Are You Dead? Not Yet? How to Get Your Affairs In Order

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You may not be dead yet, but odds are it’ll happen. Setting up plans while you’re able helps make the situation after your death less difficult for those you leave behind.  And, your loved ones will thank you. 

How To Get Your Affairs In Order 

Collect all of your important papers in one place and tell someone where they are located. Preferably a trusted family member. Here’s a short list of important documents: 

  • Your Social Security card, living will, military records and other legal documents;
  • Contact information for your estate planning attorney, accountant, banks, investment firms and life insurance company;
  • Bank account info, safe deposit box key, vehicle titles, the deed to the house and last year’s tax return.
  • You may want to avoid probate by adding another person to titles and property—ask your attorney how to do this correctly;
  • Monthly bills, property tax bills, credit card companies, passwords for online billing, as well as passwords for PCs and electronic devices.

Go through your home with family members and/or friends and inventory items they hope to inherit after your death. Do this one-on-one to avoid hurt feelings and give you time to decide on how to handle sought after antiques, collectibles, memorabilia, etc. 

Put your inventory list with your important papers. Some people like placing labels on items to show who receives each specific dish, lamp, work of art, etc. In most cases, I like a written or typed and signed list because labels have the tendency “walk away” once you are gone.

Take steps for remaining alive, but unable to make decisions. Here are recommendations:

  • Give permission in advance through a durable power of attorney for health care and a regular durable power of attorney to someone you trust.
  • Choose someone you trust. Without your authority, your caregiver won’t be able to access information, consult with your doctor or pay your bills. Choose a person you believe will handle these responsibilities. 
  • An advance directive is used when you get sick. If you know what kind of care you want or don’t want, draft a living will so that your family won’t have to make the difficult decision to take you off life support. You will have made that decision in this document long before the situation arises. 

Make your own funeral and burial arrangements. This decreases the burden on your family and ensures your wishes will be followed after death. Pre-pay your burial and funeral expenses to lock in today’s cost.

Talk to a knowledgeable estate planning attorney about setting up your will or using a trust to avoid probate altogether and help avoid conflicts among loved ones. 

Need some help with these plans or other life-changing moments? Give us a call at Weaver Firm- Attorneys today at 817-638-9016 to schedule an appointment.

5 Retiree Tax Updates from New Tax Laws

As a retiree, you deserve an easy-going, good life. Managing your retirement income  and understanding how the $1.2 trillion tax overhaul signed into law by President Trump may affect your retirement funds is important.  To save us all from boredom, we’ll stick to the five most important items of note (in our opinion).

These changes would be for next year’s taxes, to be filed in 2019. Tax returns for 2017 tax returns are due on April 17 . . .unless you extend.

5 Retiree Tax Updates Resulting From New Tax Law

Retirees will have to be more strategic about their IRA conversions

The new tax bill would stop what’s called “recharacterizations” of IRAs. Recharacterizations allow a person to undo their decision to rollover or convert accounts to Roth IRAs. Therefore, retirement savers who have already made these conversions this year should consider before the new year if they want to reverse them.

Check out this calculator to see if you’ll owe more or less next year: The Trump calculator — will you pay more or less?

And contribute to charity twice every two years

Retirees likely won’t be itemizing since they don’t have many deductions, except for charitable contributions, property taxes and perhaps state income taxes.

Some retirees may want to take advantage of Qualified Charitable Distributions, which allow them to donate directly to charity from their individual retirement accounts without having to itemize those donations (after 70 ½ years old). Because of the increase in the standard deduction, retirees may benefit from making more charitable donations, but less frequently — for example, donate twice as much, but every other year — which would help taxpayers by having more to write off than the standard deduction limit.

Personal income tax rates are changing, but still important

Personal income taxes would be lowered for most households — to 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%. Retirees will have to watch their income to avoid ending up in a higher tax bracket. Income includes withdrawals from retirement accounts, required minimum distributions and ordinary income. For example, people with large balances might want to begin distributions before turning 70 ½ years old, when they’ll be required to take distributions in some accounts — that way, when they get there, they won’t be forced into a higher tax bracket.

It takes a little calculating, and predicting what income will look like in the future versus now, but it could save retirees money down the road.

