While materialism isn’t a good thing, you’ve worked hard for your possessions. You don’t want to put your assets at risk. One way to prevent putting them at risk is to make sure that you are able to avoid getting into situations where they could be lost. In this article, we will discuss the top ten ways, in no particular order, to put assets at risk (and how you can avoid them).
1. Lack of Insurance
Insurance, as the old saying goes, is one of those things that you don’t know how much you need until you need it. When you want to protect your assets, you need insurance. Even if it isn’t the double-decker, platinum policy, a solid, practical insurance plan will work wonders. When deciding the type of insurance you want, look at the type of asset and the risks involved. Do your research into various policies and insurers, and you will be able to find the best price. You’ll be happy you have it.
2. Dying Intestate
A common way to lose your assets it to die intestate, which means that your assets are given first to your creditors, and then to your family. Dying without a will subjects your estate to probate, and your estate is carved up in a way that you likely would not prefer had you been able to make a choice. Making a will is an excellent way to keep your assets within the family, as is creating a trust.
3. Probate Battles
Probate court is where your estate is divvied up by a judge. Probate battles between family members, creditors, and beneficiaries occur all the time. Really, half of the time spent in probate court involves an argument of some sort. And, your estate and values won’t necessarily come out the winner. Avoid probate by ensuring that your estate plan is in good shape.
4. Attempting to Make Your Will Yourself
It’s tempting to just want to write down everything you want to have happen, sign the will, and be done with the whole estate planning thing. However, the law is tricky and complicated. There are a million and one ways to torpedo a will and totally get the intentions of it wrong. Asking a lawyer for help is the best way to ensure that it is done properly.
5. Business Considerations
Hundreds of thousands of words could be written on the business considerations behind protecting your assets. However, there’s no need for that in this article. Make sure that you are fully aware of the liability of your assets in relation to your business. How limited is your liability in the event that your business is sued? Will you be exposed personally to lawsuit costs? If you know this information and are happy with it, then that is a good thing. If you’re unsure, this is something you’ll want to check out.
6. Picking the Wrong POA
You know your family, and you likely know who you would and would not want as a power of attorney. Always double check to ensure that that is your correct intention. If you have a POA in your estate plan now, make sure that that is still who you want. A less-than-ideal POA can be very problematic.
7. DIY Legal Work
Similar to one of the ways listed above, the unwise nature of DIY legal work extends to anything requiring drafting of a legal document. Even if the site you’re looking at offers a template, there are all too many ways to include a wrong term or end up with something totally different than what you want. The headache you’ll be spared by doing it properly the first time is the main reason why you should go to a lawyer first.
8. No Umbrella Insurance
Umbrella insurance is the Cadillac of insurance in a lot of cases. If you have the extra money and want to get umbrella insurance (which is insurance that goes beyond the liability of your home), you should definitely do so.
Ex-spouses all too often have places in your estate plan that they likely should not have. If you’re divorced and haven’t changed your estate plan to reflect that, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your ex will get your things. However, it’s a better idea to not have them in there. Make sure to change your will or revoke a trust (if possible) if that doesn’t reflect your current relationship.
10. Put It in Writing
Last but not least, put stuff in writing. If you’ve made a verbal promise to a relative about your estate plan, that might not be good enough. Put your intentions in writing, and an estate planner will help you do so.
These ten asset protection mistakes are not the only ways to risk your assets, but they are the most common. Watch out for the hidden pitfalls, and you will be able to avoid them. Knowing the risk is the first step to avoiding it.
The Tour de France is one of the most interesting events in sports. It has been the site of both incredible triumphs and defeats. The Tour de France, for those who might not know, is a men’s bike race that cycles all around France. The race does extend into a few other countries, but it predominantly focuses on France. It is televised, so people can cheer on their favorite racers and see how well they do.
The Tour de France is a lot like life. You give your all, and you never really know the exact outcome or what you will get for your efforts. The Tour de France has been around since 1903, and athletes who compete have learned a lot about what it takes to prepare for such an arduous task. Much like these athletes, you also can prepare for the ups and downs that come with the “Tour de Life.”
