trusts http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/8565/all en-US Wills: The Basics http://www.wisebread.com/wills-the-basics <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/wills-the-basics" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/wills.JPG" alt="mourning" title="mourning" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="180" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span>As indicated in a <a href="/estate-planning-why-me" target="_blank">previous article</a>, planning for the future (even if the future means you&#39;re dead) is a necessary evil. Here are some of the basics of a will and what you need to know. </span></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span> </span></p> <h2><span>BASIC TERMINOLOGY</span></h2> <h3><u><strong><span>Will</span></strong></u></h3> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span>This is a legal document which outlines how your assets and belongings are to be distributed when you die. </span></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span> </span></p> <h3><strong><u><span>Executor</span></u></strong></h3> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span>Your executor (also known as &quot;administrator&quot;) is the person you designate in your will to carry out your wishes. </span></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span>Since they have to follow your will to the letter, it is best to meet with your chosen executor, gain their approval for such a responsibility (it&#39;s a big one), and then describe your wishes to them as outlined in the will. They should also ideally know where to find the will and other key documents if and when they need to. </span></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span> </span></p> <h3><strong><u><span>Beneficiary</span></u></strong></h3> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span>Beneficiaries are the people who receive your assets when you die. You designate them as you see fit in your will, and you can have as many beneficiaries as you wish. Beneficiaries can also include companies, charities, and other organizations. (If you designate an organization or charity as your beneficiary, it is best to consult with them first to determine how specifically to do so). </span></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span> </span></p> <h3><strong><u><span>Intestate</span></u></strong></h3> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span>If you die without a will, you are considered to be intestate. This is when the government steps in, and over a tiresome period will attempt to contact anybody who might be a family member with a right to receive any of your assets. They first need to find the most appropriate executor, since nobody will be allowed to touch anything you owned until one is appointed. All accounts without designated beneficiaries (and even some that are) will be frozen and assets locked up.</span></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span>If there are competing interests for who should be the executor, then intestate succession can become ugly, costly, and chaotic. </span></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span>And if somebody dies intestate, even joint accounts can be frozen (not always, but in some cases), so spouses who think their estate situations are simple and not in need of wills can sometimes be in for a nasty surprise. </span></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span> </span></p> <h2><span>BASIC BENEFITS</span></h2> <h3><strong><u><span>Guardian for Children</span></u></strong></h3> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span>In your will, you designate a guardian for your minor children. You can also specify certain elements of how they are to be raised, and arrange how they will be financially cared for. </span></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span>If no guardian is selected, your kids don&#39;t get to pick, and sometimes the most logical guardian (for example a close friend who has been involved with the family since the beginning and would love to care for the kids) won&#39;t be respected - it goes by the book (worse case scenario: think &quot;wicked Aunt who hates kids and never went to a family picnic if you paid her&quot;). </span></p> <p> <span> </span></p> <h3><strong><u><span>Income Tax Savings</span></u></strong></h3> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span>Depending on where you live, there is usually a tax-friendly provision for the rollover of assets between spouses on death if it is properly specified in the will. Otherwise, there is a &quot;deemed disposition&quot; of assets often resulting in a tax bite before the spouse gains access to these funds. (General financial prudence dictates that you put off paying taxes until the last possible minute, in order to achieve greater overall gains using compound growth). </span></p> <p> <span> </span></p> <h3><strong><u><span>Trusts for Children</span></u></strong></h3> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span>If you die and your kids are the age of majority, they will have full access to the assets you bequest to them. Not to challenge your parenting skills in raising a responsible child, but really - what 18 year old (or 21 year old for that matter) is going to responsibly accept a financial windfall? Heck - many seasoned <em>adults</em> can&#39;t handle financial windfalls; young adults won&#39;t fare any better. Your hard-earned estate that you hoped would provide financial security for your kids could end up being spent in record time with very little to show for it. </span></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span>So in your will, consider setting up a trust. There are a few types of trusts (which go beyond the scope of this article), but basically you can set the terms as you wish. You can specify when and how your kids receive the money, and even how it is to be used or invested. Beware of setting too many restrictions: resentment can become a factor if the kids feel they have been unrightfully challenged, but most will eventually respect a decision to hold off divesting the funds until a later