• Categories

  • Archives

  • Subscribe

  • Archive for April, 2010

    Family Feuds: Your Estate Plan Can Save Your Kids’ Relationship

    Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

    Parents want to think the best of their children, but the fact is that many adult children lose their perspective in the wake of the death of a parent and end up permanently damaging their sibling relationships. When mom or dad dies the hurt and emotion takes over; insecurities come out, deep-seated rivalries make themselves known, and logic goes out the window. What all of this can lead to is years and years of brothers and sisters taking each other to court, spending thousands of dollars of your estate fighting over mementos and heirlooms, and lifetime relationships in shatters. . . Unless you have an estate plan.

    A recent article by Scripps Howard News Service explains that the best way to prevent this from happening to your children is by creating a good estate plan. A good estate plan can be a great comfort to your children, and can save them thousands of dollars in probate and legal fees; and most importantly, a good estate plan is very clear about your intentions for your assets, leaving no room for court battles or ugly disagreements. But getting that good estate plan takes time and forethought—and the help of a professional.

    A good estate plan takes into account the relationships and personalities of your heirs, as well as your own wishes. If one of your children has a problem with substance abuse, or if two of your children had a fight 10 years ago and still don’t speak, those things are considered in the creation of the plan. A good estate plan deals with small items and family heirlooms with emotional value, as well as real property and valuable liquid assets. A good estate plan is created with the idea of creating the best future for your heirs; it doesn’t leave the difficult decisions to be made by others when you’re gone.

    If you would like to know more about how to smooth the way for your children and grandchildren, contact our office. We can help you create not just a good estate plan for your situation, but the best future for your family.

    A “Graying Trend” In Caregiving

    Monday, April 26th, 2010

    What will you be doing when you’re 73? If you think you will have earned the right to have someone take care of you, think again; you may end up serving as a caregiver for someone else. A recent article in the New York Times describes a new trend in caregiving: the elderly are being cared for increasingly by the elderly. According to the article, “Professional caregivers — almost all of them women — are one of the fastest-growing segments of the American work force, and also one of the grayest.”

    As odd as it may sound, the arrangement of 55-75 year olds caring for 85-100 year olds often works out beautifully. Older caregivers may not be able to do much heavy lifting, but what they are able to do is connect with their charges. Many older caregivers have already spent months or years caring for their parents or spouse, so they have an understanding of the fear, frustration and stress the families are going through. In addition, because older caregivers often share similar culture and experiences, the relationship can end up turning into a friendship, as with the case of Grace Jackson and Mary-Lou O’Neill:

    “Grace Jackson, who is 101, said she never wanted a helper at home and resented Mary-Lou O’Neill, 73, when she arrived four years ago at Ms. Jackson’s daughters’ insistence. But as their relationship has grown, ‘It’s developed into a friendship,’ Ms. Jackson said, adding that friends who had younger aides were often offended by their manners or language.”

    The down side to this “graying trend” in caregiving is that most of these elderly women—in spite of how they excel and make the best of their situation—become caregivers because they have to, they can’t afford to retire completely, even at the age of 70 or 75. The time to think about your own future is now. Talk to your advisors about planning for your own retirement; because although you may have everything it takes to be a wonderful caregiver in your senior years, the fact is that you may not want to.

    Your Family Is One-Of-A-Kind; Your Estate Plan Should Be As Well

    Friday, April 23rd, 2010

    According to statistics the average U.S. family size is 3.2 members. The median age of a man upon his first marriage is 28.1, the median age of a woman is 25.9. Also according to statistics, approximately 60% of couples own their home, 70.7% of mothers with children under the age of 18 go back to work, and 6% of men are likely to be unemployed.

    Do these statistics accurately portray your family?

    “Average,” “median,” and “approximately” may be fine for statistics, but it’s certainly not what you want from your estate plan. Your estate plan should represent your family; your hopes for the future as well as your current needs. This may include a nomination of guardian and education trust for young children, it may include a special needs trust for your disabled adult child, or it may include incentive trusts for unambitious heirs. Alternatively, you may find that you need none of these, and that a will and simple ancillary documents will serve you just fine.

    Whatever your family’s needs may be, you want them to be met by a keen, compassionate, and knowledgeable attorney; someone who will meet you face to face and listen to your concerns with an open mind, not a machine which will spit out a standard document based on numbers and averages. Estate planning may be a business, but it’s also an art, and as such it takes a real person to help create the plan that will provide for you and your family now and in the years to come. The members of our firm have our own families, we understand that you want the best for your family, and we want to help.

    Sharing Your Passion With The People Who Matter

    Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

    What is your passion?

    Do you love reading and collecting books? Are you a rabid coin or stamp collector? Do you find peace and tranquility out tending your garden?

