you navigate changes as they come and keep you abreast of important issues that arise in the state or federal planning landscape.