Small businesses may not offer retirement accounts

Most 401(k) plans and similar defined contribution benefits are offered by large employers because they’re too expensive for small businesses to administer. Under tax reform, it may become even less advantageous for small businesses to host these accounts.

The bill reduces the income tax rate for small businesses but does not address offering or contributing to retirement plans, which are incentives to establish these accounts, according to the American Retirement Association.

Some retirees may want to move

Deductions for mortgage interest rates were left untouched, and $10,000 in local property taxes will be deductible on a federal level. That means income tax-free states will be best for retirees. Retirees are more easily able to move from state to state because they have no job tying them down, he said, which also means they can be more sensitive to the various income tax rates in various states. There are a few states that soar above the rest for tax-friendly states best for retirees, such as Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming.

The new bill also reduces the maximum amount of mortgage debt a person can acquire for their first or second residence, to $750,000 for married couples filing joint tax returns (or $375,000) for those married filing separately, down from $1 million. This won’t affect home purchases before Dec. 16, 2017 so long as the home closed before April 1, 2018.

If you have questions about the tax plan or about estate planning in general, give us a call at 817.638.9016.

How to Inherit an IRA

For many, the most special person in their lives is their spouse. The tax code treats spouses in unique ways by granting them abilities unavailable to others. Inheriting an IRA is one of those times.

Your spouse has options when inheriting your IRA. Here they are:

The most often used spouses-only option is the ability to roll the IRA into their own name. This makes things very simple for the surviving spouse. By rolling into their own name, they call all the shots and the funds are treated as if they had always been in the spouse’s name.

Most surviving spouses do this reflexively as the default. It feels like a no-brainer.

However, there are circumstances in which other options should be considered. Three that we see a lot are a surviving spouse who is older than the deceased spouse, a surviving spouse who is under 59 ½ years old and a surviving spouse in a high marginal income tax bracket.

When the survivor is older than the deceased and rolls the IRA into their own name, the IRA is treated as if it were always the survivor’s so Required Minimum Distributions are based on the survivor’s higher age. RMDs will be larger if they had already begun or will start sooner if they had not already begun.

This can be addressed by taking the deceased’s IRA as an inherited IRA. The IRA stays in the deceased’s name and the surviving spouse is referred to in the title with wording like “spousal beneficiary”. RMDs will then be based upon the deceased’s birthdate and the Single Life table unless and until the funds are rolled into an IRA just in the surviving spouse’s name.

When it comes to retirement, 60s are the new 50s
 
When the survivor is under 59 ½ and rolls the IRA into their own name, the IRA is treated as if it were always the survivor’s so distributions could be subject to the 10% early distribution penalty. This too can be addressed by taking the deceased’s IRA as an inherited IRA. The survivor will be able to take distributions at will, pay the applicable taxes but avoid the 10% penalty. Once the survivor reaches 59 ½, they can roll the deceased’s IRA into their own IRA if they wish.

A surviving spouse in a high-income tax bracket with no need for the taxable income that comes from the IRA may prefer that lower income family members inherit the IRA money instead. The surviving spouse can disclaim their interest. The disclaiming spouse does not get to decide how the funds are distributed. The funds flow to the contingent beneficiaries as though the disclaiming spouse pre-deceased the original IRA owner. Anyone interested in disclaiming should consult a qualified attorney.

If you have questions about your IRA or an inherited IRA, please contact us today. 817.638.9016.

Love & A Prenup – All You Need

Valentine’s Day happens this month and love surrounds us. Well, some of us. While we wish everyone a long and romantic union, making sure husbands and wives agree on practical matters now and in the future is a good idea. Make that a great idea.

Premarital agreements—also called prenuptial agreements or “prenups”—allow husbands and wives to share important financial information and plan for their future. While prenups are often used to address the terms of a future divorce, they can also serve other purposes.

