An often-overlooked part of estate planning is social security. We often hear that social security is not enough for an individual to live on during retirement, especially given that people are living longer lives and often require additional medical care when reaching an advanced age. However, social security can actually be an important part of your retirement planning – and consequently an important part of your comprehensive estate plan. That means that social security survivor benefits could play a bigger role in your retirement and estate planning than you may have thought.

How do survivor benefits work?

Credits are an important part of determining what social security benefits a person is eligible for, if any. Workers earn credits through their individual earnings each year. The maximum number of credits a worker can earn in a year is four. You must attain a certain number of these credits over your lifetime in order to qualify for certain benefits. If you take a break from working for a number of years, your credits still remain on your social security record and you can begin accumulating them again once you return to the workforce.

With so many different options available when it comes to creating a comprehensive estate plan, it can be difficult to choose the ones that are right for you. More and more often, individuals choose to utilize trusts as a way to preserve assets and ensure that as many assets as possible can be passed on to heirs. Trusts have a lot of advantages that can be very attractive to individuals of both modest and wealthy means. One of the most well-known advantages of a trust is that it will avoid the probate process after a person dies. That means less of the assets will risk being eaten up by costs associated with the probate process, and assets in the trust are often available to heirs much quicker than were those heirs to have to wait for those assets to pass through probate. However, it is a misconception that all trusts avoid probate, and it is important to remember that when choosing the right type of trust for you.

Trusts and Probate

There are two basic types of trusts that most people utilize: revocable and irrevocable. A revocable trust is more common as it can offer an individual more flexibility with the structure of the trust as well as the assets placed in the trust. As the name suggests, it can also be revoked. On the other hand, irrevocable trusts can rarely be revoked or modified after they have been created. Assets put into them are typically permanently in the control of that trust. The more rigid structure of irrevocable trusts makes them less common, but there are many situations where such a rigid structure can actually be beneficial to you. Both of these types of trusts are created by an individual during his or her lifetime, so they may be referred to as a living trust or inter vivos trust.

Estate planning can be a confusing topic, especially when considering it along with financial planning. It can be even more confusing given the current debate over tax cuts and how they will impact the economy if they are enacted. A recent article from MarketWatch.com paints a rather bleak picture of the cost of tax cuts for middle class families, especially when it comes to estate planning in the future. However, understanding how these tax cuts could impact your estate plan is an important first step in navigating the complexities they may bring with them.

Impact of Public Deficits

According to the article, the Congressional Budget Office is projecting increased deficits if we remain on our current course. If we factor in proposed tax cuts, those deficits are predicted to increase even more. When combined with the ever-increasing cost of health care, especially long-term health care at an advanced age, these deficits may make it harder for younger individuals to save for retirement. This is especially true if important social programs, like social security and Medicare, start to experience cuts or even begin to run dry. The increase in public deficits that many analysts predict will accompany the proposed tax cuts are likely to put increased pressure on these important supplemental income programs and the programs in turn are likely to experience significant cuts in addition to already predicted shortfalls

The traditional cycle of wealth transfer in America has always seen older generations safeguarding assets in order to leave as much as possible for future generations. However, a recent article from CNBC points out that a recent survey indicates that the trend of leaving as much as possible for the next generation via large inheritances may be dying out. This means every individual’s approach to comprehensive estate planning needs to be more versatile and dynamic as changing priorities start to take hold.

Baby Boomer Priorities

The article draws from a recent survey conducted by PNC Financial Services Group. The popular bank recently surveyed 492 individuals ranging in age from 25 to 75. The requirement for participation was that each individual needed $50,000 in assets capable of being invested exclusive of their workplace retirement plans. The survey found that with respondents between the ages of 65 and 75, only three out of every ten individuals falling into this age range ranked leaving assets to a loved one as a top life goal. Instead, many respondents in this age range

Estate planning is sometimes thought of as something older, more established individuals engage in when they have kids to worry about and significant assets to protect. While it is never too early to start thinking about comprehensive estate planning, it is also important to be aware of and avoid some very common financial mistakes that can occur at any age and end up significantly impacting your estate plan and the assets you are able to leave behind to your heirs. Recently, The Huffington Post ran an article discussing some of these common financial missteps. Some of them are included below, and being aware of them can help make sure you understand their significance and can take steps to avoid them. This is not an exhaustive list, but an experienced estate planning attorney can work with you in making sure that your finances are moving in the right direction in order to support the estate planning objectives you have set for yourself.

