Estate Planning For Your Furry Family Members

Pets occupy a very special place in the hearts of the people whose lives they share. Today, more and more people think of their pets not just as companions, but as part of their family. If you have a treasured furry (or feathered, scaly, etc.) friend, you may wan to explore your estate planning options that allow you to continue to provide for your pet even after you die.

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One choice available to you is leaving a provision for your pet in your will. It is important to understand that the law still considers pets to be merely property. This means that, once your property (which includes your pet) is distributed to the people named in your will, that is the end of the control you have. If the person you name becomes incapacitated, dies or has to move into a residence that does not allow pets, you will have no say in what happens to the animal. This concern is a very important consideration if your pet has a very long lifespan, such a horse, parrot or turtle.

Another option available for pet people is the pet trust. The vast majority of states recognize pet trusts within their statutes. Even if your state does not have statutes specifically recognizing pet trusts, all is not necessary lost. Kentucky, for example, recognizes trusts “for humane purposes,” and the law in that state has long stated that the care of a specific animal is such a humane purpose.

With a pet trust, you create a trust for the benefit of your pet, you fund it with cash or other assets to be used for the pet’s care and well-being and you name the person who will manage the trust’s assets. That trustee then disburses money from the trust, in accordance with the trust’s instructions, to the person you designated to care for your pet. You can also name alternate trustees who will take over in the event that the person you originally named can no longer serve as trustee.

You have a great deal of flexibility with how you construct your pet trust. The trust can take effect during your lifetime or upon the occasion of your incapacity or death. You can also include detailed care instructions in your pet trust. If your pet has food allergies and must only consume certain types of food, your trust can provide direction about obtaining the correct food. If your pet has a special medical condition and requires extra trips to the vet, those instructions can go in the trust, too.

Summary: Pets are extremely important and treasured members of many families. A pet owner who wants to provide for his/her pet after death should consider including the pet in his/her estate plan. A pet trust potentially offers significant flexibility for guiding the care and maintenance of your beloved friend.

Using Trusts As Part of Your Needs-Based Benefit Planning

For many families, needs-based benefit programs are an indispensible source of income necessary for making ends meet. Whether that benefit comes from Medicaid, SSI, VA or another program, the loss of that income would be devastating for most who receive it. That’s why it is imperative that you use the greatest of care in conducting your estate planning to make certain that the choices you make do not result in a loved one’s unintended disqualification for benefits.Legacy Assurance Plan of America

Many needs-based government benefit program look at two factors in assessing whether a person is (or remains) eligible to receive a check through that program. The recipient must have a small enough income and a small enough pool of total assets to be considered in need of receiving benefits through that program. An asset or income stream is considered to belong to that person if he/she has direct control over it.

These rules can be very confining. If you have a loved one who receieves benefits, you may be unable to leave them a legacy in your will. If you do, then when you die, that inheritance is distributed directly and completely to them. This likely will result in that person have too much wealth in terms of total assets to remain eligible for benefits. What’s more, you may not even be able to purchase even simple niceties for that person without disqualifying them from continuing to obtain those benefits. This disqualification can be devastating not only because of the lost income, but also because disqualification may, in some cases, cut that person off from the doctors or group homes upon which he/she has come to rely.

But there is a way around this outcome. The rules of eligibility do not count assets owned by some trusts against the recipient when it comes to determining if your loved one still qualifies for benefits. The way it works is this: you establish what’s called a “special needs” or “supplemental needs” trust for your loved one. This trust must be an irrevocable trust. It must also be owned by someone other than your loved one, and the trustee of the trust must be someone other than your loved one.

This avoids the disqualification pitfall because, as an irrevocable trust not owned or managed by the benefits recipient, the rules do not consider your loved one to “control” the trust’s assets, and those assets therefore do not count against him/her. You simply fund the trust with the money or assets you would have otherwise distributed directly to that person. Working with an experienced professional is a must in completing this type of planning, because the rules regarding benefits eligibility are often very intricate and even a small deviation may result in disqualification.

Summary: Needs-based government benefits are often a vital lifeline of income for thos who receive them. If you have a loved one who receives benefits, you must take great care if you wish to provide for that person in your estate plan. A special needs trust may serve as an integral tool to leave an inheritance to your loved one without cutting him/her off from essential benefits.