Coasting: When Things are Easy
Life for you (hopefully) isn’t all twists and turns. There are periods of tranquility, and it is easy to get complacent during these periods, as nothing is going on that requires your immediate attention. However, during these peaceful periods when no one is sick, or family members are not fighting, or it otherwise is calm and tranquil, you should consider doing your estate plan or will drafting.
There is an old saying that says, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” While, certainly, this isn’t literally applicable to our lives today, the sentiment is the same. Use downtime to make sure things are in place for turbulence. That means organizing a healthcare directive, picking a POA, getting your assets squared away for after you pass on, and more. Do it now, so that you don’t regret it later.
The Ups and Downs of Life
Sadly, there will be times when that coasting period ends, and things get tricky. This is where the above documents will come in handy. A good example of this is the POA (power of attorney) or the healthcare directive. Let’s say that one of the “downs” of life is you getting sick.
If you’re really sick, you might be incapacitated and unable to communicate effectively. A healthcare directive prepares for this. You’re able to communicate your wishes through the directive to the doctors, nurses, and hospital staff, ensuring that you get the medical treatment you want even in times where you can’t communicate it.
Don’t Fall Asleep at the Wheel
So, you’ve made your estate plan—now what? Well, first, good for you. You’ve prepared for any eventuality, and that should give you peace of mind. Now, it’s important not to fall asleep at the wheel. If there are changes in your family (new spouses, new family members, etc.), you will want to ensure that your estate plan reflects that. Don’t allow change to build up. If something happens, you don’t want to be bound to a plan that doesn’t reflect the new dynamics of your family.
Thinking of Your Family
Of course, your primary focus should be your family. When deciding how you want to divide your assets, make sure you are thinking about the best interests of yourself and your family. By communicating with them, you will ensure that your will best reflects the best division possible. This also applies for selecting a POA or guardian. Check with the proposed family member before nominating them to make sure you’re on the same page.
During life, there will be ups and downs. It’s best, during the “ups” when you’re coasting on a flat surface, to prepare for the downs and what might happen. Just like the Tour de France athletes prepare, so should you.
Independence Day is one of the most treasured holidays in America, and it’s almost here! Here are three interesting facts about the 4th of July that you might not know, as well as a mini-history lesson about the renowned George Washington (and his equally-famous last will and testament).
Three Fun Facts about the Fourth
First, did you know that the 4th of July was not the actual date that the Founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence? If you want to be annoying at your family barbecue, you can point out that the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence was on July 2nd, with another, formalized document being signed on August 2nd. The 4th is the date that the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration.
If that last fact was a bit of a buzzkill, this one won’t be. It turns out, the colonists’ celebrations on the Fourth of July contained pretty much the same level of wildness as they do now. All the pent-up frustration over high taxes and colonial strictness led to pretty raucous parties once the colonists were free. For example, the Virginia Gazette, a paper that circulated in 1776, reported that Americans toppled a statue of King George and melted it into bullets. They also hosted huge bonfires where they burned King George in effigy and held fake funerals for him. Oh, and there were tons of fireworks even then as well.
Thirdly, even the troops in the colonies were able to celebrate during the Revolutionary War. George Washington, sensing that his army was low on morale, ordered a double ration of rum to be served in all the camps to celebrate the Fourth.
A Little Bit About George Washington
George Washington is perhaps one of the most fascinating leaders in all American history. He actually somewhat accidentally started the French and Indian War —or, at least, he was responsible for the shot over the bough that set it off.
Washington had just gone through a fierce battle that ended in the death of a French military leader, Commander Jumonville. Despite this death, Washington did not win the battle, and the loss was largely due to his errors and naivety. His letter of surrender, detailing Jumonville’s death, was somehow received by the French and translated by a Dutch soldier.
But, this post-battle letter was translated incorrectly. Instead of translating that the war was the ambiguous cause of Commander Jumonville’s death, the Dutch soldier read the letter as Washington “assassinating” Jumonville. Because Washington was, in 1754, a British colonist, this was considered an act of aggression (casus belli) to justify war. It ignited the tensions between the French and British, effectively kicking off the French and Indian War, which snowballed into the Seven Years’ War. The British won both and sent the French packing.
For a short time, anyway.
But tensions were brewing with the Americans. The British soldiers sent over to fight the War with the French were paid more than the Americans. This was really expensive, as was the whole conflict in general. So, the British enacted the Stamp Act in 1765.