Financial Matters Covered By Premarital Agreements

Prenups are primarily used to address the impact of a marriage and/or divorce on financial issues. Some issues that you may want to cover in your premarital agreement include the following:

  • How separate property will be treated during the marriage and in a divorce
  • How property acquired during the marriage will be treated by both spouses and in the case of a divorce
  • Whether a dependent spouse has a right to receive alimony or post-separation support, and the terms of any alimony payments
  • What happens to property upon the death of either spouse (estate planning issues)
  • Any other issue relating to the marriage that doesn’t violate public policy

Note that some of these issues are related to how the couple will treat financial matters during the marriage, not just in the case of a divorce. Financial problems are a common cause of marital discord, and a premarital agreement can avoid some of these problems before they happen by clearly stating the rights and responsibilities of both parties.

Prenups also cover Wills, Trusts, and Inheritance issues. If you are bringing significant assets to the Marriage, plan ahead!

Who Needs a Prenup?

Any couple that’s about to get married could benefit from a prenup. Some people have more of a need than others.  You may be one of these folks if you have any or all of these situations:

  1. If you have valuable assets or own a business, you may have a stronger need for a prenuptial agreement.
  2. Couples who have significant differences in their assets or income are also good candidates for prenups.
  3. If you have children from a previous marriage, you may want to use a premarital agreement to clarify which pieces of property you’d like to set aside for your children.

Prenuptial agreements are an effective tool for settling financial issues that arise during a marriage or divorce, but they need to be carefully drafted to address your unique circumstances. If you are considering signing or creating a premarital agreement, schedule an appointment with an estate planning attorney. Our attorneys have deep experience in this area and would be glad to visit with you about your options. Call our office at 817-638-9016 to schedule an appointment with Travis Weaver, attorney, or Rick Weaver, attorney

 

5 Tips for Preventing Blended Family Legal Problems

Divorce and remarriage are more common than ever today. Blended families require extra attention from estate planning attorneys, but this extra attention to detail is crucial to avoiding costly legal fees for  probate litigation and more. 

Prenuptial Agreements are Your Friends

Two people blending a family can protect their goals and financial resources by entering into a prenuptial agreement. While a prenup may not be necessary for couples entering a first marriage, for a second marriage or any more after that there are all sorts of complex issues that may make such an agreement not only useful but necessary.

  1. Before getting married, people should discuss estate issues with their new intended spouse;
  2. A prenup ensures that both parties enter into the relationship with a clear understanding of assets and intentions;
  3. Both sides have a chance to discuss this plan with an attorney. 

Separate Checking & Savings Accounts

We encourage newly married couples to clarify any ground rules up front regarding “yours,” “mine,” and “ours” in order to avoid confusion. Understanding each other’s finances is key to avoiding fights down the road. Many people will start out having separate checking and savings accounts, primarily using them to pay for personal expenses, including those for children from a previous marriage. Don’t combine your accounts before speaking to an attorney!

If you choose to maintain a joint account for ongoing expenses as a couple, it’s important to discuss how much each spouse is going to contribute monthly – an equal amount or a percentage. 

Update End-of-Life Medical Documents 

Who gets to make end-of-life decisions? If people don’t put their wishes in writing, their loved ones can be left with legal disputes and family fights at one of the most difficult times in their lives.

Talk with your future spouse about this issue.

Children from a previous marriage may have very different ideas about who should make decisions about health care and what decisions should occur. Without specifying those wishes in a living will, also called an advanced healthcare directive, you are looking at thousands in potential litigation.

Update Your Will & Other Documents

In our experience, the ugliest family disputes that occur after someone passes away are not about money but possessions with sentimental value. Even the smallest item can have a significant emotional value, and squabbles over these belongings can cause rifts that are difficult to heal. Discuss your intentions with your family BEFORE you pass away.

Trusts should be as specific as possible about what each beneficiary is to receive. Once again, add this to your discussion.

For those who wish to leave assets to stepchildren, it’s important to include those directives in the trust or will. Stepchildren are not generally considered legal heirs, and they won’t inherit anything without being named in these documents. This is a rue awakening to those who don’t receive an inheritance when expected.

Estate plans can also become complex when a person wants to provide for his or her surviving spouse and still give the children access to inheritances as soon as possible.

For people with children by a previous marriage, a trust can be a good way to protect their inheritance. It can also be used to help ensure that any previous spouses or step-children who were part of that marriage are not inadvertently disinherited by the new relationship.