    Whatever it is that you love to do in your “off time”, you can bet the people closest to you know it. These are the people who give you that antique seed cabinet that you would never buy for yourself; it’s the person who finds the Ted Williams baseball card for a steal at an estate sale and presents it to you for your birthday; or the friend who happily goes with you to the antique car show because he knows hobbies are better when you have someone to share them with. These are the friendships that last a lifetime, the people who sometimes seem to know you better than you know yourself; and yet oddly, these friendships are often forgotten when people create their wills and divvy up their estates.

    Many people go to their estate planner with their descendents and their financial assets foremost in their minds, and that is as it should be; but your estate plan can be more than a just a way to distribute property to the next generation, it can also be an opportunity to say thank you to the people who have touched your life by sharing with them the accoutrements and paraphernalia of your hobbies and passions.

    You can express how much you appreciate your best chess opponent by leaving her your favorite chess board; or you can encourage the interest of your young philatelist nephew by bequeathing to him your extensive stamp collection; all you need is an estate plan which includes some kind of personal property memorandum. A personal property memorandum is not a difficult legal document to create—in fact, it will often be a very informal document—but it does require some forethought to ensure that your formal will or trust recognizes and refers to the memorandum.

    Our office can help you create an estate plan that not only ensures the protection of your heirs and property, it also helps you leave a meaningful ‘thank you’ to the people who matter most.

    Help For Caregivers: 10 Steps Toward Taking Care of Yourself

    Monday, April 19th, 2010

    The number of people serving as caregivers has exploded in recent years, and according to PR Newswire the number of caregivers now tops 65 million people (29% of the population of the US.) This includes people providing care for elderly adults, special needs children, young adults with disabilities, and more. These caregivers are people who offer their time, energy and financial support to ensure that their loved one—parent, child, sibling, grandparent—lives a life of joy and comfort. It is admirable and often selfless work… and it can take its toll on the caregiver.

    Many caregivers are working so hard to take care of everyone around them that they forget to take care of themselves. Their health will often suffer, their financial security goes untended, and their own social interactions fall by the wayside. All of this can quickly lead to one thing: Caregiver Burnout.

    Although we don’t hear much about it, Caregiver Burnout is a very real phenomenon. Described as similar to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, Cargiver Burnout can cause depression, withdrawal from society, self-neglect, erratic behavior, and at its worst—suicidal tendencies.

    But there are ways to combat the onset of Caregiver Burnout. HelpGuide.org provides an entire section on how to recognize and prevent Caregiver Burnout, including tips for family caregivers and a list of some of the warning signs of Caregiver burnout. And that’s not all, this article in PR Newswire offers 10 steps caregivers can take to ensure they take care of themselves financially.

    If you are the caregiver in your family it is essential that you (and your fellow family members) recognize the difficulty of the work you do. Be aware of your limits, respect them, and don’t be afraid to put yourself first. Caring for yourself isn’t the selfish thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do.

    Real Estate Investments Bring Real Long-Term Value to Families

    Friday, April 16th, 2010

    If there is one way to be sure money stays in the family and grows over time it is through real estate. Despite the year-to-year ups and downs of the real estate market, the value of real property continues to grow over the long term.

    Real estate is often considered a comparatively easy way to maintain and grow wealth because it doesn’t require the kind of daily attention—or stress!—that a business demands. Depending on the type of property, real estate typically requires duties that are annual or month-to-month, such as maintaining the physical structures, paying property taxes, making insurance payments, getting updates from property managers, and the like.

    What real estate investors might be slow to realize is that property ownership carries with it significant liability risks. Unless the precautionary measures are taken, one small misstep can result in the loss of all your real estate holdings. Imagine it, one person slips and falls in front of one of your properties, and suddenly ALL of your holdings are at risk.

    Preventing this kind of mess is not as difficult as you might think—for example, putting each of your properties in its own separate legal entity is one technique that can be used to protect all of your properties (and yourself) from lawsuits. Our firm can help you with this and other asset protection techniques.

    We know how important it is to keep your family and your finances safe, and we are dedicated to helping you achieve that security. Call our office and let us tell you how we can put our expertise to use for your benefit.

    Questions to Ask When Choosing a Guardian for Your Child

    Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

    Choosing a guardian for your children is one of the most difficult things you may ever have to do as a parent, and if you have a special needs child the task is even more difficult. From parenting style to living situation to your gut feeling about this person’s ability to love your child as well as you do—there are endless things to consider before you ask the big question.

    In honor of Autism Awareness Month, MassMutual has published a list of 10 questions for parents to ask themselves when choosing a guardian for their child with autism or special needs.

