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Friday, December 30, 2016

Estate Planning | Famed Coach's Tragic Death and the Lessons It Imparts to Everyone

Summary: When Hall-of-Fame basketball coach Pat Summitt died in June 2016, her family, friends and players grieved a lost loved one and sports fans honored a lost legend. However, the coach's premature death has served some good, in terms of both raising awareness about Alzheimer's disease and imparting estate planning knowledge to everyone -- namely, that estate planning is not just for the elderly and planning for incapacity is important for everyone, regardless of age and health

In the Spring of 2011, Pat Summitt's University of Tennessee women's basketball team completed another season undefeated in conference play and earned a Number-1 seed in the NCAA basketball tournament. Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, was 58. The following August, she announced that she had early-onset Alzheimer's disease and retired from coaching after only one more season. By June 2016, Summitt had died at the age of 64. Summitt's battle with the disease and death at an early age remind us both how little we (including medical experts) really know about Alzheimer's and how important it is to get a complete estate plan in place without procrastination. 

Your estate plan can do so much more than just distribute your assets after you die. While that is an important and integral part of any estate plan (as it allows you to assert control over your legacy rather than leaving it up to your state's intestacy laws,) there are other major benefits of a well-thought out plan, too. One of these is planning for incapacity. With people living longer than ever, the chances that you will need to have a plan in place for your mental incapacity are greater than ever. 

Whether you experience Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, you can retain a form of control over your wealth and yourself, even after a loss of capacity, through a proper and complete estate plan. A power of attorney for financial matters can allow you to designate the person you want to make decisions governing your wealth and assets. (You can also plan for the financial management aspect of incapacity by using a revocable living trust, as your trust can allow for seamless transition of the management of funded assets from you to the successor trustee you designate.) Additionally, your advance directive and your power of attorney for healthcare can ensure that, if you cannot make decisions for yourself regarding your person and your medical care, the person you named will step in to do that.   

Additionally, Summitt's death from Alzheimer's-related complications at the young age of 64 highlights the importance of not waiting to get your plan in place. As Popular Science magazine pointed out shortly after Summitt's death, "doctors and researchers still don't completely understand what causes" Alzheimer's. Given this lack of understanding, doctors cannot forecast who will get the disease, including who will encounter the early-onset variety like Coach Summitt did. In other words, just as life can be fleeting and come to an end unexpectedly and prematurely, the same can happen with one's mental capacity. The best way to ensure that you are prepared and protected against the potential pitfalls of Alzheimer's, dementia or other conditions that cause lost mental capacity is to execute a complete plan and begin that process right away.    

This article is published by the Legacy Assurance Plan and is intended for general informational purposes only. Some information may not apply to your situation. It does not, nor is it intended, to constitute legal advice. You should consult with an attorney regarding any specific questions about probate, living probate or other estate planning matters. Legacy Assurance Plan is an estate planning services-company and is not a lawyer or law firm and is not engaged in the practice of law. For more information about this and other estate planning matters visit our website at www.legacyassuranceplan.com

This article written and published by:
8039 Cooper Creek Blvd
University Park, Florida 34201
844.306.5272 (Phone)
@assuranceplan
#legacyassuranceplan


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Estate Planning | Protect Your Children, Even After Your Death

Summary: Most parents spend a lifetime worrying about, planning and strategizing ways to care for their children and enhance those children's well-being to the maximum extent possible. One way you can enhance your ability to provide for your children is through estate planning. With a thorough and well-designed estate plan in place, you can serve as a provider for (and protector of) your children, even after you die.   

When most people begin thinking about creating an estate plan, they usually start by contemplating how they will distribute their assets after they die. For a lot of people, setting up this system of distribution usually centers around their children. Many distribution schemes involve executing a will that divides up one's assets, in equal fractions, to each of that person's children. For some, people, this is a completely appropriate way to plan for the distribution of their wealth. For others, though, more planning may be in order to ensure that all of their goals and objectives are met.

There are a lot of circumstances where you might want to consider using a different distribution plan other than "to my children, in equal parts, immediately upon my death." For these special circumstances, utilizing a trust or trusts as part of your planning may provide clear added benefits. One situation where this is true is if one or more of your children have special needs. Many people with special needs receive benefits from needs-based government programs. A large, or perhaps even modest, inheritance may result in the government declaring that your child no longer meets the financial qualifications for these types of programs, which may cut your child off from benefits upon which he/she has come to rely. Trust planning can help avert this disaster. With a properly crafted and executed special needs trust, you can still include your child with special needs in your estate plan distribution, while doing so in a way that will not cause the government to declare your child ineligible to continue receiving his/her benefits.   

