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Financial Planning for Boomer Widows

Estate PlanningNo Comments

help button 150x150 Financial Planning for Boomer WidowsIt is currently estimated that 70 percent of baby boomer women will outlive their husbands, and a recent ING Direct USA survey found that almost 80 percent of boomer women say they lack the financial savvy to make the right financial planning decisions.

Taking action now can spare you from financial panic; here are some recommendations:

Start estate planning now.  Many women cannot count on having a lot of time to get their financial affairs in order after a spouse dies.  Make sure all your accounts are jointly held and steps are taken to avoid probate if possible.  You will want continuing access to all your assets if your spouse dies before you do.

Educate yourself.  Know what you have in terms of assets and where to find those assets.  Sit down now with your spouse and make a full list of all accounts, passwords and contacts and keep that list in a safe place.

Delay Social Security.  If a husband was the primary earner and can hold off taking Social Security benefits until age 70, a surviving wife will qualify for a significant benefit premium.

Don’t make hasty decisions about money. Experts recommend that widows not make any major decisions – financial or otherwise – in the first six months of widowhood.

Get professional help.  The help of an estate planning attorney or financial planner can be invaluable following the death of a spouse, helping you navigate the estate administration process and ensuring your financial future.

For more information on financial and estate planning, contact our Orange County law firm.

The 10 Last Best Things You Can Do for Loved Ones

Estate PlanningNo Comments

number 102 The 10 Last Best Things You Can Do for Loved OnesDeath is something no one likes to think about and far too few of us plan for – yet everyone will do it.  And leaving grieving loved ones with a lot of extra work and confusion is probably not something most of us would want to leave as our legacy.  Here are 10 of the last best things you can do for your loved ones now, before you pass:

1.  Make a will.  Don’t make your family have to drag through an expensive court proceeding where a judge who never knew you will have to decide how to divvy things up.

2.  Sign a health care power of attorney.  Make your decisions now on how or if you want to health care providers to treat you in case you become incapacitated, and choose someone you trust to respect your decisions on end-of-life care.

3.  Plan your funeral.  Do you want to be cremated or buried?  Yes or no to a viewing?  Make these decisions now and let your loved ones know.

4.  Plan your estate.  Will there be taxes on your estate and how will your heirs pay them?  What do you want to happen to your house?  Should you put your assets in trust to protect them for future generations?  Meet with an estate planning attorney and get all these things squared away.

5.  Make a list.  Let loved ones know where they can find your will and powers of attorney, the key to your safety deposit box, your email and online accounts and password information and other important papers.

6.  Gather important paperwork.  Get your deed, car title, insurance policies, pensions, bank account information, CDs and bonds and put them in a file for your family.

7.  Update your address book.  Be sure you have current addresses for friends and family members who live far away as well as contact information for your estate planning attorney and accountant.

8.  Stop hiding things.  If you hide jewelry or cash in your home, find a better place for it and let family members know where it can be found or those things may be gone for good after you are.

9.  Share your history.  One of the greatest gifts we can pass on are our family memories and history, so don’t let yours die with you.

10.  Make amends.  If you’re on the outs with family members, mend fences now before it’s too late.

The last best thing you can do for yourself is to have a comprehensive estate plan and tax strategy in place.  Contact our Newport Beach law firm for help.

4 Estate Planning Errors to Avoid

Estate PlanningNo Comments

Oops 150x122 4 Estate Planning Errors to AvoidEstate planning is crucial to protecting your assets, not only for your own use during your lifetime but also for future generations.  However, it is just as important that you avoid these common estate planning mistakes or all the care you have taken to protect your estate may be undone:

Failure to name the right heirs—failing to designate the right beneficiaries or to update your estate plan after a divorce, birth of new children or other major life event.

Lack of liquidity—leaving high value assets to heirs without the sufficient liquidity that will allow them to pay any estate taxes when they are due could result in having to sell off those assets.

Lack of estate management at critical times—it may not always be the best strategy to leave everything to heirs immediately following your death.  You can establish trusts that will distribute assets at intervals you deem appropriate.

Choosing an incompetent executor—sometimes choosing an unqualified family member to serve as executor of your estate is not the best choice.

Don’t make the mistake of having an outdated estate plan.  Contact our Newport Beach law firm for assistance.

How Married Couples Can Maximize Social Security Benefits

Estate Planning, Tax PlanningNo Comments

boomer couple1 150x150 How Married Couples Can Maximize Social Security BenefitsFor married couples where both spouses have a work record and will be entitled to receive Social Security retirement benefits, there are some strategies that will help you maximize your benefits for the largest possible payout.  These include:

File and Suspend – When the highest earning spouse – we’ll call him Bob — reaches retirement age, he files for benefits and then immediately suspends them.  This allows Bob’s wife Carol to choose the higher benefit – half of Bob’s benefit or her own benefit.  Bob can continue to work or draw income from an IRA and delay receiving his benefits – which will be larger – until he is 70.