When is the Right Time to Create an Estate Plan? Now!

A common fallacy about estate planning is that creating an estate plan is a form of planning for death.  The reality is, there is no “Right Time” to create an estate plan, because you never know when you might need it and not having one can be risky business.

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One of the most commonly believed fallacies about estate planning is that creating a plan is a form of planning for death and, as long as you are young or healthy, estate planning is not an immediate priority. Nothing could be further from the truth! As one April 20, 2014 article in the Wall Street Journal reminds readers, “There’s no time like the present to make sure all your estate-planning ducks are in a row.”

Why is this so important and so urgent? Because estate planning is much more than establishing what happens after you die; it is also about documenting a clear set of instructions for what happens if you’re still alive and cannot speak for yourself.

That’s why some estate planning needs are universal. If you are in a serious accident and suffer major injuries that prevent you from managing your affairs, or perhaps from communicating at all, you need to have the proper documents already in place that give the person you want the authority to pay your bills, manage your investments, approve needed medical procedures or even authorize the termination of life-prolonging medical care.

With no plan in place, both you and your assets could be in significant risk. With no will, your assets will be distributed at your death according to your state’s intestacy laws. These laws may give part (or all) of your wealth to an estranged relative, and will definitely give your loved ones to whom you’re not related (either by blood or marriage) absolutely nothing. With no powers of attorney in place, your family may be forced to go to court and pursue a legal guardianship or conservatorship, which can be expensive and stressful, just to make decisions on your behalf. Your doctors may be forced to continue providing you with life-extending care, even though you have no hope of recovery and such care is against your wishes, if you don’t have a living will.

So, why is estate planning important? Because it gives you the ability to take control of a great many decisions both during life and after death. And why act now? Because no one knows for certain what the future may hold, and only a proper plan can give you the assurance that, whatever tomorrow brings, you’ll be prepared and your family will be protected.

This article is published by the Legacy Assurance Plan of America 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

Reverse Mortgages and Your Estate Plan With Legacy Assurance Plan Bradenton, Florida

What is reverse mortgage and estate plan? Legacy Assurance Plan could help you it better understand. A reverse mortgage may be the right option for some seniors but needs careful consideration before being accepted.

If you watch much TV (beyond premium channels and public broadcasting,) you’ve probably seen commercials marketing reverse mortgages to seniors. Reverse mortgages can offer real benefits to some seniors, depending on their circumstances. However, these reverse mortgages can also come with distinct risks, too. Before you make the decision to take out a reverse mortgage, you should educate yourself on all of the impacts that a reverse mortgage will have, including on your estate plan.

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A reverse mortgage can be very helpful to some seniors. Generally, advisers might suggest a reverse mortgage as a viable option for seniors who have relatively little cash but a lot of equity in their home. The money received for a reverse mortgage can be invaluable to some people. The proceeds of a reverse mortgage may help pay for in-home care, which may allow you or a loved one to avoid, or at least put off, going into a nursing home.

There are downsides, though, as it relates to your estate plan. A reverse mortgage can impact your Medicaid eligibility. Depending on the state where you live, it is possible that your state’s Medicaid agency could view the payments you receive from your reverse mortgage as income and this added “income” could put you above the threshold for continued Medicaid eligibility. Even if your state doesn’t view the payments as income, your state could view a lump-sum or the accumulation of monthly payments received as part of a reverse mortgage as assets that might take you over the allowable maximum for continued eligibility.

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Additionally, there is the scenario in which you die before you pay back the total amount you took out in your reverse mortgage. When that happens, the loan is paid back from the proceeds of the sale of your house. But what if you don’t want to sell your house or you don’t want to leave your loved ones a diminished asset? One way to deal with this is by using life insurance. Buying life insurance for the purpose of having the proceeds cover your outstanding reverse mortgage balance potentially can accomplish two goals. One, this strategy can potentially lower your death tax obligations, as your it lowers the amount of equity you have in your home, so the total amount of your taxable estate (for purposes of death taxes) is reduced by that same amount. Also, this strategy ensures that your loves ones will receive a set amount of inheritance that won’t be impacted by the fluctuations of the real estate market.

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If you’re considering a reverse mortgage, your estate planning professional can help you go over your circumstances and goals and decide if it makes sense for you.

