The Baby Boomer generation is estimated to pass on at least $30 trillion in wealth to what we call the rising generation: members of generation X and millennials. When asked, 80% of adults plan to transfer their wealth but only 45% have a plan in place. It is never too early to begin your wealth transfer plan, so don’t wait until it is too late. It’s up to you to decide what you want your legacy to be, and we are here to help you get started. Consider the following:

Ask Yourself

  • Where do I want my wealth to go? Three options exist: friends and family, charity, or taxes.
  • What are my values? How do you envision your legacy? Do you want to support a cause or send your grandchildren to college? By identifying your values you can establish the goals of your legacy plan.
  • Do I need a succession plan? Does your legacy depend upon the success of a business enterprise? If so, this is an integral part of your wealth transfer plan.
  • How do I want to distribute my wealth? Will you make your assets directly accessible to your heirs and beneficiaries, or will you establish trusts to hold, manage, and invest assets to maintain family wealth?
  • What kind of taxes will I be subject to? Gift, estate, and generation skipping taxes all may impact the assets that your heirs inherit. Effective tax strategies will preserve as much family wealth as possible.

Ask Your Family

What are our values? As a family, what do we want our legacy to be? Are we supportive of philanthropic causes or certain organizations?

What is our responsibility? As stewards of a shared legacy, what is each individual’s responsibility to both represent and sustain that legacy?

How will we make decisions as a family now and in the future? While we cannot know what the future will bring, it is important to have decision making processes in place so that we are ready to work together when needed.

What are our expectations? What are your expectations of me, and what are my expectations of you? Openly communicating expectations can help to generate mutual understanding and help to avoid future conflict.

Your legacy is in your hands, and is your gift to heirs and charitable causes. In order to ensure that your legacy remains intact, a wealth transfer plan is necessary. It is essential that you discuss with your heirs the importance of shared values, responsibility, and expectations.

We would be happy to assist you in your transfer of wealth planning. Please do not hesitate to call us at 814-536-1040.

 

Like other major life events, pre-funding your funeral will give you peace of mind, comfort and assurance knowing that money will be there to pay your final expenses. Now, wouldn’t it be nice to have an insurance policy that is designed to do exactly that? Pay for your funeral costs, while also helping you possibly qualify for Medicaid?

How will my SURVIVORS pay for my funeral?

Few people have the resources to pay for a funeral outright. Without advance planning and funding, your survivors may need to reach into savings, use credit cards, take out a loan, or even sell personal assets. Money set aside in your savings accounts may be tied up with probate delays.

WHERE do I get the money for a Trust?

You probably already have it! Sometimes all it takes is a little rearranging to create your complete financial picture in a way that works best for you. Consider your rainy day fund, a certificate of deposit, money market account or an annuity. By using money from these sources to fund an insurance policy, you’re simply using existing assets to ensure your final expenses are taken care of to make life easier for those you leave behind.

Do I have to plan my funeral NOW?

It’s simple. A life insurance policy is purchased to cover the anticipated costs of your funeral. The policy is then assigned to an irrevocable funeral trust. This assignment offers two advantages: 1. At the time of death, policy proceeds do not have to go through probate and are available immediately to pay your final expenses. 2. The policy may not be considered an asset if you are determining Medicaid eligibility. This combination of life insurance and a funeral trust creates a solid, safe, and secure plan to cover your final expenses.

Why use a TRUST?

The NGL Funeral Expense Trust is designed exclusively to help you take care of your funeral costs and possibly help you qualify for Medicaid at the same time! Few people have the resources to pay for a funeral outright and many funeral homes require payment in advance of services. This means that without advance planning and funding, your survivors may need to use their personal savings or credit cards, possibly take out a loan or sell personal assets. Money set aside in your personal savings accounts may be tied up with probate delays.

 

Choosing an executor for your estate can be an emotional decision to make. Most people we see choose a family member as Executor and this is not necessarily the best decision. Just because they are family doesn’t mean they have the knowledge to handle the confusing paperwork needed to settle an estate. An Executor should have enough financial experience to be comfortable dealing with financial institutions, lawyers and realtors. Location should also be a factor in making your decision. An executor will have to be able to be available to attend meetings and to sign papers with family members and banks, brokerage firms, etc. If there is a house to be sold there will be liquidation of the deceased’s belongings as well as the sale of the house itself.

This whole process can take several months and incur considerable expenses to the Executor. Many experts recommend that the Executor be someone outside of the family. A Financial Planner, Attorney, someone who can be hired and held accountable. These professional may usually charge a fee approximately 1.5% to 3% of the value of the estate. Some states have rules for how and what an Executor is paid. All Executor fees are deducted from the taxable value of the estate.

It’s an important decision to make, but once you have all the important factors available to you your decision should be reached with confidence and ease. Please let us know how we can help you in reaching your decision.

