Articles Posted in Asset Protection

In the second part of our series on the topic of things you need to do when a loved one dies, we will explore some of the things that should be addressed within roughly six months of the death of a loved one. Again, these lists are not exhaustive. However, they can help you start to think about the various issues that need to be addressed.

Notify Social Security

Within one month after the death of a loved one, the United States Social Security Administration needs to be informed of their death. They will have to put various processes in motion that stop social security and other benefit payments from continuing. Failure to do so could result in identity theft, or even if liability for repayment of such benefits. Depending on your relationship with the deceased and their benefits, you could also be eligible for survivor benefits that can have a significant positive impact on your everyday life.

Death is a challenging subject, even more so when we are confronted with it directly. When a loved one dies, it is an immeasurably difficult experience. People experience a range of emotions, and often it can be hard to understand what to do next. In this series, we will explore some of the important steps you need to take after experiencing the death of a loved one. While these are not exhaustive lists, the first part of this series is dedicated to helping you understand some of the things that need to be addressed as soon as possible after the death of a loved one. It is not easy to bring yourself to undertake some of these tasks, but being aware of how crucial many of them are is an important part of finding ways to accomplish them – either personally or by enlisting the help of someone your trust.

Safeguard Property and Secure Arrangements

Depending on the circumstances surrounding a person’s death, it may become crucial to ensure that any property they have left behind is properly secured. This may include their home and/or their vehicle. You will want to make sure everything is locked and stored appropriately, that utilities are shut off, and that anything potentially dangerous to others has been properly taken care of.

Today, financial planning and estate planning are inherently intertwined in a number of different ways. Comprehensive estate planning requires responsible financial planning, and responsible financial planning will create assets which comprehensive estate planning will help you protect. One of the world’s most important assets is our children. Once children enter the picture, their future becomes one of the most important focuses of a parent. To that end, one of the most important aspects of a child’s well-being is their education and a college savings plan – typically known as a 529 plan – can be an integral part of financing higher education opportunities, which makes it an important part of your estate planning considerations, too.

Understanding 529 College Savings Plans

A 529 college savings plan is a state-sponsored program that enables parents or other interested individuals to set aside money each year to eventually help offset the rising costs of higher education. These plans are meant for long-term contributions that build the amount by collecting earnings on the principal you contribute to the plan. Eventually, you can make penalty-free withdrawals from the plan as long as you are using those withdrawals to pay for qualified educational expenses. These withdrawals may even be made directly to a school for such expenses. Some states offer various types of plans, but most of them accomplish the same goal.

For the most part, most of your comprehensive estate planning is aimed at making sure other people are taken care of after your death. However, providing for others is not the only goal of estate planning in today’s world. As we begin to live longer lives, we must also take our own potential needs into consideration when designing an estate plan. Recently, Forbes ran an article that pointed out many people make a huge mistake when engaging in estate planning: they forget to plan for their own well-being. In other words, an important part of your estate plan is making sure you put mechanisms in place to address scenarios where you may become seriously ill or disabled, or for circumstances where you may require long-term care. The following important documents should be part of everyone’s estate plan.

Advanced Health Care Directive

An advanced health care directive allows you to nominate an individual that can make decisions about your healthcare should you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to make such decisions on your own. The amount of leeway given to this nominee depends on how you structure the directive, which means that you can make it as narrow or as broad as you would like. These work in tandem with living wills, which can be used to explain the type of medical treatment you do and do not want to receive in certain circumstances. Together, these forms can help spare family members and other loved ones from making difficult decisions that may be contrary to your wishes because they enable you to clearly convey your views on medical care.

Estate planning often involves discussions about investments and other forms of financial planning. Inevitably, life insurance will likely enter the discussion as well. However, when considering life insurance as an estate planning strategy, it is important to understand the limitations that come with life insurance. These limitations often depend on the type of policy you are considering, but reviewing your life insurance options with your estate planning attorney can help you make an informed decision about what – if any – life insurance is right for you.

Choosing the Right Policy

There are several different types of life insurance policies available, most falling into the category of either whole-life or term life insurance. Deciding which type of policy will best meet your needs and goals is an important first step into understanding exactly where life insurance fits into your estate plan.