Breaking Your Budget

Vacations and treating yourself are fine ways to enjoy your hard-earned money. However, it is important to make sure you incorporate these things are part of a well-balanced budget so that you don’t completely drain your savings and find yourself in need of resources that are no longer there. Creating a safety net for emergencies is a good way to make sure you can handle unexpected expenses that could appear out of the blue. You may be hit with medical bills, a family emergency, car repairs, or even loss of a job. Planning ahead will help you navigate these obstacles much more successfully.

For both practical and philanthropic reasons, charitable giving can be an important part of your estate planning strategy. However, it is important to approach charitable giving in estate planning in a responsible manner to make sure that you are getting the most out of it while being sure your objectives for charitable giving are being met.

Keep Tax Consequences in Mind

Tax consequences can play a significant role in our decisions to give to charity on a yearly basis, so it is no surprised that they play a significant role in our decision as to how to distribute assets to charity on death. Donations to qualified charities are tax deductible up to 50 percent of your adjusted gross income, which means that giving a little extra to charity could help you and your family save on taxes when it comes to inheritances.

Needing access to a deceased family member’s safe deposit box is a common issue many families face as they prepare to pass a last will and testament through probate in New York Surrogate’s Court. While many assume they can simply bring their loved one’s death certificate and box key to the bank and explain the situation to the bank manager, the truth is that most bank officials will turn down these requests without proper paperwork from the Surrogate Court.

When faced with the impasse, many individuals look at the situation as a catch 22. On the one hand, access to the safe deposit box is needed to probate the will and on the other hand, the safe deposit box cannot be accessed until the estate is probated. Fortunately, New York’s estates and trust laws are prepared for such scenarios and offer a somewhat streamlined process for gaining access to a safe deposit box where a will and other important documents may be stored.

New York Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act, Section 2003 gives interested parties, those with claims to an estate, the right to request access to the deceased’s safe deposit box for the purpose of uncovering the last will and testament. To gain an “Order to Open Safe Deposit Box,” the interested party will need to file the necessary paperwork with a copy of the death certificate and applicable fee.

In New York, if someone passes away without a surviving close family member to inherit the estate, it becomes what is known as a kinship case. While most of us take the time to plan our estate by creating a last living will and testament or a trust to leave our assets to family members and close friends, not everyone is blessed to leave behind a loving family or close associates to pass on an estate.

Chapter 17(B) of the N.Y.S. Consolidated Laws codifies who is entitled to receive the deceased’s estate if he or she passes away without leaving a will. Typically, the surviving spouse is entitled to all of the deceased’s estate if the couple leaves behind no surviving children or grandchildren. If there are children, the surviving spouse receives the first $50,000 of the estate and then half or the remainder which will be split with the surviving children.

When children lose both their parents, the estate will be divided equally between the surviving children. But what if the deceased leave no wife or children? How far will courts and interested parties need to go to figure out who gets what? The answer depends on a variety of factors, including who the deceased leaves behind and whether any interested parties have passed away.

Millions of senior citizens will soon find out just how high their Medicare Part B premiums will be in 2018 and whether or not their cost of living increases from Social Security will be able to help offset those adjustments. Unfortunately, many low income seniors may be due for some especially bad news as the board of trustees of Medicare are likely to ask for a premium increase consistent with the expected cost of living adjustment from Social Security, leaving may struggling to better their current situation.

According to reports, the Social Security Administration is poised to increase monthly benefits by 2.2 percent, a raise from an average monthly allowance from $1,360 to $1,390. Although the increase is not dramatic, it is much higher than the miniscule 0.3 cost of living adjustment given last year. Those cost of living increases from the Social Security Administration are important because they have a direct impact on whether or not Medicare can increase premiums.

Under the law, Medicare’s board of trustees cannot allow any premium increases that would effectively decrease the amount of benefits individuals would receive from Social Security. While seniors did not see any increases in their Medicare Part B premiums over the past few years, this was because there was no corresponding increase in Social Security benefits.

Starting a family is one of the most exciting times in our lives. With marriage and children comes responsibility to plan for our futures and ensure our loved ones are taken care of in the event of tragedy. While many young families may feel as though they can put off planning their estate, the truth is that it is never too early to start or too late to revise.

One of the first things new families will need to consider is appointing guardianship for children in the event both parents pass away. Although it is difficult to think about, children need to be entrusted to a reliable person to raise them to adulthood. The difficulty often lies in both parents coming to agreement on who should raise the children in a scenario like this.

Another important step is naming an executor to your estate to ensure your children receive all that is due to them should both you and your spouse pass away. Choosing who will manage your estate can have a tremendous impact on the situation and should be someone trustworthy and willing to go the distance until the children are grown and able to take responsibility.

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