Articles Posted in Financial Planning

One unanticipated effect of the Covid-19 pandemic is it made many people realize that time is short. If you delay doing something too long, the risk exists that you might never have the chance to do it. Many people are following this advice when it comes to things like changing jobs, divorcing, and purchasing homes. Estate planning, however, works just the same way.

The Covid-19 Pandemic and Estate Planning

People who delayed estate planning during the Covid-19 pandemic realized just how important it was to create estate plans. This trend continues even though the height of the pandemic has passed. There are some people unfortunately who despite their best effort cannot finalize their estate plans. These individuals begin the estate planning process but then stop. Sometimes, these people try to pick up and complete estate planning months or even years later. These individuals often find themselves simply overwhelmed with the number of choices that must be made in the estate planning process. Other times, people are simply confused about what estate planning strategy works best for them. Additionally, many people resist having to confront their mortality and accept that one day, they simply will not be alive.

The estate planning start-up, Wealth, is pursuing a $180 billion U.S. market by utilizing a digital dashboard that updates holdings in real-time. Many technology companies have offered potential approaches to solving these issues ranging from WillMaker to EverPlans. The CEO of Wealth has stated that he believes his company is pursuing a more unique strategy by appealing to workers that want to offer more value-added benefits.

The Company’s Founding

The company was founded by the former CEO of the company Emailage, which has since been acquired by LexisNexis. The assets from such a sale allow individuals to create, manage, and visualize estate plans through a detailed ecosystem of proprietary legal documents as well as third-party APIs.

In the recent case of Clark v. Clark, two brothers initiated legal action against another brother concerning the other brother’s ability to function as trustee of a trust as the result of a brain injury. The men’s mother established a testamentary trust previously that held family business and appointed the third brother as trustee. The will stated that if anything happened to the third brother, the other two brothers would be designated as co-trustees. The two brothers claimed that due to the brain injury, the third brother could no longer function in this role. As a result, the two brothers thought to be named successor co-trustees under the will. 

While the court also considered a nuanced injunction issue, the court ultimately relied on a plain text reading to determine that due to the third brother’s brain injury, the brother had stopped or was not capable of functioning as a trustee and that the other two brothers were appointed successor co-trustees. 

What Makes Succession Planning Critical

While some people anticipated otherwise, 2022 started without any new federal regulation or tax changes addressing estate planning. As proposed legislation passed through the legislative process in 2021, major potential changes to federal estate and gift tax were dropped. These potential changes included a decrease in the estate and gift tax exemption as well as the elimination of a step-up basis.

Furthermore, no reports exist that any changes will be made any time soon. This is not a guarantee, though. Potential changes can emerge at any point in the future. While no changes are looming, it’s worth noting that one substantial change will occur in a few years when in 2025, the federal estate and gift exemption will be reduced to $5,000 per person.

Positive Changes to Estate Planning This Year

Each year, it’s important for anyone interested in planning for the future of their assets to either create or revise their estate plan. Taking the time and including loved ones in estate planning discussions is the best thing that you can do to avoid conflict or estate planning disagreements. 

Estate planning involves planning for the use of your assets after you become incapacitated or pass away. While many people think that estate plans are written in stone, this is not the truth. In actuality, various life events including births and divorce should lead people to review and ultimately revise the terms of their estate plan.

Acknowledge What You Own

TV shows often depict unpleasant estate planning situations that can arise including a deceased person leaving assets to a former spouse. While these situations often do not occur in the way depicted on TV or film including the recent Netflix film I Care A Lot, a former spouse could end up receiving assets from your assets or other undesirable situations can occur if you are not careful. 

For a large number of people in New York as well as the rest of the country, estate planning documents including wills and trusts are a person’s final communication with their loved ones as well as the rest of the world. 

Make Sure to Revise Your Estate Plan

In times of economic uncertainty, estate plans can benefit substantially from flexibility. As the country both continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as face the challenges brought on by new strains of COVID-19, it’s a good idea to consider how to make your estate plan flexible. Not to mention, looming changes brought on by changes to tax law also make it a good idea to consider flexibility while creating an estate plan.

What SPA Trusts Do

Special power of appointment (SPA)  trusts (or as they are sometimes called SPAT trusts) is a type of irrevocable trust in which either the creator or settlor of the trust grants appointment power to another person. The person who receives these powers functions in a non-fiduciary role to direct the trustee to make distributions to anyone except for the person who made the appointment of powers.

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.

Planning for retirement can be difficult; however, if you also plan on leaving money to heirs in your estate plan the process can be even more complex. Deciding which financial accounts should be tapped first for retirement funds and which should be left for inheritance purposes is a tricky question. The answer is often determined by your own financial needs for retirement as well as the needs of your heirs, but you can expect the following to occur with your heirs with each of these retirement accounts.

Roth IRA

As a general rule, a Roth IRA account is a great asset to leave for inheritance. When inherited, Roth distributions are tax-free for your heirs. If planned properly, your heirs can take distributions from the account over the course of their lifetimes and simultaneously leave the bulk of the principal from the account to continue to grow in interest. Additionally, the federal estate tax exemption is now at $10.6 million for a married couple. That means that most Roth IRA accounts that are inherited will be both income and estate tax free.

In the spirit of raising awareness of sound money management, April is officially deemed “National Financial Literacy Month.” The U.S. Senate even passed a resolution on the matter a few years ago. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling usually leads the yearly effort, and many others in the financial world also use the occasion to discuss important money matters.

For example, Money Management International, a non-profit credit counseling agency, created a robust website sharing a variety of resources for consumers: www.FinancialLiteracyMonth.com. The website provides helpful tools on basic financial information, income worksheets, debt load calculators, financial goal tracking, and more.

While much of the information is focused on very general money management skills, if recent poll data is accurate, a majority of Americans remain far behind in prudent planning. Consider that a recent National Foundations for Credit Counseling (NFCC) survey found that over 60% of Americans do have any sort of budget. In addition, the survey found that nearly one in three Americans do not put anything from their annual income toward retirement savings. It is perhaps no wonder then that “retiring without having enough money set aside” is the most commonly cited financial issue that worries Americans according to the NFCC survey.

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