Summary By legacy Assurance Plan: Reverse mortgages can provide clear benefits to some seniors, but also come with their own set of potential drawbacks. A reverse mortgage can help you cover some health care costs and may help you delay going into a nursing home. However, reverse mortgages could, depending on the eligibility rules observed in your state, negatively impact your Medicaid eligibility. They can also reduce the size of your estate that you leave for your loved ones, unless you plan for the payment of this debt after your death (using a vehicle such as life insurance.) Whether a reverse mortgage is right for you and your estate plan depends on the particular facts of your situation.

Understanding How You Can Protect Your Wishes as Recorded in Your Estate Plan

When you make the decision to create an estate plan, you likely put a lot of time and thought into getting that plan into place and making sure that it accomplishes exactly what you want. For this reason, almost anybody who puts in the effort of establishing a plan would also want to be sure that their wishes are protected from being undone after they’re gone. Depending on the laws in your state, a “no-contest” clause may be a viable solution.

“No-contest” clauses, also known as “terror” clauses (or, in some cases, by the Latin “in terrororem”,) are provisions inserted into estate planning documents like will or trusts. They state that, if a beneficiary under that document goes to court to challenge the legal validity of the document, and loses, then that beneficiary, regardless of what the plan document originally said, receives nothing.

These clauses can be very effective in some cases. For example, assume that your estate plan leaves one of your beneficiaries the flat sum of $75,000. Also assume that, if your estate plan were ruled invalid by a court and your assets were divided up according to your state’s intestacy laws, that same beneficiary would receive $250,000. A “no-contest” forces that beneficiary to consider carefully whether or not she can win in court, as a defeat in court means loses a significant sum — that being the $75,000 distribution.

A well-drafted “no-contest” clause will likely differentiate between a beneficiary who files a court challenge seeking to invalidate your estate plan and one who goes to court seeking a clarification of some aspect of your plan that is unclear. Even carefully drafted plan documents can sometimes have provisions that are ambiguous or vague. Most people would not want to punish their beneficiaries for asking a judge to make a ruling that clarifies a confusing provision, assuming that the beneficiary is not asking the judge to throw out the plan entirely.

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It is important to bear in mind that “no-contest” clauses are not legal in all states. Some states have decided that they violate public policy and have declared that they are unenforceable. In some states, the enforceability of a “no-contest” clause depends on whether the clause is placed in a will or a living trust. In Michigan, for example, the legislature passed a law declaring “no-contest” clauses in wills unenforceable. Because the law didn’t mention living trusts, the state Supreme Court there decided a few years ago that “no-contest” clauses in living trusts are allowable. So, if you live in Michigan (or a state whose law mirrors Michigan’s,) and you want to protect your wishes you’ve set up in your plan, you may want to consider utilizing a living trust in order to gain the added benefit of a valid and enforceable “no-contest” clause, in addition to the other potential advantages offered by a living trust.

Summary: “No-contest” clauses can serve important purposes in protecting the wishes you’ve enshrined in your estate plan. These clauses may provide a power financial disincentive that discourages disgruntled beneficiaries from using the courts in order to invalidate your plan and obtain a larger portion of your wealth as a result. “No-contest” clauses are not legal in every circumstance, however. The laws in your state may not allow them. In some states, “no-contest” clauses are allowed in living trusts and not in wills, which may provide an addition reason for residents of those states to consider using living trusts.

Digital Estate Planning and Estate Plan Reviews | Legacy Assurance Plan

If you are looking for digital estate planning?  Legacy Assurance plan will made you convinced for the decent knowledge about this new technologies. These days, more and more people of all ages are living more and more of their lives online. As that percentage continues to increase, estate planners continue to “bang the drum” of including your online and digital assets when you formulate your estate plan. Having a plan that allows your loved ones, after you’re gone, not only to have the benefit of your tangible assets, but also your electronic things, is essential. What’s also vital is making sure that you keep your digital estate plan in mind when it comes time for an estate plan review.

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When one crafts an estate plan, the things one leaves behind usually have either financial value or sentimental value. Digital assets are no different. Many people may think to include their access codes for their online banking or stock accounts, but may not be as diligent when it comes to, say, social media. All of these are important, though. Just as that old shoe box full of photographs and old letters probably has great value to someone in your family, so do your images saved in your smartphone or on your Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook accounts, or personal messages in your email.

