Newly married couples are embarking on a whole new life together. This new life comes with a number of changes. It is important to consider your estate planning as you begin your life together. Creating an estate plan that works for both you and your new spouse can ensure that you are on the same page when it comes to medical, financial, and end of life decisions.

Update Accounts and Beneficiaries

Many married couples consolidate their accounts. Checking and savings accounts are usually held jointly. Consider opening a joint bank account or credit cards to make paying for future expenses more convenient. Insurance plans, such as health, car, home, or life insurance often allow for family plans that include coverage for the whole household. Changing over to these plans can almost always provide the same amount of coverage for a better rate.

When choosing the people you trust the most to serve as a part of your estate plan in any capacity, whether they be a family member, close friend or trusted individual in the community, it is important to understand the role that you are asking them to play. Serving as the executor of your estate, the trustee of your trust, as your healthcare representative or power of attorney is not a blessing. Making sure that the people you ask to fulfill these roles ahead of time understand that is crucial to ensuring that your estate plan is carried out effectively and to your wishes.

Managing Expectations

Many people feel that being chosen for one of these roles is a great honor. After all, being asked to serve as someone’s power of attorney or trustee means that there is a presence of trust in the relationship. After all, out of all the people who could have been chosen, out of all the people who could have been asked, you asked that specific person to handle your affairs.

There comes a time in many people’s lives when their adult children begin to help out with daily tasks. For some people this includes writing checks and paying bills. Many people begin to wonder if they should take steps to make being taken care of easier for their caregivers. In these cases, the question arises “why not just add your adult child to your bank account?”.

The Pros

The most obvious and powerful positive for adding an adult child to your bank account is ease of access. As joint owner, your child will be able to access funds from the account in order to assist you with bill paying and other financial matters.

Nearly seventy percent of Americans who reach age 65 will require some form of long-term care support. Many of these seniors will need care for a number of years. On average, women require 3.7 years of care while men require only 2.2 years. Decisions regarding this care should not be made lightly. If you are the child of a senior citizen and are faced with making choices regarding the care of your parent, there are a number of factors to consider.

Time & Scope of Care

The first step in assess the level of care you parent or parents may need is to evaluate the amount of care required. Ask yourself:

It may sound like common sense, but the older you are the longer you’re going to live. According to the Social Security Administration, men who reach age 65 can expect to live until age 84 and women who reach age 65 can expect to live until nearly 87. People are living longer lives and many Americans are living twenty years beyond their retirement. This increased longevity forces many people to change the way they view their later years.

Requiring Care

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly seventy percent of people turning age 65 can expect to require some form of long-term care during their lives. Not only is the chance of needing long-term care high, many people are requiring care for a longer duration. This increased benefit duration affects women more than men. Women tend to need 3.7 years of care, on average, while men require only 2.2 years. Almost twenty percent of seniors will need care for more than five years.

Planning your estate is an important step in ensuring that you, your loved ones, and your estate will be taken care of in the event of your incapacity or death. A few documents can determine the type of medical attention you receive, who handles your financial matters, and how your estate is distributed after your passing. Choosing a knowledgeable and experienced professional to guide you through the estate planning process can protect your family from trouble in the future.

A Relationship Built on Trust

Choosing a legal professional can be difficult. One of the most important things to consider is trust. Your estate planning attorney should be someone that you are comfortable with. In order to fully plan out your estate, you will be faced with a number of difficult questions and what-if scenarios, such as “who will care for your children” and “do you wish to be kept alive by artificial means”. Hiring an attorney you feel comfortable with who is able to talk through these situations with you can make the process much simpler and less stressful. In many cases, the attorney who drafts your estate planning documents will also be working with your loved ones to ensure that your wishes are carried out after your death. Choosing someone your trust who is aware of your wishes can make this process easier.

Your estate plan is a way for you to make very important decisions regarding the future of your personal property, financial holdings and legacy. A proper estate plan is truly a gift. It provides peace of mind to the owner of the estate and grants family, friends, and other heirs a little piece to remember them by.

A Personal Touch

While the bulk of estate planning is comprised of official legal documents, these formalities may not be enough to convey your thoughts and wishes. Many people wish to include a letter of instruction along with their legal documents. This letter has your wishes in your own words.

Inheriting physical real estate, such as a home or vacation cabin, can be tricky to navigate. You have to consider your desire for the property, potential expenses involved in ownership, and the process of transitioning ownership of the property to your name. These situations become more complicated when you add joint ownerships and partial interests.

People have been known to leave homes or vacation properties to their children to have in equal shares. This is common in cases where the property has been in the family for generations. Property left to multiple people is considered equally owned as “tenants-in-common” or “co-tenants”. All co-tenants have the right to use all of the property and share in any profits or liabilities from it.

“I don’t want a cabin in the woods if my brother’s there too.”

If you inherit an individual retirement account, or IRA, there are a few key rules you should be aware of in order to avoid potential legal, financial, and tax issues. Failure to do so could result in a smaller legacy left behind and a headache for your beneficiaries.

Never Commingle Inherited IRAs with Non-Inherited IRAs

Inherited IRAs are separate financial accounts than IRAs or retirement accounts you may own and contribute to for yourself. You cannot commingle the funds from your IRAs and inherited IRAs. If you inherit multiple accounts from the same person such as your father, you can combine those accounts into a single IRA. Assets inherited from different individuals, such as your mother and father, you cannot combine those accounts. It is also important to note that you cannot combine inherited accounts of different types, such as your father’s traditional IRA and his Roth IRA.

A Living Trust is an estate planning vehicle that helps you avoid probate by transferring property to the people and charities of your choice. The assets are held in the trust’s name and not in the name of the individual. For this reason, it is important to appropriately name the trust.

The Importance of a Name

Trust names are important to consider because in order for a trust to legally hold the assets or property, the trust has to be identifiable by its formal name. This name must be distinct and separate from your name.

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