Double Dip – This term is applied to the ability to draw your spousal benefit and your own benefit at different times.  To do this, you must file for the spousal benefit first, even though it may be smaller.  Taking your own benefit down the road will mean a bigger check.

62/70 Strategy – If you can’t afford to postpone taking your Social Security benefits, this strategy allows you to maximize your benefits as a married couple.  The lower earning spouse files first at age 62, and the higher earning spouse delays filing for benefits until age 70.  Even though Bob is waiting until age 70 to begin taking his benefits, he can file for a spousal benefit based on Carol’s record once he reaches full retirement age.  When he turns 70, he then drops the spousal benefit and starts taking his larger benefit.

For more information on how married couples can benefit from estate planning, contact our Orange County law firm.

4 Simple Estate Planning Steps to Protect Assets

Asset Protection, Estate PlanningNo Comments

estate planning image 284x250 150x150 4 Simple Estate Planning Steps to Protect AssetsThe strategic use of estate planning to protect assets is something every family should consider.  Not only will careful planning help you to preserve your assets for future generations, it can save your family the time and expense of California probate proceedings.

Here are four simple steps to get you started:

1.  List your beneficiaries.  Think of all the people in your life that you would like to benefit from your estate and write them down.  If you have minor children, think about who you would want to take care of them if something were to happen to you.  If you have someone in your family with special needs and want to make special provisions for their care, note that as well.  In addition, list any charitable causes you may wish to support with a gift.

2.  List your property.  Now make a written list of all your assets, including real estate, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and physical items like jewelry, art collections, cars, etc.

3.  Link your lists.  Take the lists of people and property you have made and start linking them, deciding who you want to leave what.

4.  Get expert advice.  Finalize your plan by visiting with an estate planning attorney who can assist you with creating the proper planning documents, including your will, durable powers of attorney, advance medical directive, trusts and so on.

Contact our Newport Beach law firm for assistance in creating or updating your estate plan.

How to Know When It’s Time to Help Elderly Parents Manage Their Money

Asset Protection, Estate PlanningNo Comments

caregiver e1354228604294 How to Know When It’s Time to Help Elderly Parents Manage Their MoneyThose fortunate enough to have parents living to a ripe old age are often faced with the challenge of when to step in with care giving duties.  The time to do so for healthcare reasons will be obvious; what may not be so obvious is when parents need help managing finances.

Here are some tips for making the transition into a financial caregiver:

Know when to initiate a discussion.  The best time to have the discussion about family finances is when your parent(s) are still healthy.  Look for signs they may be having trouble or if they have fallen victim to a financial scam.

Make them comfortable.  Let them know you want to respect their wishes when it comes to getting help so they will feel comfortable when the time comes, and ask them to prepare you by detailing what they have already done when it comes to estate planning.

Build trust.  Ease into financial care giving duties by starting out small.  By having access to their accounts online, you can monitor activity without being intrusive.

Keep siblings in the loop.  Usually, care giving duties will fall to one sibling, but it’s important that all siblings be kept in the loop.  If parents already have a financial advisor, it may be helpful for all siblings to attend annual reviews.

Look for opportunities to protect assets.  Advanced asset protection strategies may need to come into play for those with substantial assets.  These could include parents giving co-ownership of a home to an adult child or establishing trusts to protect assets.

Avoid probate.  Ensuring that retirement accounts have beneficiary designations will help the estate avoid probate.

For more tips on protecting assets, contact our Costa Mesa law firm.

 

Protecting Assets When Your Family is Far From Traditional

Asset Protection, Estate PlanningNo Comments

Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving thanksgiving 2927689 375 479 e1386888034691 Protecting Assets When Your Family is Far From TraditionalThe American family gathered around the holiday table as portrayed in the 1943 painting by Norman Rockwell has changed a lot in the last 70 years.  Today, “traditional” families often consist of a stepparent, stepchildren and other relatives interrelated by a different number of marriages.  And the more complex the family relationship, the more complex your estate planning is likely to be.

Here are some tips for protecting the assets of those living in the new norm – otherwise known as blended families:

Put everything in writing.  No longer does a blanket designation cover all the bases for blended families.  If you want to leave assets to someone not related to you by blood, even though you may consider them your children, you will need to include their legal names in your will and other estate planning documents.

