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Beneficiaries

Make Things Easier for Those Left Behind: Leave a “Map”

By | Attorney Andrea Claus, Beneficiaries, Estate Planning | No Comments

The hardest part in creating your estate plan is seeing the attorney to make sure it is done right.  I want to give the proper kudos to all those I’ve met, those who’ve been diligent in creating a plan and memorializing their final wishes.  Yet many have not listened to my recommended “follow-up” step – communicate with your loved ones.  The most critical piece that needs to be shared is these documents might be found.  This little oversight can be especially worrisome because loved ones don’t often search for estate documents until after the funeral.    At the very least,  leave your loved ones a “map” to help guide them after you’re gone. Without the documents, conflicts can arise between family members as to what a parent or loved one would have wanted.  Further, problems, such as delay and missteps, can continue if you did not leave a current list of assets or the location of important documents.

A map is a tool used to get from one point to another – a tool used to prevent getting lost.  Your map leaves directions or guidelines as to your burial or funeral wishes for your loved ones to follow.  By providing directions to those left behind, you’ve reduced the burden on them to have to decide.  There is no wondering whether something is as you’d have wished, no second-guessing, and the chance for conflict amongst the family is most likely eliminated.

Your map should also provide a list of current assets.  The person whom you’ve charged with settling things after you’ve gone (your ‘executor’) will need to know what you have in order to account for and make your distributions.  By leaving a current list of assets, and clearing out all outdated statements, contracts and policies, you will make that task much easier.  Ensuring that the person you’ve named knows where to access your estate plan and your “map” is of utmost importance.

One of the greatest gifts you can give a loved one is the peace of mind that comes with knowing they’re carrying out your true wishes.  Creating a complete estate plan ensures this, and to leave a “map” will relieve a great burden during a difficult time.  Call for an appointment with a Morris Hall attorney today; we are happy to review your plans and help you outline what all should be in your map.

andrea-claus Contributed by Morris Hall PLLC Phoenix and Prescott Estate Planning Attorney, Andrea L. Claus.

What the Attorneys of Morris Hall, PLLC Can Do For You:
The attorneys at Morris Hall have 100’s of years of combined experience ensuring that families’ assets are protected from probate, unnecessary taxes, creditors, ex-spouses and Medicaid spend-down.  Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Carefree, Tucson, Oro Valley, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

Considerations in Planning for a Special Needs Beneficiary: Part I

By | Attorney Andrea Claus, Beneficiaries, Special Needs | No Comments

I met with a prospect the other day, a married couple with 3 adult children.  It was a pretty typical meeting until I reviewed their existing distributions: when the second of them passed, there estate was to be left 50-50 to only two of their three kids.  I asked why they are disinheriting their third child, and their reply was so that he would not lose his government benefits.

I hear that kind of story all of the time. Having a special needs loved one has many ups and many downs.  However, it is important to understand some of the basic rules when it comes to planning for families with special people.  There is so much to go through, I will be writing this in three parts, so look for Part II soon.

Each family I meet with is unique; everyone has their individual concerns when it comes to estate planning. Those planning for a special needs loved one must carefully consider many things when crafting their plan.  A crucial piece of planning information is determining if the special needs beneficiary is in receipt of any type of government benefit or assistance program.  There are different categories of assistance that a special needs individual might qualify for:

The first category is the entitlement programs. They are called entitlement programs because a person does not have to have low income or assets to qualify for them; the person is “entitled” to receive the benefit.  The two most common entitlement programs are Social Security Disability Income (“SSDI”), and Medicare.  There are different ways to qualify for SSDI, but typically special needs persons become eligible under the Childhood Disability Benefits or Disabled Adult Child Program. Since SSDI and Medicare eligibility is not based on income or assets, these programs do not usually need to be considered when developing an estate plan for special needs beneficiaries.

The second category is the “means tested” programs.  There are certain programs and benefits for special needs individuals where that individual’s income and assets are considered.  These “means-tested” programs include Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), Medicaid, In Home Supportive Services, Subsidized or Section 8 Housing, and Temporary Aid to Needy Families.

For an individual receiving these types of benefits, or in need of these types of benefits, careful planning is necessary-an inheritance can disqualify receipt of the benefit.  Without the proper planning an inheritance will need to be “spent down” to the level where he or she once again qualifies. Since these means-tested programs generally do not allow a person to have more than $2,000 in their name, the receipt of an inheritance will disqualify a special needs beneficiary until he or she has spent the inheritance down to $2,000.

What is intended as a heartfelt gift can do significant damage.  An inheritance of greater than $2,000 has the potential to cause the loss of Medicaid for a special needs beneficiary, which can be devastating since he or she may not be eligible for any other kind of health insurance coverage.

