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Harvard Medical School’s Caregivers Handbook Now Available

Estate PlanningNo Comments

caregivers handbook e1390512010664 Harvard Medical School’s Caregivers Handbook Now AvailableHarvard Medical School has just published the Caregiver’s Handbook, a special health report designed as a comprehensive resource for anyone who has assumed the role of caregiver for a loved one.

According to the Harvard Health Publications website, the new handbook was designed as a complete resource for those who have been thrust into the role of caregiver, and provides tips for daily caregiving tasks, technologies that caregivers can employ to protect their loved one, guidance for navigating the Medicaid and Medicare systems, potential problem areas and viable solutions as well as some basic legal, financial and medical planning information.

The Caregiver’s Handbook is available to order online for $20 for a printed copy or $18 for an electronic PDF download.

If you are the caregiver for an elderly relative, it is imperative that the person you are caring for has these necessary estate planning documents in place:

Durable Power of Attorney – allows caregivers to handle the financial affairs of someone without having to incur the expense and trouble of establishing a guardianship.

Advance Medical Directive  – this document enables a caregiver to make necessary medical decisions if the person is unable to do so and should also include a HIPAA release so the caregiver has access to important medical information.

Living Will – a legal document that spells out a person’s wishes for end-of-life care.

For more information on the legal issues concerning elder care and estate planning, contact our Costa Mesa law firm.

Before You Remarry, Revisit Your Estate Plan

Asset Protection, Estate PlanningNo Comments

Marry for Money1 150x150 Before You Remarry, Revisit Your Estate PlanIf you are planning to remarry soon, you have probably given some thought to how this new marriage will impact your finances and that of your old and new families.  Before you take your next trip down the aisle, you both should review your estate plans with the following in mind:

Asset management – both of you need to create a list of your separate assets, including IRAs, brokerage accounts, bank accounts, retirement plans, pensions, life insurance policy, etc., and then decide which of these you plan to combine and which you plan to keep separate.

Asset plan – if one or both of you have children you are bringing to the new marriage, then you need to plan for how they will be included in your estate plan and wills.  You may want to consider creating a trust or buying additional life insurance to cover children.

Estate plan — consulting with an estate planning attorney is important, whether your assets are great or small.  If you have an existing estate plan and you remarry, you need to update your will, living will, powers of attorney, HIPAA authorization, and change the beneficiary designation on your qualified retirement and life insurance plans.  And if one spouse is bringing significantly more assets to the marriage, you may want to consider a prenuptial agreement to protect assets.

Whenever a major life event brings change to your family circumstances, contact our Orange County law firm to review or update your estate plan.

Making a Plan for Your Digital Afterlife [INFOGRAPHIC]

Asset Protection, Estate PlanningNo Comments

As more and more of us join social networks to keep in touch and live our lives online, the practice of planning for what happens to those digital assets after we are gone is a growing area of estate planning.

Your digital assets can have both sentimental and financial value.  Think of all the financial transactions you perform every week online, and you will realize that a plan needs to be prepared for what happens to your online accounts after you are gone.

The infographic below — prepared by web hosting information site WhoIsHostingThis? – provides information on what the major social networks require to deactivate an account as well as information about online tools available to help you protect and plan for the disposition of your digital assets:

preparing for your digital afterlife infographic 52caa38e5ed42 Making a Plan for Your Digital Afterlife [INFOGRAPHIC]

To learn more about estate planning for digital assets, contact our Newport Beach law firm.

7 Common Items Often Overlooked in Estate Plans

Estate PlanningNo Comments

estate planning wills trusts e1378411406862 7 Common Items Often Overlooked in Estate PlansIt’s been said that the devil is in the details, and it is often the overlooked details in estate plans that can bedevil estate executors and loved ones.  Here are 7 of the most common items that are often overlooked when it comes to estate planning:

1.  Incomplete asset list.  One of the ways an estate administrator’s job can be made more difficult is when there is an incomplete list of estate assets.  Trying to locate all the assets in an estate can cost extra time and money, so be sure you have a complete list of your assets accounted for in your estate plan.

2.  No cash to administer the estate.  While an estate is being settled, there will be a need for cash to pay some expenses and for a surviving spouse to live on.  If there is not adequate liquidity in the estate, some assets may need to be sold, which can reduce an inheritance for heirs.

3.  Taxes not considered.  Even if the estate will not be subject to estate taxes, if there are assets that earn income, these will be taxed and should be planned for.

