Are You Dead? Not Yet? How to Get Your Affairs In Order

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You may not be dead yet, but odds are it’ll happen. Setting up plans while you’re able helps make the situation after your death less difficult for those you leave behind.  And, your loved ones will thank you. 

How To Get Your Affairs In Order 

Collect all of your important papers in one place and tell someone where they are located. Preferably a trusted family member. Here’s a short list of important documents: 

  • Your Social Security card, living will, military records and other legal documents;
  • Contact information for your estate planning attorney, accountant, banks, investment firms and life insurance company;
  • Bank account info, safe deposit box key, vehicle titles, the deed to the house and last year’s tax return.
  • You may want to avoid probate by adding another person to titles and property—ask your attorney how to do this correctly;
  • Monthly bills, property tax bills, credit card companies, passwords for online billing, as well as passwords for PCs and electronic devices.

Go through your home with family members and/or friends and inventory items they hope to inherit after your death. Do this one-on-one to avoid hurt feelings and give you time to decide on how to handle sought after antiques, collectibles, memorabilia, etc. 

Put your inventory list with your important papers. Some people like placing labels on items to show who receives each specific dish, lamp, work of art, etc. In most cases, I like a written or typed and signed list because labels have the tendency “walk away” once you are gone.

Take steps for remaining alive, but unable to make decisions. Here are recommendations:

  • Give permission in advance through a durable power of attorney for health care and a regular durable power of attorney to someone you trust.
  • Choose someone you trust. Without your authority, your caregiver won’t be able to access information, consult with your doctor or pay your bills. Choose a person you believe will handle these responsibilities. 
  • An advance directive is used when you get sick. If you know what kind of care you want or don’t want, draft a living will so that your family won’t have to make the difficult decision to take you off life support. You will have made that decision in this document long before the situation arises. 

Make your own funeral and burial arrangements. This decreases the burden on your family and ensures your wishes will be followed after death. Pre-pay your burial and funeral expenses to lock in today’s cost.

Talk to a knowledgeable estate planning attorney about setting up your will or using a trust to avoid probate altogether and help avoid conflicts among loved ones. 

Need some help with these plans or other life-changing moments? Give us a call at Weaver Firm- Attorneys today at 817-638-9016 to schedule an appointment.

How to Prepare for Being a Widow/Widower in 2018

Among the risks that married couples face in retirement, the risk of becoming a widow or widower is unavoidable.

A recent Society of Actuaries report,

“Managing Post-Retirement Risks: A Guide to Retirement Planning.”

lists some troubling facts about losing a spouse:

►Some income may stop at the death of a spouse or former spouse.

►The death of a disabled person’s caregiver spouse may bring financial problems at a very difficult time.

►The surviving spouse may not be able or willing to manage the family’s finances.

►Inability to cope with a spouse’s death or terminal illness contributes to high rates of depression and suicide among the elderly.

To be sure, it’s difficult to predict which spouse will live longer in individual cases, according to the SOA. But, on average, women are widowed more often than men. 

So, what can you and your spouse do to manage the risks associated with becoming a widow or widower?

Set aside time to talk 

Talking about money matters together is a great gift couples can give each other, says Kathleen Rehl, author of Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows. “Start by saying, ‘Honey, because I love you so much, I want us to talk about some important money issues together—that are really important to know about for the time one day when one of us is gone.’”

Others agree. “First and foremost, spouses – especially women – need to know about the household’s finances, including where all accounts are held,” says Cindy Levering, a retired pension actuary and volunteer for the Society of Actuaries. “In particular, it is very important that they know what benefits might be available from employment-based plans — pension, 401(k), life insurance, and medical for example — and how to contact the appropriate human resource people to access any benefits that may be due.”

If you avoid these conversations, Rehl says, “a surviving spouse may be in a double whammy — hit with grief and emotions of widowhood plus not having many clues about their money situation.”

Levering also suggests sharing financial information and contacts with children, not just their attorneys. “I know a lot of people don’t want to talk about their finances with their children but it is important that someone know what to do if necessary,” she says.

Run what-if scenarios 

Determine whether your financial plan will provide enough lifetime income to the surviving spouse. Note that expenses don’t necessarily decrease by half after one spouse passes away, says Levering. Also note that the surviving spouse may have less to live on if he or she has to spend down assets to take care of the spouse that passes away, says Levering.

If, after running your what-if scenarios, there’s a shortfall, consider increasing your savings, trimming your expenses, investigating a reverse mortgage and/or downsizing, and buying life insurance.

Delay Social Security 

If you’re the higher earner, consider delaying Social Security until at least full retirement age (FRA) or better yet until age 70, if there’s a good chance that your spouse will outlive you, says Betty Meredith, president of the International Retirement Resource Center. Why so? “The surviving spouse collects a higher lifetime benefit based on the primary earner’s benefit,” she says.

Also consider, if you have traditional defined benefit pension plan, choosing the joint-and-survivor annuity instead of the single life annuity.