Prevent Legal Issues For Your Blended Family – Talk To Professionals

Experienced estate planning attorneys understand the unique challenges facing blended families. If you need to discuss the use of trusts or other asset protection strategies, please contact our office. We encourage people to have discussions and to communicate clearly with loved ones about their final goal: a happily blended family that remains a family after the parents have passed.

Avoid litigation. Plan Ahead. I’m glad to help you with questions about preventing legal problems for your blended family. Give me a call at the Weaver Firm – Attorneys at 817-683-9016 or visit WeaverLegal.net to learn more about our services. 

travis-r-weaver

 

Travis Weaver, Attorney

Nursing Home vs. Assisted Living: Who They Help

group photo canoeing down riverLawyers with experience in nursing home qualification, including those at the Weaver Firm, provide assistance in creating an advanced plan to get care you require as you get older or if you experience illnesses or injuries that make you unable to care for yourself any longer.  

As you experience age-related illness, there is a substantial chance you will some day require care in an institutional care environment. In fact, as Wall Street Journal explains, more than 70 percent of people who reach the age of 65 will require nursing home care at some point in the future.  

Start planning now. Medicaid has a five year loopback period for gifts. VA Aid and Attendance has NO LOOKBACK period as of this post, but changes are coming.

An attorney can help you to understand your options for nursing home care or other types of care

In particular, you should consider the differences between nursing homes and assisted living facilities so you can make a fully informed choice regarding which environment is right for you.

Assisted living vs. nursing home long-term care

Assisted living facilities and nursing homes both provide an option for seniors who can no longer live independently. But, as the New York Times explains, there are important differences:

  • Assisted living facilities generally provide a more home-like environment while nursing homes have a more institutional or hospital-like feel.  
  • Assisted living facilities involve seniors living more independently in their own rooms or their own apartments
  • Nursing homes generally provide semi-private or private rooms with much less privacy and autonomy than assisted living facilities offer.
  • Assisted living facility may offer housekeeping services, meals, activities, and some help getting medical care, assisted living facilities typically do not provide the same level of supportive services that a nursing home does. 

The New York Times also indicates that nursing homes are more heavily regulated than assisted living facilities.

Who pays for nursing home or other long-term care? 

  • Medicaid will cover the costs of nursing home care for eligible seniors who can qualify for means-tested benefits.
  • Assisted living facilities are often not covered by Medicaid or any other kind of insurance policy.
  • Assisted living facilities ARE covered by VA aid and attendance if you or your spouse was a veteran during time of war.
  • Some facilities have an assisted living section and a nursing home care section for seniors who are attracted to the idea of assisted living but who may need nursing home care in the future.

Getting help from nursing home lawyers

Because the costs of care are expensive and are not covered by Medicare or by most private insurance, our attorneys at the Weaver Firm provide assistance with the creation of a Medicaid or VA Aid and Attendance plan so you can protect assets while getting Medicaid or VA to cover the costs of your care.

Call 817-638-9016 today to schedule a meeting with Weaver Firm attorneys to review your options for long-term care.

How to Prepare for Being a Widow/Widower in 2018

Among the risks that married couples face in retirement, the risk of becoming a widow or widower is unavoidable.

A recent Society of Actuaries report,

“Managing Post-Retirement Risks: A Guide to Retirement Planning.”

lists some troubling facts about losing a spouse:

►Some income may stop at the death of a spouse or former spouse.

►The death of a disabled person’s caregiver spouse may bring financial problems at a very difficult time.

►The surviving spouse may not be able or willing to manage the family’s finances.

►Inability to cope with a spouse’s death or terminal illness contributes to high rates of depression and suicide among the elderly.

To be sure, it’s difficult to predict which spouse will live longer in individual cases, according to the SOA. But, on average, women are widowed more often than men. 

So, what can you and your spouse do to manage the risks associated with becoming a widow or widower?

Set aside time to talk 

Talking about money matters together is a great gift couples can give each other, says Kathleen Rehl, author of Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows. “Start by saying, ‘Honey, because I love you so much, I want us to talk about some important money issues together—that are really important to know about for the time one day when one of us is gone.’”