It does not have to be that way.  A properly drafted plan can pass an inheritance of any size to a special needs beneficiary without the loss of benefits, even if it is a means-tested program.  If you have a special needs beneficiary, we can put together a plan that will do what you intend it to: benefit your loved one.

andrea-claus  Contributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Phoenix and Prescott Estate Planning Attorney, Andrea L. Claus.

What the Attorneys of Morris Hall, PLLC Can Do For You:
The attorneys at Morris Hall have 100’s of years of combined experience ensuring that families’ assets are protected from probate, unnecessary taxes, creditors, ex-spouses and Medicaid spend-down.  Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Carefree, Tucson, Oro Valley, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

 

Estate Planning: You can Leave More than just Money

By | Beneficiaries, E-Alert, Estate Planning, Other | No Comments

How do I leave more than just money to my children or grandchildren?  This is a question that comes up more often than you think.  Each generation views the world in their own unique way; and my clients are realizing that they can do more than just leave them money.  I recently had a couple express their desire to show their family what was important to them by planning their estate with a component that gives back.  These, and many clients like them, want to show their future generations that there is more to life than they realize.  The bigger question they asked themselves was “How can I leave a true legacy for my family?”   What is your legacy?  What would you like it to be?  Have you even asked yourself these questions?

I recently attended the global conference for Make-A-Wish (A charity started in Arizona).  The conference was hosted by Disney in celebration of the 100,000th wish that Disney granted to a child through Make-A-Wish.  I have been incredibly fortunate to be involved with an organization whose entire mission and purpose is to give Strength, Hope & Joy to children with life threatening illnesses.  My family is witnessing the development of my legacy throughout my life.

There are thousands of charities in our communities and across the country that serve very important purposes.   Think about the causes or organizations that you have a tender spot in your heart; charities that have touched you or your family in different ways.  Many times, charities are included in estate plans simply for tax reasons. However, involving those special charities in your life and in your estate plan can help create and cement your legacy in the minds of those that mean the most to you. Creating an estate plan is much more than just deciding who gets what. This is one of the many reasons that helping individuals and families is not just our practice, it is our passion, it is our privilege.

west-hunsaker  Contributed by Morris Hall PLLC Carefree, Sedona, Flagstaff, Scottsdale and Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney and Partner, West Hunsaker.

What the Attorneys of Morris Hall, PLLC Can Do For You:
The attorneys at Morris Hall have 100’s of years of combined experience ensuring that families’ assets are protected from probate, unnecessary taxes, creditors, ex-spouses and Medicaid spend-down.  Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Carefree, Tucson, Oro Valley, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

 

Death & Taxes: Plan for Both

By | Attorney Andrea Claus, Beneficiaries, Death Probate, Estate Planning, Estate taxes, Taxes | No Comments

Most folks don’t look forward to planning for two of life’s guarantees: death and taxes.  However mundane or morbid you view this task, there is planning to be done no matter what your station in life. When properly planned the harshness of both death and taxes can be mitigated.

Through my experience as an estate planning attorney, I have outlined five basic areas that you need to consider when implementing your plan:

  1. Select an estate administrator: The administrator is the person who is in charge when you pass. This should be a responsible person with the time and acumen to carry out your wishes.
  2. Select your beneficiaries: These are the people and/or charities that will get your stuff upon your death. If you do not designate beneficiaries via a trust, will, TOD designation, or other method, the state will dictate who gets the stuff from your estate.  Whatever planning tool you use should be accessible by your estate administrator.  Used properly, that the right tool can minimize taxes and provide asset protection to your beneficiaries; it is a good idea to discuss your strategy with an estate planning attorney.
  3. Asset inventory: This is a list of all the stuff you own (like bank accounts, life insurance policies, real estate . . .). When you die, your estate administrator will need to know what you have and who to contact to collect and distribute.  Creating a list of physical and non-physical items that you own will ensure that no asset is left uncollected.  This inventory should be accessible by your estate administrator upon your death.
  4. Asset review: After the inventory is complete, the beneficiary designations and/or titling of all accounts or policies should be reviewed to ensure that they are in line with your wishes. This is also a good time to consolidate assets for ease of management, if you’re able.  Bringing the account statements, deeds and policies to your estate planning attorney will help you align your wishes with how the titling and beneficiaries read.
  5. Create a debt list: Much like the assets inventory, you should make a list of your debts. If the administrator knows what debts will need to be settled upon your death, distribution of your estate can be accomplished more quickly and efficiently.

These five basic considerations can make life easier for your loved ones and for your administrator.  Your asset inventory and debt list are also a good tool to help you get a grip on your current expenses.  Discussing your goals with an estate planning attorney and reviewing your plan is the best way to ensure you’ve addressed all issues unique to your estate.

andrea-claus  Contributed by Morris Hall PLLC Phoenix , Prescott Estate Planning Attorney, Andrea L. Claus.