It was this Stamp Act that pushed American colonists to the edge. The extra money going into King George’s pocket deeply angered the colonists, and when other taxes followed (such as the infamous Tea Tax), that led to, well, a revolution.
So, in a strange, winding way, George Washington was a catalyst for the wars that led to Americans throwing down the gauntlet against the British. And now, centuries later, here we are on the Fourth of July.
The Estate of George Washington
There is a custom of Washington’s that you too can emulate. No, it’s not starting a Revolution, but it is similar to how he organized his life. Washington was a meticulous planner when it came to wrapping up his affairs. He was very ill in 1799, and he wrote one of the most famous last wills and testaments of all time. He made two copies, giving one to his wife, Martha, and throwing another in the fire. The will was deeply personal, granting land to loved ones, particularly his wife, and releasing debts his family members, even distant relatives, owed to his estate.
He took care of his loved ones, and you can too. Contact an estate planner about setting up a trust (a probate-free way to plan out your affairs). Through careful planning, you can emulate Washington’s responsibility and dedication to his family and friends.
June is National Hunger Awareness Month, and with that comes the sobering reminder that there are people among us who do not have food to put on the table each night. Hunger takes a lot of different forms. It’s not just the typical vision of someone homeless on the street, though that is a large part of the hunger problem. It is also about families struggling to make ends meet and single parents barely making it.
If you’re fortunate enough not to have this problem, you can give back this June by donating canned food, money, or other supplies to local shelters and food drives. Often, homeless shelters and soup kitchens needs volunteers to work there and help out during the week and on weekends.
Another thing to keep in mind this June is that putting food on the table isn’t the only way to be responsible for your loved ones and keep them safe. Here are other ways you can provide for your family for the future.
Think about your possessions (assets) and how much they mean to you. This isn’t to say you’re materialistic, but we all love our stuff. There are things each of us have that we want to pass on, and these possessions are important, whether they are items or actual pieces of real property.
Estate planning allows you to transfer your assets to loved ones. If you choose a trust, the transfer goes through immediately, and it is given to your loved ones at a time you select. You can transfer real property through estate planning, and get your affairs in order in other ways too, which are detailed briefly below.
Taking Care of Loved Ones
Note that when we say “get your affairs in order,” we don’t mean that you have to be on your deathbed. You can do this at any age, in any health condition. This estate plan might not come into realization for years and years. However, taking care of the vulnerable members of your family in the future is something you do not want to wait to do. Here are ways to take care of the most vulnerable members of your family, including the elderly, children, near-adults (AKA college students), and the sick.
The Most Vulnerable in the Family
If you have elderly family members, giving them the gift of an estate planning session is valuable. Whether they have an estate plan that needs updating or checked-over or they have no estate plan at all, it is important to make sure they are all set for the future. This doesn’t include just asset transfer. It also includes healthcare directives, Powers of Attorney, and other assignments to protect their finances and honor healthcare decisions in the event of incapacitation.
If you have children, the last thing you probably want to think about is what would happen to them if something happened to you. But, unfortunately, it is a remote possibility you should give some thought to. Selecting a responsible guardian is part of a well-rounded estate plan. Consult with your proposed guardian before selecting them officially, and make sure you two are on the same page when it comes to parenting.
If you have college kids or soon-to-be college kids in your life, there is always the matter of tuition. It’s never too early to start planning for your kid’s college education. Starting a 529 tax plan is a way to save up for college tuition and get tax breaks for doing so. Even if it’s just part of the cost of education, any little bit is enough.
If you or your family members are infirm, consider setting up (or helping them set up) a healthcare directive and/or Power of Attorney for healthcare. A POA for healthcare is someone entrusted with making healthcare decisions on a sick and incapacitated person’s behalf. A healthcare directive is a set of instructions for a hospital to follow in case you are too sick to give these instructions yourself.
Protecting your loved ones, particularly the most vulnerable in your family, is essential to being responsible.
June is a good time to remember those who are struggling in the world. We all should give back and provide for others during this time, as well as every other month. Take a look at your local news to see how you can help during National Hunger Awareness Month.