Others agree. “First and foremost, spouses – especially women – need to know about the household’s finances, including where all accounts are held,” says Cindy Levering, a retired pension actuary and volunteer for the Society of Actuaries. “In particular, it is very important that they know what benefits might be available from employment-based plans — pension, 401(k), life insurance, and medical for example — and how to contact the appropriate human resource people to access any benefits that may be due.”

If you avoid these conversations, Rehl says, “a surviving spouse may be in a double whammy — hit with grief and emotions of widowhood plus not having many clues about their money situation.”

Levering also suggests sharing financial information and contacts with children, not just their attorneys. “I know a lot of people don’t want to talk about their finances with their children but it is important that someone know what to do if necessary,” she says.

Run what-if scenarios 

Determine whether your financial plan will provide enough lifetime income to the surviving spouse. Note that expenses don’t necessarily decrease by half after one spouse passes away, says Levering. Also note that the surviving spouse may have less to live on if he or she has to spend down assets to take care of the spouse that passes away, says Levering.

If, after running your what-if scenarios, there’s a shortfall, consider increasing your savings, trimming your expenses, investigating a reverse mortgage and/or downsizing, and buying life insurance.

Delay Social Security 

If you’re the higher earner, consider delaying Social Security until at least full retirement age (FRA) or better yet until age 70, if there’s a good chance that your spouse will outlive you, says Betty Meredith, president of the International Retirement Resource Center. Why so? “The surviving spouse collects a higher lifetime benefit based on the primary earner’s benefit,” she says.

Also consider, if you have traditional defined benefit pension plan, choosing the joint-and-survivor annuity instead of the single life annuity.

Check all your beneficiary designations 

Make a list of every place you have ever worked and contributed to employer-sponsored retirement plans. “When a person divorces and remarries, old beneficiaries stay in place until they are changed by the account owner,” Meredith says.  “It happens all the time where an ex-spouse or other parties receive retirement funds upon the workers’ death instead of the current spouse.”

Do the same for all life insurance plans, bank and credit union checking and savings accounts, titling on real estate, and the like, says Meredith.

Make sure credit cards and other accounts are set up so both spouses have access, says Levering.

Consider long-term care. Think what would happen if one or both spouses needed long-term care. “Purchasing coverage sooner rather than later may be prudent,” says Levering.

Hire a financial team 

Put in place a trusted team of financial advisers, including an attorney, certified public accountant, and certified financial planner, that, Meredith says, “the surviving spouse will feel comfortable working with and trust to help them transition to a life without you, especially if they have typically not been involved in the financial side of your marriage.”

Estate plan up to date?

Create or update your estate-planning documents, including wills, trusts, advance directives, living wills, durable powers of attorney for health care, physician orders for life-sustaining treatment.

 “Consider filing a ‘do not resuscitate’ or DNR order with your local hospital and have readily available if needed,” says Meredith. “Many people want to avoid aggressive attempts to prolong their life, but medical culture and practices often do not support these wishes. This can help prevent racking up large medical bills for the surviving spouse to pay.

For her part, Anna Rappaport, chair of the Society of Actuary’s retirement task force, recommends reviewing all property with your attorney and making sure you understand what is individual and joint names, and how it might be disposed of. 

Also consider planning your funeral arrangements in advance. 

Relocate

Meredith also recommends moving to a home where a surviving spouse can more easily manage upkeep, taxes, have social network, and the like.

For More Information about planning for Widows or Widowers, please contact our office today at 817.638.9016

Estate Planning for Millennials

 

This is an article adapted from the personal finance website, Nerdwallet.

As a Millennial myself, this article really touches close to home. Everyone needs an Estate Plan and many Millennials are starting families, creating businesses, investing in real estate, etc.

Ask people to write down a list of their plans and it’s likely to be chock-full of career accomplishments and vacation experiences. Graduating, getting a great job, getting married, starting a family, buying a home, and traveling are likely to be high on the list.

Odds are Estate Planning isn’t high on the list.

It’s not a surprise that people in their 20s and 30s wouldn’t have estate planning at the top of their mind.

The creation of legal documents such as living wills, last wills and testaments, powers of attorney for medical and financial well-being, and potential trusts is a foreign concept to many people, especially those who aren’t married or don’t have children.

Many people assume you don’t need to work on those plans until your 50s or 60s.