Most people don’t think of themselves as having an “estate”. Most people think of an “estate” as mansion on a hill, with the multi-millionaire living inside. This is inaccurate thinking. If you own anything, you have an estate. And if you don’t set things up right while you’re still with us, your family could get hurt. Beware of these most common and expensive estate planning mistakes.

Not having wills, living wills, powers-of-attorney, living trusts, etc. I would be safe in saying the vast majority of people coming in here do not have anything close to a proper set of estate planning documents. Many don’t have simple wills, which is the first document you need. Then, we see people who don’t have documents like living wills that spell out how you want your health care administered should you become terminally ill, for example. Or who would handle your legal and financial affairs if you became mentally incapacitated? Or who you want in charge of your money if you don’t want your spouse or kids to handle it themselves if you’re very ill or dead? These issues are very serious, and not having these documents in place can be a disaster. I’ve seen these nightmares happen so many times, I know what I’m talking about.

Updating your wills to make sure they reflect your present life situation. We see so many people who haven’t had their wills reviewed in years…which, if somebody died, would cause huge problems. For example, we see people who’ve still named spouses in their will they are no longer married to. Or guardians for their kids who they haven’t spoken to in years. Or omitting kids who weren’t born when the wills were drawn up. Or having provisions that don’t apply in our state because the will were drawn in another state before they moved here. And so on.

Forgetting that a guardian for your kids is a major consideration. If you and/or your spouse were to pass away…who’d get your kids, and how would they have money to take care of them? Most people don’t pay much attention to this, but if you don’t set this up NOW, a judge, or worse, some family member you don’t like can make the decision for you!

Underestimating the size of your estate.  Many people who don’t feel rich, have assets that will put them well over the amount that can be subject to estate or gift tax. People forget the value of their homes, or retirement plans, or collections, and so on. Be sure to take a realistic count of ALL your assets when drawing up an estate plan, so you don’t end up getting screwed by needless estate taxes.

Thinking a revocable living trust will save income and/or estate taxes.  These trusts can perform a valuable function by assuring professional management of your assets if you become disabled, and by letting your assets avoid probate when you die. But in and of themselves, they do not reduce income and/or estate taxes.

Leaving everything to a spouse.  You and your spouse each have a personal estate tax credit that can prevent estate taxes from ever being paid. If you leave everything to your spouse, you’ll lose the benefit of your credit and the assets will be taxed when your spouse dies. If assets exceed certain amounts (which change each year, and are likely to change as Congress keeps back-peddling on estate tax law) you may be better off setting up separate bequests through trusts to use your maximum credit.

Bottom line. Please get your estate planning in order NOW! Take a look at what you have in place, if anything, and then we can help you work with an attorney to get yourself up-to-date on your estate planning issues!

*** WARNING! DO NOT DO ESTATE PLANNING ON YOUR OWN OR FROM READING SOMETHING! YOU MUST HAVE AN EXPERIENCED ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY EXPLAIN YOUR OPTIONS AND HELP YOU DECIDE WHAT TO DO!

As usual, with any financial issue like this, we’ll be glad to work with you on determining if any of these strategies will work for you and your family! Please keep in mind that this tip is designed to be of help for you, but is not to be relied upon as advice. It is merely a reminder that there are many choices you have available to you, and that planning is the only way to find the right answers for your situation!

As with any financial issues, make sure you get the right information before making a decision!  If you have any questions, we’ll be glad to help you!

There have been some distinct changes in the American cultural and sociological landscape in recent years. Among them is the increasing number of unmarried couples living together. This trend has spawned some difficult and complex estate planning challenges for the individuals involved. This article provides a brief look at some of the more common estate planning issues affecting these individuals.

A Family Affair?

The rules governing the ultimate disposition of assets are generally unfavorable for individuals who are not legally married or biologically related. If an individual dies without a will (intestate), state intestacy law will determine the disposition of the decedent’s assets. Although these rules vary from state to state, they generally dispose of assets through bloodlines. Thus, as in the case of unmarried lifetime partners, assets may not be distributed according to the decedent’s wishes.

A last will and testament generally protects against intestacy and allows an individual to specify who will receive assets upon death. However, a will alone may not be immune to challenges made by the decedent’s family members who may have benefited from intestacy law if a will was not accepted by the local probate court. Therefore, it is essential that a will be drafted and executed when an individual is fully competent; it may also be important that the individual’s partner does not serve as a witness to the execution of the will. In addition, if certain family members or relatives are to be disinherited, the will should include a list and an explanation of why such decisions were made.

Although a will can express a lifetime partner’s wishes for the disposition of assets upon death, it does not provide any contingency arrangement for the management of assets or medical decisions if the individual is incapacitated. Therefore, a general durable power of attorney and a health care proxy can allow an individual to predetermine who will make such decisions. Due to varying state laws, it may be necessary to specify powers in detail. Even then, some third parties may not accept a durable power of attorney and may require the use of their own forms. In the case of a health care proxy, it is also possible for a physician to be hesitant to follow the decisions of an agent who is not legally related, especially if family members object. Therefore, it may be prudent for an individual to provide additional proof of his or her intentions (i.e., in the form of a written letter accompanying the health care proxy).