The NBA Finals are here and alas! All good things must come to an end. Now, we’re not trying to start an argument on who’s going to win (though that could be a conversation lasting hours), but I think we can all agree that the NBA season coming to an end is a sad moment for some basketball fans. Next up is football season, as well as the closeout of baseball season.
While the NBA Finals’ coming to an end might just mean that you have to wait around for next season, that doesn’t mean that is the case with everything else. Make sure you’re prepared for the next “season” of your life through careful estate planning.
New Family Members
New family members are exciting! Whether it’s a new baby being born or a new relative by marriage, you will want your estate plan to reflect these new family members you love and care about. If you want your new granddaughter or in-law to get part of your estate, make sure you contact an estate planner and update as soon as possible. That way, you will ensure that your estate plan reflects your true wishes.
Thinking About Your Kids’ College
College is essential to getting a job these days. This doesn’t mean just a four-year program. Higher education comes in many forms, including learning a valuable trade or attending a two-year program to get your associates degree. Whichever form your kids choose, it will likely cost at least some amount of money. Starting a tax-advantaged 529 plan is an excellent way to prepare for the future (and get some IRS breaks for doing so!).
Speaking of Kids…
If you have young children, you will want to put in a guardianship plan for them in the event that something happens to you and your spouse. That way, your kids are well-taken-care-of in the worst scenario. No, it’s not an easy thing to think about or even consider, but it is vital to prepare for even the remotest possibility. Choose a guardian you know will take care of your kids’ day to day needs. Consult with that proposed guardian to ensure that you are on the same page.
Preparing for Sickness
If you get sick, you probably have some instructions in mind for the doctors. Maybe you want a certain medication or to avoid a certain procedure. These instructions are important and personal. They need to be codified in a piece of writing and/or entrusted to a POA (Power of Attorney) to make sure your wishes are honored. Doctors and nurses are almost always responsible people, but they won’t know what you want unless you tell them, and you might be too sick to do so. A healthcare directive and plan for this worst-case event will serve as a safeguard for you.
And Everything Else, Too
There is a ton of stuff that goes into an estate plan, and there’s no way to cover everything in such a short article. It really comes down to who and what are important in your life. And then, once you have that list, estate planning is about protecting these people and assets for the future. The future is always going to be uncertain, but you should still make an effort to prepare for every eventuality. As famous author Stephen King once said, “Everything’s eventual.”
All good things come to an end, but there are ways to prepare. You might be entering one of the next “seasons” of your life above, whether new members of the family are coming in or leaving the nest. It always helps to have a game plan and be one step ahead. By careful estate planning and contacting an estate planning attorney, you can make sure you get the process right.
On Monday, May 27th, we celebrate the men and women who gave their lives for our country. Interestingly, the holiday used to be called Decoration Day, and it has been (officially) around since 1966. It always falls on the last Monday in May, and almost everything is be closed for business that day.
Veterans showed an enormous amount of personal strength and responsibility. It was a burden that very few other people shared and continue to share today. When you’re thinking about responsibility in your own life, it is daunting to think about taking on such a burden. Here are some ways, both estate-planning-related and not, to celebrate this Memorial Day.
The National Moment of Remembrance
Though President Johnson officially declared Memorial Day a federal holiday in 1966, the practice of remembrance dates back to the 1860s. It was mainly celebrated by the northern states at first, as the southern states did not want to honor their dead Confederate soldiers on the same day as Union soldiers.
That changed after WWI, as the holiday shifted to honoring those killed in WWI, which included citizens from the North and the South. WWI killed over 53,000 Americans, while WWII killed nearly 300,000. The wars after that, combined, took around 110,000 lives.
The National Moment of Remembrance is a Memorial Day tradition that has been around since 2001. It takes place at 3 P.M. on Memorial Day, and it is a nationwide, shared moment of silence for the lives lost during America’s wars.
Do Something Community-Oriented (However Small)
War, in the end, is about division. A world divided goes to war, and celebrating community is somewhat of an antidote to that. Whether it’s picking up litter in your community, helping an elderly neighbor, or donating to a community organization, we can all do something small to appreciate one another.
Red Poppy Flowers
Another interesting Memorial Day tradition is that of red poppy flowers. Once again, this tradition dates back to Civil War times. After the Civil War, General John Logan, who oversaw what was left of the military at the time, ordered flowers placed on the graves of all soldiers, Union and Confederate, who died in the war.
