In the latest conservatorship hearing for Britney Spears, it was determined that “[Montgomery] shall have the power to communicate with treating and other expert medical personnel regarding [Britney], and to have access to any and all records regarding [Britney’s] medical treatment, diagnosis and testing,” the documents state. “[Montgomery] shall have access to any and all records regarding [Britney’s] psychiatric treatment, diagnosis and testing.”
Multi-generational living is not exactly new, and as people are living longer, it may start becoming more common. Shared households bring many benefits, including convenience. Why should a nurse daughter travel 20 miles a day to take her mom’s blood pressure, asks The Mercury’s article “Do shared living arrangements make sense?”
Putting off estate planning is never a good idea. Life happens, and before you know it, “someday” arrives. Having an estate plan is advisable for everyone, says the South Florida Reporter in the article “Why Estate Planning is so Important.” It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor—you need an estate plan. People with families who depend upon them, as well as singles who don’t, need an estate plan.
Remember when you were growing up and had constant squabbles with a sibling, sometimes escalating into wrestling matches? Even though we become adults, difficult sibling dynamics sometimes remain. If you and your close relatives are opinionated and speak your minds, caring for your aging adults might be a challenge. Here are some suggestions about how to stop the in-fighting over caring for aging parents.
It’s true that an effective estate plan should be simple and straightforward, if your life is simple and straightforward. However, few of us have those kinds of lives. For many families, the discovery that a will that was created using a basic form is invalid leads to all kinds of expenses and problems, says The Daily Sentinel in an article that asks “What is wrong with using a form for my will or trust?”
Selecting a guardian to care for your minor child after you die isn’t a lot of fun. Who wants to think about a situation where their young children are left to mourn their parents and live with friends or relatives? However, choosing a guardian to raise your children and manage their inheritance is crucial. If you don’t do it, you leave the decision to the court.
U.S. News and World Report’s recent article “How to Choose a Guardian for Your Child” says that, at worst, forgetting to name a guardian can mean a long court proceeding. This can be expensive, cause stress in family relationships and put your children in guardianship limbo.
There are two types of guardianship to consider when deciding who will care for your children: guardian of the estate and guardian of the person. The guardian of the estate is a person who’ll manage the minor child’s inheritance on their behalf. It’s a fiduciary responsibility, and this guardian must make sure he or she carefully and appropriately manages accounts, keeps receipts, reports back to the court and doesn’t commingle the child’s assets with his or her own. Another option is for a parent is to set up a trust and have a trustee manage the funds for the child. This can allow the parent more control over how and when money is distributed, especially if you anticipate leaving a substantial inheritance.
The guardian of the person is the daily caretaker who’ll make sure your child gets health care, educational, housing and has all other needs met.
These two guardians can be the same person or different people, depending on the skills and abilities of your family members and friends. A separate person managing the estate can provide a series of checks and balances that can help, if you are concerned about the misuse of your child’s funds.
You may want the guardian of the estate to have good money-management skills. The guardian of the person may be someone who shares your same values, has the energy to raise a child, and is close by so that your child doesn’t have to lose the familiar comforts of their school and neighborhood.
You should also name backup guardians, in the event that the primary guardian is unable or unwilling to take on the responsibility. You should also be sure to speak with your guardians ahead of time and make certain they understand the responsibility and are willing to take on the task of helping care for your children, if you pass away.
In most states, you’ll need to name your guardian or guardians as part of your will.
Talk to an experienced estate planning attorney with any questions and draft a legal will with the terms of guardianship included, along with a power of attorney and health care proxy. If you need to create a trust for your child(ren), don’t forget to fund it.
Reference: U.S. News and World Report (June 4, 2019) “How to Choose a Guardian for Your Child”
Every estate planning conversation eventually comes to center upon the children, regardless of whether they’re still young or adults.
Talk to a qualified estate planning attorney and let him or her know your overall perspective about your children, and what you see as their capabilities and limitations. This information can frequently determine whether you restrict their access to funds and how long those limitations should be in place, in the event you’re no longer around.
As life changes, you need to periodically review your estate-planning documents and discuss your situation with your estate planning attorney.
WMUR’s recent article, “Money Matters: Reviewing your estate plan,” says a common question is “When should I review my documents?”
Every few years is the quick answer, but a change in your life may also necessitate a review. Major life events can be related to a marriage, divorce, or death in the family; a substantial change in estate size; a move to another state and/or acquisition of property in another state; the death of an executor, trustee or guardian; the birth or adoption of children or grandchildren; retirement; and a significant change in health, to name just a handful.
When you conduct your review, consider these questions:
- Does anyone in your family have special needs?
- Do you have any children from a previous marriage?
- Is your choice of executor, guardian, or trustee still okay?
- Do you have a valid living will, durable power of attorney for health care, or a do-not-resuscitate to manage your health care, if you’re not able to do so?
- Do you need to plan for Medicaid?
- Are your beneficiary designations up to date on your retirement plans, annuities, payable-on-death bank accounts and life insurance?
- Do you have charitable intentions and if so, are they mentioned in your documents?
- Do you own sufficient life insurance?
In addition, review your digital presence and take the necessary efforts to protect your online information, after your death or if you’re no longer able to act.
It may take a little time, effort, and money to review your documents, but doing so helps ensure your intentions are properly executed. Your planning will help to protect your family during a difficult time.
Reference: WMUR (January 24, 2019) “Money Matters: Reviewing your estate plan”
There are several critical errors you can make that will render an estate plan invalid. Many of these can be easily avoided, by examining your plan periodically and keeping it up to date.
Investopedia’s article, “5 Ways to Mess Up Estate Planning” gives us a list of these common issues.
Not Updating Beneficiary Designations. Be certain those to whom you intend to leave your assets are clearly named on the proper forms. Whenever there’s a life change, update your financial, retirement, and insurance accounts and policies, as well as your estate planning documents.
Forgetting Key Legal Documents. Revocable living trusts are the primary vehicle used to keep some assets from probate. However, having only trusts without a will can be a mistake—the will is the document where you designate the guardian of your minor children, if something should happen to you and/or your spouse.
Bad Recordkeeping. Leaving a mess is a headache. Your family won’t like having to spend time and effort finding, organizing and locating your assets. Draft a letter of instruction that tells your executor where everything is located, the names and contact information of your banker, broker, insurance agent, financial planner, attorney etc.. Make a list of the financial websites you use with their login information, so your accounts can be accessed.
Faulty Communication. Telling your heirs about your plans can be made easier with a simple letter of explanation that states your intentions, or even tells them why you changed your mind about something. This could help give them some closure or peace of mind, even though it has no legal authority.
Not Creating a Plan. This last one is one of the most common. There are plenty of stories of extremely wealthy people who lose most, if not all, of their estate to court fees and legal costs, because they didn’t have an estate plan.
These are just a few of the common estate planning errors that happen. For more information on how to be certain your assets will be dispersed according to your wishes, talk with a qualified estate planning attorney.
Reference: Investopedia (September 30, 2018) “5 Ways to Mess Up Estate Planning”
1) Myth: My spouse can make all of my healthcare and financial decisions because he/she is my spouse.
2) Myth: I’ve told my family how I want my affairs handled after I die. They’ll divide everything the way I want it divided.
3) Myth: I signed a will before, so I don’t need to do it again.
4) Myth: I am not wealthy enough to need an estate plan.