The addition of a revocable trust can further solidify an estate plan and help protect individuals from some of the planning problems related to wills and powers of attorney. The privacy associated with revocable trusts creates immediate appeal for lifetime partners, as does the ability to transfer assets. Such an instrument allows the grantor to make him or herself the trustee and elect his or her partner as the successor trustee. In the event of death, the successor trustee will have full control over assets held in trust. However, even with a revocable trust, it is prudent to provide a written confirmation of the grantor’s wishes to be made part of the trust document, so any potential family challenges may be avoided.

Transfer and Estate Taxes

Another challenge facing lifetime partners is the issue of transfer taxes. Lifetime partners do not qualify for the unlimited marital deduction between spouses. Thus, the value of the transferred assets that exceeds the annual gift tax exclusion will be subject to gift taxes. In this respect, the retitling of assets in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship may also create taxable situations.

For some individuals, estate taxation may be a concern due to having substantial assets. Usually, if one partner has more assets than the other, or is much older than his or her partner, the use of the annual gift tax exclusion ($14,000 for single filers in 2016) may assist in the gradual transfer of assets to a lifetime partner. However, the annual gift tax exclusion may not be a sufficient mechanism for the timely transfer of large assets. In this respect, planning for the use of the $5.45 million lifetime gift exemption (sometimes called the applicable exclusion amount) in 2016 may serve as an opportunity to gift substantial assets, such as real estate or investments, to a lifetime partner.

For planning purposes, the use of life insurance may ultimately serve as one of the more valuable tools for ensuring the financial future of a surviving lifetime partner beneficiary. A life insurance policy can help the insured partner circumnavigate potential future family contestation by possibly providing the surviving partner with a death benefit commensurate with the size of the insured’s estate. In addition, life insurance can also play an instrumental role in the funding of a future estate tax liability. Generally, the life insurance policy is purchased either by a lifetime partner or an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) that is written for the benefit of a lifetime partner.

Final Thoughts

Estate planning for lifetime partners is filled with many complexities and challenges. The individuals involved need to be aware of the potential familial and tax issues they may face. This unique area of estate planning remains complex, and great care must be taken to help ensure that planning is in accord with a couple’s objectives. As is the case with all estate planning matters, it is important to consult with qualified tax, legal, and financial professionals before taking action.

Copyright © 2016 Liberty Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved. EPGLP02-AS

Liquidating the family business in order to pay estate taxes is often an unpleasant reality for families of individuals who die without wills (intestate) or estate plans. If you own a family business, you should consider taking steps now to help assure one of your most valuable assets will still be around for your children, grandchildren, and beyond.

The Plain Facts

The terms “family business” or “small business” can be misleading, especially when you consider the impact these businesses have on the U.S. economy. According to a recent estimate by The Family Business Institute, there are around 24 million family-owned businesses in the United States. These businesses generate 64% of the gross national product (GNP) and employ approximately 82 million people (62% of the workforce).

It is natural to assume that many business owners would like to keep this kind of influence in the family. However, in reality, the situation is much different—only a fraction of business owners who want their family business to remain in the family take active steps to devise a formal succession plan.

Why is it that only a small number of business owners act on their intentions? Because business continuation is often a difficult subject for family business owners to confront. In many cases, succession is often avoided, rather than planned. It is often a taboo topic.

Business owners may be reluctant to hand over a business they spent much of their lives building. They may be forced to confront and resolve sibling rivalry and other unpleasant family disagreements. Sometimes, an owner will have greater difficulty grooming a family member for succession because of the overlap of family and business boundaries. Additionally, if the owners plan to rely on the family business for retirement income, they may worry about the business’s success under new owners.

Survival Planning for Your Company

However, the costs of not planning for the continuation of family businesses may be enormous. Often, companies without formal succession plans are courting disaster. According to recent data from the Family Firm Institute, while more than 30% of all family-owned U.S. businesses survive into the second generation, only about 12% are passed onto the third generation.

How can you make sure that your business will survive for successive generations? A sound solution is to establish an estate plan. Simply put, you need to do the following:

  • Develop a formal management succession strategy that will help ensure your business stays in the family after your death.
  • Equalize your estate so that if you have children, you can make alternative bequests to those who do not want to be involved with the family business. At the same time, you can leave the business to the children who do wish to be active in the business.
  • Guarantee that the business continues in an orderly manner after your death.
  • Create a buy-sell agreement for family and non-family members who may own stock in your business.

As you can see, ensuring that your business lives on is a complicated issue that engenders many concerns. Care must be taken to ensure that all issues will receive open and honest discussion. With the right estate planning team and the right succession plan in place, you may be able to beat the odds to maintain your company’s success and ensure your family’s ownership for future generations.

Copyright © 2016 Liberty Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved. EPBTNE0-AS