Another variety of trust planning that can benefit some families is the "spendthrift" trust. Some people who are loosely familiar with spendthrift trusts, or at least the word "spendthrift," may associate this type of planning with children who have problems in their lives, such as gambling addictions, drug/alcohol abuse problems, creditor issues, maybe a failing marriage with a money-hungry spouse... or just a notoriously terrible ability at managing money. Without a doubt, these situations are ones where a spendthrift trust may be able to help. But the possible circumstances where this type of planning are beneficial are not limited to those scenarios. Many parents may think that it is in their child (or children)'s best interests not to receive a large lump-sum of inheritance at a young age. A parent may desire that, even though their children are responsible and free of issues like addictions, divorces or lawsuits, the children not receive all of their distributions until they've reached milestones like graduating college, turning 25 or 30, or getting married. 

In any of the situation outlines above, you can accomplish your goals through trust planning. You can choose the event that will trigger a partial (or final) distribution to each child. You can also give the trust's trustee as much or as little discretion as you desire in terms of making certain decisions, like whether to give a child a portion of his/her distribution in advance of the timetable laid out in the trust. When it comes to spendthrift planning or special needs planning, just like most other types of estate planning, there are a wealth of tools available to your estate planning attorney to make sure your plan does exactly what you want on precisely the timetable you desire.


This article is published by the Legacy Assurance Plan and is intended for general informational purposes only. Some information may not apply to your situation. It does not, nor is it intended, to constitute legal advice. You should consult with an attorney regarding any specific questions about probate, living probate or other estate planning matters. Legacy Assurance Plan is an estate planning services-company and is not a lawyer or law firm and is not engaged in the practice of law. For more information about this and other estate planning matters visit our website at www.legacyassuranceplan.com

This article written and published by:
8039 Cooper Creek Blvd
University Park, Florida 34201
844.306.5272 (Phone)
@assuranceplan
#legacyassuranceplan


Friday, December 23, 2016

Estate Planning | Don't Let Past Procrastination Be a Roadblock

Summary: Everyone knows that when it comes to planning, whether it is estate planning, retirement planning or any other type of planning... it is usually the strongest when it is begun the earliest. Early estate planning gives you the most time to decide what you want to accomplish and how you want to accomplish it. But the reality is that most people don't start early. If you're one of the procrastinators, you should not give up. As long as you are in control of your mental faculties, there is likely still time to get a plan, even if you are in failing physical health. Don't let your past procrastination be a road block to getting a proper plan put into place now. 

The ancient Greek storyteller Aesop is credited as the originator of hundreds of fables. One of these is the story of the ant and the grasshopper. In the story, the industrious and pro-active ant spends the summer storing food for the winter ahead. The grasshopper, on the other hand, whiles away his summer making music, and doing nothing to plan for the winter ahead. When the cold weather of winter arrives, the ant is prepared. The grasshopper, however, is not and is left to face a harsher fate.

There are some of types of planning where a failure to start planning early is essential, as that period of procrastination is something you can never get back -- much like the grasshopper in the fable. Fortunately, estate planning is not exactly like that. Do not misunderstand: the earlier you start to plan, the better off you will generally be. However, do not let the fact that you have managed to put off estate planning for a period of time discourage you and stop you from seeking out help to put a plan into place now. In many situations, even if you are in your final months, weeks or even days of life, you may be able to get a useful plan as long as you are still mentally competent.

Early planning is the best planning because it gives you have the maximum amount of time to consider your goals, compare your options, communicate with your loved ones and contemplate what type of plan would work best for you. While that is undeniable, so is reality. A 2014 survey reported in Forbes magazine concluded that more than half of Americans between 55 and 64 had no estate plan. 

So what should you do if you're a member of "the 51 percent"? While getting a plan early is best, even a plan started belatedly can be much better than no plan at all as long as it is done properly..A shortage of time should not, though, lead you to cut corners. A plan that is crafted and executed without the proper care, which may rely on hastily selected form documents pulled from public websites on the Internet, runs a high risk of failing to do what you want. A poorly drafted plan can, in some situations, actually be even worse than no plan because it can thwart your goals, increase costs and possibly cause confusion leading to prolonged litigation. 

Even if time is short, take time to ensure that your planning is proper and your plan documents well thought out. With the proper team of estate planning professionals beside you, you can still get a well-thought out plan that relies upon an experienced attorney's knowledge of the law and careful understanding of your goals and preferences, and get that plan executed in an expedited fashion.      

So, in short: don't wait! However, if you do procrastinate, don't give up -- because estate planning is simply too important. 

