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.

estate-planning-for-your-furry-family-members

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.

Advertisements

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.

legacy-assurance-plan-of-america

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

Protecting Your Estate Plan With a Broad No-Contest Clause

In one recent case from Michigan, that state’s Court of Appeals had to address a dispute about a man’s will. The man, Danial Span, had a daughter, Kayla. Span and Kayla’s mother divorced when she was 3 and, sometime later, he surrendered his parental rights and her stepfather adopted her in 2007. Two years prior, though, Span and the girl began forming a relationship. When he created his will in 2013, Span identified Kayla as his daughter, but left her nothing.

protecting-your-estate-plan-with-a-broad-no-contest-clause

Span’s 2013 will also contained a “no-contest” clause in it that, as with many such clauses, dictated that any person who challenged the will would forfeit their entire inheritance they were scheduled to receive under the terms of the will. In Span’s circumstance, the exact language of his no-contest clause stated that any beneficiary who “contests in any court any of the provisions of” the will would be treated as if she predeceased Span.

A week after Span signed his will, he died. Catherine Jock, Span’s personal representative (and the sole beneficiary of his estate) submitted the will for probate. The daughter challenged the will. The basis of her contest centered on Span’s mental capacity and the validity of the signature on the will. The personal representative, acting on behalf of the estate, tried to enforce the no-contest clause against the daughter. The trial court concluded that the personal representative could not enforce the no-contest clause against the daughter because the specific nature of the daughter’s challenge was one challenging the execution of the will and the testator’s capacity, and was not an attack on any provision in the will.

protecting-your-estate-plan-with-a-broad-no-contest-clause

Because the appeals court upheld the trial court’s ruling that went against the daughter on the substantial portion of her will contest, it did not need to reconsider the trail court’s ruling on the no-contest clause. Nevertheless, the case of Span’s will is a clear reminder of the need to approach no-contest clauses carefully. The language used in Span’s no-contest clause is fairly common. If your desire is only to prevent your potential beneficiaries from launching a challenge against a specific term (or terms) in your will, then such a clause could be beneficial.

However, contests that challenge a provision (or provisions) within a will are only one avenue for upsetting an estate plan. For some disgruntled people, their ends may be accomplished just as effectively by getting your plan invalidated in its entirety. If your goal is to protect yourself from both types of challenges, then, if no-contest clauses are enforceable in your state, you might benefit from using a clause with broader language than what Span had in his 2013 will. A experienced estate planning lawyer can help advise you about the whether no-contest clauses are enforceable in your state and, if they are, what degree of breadth would best match your planning goals.

Summary: For residents of states that allow no-contest clauses in estate plans, such provisions can offer a degree of protection against an unfair or frivolous court contest that would seek to undo your plan. Court cases have clarified whether or not the clauses are enforceable in a given state and, if they are allowed, how far they can go in protecting your plan. Depending on what your goals are, a broadly-worded no-contest clause may be able to give you the best protection against litigation by a disgruntled heir.

 

#LegacyAssurancePlan – How a Detailed Estate Plan Can Potentially Save Your Family Headaches, Heartaches… and Maybe Legal Fees, Too

 

headaches-and-estate-planning

Creating a carefully crafted and detail-oriented estate plan is important for several reasons. One, the more decisions you make and clearly communicate to your loved ones, the fewer decisions they’ll have to make on their own while they deal with the stress of carrying out final arrangements and the pain that comes with loss. Without a clear plan, they may have to agonize as they desire to do what you would have wanted, but feel unsure what that preference would have been.

Another important potential benefit that comes with detailed planning is that it reduces the possibility for conflict. With anything that remains an uncertainty when you die, the possibility will exist that your loved ones may fall into disagreement about what should be done and what you would have wanted. Last summer, the case of Teffany Teresa Love and her final arrangements, which went all the way to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, offers some insight about this point.

What was the issue that took this woman’s loved ones to the probate court and eventually to the appeals court? It wasn’t her money, her house, her vehicles or her financial accounts. It was her headstone. On one side, her grave marker contained just her married name, “LOVE.” On the other side, it read “Teffany Teresa ‘Terri’ West.” The name West referred to a man named Bobby West, who claimed to be Terri’s biological father. Terri died with no estate plan; the stone and inscriptions were chosen by her husband and her two adult daughters. The problem arose when Terri’s adoptive father, Joseph Gullett, sought to take over administering Terri’s estate for the express purpose of changing her headstone to read “Teffany Teresa ‘Terri’ Gullett.” Ultimately, the appeals court sided against the adoptive father, concluding that the right to control the deceased woman’s headstone went, like the right to control her remains, from her husband (first) to her adult daughters (second). Since the husband and daughters all agreed, “West” remained on the stone.

This woman’s case presents two clear potential reasons for engaging in detailed estate planning including final arrangement planning. First, if you have loved ones who you know (or fear) may fight over issues like your final arrangements, you can possibly reduce the risk of quarrels, and potential litigation, by making those decisions yourself and putting them in your plan. Second, as the Tennessee court pointed out, the law recognizes a specific order of priority in terms of who makes your final arrangement decisions. If you do not want your final arrangement decisions made by the person who would stand to hold that role according to your state’s laws, you need a plan where you make as many decisions as possible for yourself and, depending on your state’s laws, where you appoint the person you desire to serve as your agent for final arrangement decisions.

Summary: There are several things about estate planning that are true far more often than they are not. If you procrastinate, you may run out of time, because none of us knows what tomorrow will bring. If you fail to create a plan, the government will make one for you — and it may be one that you wouldn’t like. Once you make a plan, you have to maintain it in order to be sure it will work as best as it can. A properly created and maintained plan can give you a great deal of control over your affairs, even after you’re gone. Last, but not least, if that benefit of control is important to you, the more thought and detail you put into your plan, the more benefit it will give you.

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.

20160505_110803_armstrong-lydan-fri-busn-5-6-16

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.

23retiring1-master768

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.

Grandmother, mother and daughter with family in background at park

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.

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.

Estate Planning in the Digital Age Taking Care of Your Online Assets - Legacy Assurance Plan 3

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.

Senior-on-Computer

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!

shutterstock_168228935

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