Estate planning can be a complicated process, especially for individuals that have diversified assets. The process can be even more complex for individuals engaging in estate planning when those individuals have foreign assets to consider. If you have or are considering acquiring foreign assets, including foreign real estate property, it is important that you understand how doing so may affect your estate planning tools. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you further understand the unique nature of foreign assets as well as the mechanisms that you can put in place to protect them.

Validity of Wills

It is possible for a valid United States Last Will & Testament to be considered invalid in a foreign country. Typically, to avoid a Will being deemed invalid it must comply with the requirements of a valid Will in the foreign jurisdiction where a person’s assets are located. This is one reason why it is imperative to work with an experienced estate planner in the country in which your foreign assets are located – otherwise, you risk losing those assets or having them distributed in a way that is not according to your wishes. You also need to check with an experienced estate planning attorney in the United States to see how multiple Wills can affect your Will here.

While some aspects of estate planning can seem pretty rigid, it is important to look at them while keeping an eye on things that will allow for some flexibility. By building flexibility into your estate planning tools where it makes sense, you can save yourself from headaches down the road and also plan effectively for the unexpected events that happen during life. Additionally, flexibility in your approach to estate planning will allow you to effectively plan for changes in tax policy and even the value of your assets so that such changes will not significantly impact your ability to distribute your assets according to your wishes.

Determine Tax Consequences

One of the first things to do when building flexibility into your estate planning portfolio is to determine which options will have the greatest impact on taxes, not only for you but also for your heirs. This is especially important for younger people beginning the estate planning process. One of the most common questions is whether or not you should try to distribute your assets through lifetime gifts or if you should keep them in your estate to be distributed later. Without having a crystal ball to predict the future of the estate tax, this really depends on the current and potential value of the assets in question.

Many areas of the law are constantly changing based on a variety of factors. Estate planning is no exception, especially given that there are potential changes coming to the United States tax policy under the current administration. One of those potential changes is the elimination or restructuring of the estate tax. For individuals with trusts or considering establishing a trust as part of their comprehensive estate planning strategy, the elimination or restructuring of the estate tax may make people wonder how effective those trusts will be in achieving the goals behind their creation. Even with the potential for such changes, trusts are still an important tool when it comes to comprehensive estate planning that will continue to provide many important benefits like those below.

Avoiding Probate

With or without the estate tax in its current form, trusts can help you avoid the headaches that often come with probate. By creating specific types of trusts to handle various assets and properly assigning such assets to those trusts, you can avoid the need to probate those assets This can save time and money, and can help ensure that your assets are distributed in the way you see fit.

Comprehensive estate planning is a responsible way to protect your assets. One of the primary ways you can utilize estate planning to protect your assets is by ensuring that your estate plan accurately reflects how you wish to have your assets distributed in the event of your death. Taking steps toward preventing individuals from contesting your Will is one way to help make sure that your estate will be distributed according to those wishes. A common approach many people take to contesting a Will is by claiming that the testator – or the person that created the Will – made decisions within the Will because of undue influence. While this claim is not always wholly unavoidable, there are steps that you can take to decrease the chances that such a claim will arise.

Understanding Undue Influence

There is nothing wrong with an individual asking for specific property or even a child encouraging a parent to leave specific things to them instead of their siblings. Courts do not typically view these actions as examples of undue influence, even when an individual is fervent about their desires. However, such requests move closer toward undue influence when the testator is in a compromised position such as being mentally or physically ill. For instance, if the child asking for property is the ailing parent’s caregiver, a court may find that repeated requests for certain assets could qualify as undue influence depending on the other circumstances surrounding the request and individuals involved.

While comprehensive estate planning can certainly be a difficult process, there are some things that remain rather constant. Most parents will choose to leave the bulk of their estate to their surviving spouse and/or their children, with the surviving spouse typically leaving the remainder of the estate to children. However, it is not uncommon for individuals thinking about retirement and other aspects of estate planning to not have children and/or not be married. When those situations arise, many of those individuals find it challenging to determine how they would like to distribute their estate and to decide whom they should nominate to make important decisions. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you understand the myriad options available to you, and a recent article from CNBC can help you start exploring your options.

Shaping Your Will

According to the article, a 2016 survey indicated that 64 percent of Americans do not have a Will in place. While the survey did not focus on childless adults, it is safe to say that many of those individuals do not have a Will in place, either. When you die without leaving a Will, your state has a statute that determines to whom your estate will be distributed.

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