It wasn’t until post-WWI when red poppies became the flower associated with fallen soldiers. The red poppy tradition came from John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Field. McCrae wrote the poem in 1915 in the aftermath of the Second Battle of Ypres. The poppy was the only flower to bloom on the battlefields during that time, and so it became the flower for fallen veterans.
Take Responsibility in Your Own Life
It is overwhelming to think about the enormous responsibility that these soldiers showed, and it is difficult to compare such sacrifice to our own lives. When thinking about ways to take responsibility in your own life, consider planning for your future. Set up an estate plan that details what you want from your healthcare and finances. Make sure you include asset protection. This will not only protect your future; it will help your family as well. They will be spared the turmoil of probate court after you pass on.
For Your Kids’ Future, Too
Consider your kids’ future. Education is a predictor of how well a society, as a whole, will do, and a college or trade school education sets someone on the right path to success. Use an IRS 529 plan to help save for your kids’ college. The plan is tax-advantaged, and it is a way to get a head start on your kids’ future.
Thousands of soldiers have died for this country throughout the years. It was the Civil War that took the most lives, with World War II following right after. War is a terrible thing, and the sacrifices that our veterans made to keep us safe should never be forgotten. This Memorial Day, remember the lives of veterans through observing tradition and taking responsibility in your own life and for your own future.
Well, we made it! Summer is almost here. It’s time for hot beach days and no school for kids. Everyone loves summer, and for good reason! This summer, you might be preparing to go on vacation. There are many things to think about and plans to make before you go on vacation. You have to lock up the house, pack, get the kids ready, figure out who’s going to take care of the pets and plants, and more.
But what about the big picture? 99.9% of the time, vacations go off without a (major) hitch. But, as any estate planning attorney (or insurance agent) will tell you, it pays to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Here are some big-picture things to think about doing before you head off on a great adventure.
Things happen on vacation sometimes. It’s rare, but they can happen. You’re in a new environment doing new things. There’s always the chance that something could go wrong. If that occurs, you want to have a plan in place. A healthcare directive and power of attorney for healthcare are ways that you can give directions to hospitals and nurses giving you care. These tools will alert your healthcare providers to your preferences, even if you are unable to give the directions yourself at the time due to incapacitation.
Similarly, you probably have plans for your financial health in the event that something happens to you. However, something could happen that causes you to be unable to verbalize your wishes for your finances. A power of attorney for finances is, like for healthcare, a trusted individual that you select to make these decisions on your behalf. He or she knows what you want (because you’ve told them), and they will ensure that your money goes to the right place.
The Kids, Too
If you have minor children, they will need guardians if something happens to you. Make sure your estate plan includes details for who you want to take care of them in the worst-case scenario. Choose someone you believe would take the best care of your kids, not just overall, but also day-to-day. Talk to your proposed guardian to make sure they agree.
Insurance (All Kinds)
In addition to estate planning tips, there are other ways to prepare for every eventuality. One major way is through insurance. Are you renting a car? Get rental insurance. Are you flying? Get lost luggage insurance.
If you’re going to be gone for a while, you can also purchase vacation insurance. This type of insurance covers anything bad that could possibly happen while on vacation: medical emergencies, emergency assistance, cancellations, travel changes that result in extra expense, and more. It’s a good idea in general to make healthcare plans in case something happens. Find in-network providers in your vacation area. If they aren’t there, check to see the out-of-network costs. Some insurance plans will not charge you as much as the usual out-of-network fee if you go for an emergency.
What’s at your house that you can’t just leave? Think about what you do every week. Pets, plans, and perishables are the “Three P’s” of planning for vacation. Make sure your pet will be taken care of. If you have plants or a lawn that needs care, arrange for that as well. Empty out your fridge! This is something all too many people forget to do before vacation. We’ve all done it at some point and coming home to rotting food is definitely not a welcome surprise when you get back from a relaxing vacation.
We’re not saying that anything bad is going to happen on your vacation. But one thing about estate planning is that it takes into account every eventuality. If you like being prepared for pretty much anything, put the above tasks onto your to-do list before you go on vacation.