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Without a digital estate plan, gaining access to your electronic assets can be difficult or sometimes next-to-impossible. The internet is filled with stories of loved ones faced enormous challenges from Yahoo! or Apple or other electronic service providers when it comes to gaining access to an account of a deceased loved one. These battles often come at a price of great stress and considerable time for the loved one. If a court and/or lawyers must become involved, then it becomes stressful, time-consuming AND expensive!

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Just like estate planning for tangible assets, estate planning for digital assets is an ongoing process, not a one-time deal. An estate plan review is great time to make sure that everything in your plan is up-to-date. Not only should ask yourself if you’ve undergone any life events that might affect your plan, you should also inquire about your digital assets. Just like you might need to contemplate how a new grandchild might impact your plan, you should also make sure that changes in your online accounts are reflected. If you opened a new account, whether it’s a new online banking account or a new email account, make sure that your digital plan includes the necessary username and password information for accessing that account. If you’ve changed any of your passwords, you should make sure that your list of existing usernames and passwords is still 100% accurate. If you have relocated your list of usernames and passwords to a new location, make certain that your instructions to your loved ones regarding how to access this list once you’re gone are current.

 

Summary: Sometimes, we overlook how much little personal items will mean to our loved ones after we’re gone. Your old photos and letters might seem trivial, but to a loved one, it might be an invaluable way to stay close after you’re gone. In this age of email, Facebook and Instagram, accessing those memories may mean going online. To help keep your memory alive for your loved ones, your estate plan should include appropriate instructions for accessing your digital assets. Additionally, you should review your plan routinely to make sure that all parts of your estate plan, including your digital estate plan, is current and up-to-date. For more information about this or other estate planning matters, contact Legacy Assurance Plan at 844.306.5272

How Legacy Assurance Plan To Estate Planning Can Help Your Blended Family

Whether a first marriage ends due to death or divorce, a second marriage can represent an wonderful opportunity for you and your new spouse. With these second marriages often comes the “blended family,” so named because your new marriage involves blending the children you, your spouse (or both of you) have from a previous marriage. In order to protect the financial well-being and happiness of everyone in your blended family, you should strongly consider engaging in prompt and comprehensive estate planning.

Estate Planning for a Blended Family

Blended families present a unique set of estate planning issues. In some cases, you may wish to leave inheritances to both your children and step-children, but perhaps give a larger share to your biological children. In other instances, you have a very close relationship with your step-children while maintaining little to no relationship with your biological children.

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In either circumstance, you can create these legacies, in whatever proportions you see fit, in either a will or a trust. If you desire to disinherit your biological children and leave an inheritance to your step-children (and have not legally adopted your step-children,) this may require especially careful planning, in order to protect against court challenges to your will or trust.

Perhaps the most common concern, though, doesn’t involves not “his” or “hers” estates, because many couples in second (or subsequent) marriages have merged the majority of their assets. The concern, then, involves what happens to those assets when the first spouse dies. Some families may be fearful that the children of the first-to-die spouse could lose their inheritance if their step-parent alters the terms of the estate plan to “freeze” them out.

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In these cases, the use of trusts may be particularly helpful. A couple with a blended family may choose to create two individual living trusts, instead of one married trust. Because trusts can be broadly customized to meet their creators’ needs, a living trust can serve to protect both a grantor’s spouse and his/her children. As an example, a living trust for a spouse with a blended family may give instructions that the assets within it are, after the grantor dies, to be used to support and benefit the surviving spouse during the rest of his/her life, and then distributed to the grantor’s children.

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Alternately, if each spouse is sufficiently wealthy, the trust may dictate that the assets be distributed to the children immediately upon death. You also have significant flexibility in who is the trustee of your trust. You could, for example, name your spouse and one or more of your children as co-trustees, to ensure that both segments of your blended family have a voice in the decision-making process.

Summary: Blended families are more common than ever, now outnumbering traditional families. These families have unique and sometimes complex estate planning needs to ensure that the legacy each spouse desires to leave may come to pass. Using trusts, possibly including multiple trusts, may help a blended family provide for both the surviving member of the marriage, as well as each spouse’s portion of their blended family.