Articles Posted in Estate Planning

Healthcare coverage has been an unsure and confusing issue for both young and elderly citizens over the past decade, with the potential to only become more complicated as a new president takes office. While laws have been amended throughout President Obama’s term to now allow young adults to remain covered under their parents insurance until they are 26 years old, there are no hard rules regarding whether parents can qualify under their adult childrens’ health insurance plans.

Narrow Exceptions To Covering Parents

There are limited situations in which an adult child could get their elderly or ailing parent covered under their company’s insurance provider, however, they must meet a number of requirements. Parents can be covered under their child’s insurance plan if they can qualify as a dependent and meet specific criteria. Dependents traditionally have been considered those children under the age of 26 who do not maintain coverage, spouses or domestic partners, however, parents can qualify generally if they meet the IRS definition of dependent upon their adult child.

Properly planning and structuring of charitable contributions and gifts can be a huge part of the overall estate plan. There are good and bad ways to give. Ensure that your gift is properly funded and distributed per your wishes by planning ahead of time. This planning may include using charitable remainder trusts.

Charitable Remainder Trust Basics

This estate planning tool is often considered a “split interest trust” which allows both the owner and the charity to benefit. Once a charitable remainder trust (CRT) is drafted and assets are transferred into the trust, the owner will begin receiving income for life from the trust. Upon the death of the owner of the CRT, the remaining trust property passes directly to the charity.

Giving to charity is an important aspect of many estates. Those wishing to give gifts in a tax efficient manner should consider the positives and negatives of certain types of gifts. Many people who are wishing to help reduce estate taxes should consider spreading gifts throughout their lifetime.

Lifetime Gifting

In most cases, it is better to give money to loved ones while you are still alive than to wait until you pass away. Currently, a person can give up to $14,000 each to any number of other persons in a single year without incurring a taxable gift. This $14,000 annual exclusion is beneficial to you and to the recipient who typically does not owe taxes on the gift and does not have to report it unless it is from a foreign source. Any gift over the $14,000 exclusion must be reported on a Gift Tax Return and spouses splitting gifts must always file this Gift Tax Return even when no taxable gift is incurred. It is also possible to make unlimited payments directly to medical providers or educational institutions on behalf of others for qualified expenses though incurring a taxable gift. This can be a bit of a loophole.

Trusts are common estate planning tools in which a person can transfer ownership of assets to the trust. While this person is alive, they retain control over the assets in their life. Upon their death, the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries named in the trust.

While the Person is Alive

A revocable trust uses the social security number of the person who created the trust. A revocable trust does not have to file its own tax return. All income is, instead reported in the same manner as any other income on the tax return of the trust creator. People who jointly own a revocable trust, such as a married couple, both hold the power to revoke the trust. This means that either person’s social security number can be used. Couples who file tax returns separately must be careful. The person who reports the income on their personal tax returns should be the same as the person whose social security number is used.

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.

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.

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