This article is published by the Legacy Assurance Plan and is intended for general informational purposes only. Some information may not apply to your situation. It does not, nor is it intended, to constitute legal advice. You should consult with an attorney regarding any specific questions about probate, living probate or other estate planning matters. Legacy Assurance Plan is an estate planning services-company and is not a lawyer or law firm and is not engaged in the practice of law. For more information about this and other estate planning matters visit our website at www.legacyassuranceplan.com

This article written and published by:
8039 Cooper Creek Blvd
University Park, Florida 34201
844.306.5272 (Phone)
@assuranceplan
#legacyassuranceplan


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Medicaid Planning | An Important Part of Estate Planning



Summary: Regardless of the size of your estate, almost any estate can benefit from estate planning. For those people who may eventually have a need for receiving benefits from the Medicaid program, Medicaid planning can be a valuable component of your estate plan, allowing you to protect your family by minimizing the negative effects of Medicaid estate recovery.

When you undertake the process of estate planning, there can be a lot that is involved. The types of planning that need to form a part of your overall estate plan are varied and each person's needs are unique. Some might need death tax planning. Others might need to plan for a special needs child. Still others may need Medicaid planning. For those who may at some point need to obtain and receive Medicaid benefits, proper Medicaid planning can be very valuable, and the failure to do this type of planning properly can be damaging, with a recent court case clearly illustrating that lesson. 

In December 2013, Catherine Klein passed away in a Montrose, Michigan nursing home at the age of 95. As with many people, especially people who live as long as this woman, Klein was receiving Medicaid benefits. Sharon Pumford, who was Klein's niece, goddaughter and attorney-in-fact for certain affairs, signed Klein's Medicaid application form. That application included acknowledging that the state government of Michigan had "the legal right to seek recovery from my estate for services paid by Medicaid" after Klein's death. This process of Medicaid estate recovery can be delayed or avoided in certain circumstances. In Michigan, the state will delay pursuing repayment of bills that Medicaid paid if you have living at home a spouse, a child under 21, a child who is blind or a child who has disabilities. In some cases, the state won't pursue Medicaid estate recovery at all if an "undue hardship" exists. To get this hardship waiver in Michigan, though, you have file a hardship waiver application with the state.

After Klein died, the state filed a claim against her estate, seeking reimbursement of all the amounts Medicaid had paid on Klein's behalf, a sum totaling more than $133,000. Pumford, who was also the personal representative of Klein's estate, refused to pay the claim, arguing that Klein met the legal criteria for hardship since the only thing she owned at the time of her death was a house valued at roughly $45,000. Pumford had not, however, ever submitted the hardship waiver application. After Pumford refused to pay the claim, the state sued Klein's estate. The estate eventually lost, with the Michigan Court of Appeals deciding that, in order for an estate to be entitled to the hardship exemption, a hardship waiver application had to be filed and approved. Since no one had even completed this paperwork on behalf of Klein's estate, there could be no hardship exemption. As a result, the appeals court ordered the trial court to rule in the state's favor and grant its $133,000 claim against the estate.

There are many tools available to accomplish the goal of Medicaid planning. There are ways of structuring assets that make those assets exempt from Medicaid estate recovery. For example, in Michigan, Texas and some other states, you can title a piece of real estate using what's known as an enhanced life estate deed (also known as a "Ladybird Deed.") Also, as this case shows, states like Michigan have hardship waivers that can allow the estate to avoid Medicaid estate recovery completely. 

Whether you have a lot or a little in your estate, estate planning can benefit you. In this case, some more detailed planning might possibly have allowed this family to avoid these estate recovery-related problems, and drawn-out litigation, entirely.

This article is published by the Legacy Assurance Plan and is intended for general informational purposes only. Some information may not apply to your situation. It does not, nor is it intended, to constitute legal advice. You should consult with an attorney regarding any specific questions about probate, living probate or other estate planning matters. Legacy Assurance Plan is an estate planning services-company and is not a lawyer or law firm and is not engaged in the practice of law. For more information about this and other estate planning matters visit our website at www.legacyassuranceplan.com

This article written and published by:
8039 Cooper Creek Blvd
University Park, Florida 34201
844.306.5272 (Phone)
@assuranceplan
#legacyassuranceplan


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Estate Planning | A Scary Story from California Highlights Some Vital Lessons


Summary: Estate planning is important for a many reasons. By properly engaging in the planning process, you will have appropriate, well-thought out and enforceable legal documents that will direct the carrying out of all of your estate planning goals. Another essential element of proper planning is retaining a reliable team of estate planning professionals, who can aid you in achieving your objectives and in avoiding potentially disastrous mistakes.

News reports from July 2016 told a heartbreaking story regarding a pair of Southern California grandparents and their home of more than a half-century. When Helen and Hank Kawecki moved into their home in Thousand Oaks, California, things were a lot different. The Kaweckis were a young couple in their early 30s. Thousand Oaks, which now boasts nearly 130,000 residents, then had less than 3,000. And the president was named Eisenhower. The couple had hopes of spending the rest of their lives growing old in this house. And for 56 years they did. Now, in 2016, they find themselves on the brink of losing their home as a result of malfeasance by a family member they thought they could trust. While the couple's neighbors have launched an online crowdfunding page to try to help the couple, the Kaweckis' terrible tale serves as an important estate planning lesson for all of us.