This year, Mother’s Day is on May 12th (this may serve as a helpful reminder for those who might have forgotten the date—call your mom!). Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate your parents and your kids, as well as anyone else in your family who is or is going to be a mother. Motherhood is a wonderful thing, and it deserves to be celebrated all year, too. There is a way you can celebrate your mom besides the usual flowers, cards, and gifts. You can include her (and your kids) in your estate plan, providing security for years to come. Here’s how:
A Plan for Mom’s Healthcare
Much as we don’t want to think about it, parents get old. They get old, and they get sick. Though you might have great genes in your family that delay this inevitability for a while, aging eventually happens. Your mom might have plans to go into assisted living or a nursing home when she needs to. That discussion is usually a difficult one for any family.
Have you thought about what happens if your mom gets sick? If she is too sick to give instructions to the doctor or nurses attending her, she might undergo health treatment she does not want. A healthcare directive is a way for her to lay out instructions ahead of time. That way, her wishes are honored even if she is unable to verbalize them at the time of care.
A Plan for Mom’s Finances
Likewise, a power of attorney for finance is a way to honor your mom’s wishes for her financial health, if she is unable to direct what she wants you to do with her money. A power of attorney is a trusted individual who will give those instructions for her. The option also exists to select a power of attorney for healthcare as well.
Another important consideration is your mom’s assets, such as her home, car, and other pieces of important property. A living trust is a way to ensure that these assets don’t have to go through probate court. The living trust is a tripartite relationship between a donor (1) who entrusts a trustee (2) with the asset. The third party is the beneficiary (3), to whom the trustee will grant the asset when the donor orders. Setting this up ensures that your mother’s assets are protected from the turmoil of probate court. This trust goes into effect the moment it is signed—not upon death, the way an asset transfer does in a last will and testament.
What About the Kids?
We’ve talked about mom thus far. Now, it’s time to give the kids a mention. For kids, there two major things to consider (among others). The first is guardianship. If you have minor kids and something happens to you, the last thing you want is for them to be raised by an unfit guardian or one with whom they will not be comfortable. Setting up guardianship with a trusted individual will ensure that the kids are protected if something happens to you.
Second, there is another way to protect your kids’ future: education. You can set up an IRS 529 tax-advantaged savings plan to help you save for their college tuition. These plans are state-based, and they are an excellent way to prepare for college and get tax credits/cuts for doing so.
Things to Think About
Above all, remember that communication is key. Talk to your mom, kids, potential powers-of-attorney, and guardians about the estate plan. Make sure everyone is on board before you sign the papers. There should be no surprises. That way, everyone is on the same page and things run as smoothly as possible in the event something happens.
The above considerations and tools are vital to ensuring that your mom and, if you have them, kids are protected in the future. Things happen. People get sick, and, even though that is unpleasant to think about, you need to be prepared just in case. Your mom deserves to have a safe, stable future, and helping her either obtain or update her estate plan is an excellent way to do that. Contact an estate planning attorney to get the process underway as soon as possible.
We’ve all experienced stressful situations in one form or another (we might even be going through some right now), but there are ways to manage and cope with stress that are healthy and productive. For example, you can exercise, take vitamins, and talk to a counselor to work out stressful feelings that you might experience. There are resources out there; you just have to grab onto them.
Financial stress is an extremely common type of stress. Will you make enough to pay the bills? Are you paying down your debt? A way to avoid financial stress is to plan ahead. This can take the form of estate planning, which is the ultimate way to plan ahead and avoid hiccups down the road. Here’s how you can avoid stress through estate planning:
Plan Ahead for Your Kids
When you’re thinking of your kids, you might not immediately jump to your worst-case scenario, which is that something happens and they are left without you. Unfortunately, those things happen, and it is important to be prepared in the event of them. In your estate plan, you can select guardianship for your kids. Pick the guardian who will be most beneficial to your kids’ mental and physical health. Choose the person who you could see them with every day. Make sure you consult with your proposed guardian before making them the guardian, however.
Plan Ahead for Your Health
Another “worst case” scenario involves health concerns and problems. You might be healthy now, but in your old age that might not be the case. When you’re considering what you want doctors and nurses to do with your body and decisions, you can make a healthcare directive. This gives doctors, hospitals, and medical staff the ability to follow your instructions, even if you are too incapacitated at the time to give them yourself. These directives can include principles you hold dearly to yourself.