Check all your beneficiary designations 

Make a list of every place you have ever worked and contributed to employer-sponsored retirement plans. “When a person divorces and remarries, old beneficiaries stay in place until they are changed by the account owner,” Meredith says.  “It happens all the time where an ex-spouse or other parties receive retirement funds upon the workers’ death instead of the current spouse.”

Do the same for all life insurance plans, bank and credit union checking and savings accounts, titling on real estate, and the like, says Meredith.

Make sure credit cards and other accounts are set up so both spouses have access, says Levering.

Consider long-term care. Think what would happen if one or both spouses needed long-term care. “Purchasing coverage sooner rather than later may be prudent,” says Levering.

Hire a financial team 

Put in place a trusted team of financial advisers, including an attorney, certified public accountant, and certified financial planner, that, Meredith says, “the surviving spouse will feel comfortable working with and trust to help them transition to a life without you, especially if they have typically not been involved in the financial side of your marriage.”

Estate plan up to date?

Create or update your estate-planning documents, including wills, trusts, advance directives, living wills, durable powers of attorney for health care, physician orders for life-sustaining treatment.

 “Consider filing a ‘do not resuscitate’ or DNR order with your local hospital and have readily available if needed,” says Meredith. “Many people want to avoid aggressive attempts to prolong their life, but medical culture and practices often do not support these wishes. This can help prevent racking up large medical bills for the surviving spouse to pay.

For her part, Anna Rappaport, chair of the Society of Actuary’s retirement task force, recommends reviewing all property with your attorney and making sure you understand what is individual and joint names, and how it might be disposed of. 

Also consider planning your funeral arrangements in advance. 

Relocate

Meredith also recommends moving to a home where a surviving spouse can more easily manage upkeep, taxes, have social network, and the like.

For More Information about planning for Widows or Widowers, please contact our office today at 817.638.9016

Estate Planning for Millennials

 

This is an article adapted from the personal finance website, Nerdwallet.

As a Millennial myself, this article really touches close to home. Everyone needs an Estate Plan and many Millennials are starting families, creating businesses, investing in real estate, etc.

Ask people to write down a list of their plans and it’s likely to be chock-full of career accomplishments and vacation experiences. Graduating, getting a great job, getting married, starting a family, buying a home, and traveling are likely to be high on the list.

Odds are Estate Planning isn’t high on the list.

It’s not a surprise that people in their 20s and 30s wouldn’t have estate planning at the top of their mind.

The creation of legal documents such as living wills, last wills and testaments, powers of attorney for medical and financial well-being, and potential trusts is a foreign concept to many people, especially those who aren’t married or don’t have children.

Many people assume you don’t need to work on those plans until your 50s or 60s.

The truth is . . . planning now saves you time and money later on.

The Millennial view of money

Many Millennials have embarked on parenthood, care giving and other stressful responsibilities. But they tend to view money from an entirely different perspective from preceding generations. Growing up in the shadow of the recession and under the weight of sometimes crippling student loan debt, many Millennials are responsible with their finances, contrary to sky-is-falling reports. As we juggle student loans, young family expenses, and startup or freelancing jobs, our estate plan changes and the need for a plan grows.

Being good with money, though, isn’t enough. Part of being fiscally responsible is planning for the long-term. More than 60% of Americans don’t have a will, according to a 2015 Harris Poll

Most Americans don’t have long-term care insurance. Good news for Millennials, the premiums are cheap now.

The benefits of estate planning

No matter where you are in your financial life, you need an estate plan. 

Will. Medical Power of Attorney, Financial Power of Attorney, Physician’s Directive.

Those are the big four.

For those with children, a good estate plan lets you appoint a guardian for your children should something ever happen to you.

 

Come see us with your estate planning questions. 817.638.9016.

Probate of a Salesman

Willy Loman’s story resolves most of the conflicts between the characters.

SPOILERS AHEAD. (But seriously, this play premiered in 1949…you should know what happened by now)

What the play didn’t touch on would probably put the original story to shame. A tale of drama, death, INTRIGUE! That story is…probate. Maybe Biff runs off with the assets. Perhaps Linda remarries and leaves everything to her new spouse. What if Uncle Ben created a Trust but left someone out of his diamond fortune??? SO MANY POSSIBILITIES.

Probates can get messy very quickly. Even famed playwright Arthur Miller’s estate is whirlwind of emotions and drama…much like his play.

The crux of this drama revolves around more than 160 boxes of Miller’s manuscripts and writings. The battle pits Yale University vs. the University of Texas. The loot:

The Miller archive, comprising 322 linear feet of material, is certainly a rich one. It documents the whole of his public career, including the development of classic plays like “Death of a Salesman” and “The Crucible” and his showdown with the House Un-American Activities Committee and advocacy against censorship around the world.

There is also intensely personal material, including early family letters and drafts of an essay about the death of Marilyn Monroe, Miller’s second wife, begun the day of her funeral and revised over many years but never published. But the richest vein may be the journals, which span more than 70 years, often mixing fragments of works in progress with intimately diaristic reflections.