    Although the list is supposed to be for parents of children with special needs, the questions are a helpful road map for any parent, not just parents of special needs children. MassMutual’s ten questions cover issues such as considering how close the person you are considering as guardian currently lives to your child, whether he or she is financially able to assume the responsibility of guardian, and whether you should name a second or third person or couple as backup guardians. These are important questions that all parents should ask themselves before choosing a guardian.

    Having children means always planning ahead and thinking about the future, even as you try to live in the present and appreciate the small moments in every day. Nominating a guardian for your children makes it that much easier to focus on the here and now, because in the back of your mind you’ll know that your children will be protected if something happens to you. Let our firm help you achieve that peace of mind.

    Tax Tips to Benefit YOUR Family

    Monday, April 12th, 2010

    Tax day is coming up quickly, are you ready to file? And just as important—are you taking advantage of all the savings and deductions available to you? Most people who do their own taxes are unaware of some of the lesser-known deductions which can help you save money come tax-time. We have a couple of articles we’d like to share with our readers that may make it easier for your family come April 15th.

    A recent article on SmartMoney.com offers 3 often overlooked ways to save on your income taxes. Two of the three items have to do with parenthood and buying a home, but of particular interest to our readers is tip #2, Selling Grandma’s Stuff: “If you sold something last year that you inherited, understand that your tax basis for gain or loss purposes generally has nothing to do with what your benefactor paid for the asset. And that’s probably going to save you a bundle in taxes.” If you sold an asset from an inheritance last year (or if you received an inheritance last year at all, regardless of whether you’ve sold the asset or not) contact our office before filing your taxes.

    Another potentially useful resource for tax savings is the ABC News article Top Ten Commonly Missed Tax Deductions to Put Cash in Your Wallet. This article reminds us to include the little things—such charity volunteer related expenses, the new car deduction, old school books used for work, and more. There are a number of tax deductions your family may be able to take advantage of… if you just know where to look.

    Will You Be Able To Afford Old Age?

    Thursday, April 8th, 2010

    Are you ready for the financial implications that come with growing older? As the average American lifespan grows longer the cost of aging becomes more and more prohibitive.

    A recent segment on NBC’s The Today Show is takes a close look at long-term care and the price individuals and couples are required to pay as age related illnesses make it more and more difficult for senior citizens to live at home without care.

    The show tells the story of “Roberta” and her husband, a couple married for 44 years, who felt there was no choice but to divorce after Roberta’s husband was diagnosed with dementia and the subsequent nursing home bills quickly depleted their assets. After paying no less than $75,000 in care costs, Roberta was advised by her attorney that one of the only ways to conserve her remaining assets for her own support would be to divorce her husband, allowing him to qualify for Medicaid coverage.

    With growing numbers of senior citizens being diagnosed with debilitating elderly illnesses, and the cost of nursing care on the rise, more and more couples are finding that without some kind of long term care insurance they simply can’t afford the cost of aging. Medicaid can help, but as the story of Roberta and her husband shows, Medicaid doesn’t come without its own price.

    Plan ahead for your own old age by talking to your advisors about Medicaid and your options for long-term care insurance.

    Defining Probate

    Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

    Probate: [from the Middle-English probat, from Latin probatum…] a : the action or process of proving before a competent judicial authority that a document offered for official recognition and registration as the last will and testament of a deceased person is genuine. b : the judicial determination of the validity of a will.

    This Merriam-Webster definition of probate doesn’t make it sound so bad. Quite simply, it is the process by which the court determines the legal property of a person who has died, and decides to whom those assets will be distributed. It sounds like it should be simple… but somehow probate is hardly ever simple. Even in the best of circumstances there are procedures that must be followed to the letter, and the actual process (depending on the size of the estate and the laws of the state in which the property is being probated) can take anywhere from 6 months to a few years!

    A good will can go a long way toward keeping the probate process on the short and easy end of the spectrum; but even with a will, much of your probate experience will depend on elements outside your realm of control. There are certain steps that must be followed to complete the probate process, including:

    • the appointment of an executor or personal representative
    • verification of the will
    • taking an inventory of assets belonging to the deceased (which can be very difficult if good records have not been kept)
    • giving notice to creditors
    • paying valid claims against the estate
    • preparing and paying taxes
    • notifying beneficiaries (not all of whom will be easy to find)
    • and eventually distributing the assets to the beneficiaries or heirs

    If just reading the above takes your breath away, imagine having to actually go through all of those steps—and possibly more! The good news is that you don’t have to go through it alone, our office can help you navigate the tangled probate maze from beginning to end—from filing the first court documents to protecting your eventual inheritance—ensuring that your probate experience goes as quickly and smoothly as possible.