The Kaweckis' problems began when they struck a deal with their grandson. The grandson agreed to support his grandparents financially for the rest of their lives. In exchange, the couple agreed to sign over to the grandson the deed to their home. Instead of supporting the grandparents, the grandson took out three loans totaling more than $500,000. After the grandson spent the money and then defaulted on the debt, he sought to sell the house, eventually handing it over to a private lender. The lender sought to take possession of the house. The Kaweckis confronted their grandson, who promptly disappeared. The lender asked a court to evict the couple, and a July date of eviction was set. A judge in late July gave the couple a 60-day reprieve from eviction, but that extension will likely be used just to give the seniors time to find a new place to live. That's because all of the paperwork surrounding the house was probably legal. The Kaweckis voluntarily deeded their house to the grandson, and he validly deeded it to the lender.

No one deserves to be the victims of financial elder abuse, but there are things you can do to protect yourself. The first thing is to get an estate plan in place. This plan will allow you to get your planning goals and decisions put down in writing in in clear, enforceable legal documents. This plan will account, not only for the distribution of your assets after you die, but also the management of your assets while you are alive. 

An integral part of this process is securing, and consistently working with, an estate planning team you can trust. Your estate planning attorney can be an essential help through the process of planning. This includes the decision-making process leading up to the execution of your documents, the process of putting your plan into effect and the element of keeping your plan working through proper plan maintenance. An experienced estate planning attorney could have counseled the Kaweckis on all of their options regarding the transfer of their home, which options would be best-suited for their objectives and why, in almost all situations, simply deeding away the home in which you live to someone else without retaining any type of legal right of possession (like a life estate) is a bad idea.

Having a reliable estate planning team on your side can benefit you in many areas of your life, more than you might even think. Working with the right professionals to get the right plan can give you the peace-of-mind that comes with having your plan in place, along with the benefit of having an invaluable resource always at your side. 


Friday, December 2, 2016

Estate Planning | Using the Right Tools for The Job at Hand


Summary: Classic children's tales can impart important lessons even to adults. The "Three Little Pigs" teaches its audience, regardless of age, about the importance of, not merely planning, but planning properly. Proper estate planning works on a similar principle. To make sure you have a plan that will survive whatever life throws at you, and still achieve your goals, it is important to work with estate planning professionals who can ensure that the tools and materials used in your plan are the ones best suited to address the challenges that may arise in your life.

A popular children's public television show, designed to encourage preschoolers to read, often engages in re-working classic children's tales to impart life lessons. In one episode, the "Three Little Pigs" solved their problem with the Big, Bad Wolf by befriending the wolf and persuading him to stop blowing down houses. While the importance of kindness is a good lesson to teach preschoolers, the actual lesson of the original "Three Little Pigs" teaches something more than that. In the original, the third pig saves the day, not because he convinced the wolf not to destroy his house, but because his house could withstand whatever the wolf tried to do to blow it down.

Proper estate planning works similar to the third pig's plan. Bad things can happen in life and, like the wolf in the original fairy tale, sometimes you cannot stop them from visiting you. But you can stop, or minimize, their destructive force by engaging in proper planning. A lot of times, proper planning involves following the adage that encourages us to "hope for the best, but plan for the worst." The third pig followed this method of planning when he built his house. Houses of sticks and straw were vulnerable to many potential calamities. The third pig's house survived because its material (brick) could withstand the worst onslaught the wolf could bring. It withstood the wolf because the third pig had the right tools (bricks) to accomplish the desired goal (creating a house that could last.)

With estate planning, the law also gives you materials and tools to help you hope for the best and plan for the worst, and create a lasting legacy. With the help of your estate planning attorney, you can create a plan that will withstand the foreseeable harms that may await you. If the "big bad wolf" you desire to plan for is the costs, delays and stresses of probate, the law gives you tools to plan for that. For many people, your proper materials to overcome this problem might include a revocable living trust or titling assets in pay-on-death/transfer-on-death ownership structures. If the wolf that concerns you is the possibility of mental incapacity, you have materials you can use, too. These can include powers of attorney and also living trusts. If you need to protect against the possibility of death taxes, your plan may involve different materials, such as irrevocable trusts. If you have a special needs child in your life, the materials in your plan will likely look different still, utilizing such devices as supplemental needs trusts.

In estate planning, each family's situation is unique; for each family, the "wolf" at your door looks a little different from someone else's. With a proper plan prepared with the assistance of a reliable estate planning attorney, you can be sure your plan will survive whatever "huffing and puffing" life throws at you.