age. </span></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span> </span></p> <h3><strong><u><span>Family Law Protection</span></u></strong></h3> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span>Once again we trust our kids to make all the right choices in life, including their choice of spouse. However life happens, and sometimes marriages break down. If your hard-earned estate is left to your child and their partner (be they a husband or wife, or just a common-law partner), half of it could well disappear along with that marriage when it breaks down. </span></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span>In your will, you can insert clauses and terms to prevent this from happening. </span></p> <p> <span> </span></p> <h3><strong><u><span>Common Disaster Clause</span></u></strong></h3> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span>The best way to demonstrate the effectiveness of a Common Disaster Clause is by example: </span></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span>John &amp; Jane are married, with no children. They are both in a serious car accident, hospitalized in critical care. John passes away first, but Jane hangs on. However two weeks later, Jane too dies. </span></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span>Without a common disaster clause, John&#39;s assets would go to Jane, the surviving spouse. When Jane dies, her entire estate (which includes everything John brought to the marriage) would go to her side of the family (or whoever her contingent beneficiaries are if she had a will). John&#39;s entire family would be denied any inheritance (including heirlooms or other prized family items - it&#39;s not all about money). </span></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span>A common disaster clause diverts this problem by stating that if both spouses die within a certain amount of time (eg: a 30-day period) as a result of a common disaster, then their estates are split in half and distributed to their respective families accordingly. </span></p> <p> <span> </span></p> <h3><strong><u><span>Liability Clause</span></u></strong></h3> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span>This is inserted to protect the executor from being sued, for example in the case of an investment loss. This is particularly important if they are managing trust accounts. </span></p> <p> <span> </span></p> <h3><strong><u><span>Expert Clause</span></u></strong></h3> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span>This allows your executor to retain the services of an accountant or lawyer with regards to processing the estate or receiving estate-specific advice, and the estate can pay for it. Otherwise, the fees could come directly out of the executor&#39;s pocket. And although they may be a great brother or good friend, nobody appreciates a legal bill - much less an unexpected one!</span></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span> </span></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><span> </span></p> <p> <span>As I said earlier, it’s not all about money and cash grabs when you plan your will and estate. You are looking out for the best interests of yourself, your loved ones, and their loved ones too. Nobody likes to plan for the future in this respect, but once it&#39;s done it can be put to bed, and everybody can rest easily knowing that the future is taken care of. </span></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/nora-dunn">Nora Dunn</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/wills-the-basics">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-4"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/debunking-common-estate-planning-myths">Debunking Common Estate Planning Myths</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/12-financial-moves-to-make-when-a-loved-one-dies">12 Financial Moves to Make When a Loved One Dies</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/post-divorce-finances-7-steps-to-rebuilding-your-financial-house">Post Divorce Finances: 7 Steps to Rebuilding Your Financial House</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-happens-to-your-online-stuff-after-you-die">What Happens to Your Online Stuff After You Die?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/estate-planning-why-me">Estate Planning: Why Me?</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance beneficiary estate planning executor family law intestate trusts wills Tue, 22 Jan 2008 08:45:49 +0000 Nora Dunn 1659 at http://www.wisebread.com Debunking Common Estate Planning Myths http://www.wisebread.com/debunking-common-estate-planning-myths <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/debunking-common-estate-planning-myths" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/Will.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="188" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Given the tens of millions of Americans nearing the Golden Years, the fields of retirement and estate planning are expanding by leaps and bounds. Along with the growth of work for financial advisors and estate planning attorneys, has come the advent of self-planning. From managing your entire investment portfolio from your home computer, to preparing your own Wills, Trusts and advanced-directives using an online document-preparation service, the &quot;do-it-yourself&quot; sector of financial and estate planning is enjoying huge growth. </p> <p> As more and more Americans rely on websites like LegalZoom to help them prepare pre- and post-mortem documents, it is important to understand the several &quot;myths&quot; of estate planning, and how these online sites fail to convey the risks involved with self-prepared documents.</p> <p><strong>Myth #1: You Need a Will</strong><br />This is an absolute lie, perpetrated by online companies and sometimes unethical attorneys looking to generate business. Don&#39;t get me wrong, most people could benefit from a Will, but not everyone needs a Will. If you have minor children, you will want to prepare a basic Will as soon as possible to ensure guardianship of your children passes to a trusted family member or friend in the event of your premature demise. However, if you have no minor children, there are other ways to assure the meaningful disposition of your assets when you pass other then a Will.