Plan Ahead for College
College is an important educational milestone in anyone’s life. You want to make sure that the people you love get to go to college, and if you can help them in any way, that is what you would want. By setting aside a tax-advantaged savings plan, you can put aside the funds you need for your loved one to go to college. The IRS has specific plans that you can use that give you tax credits in exchange for saving for tuition. These plans can be partial or in full regarding tuition payment. They are a good way to provide for your family’s higher education.
Save Your Family Stress
If you love your family, you will want to save them stress. If you die without a proper estate plan, you will subject your family to probate court. Probate court involves a judge sitting on the bench dividing up your property. He or she will first use your assets to pay off your creditors, and then he or she will give your family what’s left. It is an inartful way to divide your belongings, and it rarely puts your family out ahead as the winner. Probate court is a long, expensive, and drudging process. Having an estate plan will let you avoid this process.
Lastly, having an estate plan allows you to financially prepare for every eventuality. You can select a power of attorney of finances who is a trusted individual. This individual is responsible enough to make decisions for you, and he or she will help you manage your finances if you are in a situation where you are not strong enough to do it yourself. This gives you a peace of mind about your financial health, even when your physical health is less-than-ideal.
When you’re thinking about Stress Awareness month, you should remember that a major part to fighting against stress is planning ahead and making sure that you are prepared for any and every eventuality that you can be. Estate planning is a great way to fight stress way ahead of time.
Happy tax season! Or, should we say, tax refund season. You’ll be getting your tax refund eventually, and there are some pretty good ways to put it to use. You might be tempted to go and spent it on a major purchase or on something else you want (but might not need). However, when thinking about what you want to spend your refund on, you should consider using the money to purchase a gift that keeps on giving: an estate plan. You will be able to create an estate plan that will benefit you immensely and pay off in the long run. Here’s how:
What’s so great about estate plans?
You might be wondering why you should spend your tax refund on an estate plan, as opposed to something more fun-sounding. Well, an estate plan is fun, just probably not in the way that you’re thinking. It protects your future and your family’s future. It allows you to set aside your assets, financial and healthcare directives, and maintain personal protection in the event that you become too sick or incapacitated to do so yourself. It is a long-term tool that provides massive benefits. You won’t know how much you need one until you don’t have one, and then, the results are disastrous.
A first major consideration is your financial health. You want to set aside certain assets for certain family members before you die, or perhaps you have a business that you want to protect. An estate plan will contain all your instructions for maximizing financial health and wellness, and you will also be able to appoint a financial power of attorney who will help you manage your finances. This power of attorney is trustworthy, and he or she can ensure that your financial decisions are honored the way they would be if you yourself were making them.
Physical and Mental Health
Along those same lines, your physical and mental health are both very relevant in the estate planning decision. Have you considered what will happen if you are sick or incapacitated? You can appoint a power of attorney of healthcare and pass a healthcare directive that will allow you to make healthcare decisions even if you unable to do so yourself. The hospital will observe your directive and instructions, honoring your wishes so that you have peace of mind when you are sick.
Helping Your Family
Another very important aspect to estate planning is the way it allows you to help your family. For example, if you have kids, you can set aside guardianship papers for them in the event of a disaster where they are left without you. That way, you know they will be with someone you trust. Also, you can set aside money in tax-advantaged savings plans that will help you save up for tuition for someone’s college. These savings plans come from the IRS, and they are very helpful in preparing for higher education and reaping tax benefits.
Last but not least, estate plans allow you to avoid probate, which is a stressful process that has no winners. Probate court is where your family goes if you die without an estate plan. The judge makes decisions about your finances, and he pays off your debtors and your family gets what is left. This process is arduous and often expensive. It doesn’t allow asset transfer for a while, which is inconvenient. Having a good estate plan will allow you to avoid that.
All of these above reasons are just some of the many ways that you can use estate planning to achieve your financial goals. That major purchase will be there next year. This year, use your tax refund money to start an estate plan that will last during your lifetime and benefit you and your family for years to come. It will give you and them peace of mind, and that is priceless.