4.  Asset valuation.  If there is a collection or other type of hard-to-value asset in the estate, the owner should leave written instructions for an executor on how the asset values have been determined.

5.  Designated beneficiaries.  An estate owner should leave a comprehensive list of all financial accounts or life insurance policies that carry beneficiary designations.  Include the account information, custodian institution and who is named as beneficiary of each account with copies of the beneficiary forms included.

6.  List of creditors.  Before inheritances are distributed, creditors must be paid, so a list of creditors should be included with your estate plan so your executor can verify claims.

7.  Accounting for gifts.  If you have provided family members with a loan or a gift, be sure to specify in your estate plan whether or not the loan or gift is to be offset with an unequal distribution or forgiven.

To ensure that you don’t overlook some of these common issues in your estate plan, contact our Orange County law firm.

7 Key Questions to Ask Your Aging Parents

Estate Planning, Retirement PlanningNo Comments

caregiver 150x150 7 Key Questions to Ask Your Aging ParentsMost of us spent the holidays with family members that we don’t see as often as we like or should, including aging parents.  Many Americans now live in different cities or towns from their parents, so can’t get real peace of mind by dropping in for a check on their health and happiness.

If you have not had a discussion with your aging parents about their finances, retirement and estate planning, consider beginning that important talk with these 7 key questions that you need the answers to:

1.  Have you made a will and, if so, has it been updated to reflect any changes since you made it?

2.  Do you have an estate plan in place?  Is a trust part of that plan?

3.  Have you created a written inventory of your assets and debts, a list of your bank and credit card accounts with passwords and other important financial data?  If so, where is that information being kept?

4.  Have you done any retirement planning?

5.  Have you reviewed your beneficiary designations for life insurance policies, retirement and investment accounts lately to be sure they are up to date?

6.  Is the executor of your estate fully informed on your last wishes?

7.  Have you executed an advance medical directive so your family is aware of your wishes for medical treatment in case you become incapacitated?  Do you have a Living Will that spells this out?

We can help you and your parents with estate planning and retirement planning strategies; contact our Newport Beach law office for more information.

5 Ways to Avoid a Will Contest

Estate Planning, WillsNo Comments

last will 150x150 5 Ways to Avoid a Will ContestWhen inheritances are made unequally, it usually means that the will could face a contest in court.  While there are many good reasons for giving unequal distributions, your heirs may not agree with the decisions you’ve made.

Here are 5 tips for heading off a will contest if you plan to give unequal shares to heirs:

Explain why.  It’s best to let children know why you have decided to structure your will to provide more or less for each child.  If you can’t do it face-to-face, then include a letter in your will.

Provide evidence of capacity.  Again, a letter in your will explaining disparities can help you prove your capacity to make the decisions you made.  If you want to make a video, consult first with your estate planning attorney – or better yet, have them there when you do it.

Gift now.  If one child needs more help than the others, consider making gifts now while you are still alive rather than unequal distributions via your will.  Then you can make everything even after you pass.

No-contest clause.  This can deter your heirs from filing a claim if your will includes a clause that disinherits those who file suit.

Update your will.  Be sure you keep your will up to date, making changes as necessary and as the lives of you and your family change.

To learn more about effective estate planning, contact our Orange County law firm.

Inconsistency a Hobgoblin for Estate Plans

Asset Protection, Estate PlanningNo Comments

yes and no e1389221463324 Inconsistency a Hobgoblin for Estate PlansElements of an estate plan that work at cross-purposes can wreak havoc on your assets, and estate plans that were created years ago but never updated may contain inconsistencies that could cost you and your heirs plenty.

From a recent Financial Planning article, here are some common inconsistencies that plague many estate plans:

Power of Attorney.  While designating an agent to protect your best interests for financial, legal and tax matters is a given with estate plans, many people hesitate to give their chosen agent immediate authority, instead opting for a springing power of attorney which kicks in once you become disabled.  However, confusion can reign when a disabled diagnosis is unclear and a third party has to be persuaded that a power of attorney is warranted.

Balance Sheet Planning.  Many estate plans are devised based on a person’s current balance sheet, but in fact it may be advisable to use financial projections instead.  If a person’s wealth is likely to grow, conducting financial projections may reveal additional opportunities to save on estate or gift taxes.

Gift Provisions.  A power of attorney often provides a designated agent with the ability to make certain gifts, like continuing the support of a family member.  If the estate plan also includes a living trust, these often include gift provisions as well.  It is important that these are coordinated.