The truth is . . . planning now saves you time and money later on.

The Millennial view of money

Many Millennials have embarked on parenthood, care giving and other stressful responsibilities. But they tend to view money from an entirely different perspective from preceding generations. Growing up in the shadow of the recession and under the weight of sometimes crippling student loan debt, many Millennials are responsible with their finances, contrary to sky-is-falling reports. As we juggle student loans, young family expenses, and startup or freelancing jobs, our estate plan changes and the need for a plan grows.

Being good with money, though, isn’t enough. Part of being fiscally responsible is planning for the long-term. More than 60% of Americans don’t have a will, according to a 2015 Harris Poll

Most Americans don’t have long-term care insurance. Good news for Millennials, the premiums are cheap now.

The benefits of estate planning

No matter where you are in your financial life, you need an estate plan. 

Will. Medical Power of Attorney, Financial Power of Attorney, Physician’s Directive.

Those are the big four.

For those with children, a good estate plan lets you appoint a guardian for your children should something ever happen to you.

 

Come see us with your estate planning questions. 817.638.9016.

Do I Owe Gift Taxes on Gifts from My Parents?

Nothing in life is as certain as death and taxes.

Do you owe tax on gifts from your parents?

Your parents have made wise financial decisions.

They now have a decent amount of money.

Maybe you are struggling a bit financially right now.

Maybe you are fine financially.

Either way, your parents gift you money.

Why?

Your parents love you.

Thanks, mom and dad . . . but . . . do I owe taxes on this gift?

The Short answer is NO.

Here’s Why?

These lifetime gifts made to you by your parents (or others) are not considered income to you.

As a result, the gifts will neither be taxed as income nor will they put you into a higher tax bracket.

Will you parents owe taxes?

Perhaps.

If they give more than the annual exclusion amount to an individual, then yes.

How much is the annual exclusion amount?

In 2018, it is $15,000.

They or you can give this amount to any number of people in a year. Gifts for all!

What if their gift exceeds this amount?

Your parent will need to file a gift tax return (Form 709) and claim any gift exceeding the exclusion amount as a reduction against his or her future estate tax exemption.

With the federal estate tax exemption now sitting at $11,220,000 per person in 2018, this will not likely be a problem.

YES . . .you can give away over 11 Million Dollars during your life and not pay taxes on those gifts.

Can your parent claim a deduction on a gift to you, your children, or anyone else?

Nope.

Deductions are allowed on charitable donations, but not on gifts to people.

To take a deduction on charitable donation, donations must be itemized.

Your parents should work with an experienced estate planning attorney to be sure their gifts align with their estate planning goals. 817.638.9016

Are You Responsible For Your Parents’ Debt?

Hopefully your parents enjoyed a happy life, filled with all the joy and good times envisioned on their wedding day.  At the end of their lives, you may be facing questions about your parents’ choices–including debts. Am I responsible for my parents’ debt when they die? The quick answer to that question is…..no.

Unless you co-sign for someone else’s debt, you are generally NOT responsible for their debt. Think student loans. If you, as a parent, co-sign on debt for your child, you are responsible if your child fails to pay the debt. Same thing for houses and cars.

Whether your parents have a Will or not, if they die with debt in THEIR names, there is a legal process that should be followed.

First, if your parent died with assets that are not in a trust, depending on their assets and the amount, a you probably need to go to probate court for the administration process. If you have a Will, you get Letters testamentary. If you don’t have a Will, the Court must determine who your heirs are and appoint someone to administer your Estate. After Letters are issued or an administration is opened, then your attorney should publish notice to creditors in the county where the person passed away. If unsecured creditors exist, they must file a claim with the Estate in the Probate Court.

Whoever is the administrator of the estate is responsible for making all payments to creditors with valid claims. The payments are made from the assets in the estate. These amounts are usually negotiable and you absolutely should negotiate large bills. If there are more debts than assets, creditors will only get a pro-rata payment depending on what class of creditor they fall into per the Texas Estate Code.  Neither the estate, nor the administrator personally, will ever be responsible for coming up with the difference.

If you have any questions regarding completing an estate plan for yourself or an aging parent, or if you are the administrator of an estate, call our office at 817.638.9016 with all of your questions.