 

About Morris Hall, PLLC:
At Morris Hall, PLLC we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 45 years.  Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects.  We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Carefree, Tucson, Oro Valley, Prescott, Sedona, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation

Why You Need a Living Trust

By | Beneficiaries, Death Probate, Estate Planning, Healthcare documents, Living Will | No Comments

This is the second piece of a four-part series on why you need a living trust.  As mentioned in my previous blog, I recently read an article from a well-known business publication that provided four reasons why you don’t need a living trust.  The second reason provided by the publication is:

~ Probate doesn’t have to be a nightmare ~

The article points out that many states have streamlined processes for small estates.  In addition, the article states that probate can be beneficial because the process is monitored by the court, which helps ensure that the executor is following the provisions of the will.

Although probate can be streamlined, that is only true for a minority of cases. Many states don’t offer a streamlined process, and others consider a “small estate” to be a total estate value of $5,000 to $10,000.  The truth is - probate is most often a nightmare.

Here are a few disadvantages to probate that the article fails to mention:

  • Probate is expensive. Probate can cost up to 4% to 5% of the gross estate. For example, if you have a house worth $400,000, with $200,000 left on the mortgage, the attorney will base the fee on the $400,000, and not consider there is only $200,000 worth of equity in the home.
  • Probate is public record. This means anyone can view your probate file and have access to your personal information.
  • If you live in a state that has a streamlined process (say with a $100,000 probate threshold), but you own a $75,000 asset in a non-streamlined state that has a $50,000 probate threshold, you will be required to open a probate in the non-streamlined state.
  • If your designated beneficiary is a minor, or is declared mentally incapacitated at the time of distribution, a conservatorship will be required to determine who will manage the beneficiary’s inheritance until the beneficiary is no longer a minor or regains capacity. Upon the minor turning an adult, which in many states is 18 years old, the conservator will have to release the money to the child. Having an 18 year old manage even a small amount of wealth could be problematic.
  • The probate process is monitored by the probate court, but it is also influenced by the court’s schedule; meaning, if the court’s calendar is heavily booked, then you may be waiting a long time for the probate to close. Many probates can take up to 18 to 24 months to complete.
  • More often than not, in a probate proceeding, it means that your loved ones will receive their inheritance as an outright distribution. This means their inheritance will not have any protection from future divorces, creditors, bankruptcies, or taxes. Most of us have worked too hard, sacrificed too much, worked endless hours to see our legacy destroyed or wiped out by leaving everything we have to those we love without any protections. With a living trust, not only can you avoid probate, but you can also ensure that your loved one’s inheritance will be protected after you are gone.

The above examples are just a few of the disadvantages of a probate.  A properly drafted revocable living trust can prevent all of the above-listed disadvantages. Before deciding on whether to create a will or a living trust, contact a qualified estate planning attorney who can help assess what estate planning method is right for you.

darren-richardson  Contributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney, Darren L. Richardson.

Why Choose Morris Hall, PLLC:
You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall?  First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters.  Also, Morris Hall is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others – which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones.  We are one of only three firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in New Mexico that has been granted membership.  If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with Morris Hall.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

 

 

 

Life Happens… Is your plan up to date?

By | Beneficiaries, Estate Planning, Other, Will | No Comments

We have reviewed thousands of wills and trusts.  Often we find when someone creates a Last Will or Living Trust they put it in a file or on a shelf and forget about it.  Dust collects and life continues.  But what impacts has life’s movements had on your estate plan?  What about the individuals that you have listed, as a beneficiary or decision maker - Over time situations change, relationships change and people die.

I recently met with a couple that had created their Living Trust many years earlier.  They came in to meet with me about a simple change - adding a beneficiary.  As part of our normal process, while reviewing the documents I asked them about certain people named in the trust.  They were surprised at my question because some had died several years earlier.  I then joked with them that their deceased friend will have an awfully hard time serving as their successor trustee.  They had completely forgotten that they had listed their friend to manage their trust after they pass.  Together we reviewed more of their plan and found several items that needed to be updated.

 

Estate plans need to be reviewed on a regular basis.  We recommend to all of our clients that a review every three years is prudent.  Sometimes there are law changes that can significantly affect the plan or there might have been a falling out with someone that was asked to serve an important role such as a health care agent or power of attorney.

When we build an estate plan, we try to build to be as flexible as possible; trying to account for some of life’s uncertainties.  However, the plan is based on the criteria, needs and concerns at that particular point in time.  And as we know, the old saying goes…life happens.

west-hunsakerContributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Carefree, Sedona, Flagstaff and Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney and Partner, West Hunsaker.

What the Attorneys of Morris Hall, PLLC Can Do For You:
The attorneys at Morris Hall have 100’s of years of combined experience ensuring that families’ assets are protected from probate, unnecessary taxes, creditors, ex-spouses and Medicaid spend-down.  Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Carefree, Tucson, Oro Valley, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.