Distribute heirlooms while you are alive.  Unless you want to itemize all your belongings and assign names to each in your will, you are probably better off leaving valuables to the people you want to have the while you are alive.  Plus, you get the added benefit of seeing them enjoy those items while you’re still around.

Keep your beneficiaries updated.  Check your beneficiary designations annually on your retirement and investment accounts as well as your life insurance policy.  Do it at tax time when you’re already thinking about money so you don’t forget each year.

Plan for long-term care.  Nothing can deplete assets quicker than having to pay long-term care costs out-of-pocket.  Make a plan for your long-term care, whether it’s purchasing insurance or setting funds aside.

Contact our Orange County law firm for information on planning your California estate.

Cost of 12 Days of Christmas Rises 7.7% This Year

Asset Protection, Estate PlanningNo Comments

12days partridge 150x150 Cost of 12 Days of Christmas Rises 7.7% This YearFor 30 years, PNC Wealth Management has measured the cost of fulfilling the gifts promised in the song, “12 Days of Christmas” and reports that in 2013, giving those gifts to your true love will cost you $27,393.17, up 7.7% from last year.

In case you need reminding, that $27K+ will buy you:

  • 12 Drummers Drumming
  • 11 Pipers Piping
  • 10 Lords-a-Leaping
  • 9 Ladies Dancing
  • 8 Maids-a-Milking
  • 7 Swans-a-Swimming
  • 6 Geese-a-Laying
  • 5 Gold Rings
  • 4 Calling Birds
  • 3 French Hens
  • 2 Turtle Doves
  • A Partridge in a Pear Tree

According to PNC, the largest contributing factor to the price increase is labor.  The price for 9 Ladies Dancing rose 20%, 10 Lords Leaping is up 10% and the pipers and drummers are up almost 3% from 2012.

We suggest you forego the items above and instead give yourself and your loved ones the gift of an estate plan this year.  It will protect your assets long after the maids have stopped milking.  Contact our Newport Beach law firm to get started.

Estate Planning Moves to Make Before Year-End

Asset Protection, Estate PlanningNo Comments

2013 2014 featured 570x270 e1386627990363 Estate Planning Moves to Make Before Year EndIf you tend to procrastinate when it comes to estate and tax planning issues, you are certainly not alone.  But there are a few things you need to take care of before the end of this month to ensure your estate plan is still in good shape and to take advantage of tax deduction opportunities for 2013:

Check beneficiary designations.  The disposition of assets in retirement accounts, IRAs and life insurance policy is governed by whom you have listed as beneficiary for each account or policy.  Review these designations now to ensure you still have the right people listed as beneficiaries.

Make charitable contributions.  The holidays are a perfect time for charitable giving, as well as giving a little back to yourself in terms of reductions in estate and income taxes.  To make sure your gifts qualify for 2013 deductions, be sure you make them before Dec. 31.

Make individual gifts.  This year you are allowed to give away up to $14,000 ($28,000 for married couples) to anyone you wish, free of gift tax.  This is another nice gift to yourself as well, since it removes taxable assets from your estate.

If you need to review your entire estate plan to determine if you are employing the latest estate planning strategies, you should do it before year-end in case there are other tax-saving tools that could help you and your loved ones.

To make sure you are doing as much as possible to protect your assets, contact our Orange County law firm.

Help for Making Good Decisions on Medicare Options

Estate PlanningNo Comments

Medicare logo e1386189414814 Help for Making Good Decisions on Medicare OptionsThere is a very helpful blog out there entitled The Medicare Blog that has lots of good information for those of you facing the Dec. 7 deadline for Medicare open enrollment.

The blog is run by Medicare, and is written in easy-to-understand, plain English, with plenty of articles on how to save money on health care costs.  You can go to blog.medicare.gov to read all about what you need to know to make your decision.

With a lot of media attention focused on another government website that has experienced many difficulties – HealthCare.gov — which is where individuals who don’t currently have health insurance go to find an affordable plan.   Don’t be confused – if you have health coverage  through Medicare, the new HealthCare.gov Marketplace has no effect on your Medicare coverage.

As you compare your Medicare options, here are some things to consider beyond cost, coverage and benefits:

Physician and hospital choice – if you want to continue seeing your current doctor(s), be sure that your doctor will accept your coverage.

Pharmacy access – be sure the pharmacy you use regularly is in your drug plan’s network.

Travel – if you spend part of the year in another state, be sure your coverage will travel with you.

Quality – each plan is given a star rating, with 5 stars being the highest rating.  Look for a plan with a high rating to ensure you are getting the quality you expect.

Be sure you are making the right decisions when it comes to estate planning and asset protection by contacting our Orange County law firm.

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