Estate Tax Allocation.  For people facing a 40% federal estate tax, the tax allocation clause of their estate plan that determines which bequest will bear the cost of the estate tax can be a significant factor in determining who inherits what.  Your objectives for inheritance should be clearly thought out when considering this clause.

Multiple Trusts.  People whose estate plans include more than one trust need to determine if these trusts are efficient and serve their interests.  Trusts established at different times for different reasons could result in tax planning complications as well as greater administration costs.

To be sure your estate plan doesn’t include any of these or other costly inconsistencies, contact our Newport Beach law firm.

How to Achieve Your Goals When Leaving an IRA to Heirs

Estate Planning, Tax PlanningNo Comments

ira e1346184593476 How to Achieve Your Goals When Leaving an IRA to HeirsA recent article by Deborah Jacobs reiterated the importance of checking IRA beneficiary designations, noting that the biggest – and costliest – mistake many people make is failing to designate the right people to inherit IRA assets.

Do not make the mistake of lumping your IRA assets into what you are bequeathing to heirs via your will.  IRA assets are passed through beneficiary designations forms.  If no form has been filled out, then your heirs are at the mercy of the IRA custodian’s policy.  Many times, the assets will go to the estate, which will negate important tax benefits.

January is the perfect time to review your IRA beneficiary designations and the best way to fill out your forms will depend on the goals you want to reach by bequeathing your IRA assets.  For example:

You want to provide for your spouse.  Name your spouse as the beneficiary, but name contingent beneficiaries as well in case your spouse predeceases you.

You want to maximize the stretch.  Name a younger heir as beneficiary, as inherited IRA distributions are calculated based on life expectancy.

You want to keep things even.  If you have more than one child and wish to leave equal portions of your IRA to those children and their heirs, then designate the portions as “per stirpes”.  This will ensure that if one of your children dies before you do, their share will go to their children.

You want to preserve assets.  Name a trust as the beneficiary.

You want to give your heirs options.  Name primary and alternate beneficiaries, so if one of your primary heirs wants to disclaim the inherited IRA for any reason, the assets can pass to the alternate(s).

You want to give to charity.   Name a charity as beneficiary to gain estate and income tax benefits.

If you need help reaching your estate planning goals in 2014, contact our Orange County law firm.

Learning from Famous Estate Planning Mistakes

Estate PlanningNo Comments

Oops 150x122 Learning from Famous Estate Planning Mistakes The mistakes many celebrities have made in their estate plans (or lack thereof) have caused plenty of pain and suffering for their families and their estates.  Here is the list of those celebrity mistakes and what we can learn from them:

Sonny Bono – Bono died unexpectedly of a skiing accident and had no will when he died, as well as a child he fathered out of wedlock who stepped forward to claim a part of the estate.  Creating a will is important at any age since none of us knows when we will die.

Jimi Hendrix – Hendrix intended for his estate to go to his brother, but he never made a will.  When he died at 26, his estate was divided between his father and adopted daughter according to state intestacy laws.

Leona Helmsley – the well-known New York hotelier left the majority of her $12 million estate to her dog.  Her grandchildren contested the validity of the will, claiming mental incompetence.  If you intend to leave an unusual bequest, you should consult with an estate planning attorney to ensure your wishes cannot be challenged due to mental incompetence.

Stieg Larsson – Larsson never got to see the riches his Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and subsequent novels brought, and neither did his girlfriend of 32 years since he never made a will naming her as a beneficiary.  His entire estate was divided between his father and brother.

Princess Diana – While she did indicate that she wished to leave £100,000 each to her sons and her godchildren upon her death, she did not execute the formal estate planning documents to do so.  When she died tragically at the age of 36 in a car accident, her wishes were not honored because they were never formalized.

Michael Jackson – the King of Pop executed a pour-over will that placed all his assets in a trust, but he neglected to fund the trust with those assets.  His family continues to battle in court over his assets.

Heath Ledger – the actor neglected to update his will following the birth of his daughter, so all his assets went to his parents and siblings.  Wills should always be updated following a major life event like the birth of a child, a marriage, a divorce, etc.

To avoid any missteps with your estate planning, contact our Orange County law firm.

We Wish You a Merry Christmas!

Asset Protection, Estate PlanningNo Comments

christmas tree e1355953727677 We Wish You a Merry Christmas!We are here for you any time of the year for estate planning and asset protection strategies to benefit you and your family.  Contact our Orange County law firm soon.

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