</p> <p>For example, let&#39;s say Robert Jones is a widower with two adult children. Robert owns his personal residence that he&#39;s lived in for several years, has a life insurance policy, a small bank account and a rather large IRA account that pays him income on a quarterly basis. Robert also has a pension and receives income from Social Security. My advice here is that, in the absence of extreme family matters, i.e. his children are divorced, he is expecting to inherit a large sum of money from a relative, etc., there is no pressing need for Robert to have a Will. The personal residence can be re-titled (in most states) to give Robert a Life-Estate and pass the home to his two children when he passes away (outside of probate). Also, Robert&#39;s life insurance, bank and IRA accounts can all pass to his children by either naming them as Beneficiaries (in terms of the insurance and IRA) and also making the bank account payable to his children on death. Now, if we were to mix in several equity accounts, multiple pieces of real estate and different gifting ideas, Robert&#39;s planning becomes more complicated. But, for now, you can see that the idea that everyone needs a Will is simply misleading. </p> <p><strong>Myth</strong> <strong>#2: A Trust Automatically Avoids Probate</strong><br />Trust planning is becoming more and more popular in the U.S., mainly because it is a creative way to meaningfully pass along large assets to your descendants while hopefully avoiding a probate proceeding. Without getting into too detailed a discussion about the different kinds of trusts available (they vary by state) it&#39;s important to note that having trust will not automatically avoid a probate proceeding when you pass. The first step after you execute your trust is to re-title your assets that you wish the trust, vis-a-vis the trustee to manage. If you pass away without re-titling all of your trust assets, then those assets which remain outside the trust will be subject to disposition according to your Will, and a probate proceeding will be likely. </p> <p><strong>Myth #3: Everyone Needs A Trust</strong><br />This is nothing more than a ploy for business. Playing on the example from Myth #1, Robert Jones does not need trust-planning at all. While it is true Robert could have some type of trust to ensure the proceeds from his IRA account are managed/distributed according to his wishes, the truth is most of Robert&#39;s assets will pass to his descendants by operation of his beneficiary designations. Trust planning is advantageous in several situations, including second marriages, families who wish to provide for adult/minor children, including a child with a disability, high net worth individuals and those who hold certain types of assets, i.e. large investment funds, several pieces of real estate, etc. However, for most Americans trust planning will do little beyond cost you a chunk of money annually (trustees are entitled to annual commissions for managing your property in most states) and create more of a paperwork shuffle in managing and distributing your assets. </p> <p><strong>Myth #4: Giving Away My Money Is The Only Way I&#39;ll Qualify for Medicaid</strong><br />Many online sites and attorneys advise elderly clients to actively give away their money in order to lower the available resources and qualify for Medicaid (to defer the cost of nursing care or placement in an assisted-living facility). The truth is, most baby-boomers are very independent when it comes to managing their finances, so while this type of strategy may have worked in the 1980s and 90s with the Depression-era babies, it will serve little utility as the baby boomers reach retirement age. There are several different ways to qualify for Medicaid without giving up total control to your money, and if anyone tells you otherwise they are flat-out lying. However, based on new federal regulations placed into effect almost two years ago, Medicaid will now require you to provide financial history account statements for five years prior to your Medicaid application. The lesson for those who feel they may need nursing-care and placement within the next decade, purchase long-term care insurance, and start keeping accurate details and records of your finances. </p> <p><strong>Myth #5: I Should Name My Estate As Beneficiary of My IRA/Life Insurance</strong><br />Don&#39;t do this. I cannot think of any benefit here, especially because estates generally pay higher taxes than individuals, this type of planning will have serious tax consequences for your estate. The reality is a lot of people name their estate (i.e. Estate of Robert Jones) as the primary beneficiary of their IRA/life insurance/annuities, etc. This is bad for tax-planning purposes, and also because now those assets are forced to pass through your estate (rather then directly to your intendend beneficiaries) and will be subject to probate. This is a bad idea all around. </p> <p>I hope you enjoyed my first post, and will look forward to many more posts which intersect the areas of personal finance, taxes and estate planning. </p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/anthony-marrone">Anthony Marrone</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/debunking-common-estate-planning-myths">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-5"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/wills-the-basics">Wills: The Basics</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/12-financial-moves-to-make-when-a-loved-one-dies">12 Financial Moves to Make When a Loved One Dies</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/post-divorce-finances-7-steps-to-rebuilding-your-financial-house">Post Divorce Finances: 7 Steps to Rebuilding Your Financial House</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-happens-to-your-online-stuff-after-you-die">What Happens to Your Online Stuff After You Die?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/estate-planning-why-me">Estate Planning: Why Me?</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance estate planning myths trusts wills Sat, 19 Jan 2008 18:51:58 +0000 Anthony Marrone 1650 at http://www.wisebread.com