Miller began his relationship with the Ransom Center in the early 1960s. Short on funds and facing a large tax bill, Miller donated 13 boxes of material, including manuscripts and working notebooks for the plays that made his name — including “Death of a Salesman,” “All My Sons” and “The Crucible” — in exchange for a tax deduction. (You can do this too…by contacting our firm).

In 1983, after a fire damaged Miller’s house in Roxbury, Conn., he shipped another 73 boxes to Texas for safekeeping. In a letter held at the Ransom Center, he said he’d like to eventually formalize the transfer either by sale, or by donation should the tax deduction (which had been eliminated in the early 1970s) be restored.

“I am in full agreement with your suggestion that I give them absolute first refusal in whatever decision I make for the disposition of the archive,” he wrote to the Manhattan bookseller Andreas Brown, who was serving as his archival consultant.

PAUSE. This is the point where a good estate planning attorney would step in and create a valid estate plan leaving the manuscripts to the Ransom Center with a right of first refusal. This right would exists in the Last Will and Testament of Arthur Miller and should also exist in any other planning documents involved with the gift. Sadly, this did not happen.

In January 2005, a few weeks before his death at the age of 89, Miller shipped 89 more boxes to the Ransom Center, whose extensive American theater holdings also include the papers of Tennessee Williams, Lillian Hellman and Stella Adler.

In the summer of 2015, three staff members from Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library visited the Ransom Center to inspect the Miller collection. Yale then made an offer of $2.7 million for the materials on deposit, plus some 70 boxes still held by the estate.

The Ransom Center matched the price, but refused to go higher, citing Miller’s 1983 letter as providing them a right of first refusal.

So now, the heirs of the estate of Arthur Miller are in a quandary. Clearly, the works are worth more than $2.7million, but why would either side increase their offer?

Ultimately, the Ransom Center won and purchased the works from the Estate for $2.7million. The Court relied upon the letter from Miller as sufficient proof that a right of first refusal existed. Who knows how much Yale would have offered???

h/t to the New York Times for this great article.

Plan your Estate with us now. Become a famous playwright later.

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817.638.9016 or weaverlegal.net

 

Founding Fathers had Wills and So Should You

Ever wondered what a founding father’s Last Will and Testament looked like? Probably a lot like yours. Ben Franklin provides an excellent look into several issues regarding what you leave and to whom.

Sam Moak, an attorney in South, Texas, has a great breakdown of Ben Franklin’s Will. Here are some of the highlights.

Franklin gave his son William all of his property in Nova Scotia “to hold to him, his heirs and designs forever.” William is what we consider a primary beneficiary because he received the property outright from the will. Much like you might leave your home to your children or to their children, Ben Franklin kept his property in his bloodline.

Franklin owned three homes on Market Street in Philadelphia, other property within Philadelphia and pasture land outside the city. These are probably worth a pretty penny nowadays. Ben transferred the right to use that property together with his “silver plate, pictures and household goods” to his daughter Sarah Bache and her husband Richard Bache for use “during their natural lives.” 

This gift created a life estate. You may have a home or other real property and desire for a particular person to use that property for his or her lifetime. A life estate is an excellent way to give a person life use of property. Clients often use this type of gift to ensure a piece of property remains in the family for multiple generations. Children can’t sell the property, but can live in the home forever. Think a family ranch for a Texas specific example.

If you create a life estate for a person, then you may also designate a person or perhaps a charitable organization to own the property after your life tenant passes away. Make sure to visit our site for an upcoming article about charitable giving and how it might be a great idea for you.

Ben Franklin’s intent was to transfer property to his daughter and son-in-law for life, with the remainder to his grandchildren. But what if one of the grandchildren were to pass away prior to the demise of both parents? Franklin indicated that if one of the grandchildren were “to die under age, and without issue,” that share would be “equally divided among the survivors.” This is an example of a contingent beneficiary.

A contingent beneficiary is the person who will receive the property if the first person is not living at the time of the transfer. For example, you may wish to give a gift through your Will to a brother or sister. But if he or she passes away before you do, then it is important to select another person to receive the property. We often see DIY Wills where a client names a primary beneficiary but fails to name a successor beneficiary. 

Franklin also realized some of his grandchildren might be young if and when their parents passed away. Franklin stated in his Will that some of them are “under age” and “may not have capacity” to manage the property. Therefore, he ordered the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to select “three honest, intelligent, impartial men” to manage the property. 

If your estate plan includes young children, then you will want to create a trust to manage property for the benefit of the children. The trust should work to provide a distribution of income and, if needed, principal from the trust to the child until the recipient reaches an age you designate for distribution of the assets. In Texas, children under eighteen (18) cannot inherit property outright. Instead of going through the expensive and time consuming process of petitioning the Court (not the Supreme Court in this case, but a Probate court) to create a Trust, consider having an attorney draft this trust as part of your Last Will and Testament.

If you don’t have a Will, don’t panic. Wills are simple to draft and easy for attorneys to set up. Over 60 percent of people pass away without Wills. Your property will eventually get to your heirs-at-law, but the process is more expensive and time-consuming.

Come see us for an Estate Planning meeting right away! 817.638.9016.