As more of our lives are spent online, it is crucial that you ensure the seamless transition of your digital assets. Through comprehensive estate planning, you can arrange to have your digital property managed and administered in the event of incapacitation and also ensure the smooth transfer of digital assets to your beneficiaries upon your death. Specifically, through incapacity planning, you can ensure that your agent has access to oversee online accounts. And after your death, you can ensure that your executor has necessary information to locate and secure digital property for the benefit of your heirs.
Here are three important steps to help you get started:
1. The first and most important step is to inventory your digital assets. Here are some common sources of digital assets:
2. Secondly, check with service providers to verify whether they have independent processes to grant your agent and executor access to your digital assets. Meta and Google are two service providers that require you to select the level of access your fiduciary may have to digital assets through their own platforms. Meta’s tool is known as a Legacy Contact, while Google calls its tool the Inactive Account Manager.
3. Third and finally, inform your agent and executor where your inventory and credentials are stored. This will allow them to effectuate your wishes more efficiently.
Uncertain on where to begin? Begin by having a conversation with us, so that we may proactively help you develop your inventory and create effective strategies to protect your digital property.
by Michael R. Sitrick, JD, CFRE
Executive Vice President for Advancement | DuPage Foundation
With fall upon us, it’s time to begin firming up your year-end charitable giving plans to ensure your goals are accomplished by the end of the 2021 tax year.
While there are many factors to consider and keep an eye on this year—particularly with the likelihood of significant tax reform looming—thoughtful charitable planning remains imperative to ensure that your giving is completed as effectively and efficiently as possible for your favorite causes and charities.
Fortunately, there are a number of opportunities available including some special charitable incentives to help you make the most of your giving this year and SEE MORE IMPACT.
The following are some reminders and tips for you to keep in mind as you plan. As a rule, be sure to consult with your tax, financial, and other trusted advisors as you finalize your gift planning. There’s still time to act before December 31, but the sooner you do, the better. Gifts of certain types of appreciated assets require significant lead time and may not be possible to complete by year end if you wait too long to initiate them.
Lead Time Reminders for Year-End Gifts:
2021 CAA Giving Incentives
Several charitable giving incentives from the 2020 CARES Act were extended or expanded upon for 2021 under the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) enacted late last year.
Standard Deduction Households:
Taxpayers taking the standard deduction may deduct up to $300 per individual or, up to $600 if married and filing jointly, for cash contributions made to qualified 501(c)(3) charities during 2021, excluding donor-advised funds, private foundations and supporting organizations.
Utilizing a combination of these options, itemizing taxpayers can deduct up to 100 percent of their 2021 AGI via charitable gifts. Those who make this 100 percent of AGI election can also carry forward unused qualified cash gift deductions up to five years. The carryforward will be subject to the normal 60 percent of AGI limit, as will cash deductions carried forward from past years. A five-year carryforward also exists for unused qualified gift deductions of long-term appreciated assets up to their regular limits.
For corporations, during 2021, the 10 percent gross income-based limitation has again been increased to 25 percent for charitable contributions made in cash to qualifying 501(c)(3) charities, excluding donor-advised funds, private foundations and supporting organizations.
QUALIFIED CHARITABLE DISTRIBUTIONS (QCDS)
Donors ages 70½ and up can make Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs) from traditional and other types of IRAs to qualified charities (excluding donor-advised funds, private foundations and supporting organizations). The limit on these donations remains $100,000 per individual or $200,000 per married couple. For donors ages 72 and up, these QCDs can count toward their Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) and lower their adjusted gross income.
Per the rules on QCDs established under the SECURE Act in late 2019, deductible contributions made by donors 70½ and older to their IRAs will reduce their QCD limit for the year the contribution is made.
Additional Opportunity for IRA Owners 59½ - 70½: Under the CAA, itemizing donors of all ages may choose to deduct up to 100 percent of their AGI for cash charitable contributions during 2021, excluding gifts to donor-advised funds, private foundations and supporting organizations. This provides donors ages 59½ to 70½ with a tax benefit similar to a QCD. They can elect a cash distribution from their IRA, contribute it to charity, and potentially offset any tax consequences from the distribution by taking a charitable deduction in an amount up to 100 percent of their AGI.
Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs) are an excellent tool for people looking for a year-end tax deduction but who want the flexibility to give to charities later. The donors make a tax-deductible gift to open a DAF at a host charity—such as DuPage Foundation. The host charity then owns and invests the DAF’s assets and the donors (or advisors whom the donors name) recommend grants to qualified charities over time. Further contributions can be added as desired or when prudent.
Opportunities for Coordinated, Local Giving
Not sure where to give, looking to benefit multiple organizations, or are looking to pool your giving with others to make your giving go further? Call DuPage Foundation, your local community foundation, at 630.665.5556 for a personal consultation. Our knowledgeable staff can work with you to match your interests with needs and opportunities—locally and beyond—to make a difference today and for the future. Additionally, year-end gifts to DuPage Foundation's unrestricted DuPage Forever Fund and various field-of-interest funds can help the Foundation support local not-for-profits as they work to aid our most vulnerable neighbors and preserve and enhance the quality of life throughout our community.
by Mitha Rao, JD, managing attorney, Rao Legal, LLC and Ryan Johnson, CPWA, Private Wealth Advisor, BMO Wealth Management**
The Biden Administration’s economic agenda has a heavy focus on social spending and the current proposal, approved by the House Ways and Means Committee on 9/13/21, will fund some of the spending by rolling back the Tax and Jobs Act corporate tax cuts and increasing tax rates on wealthy individuals. The current Administration largely telegraphed these tax increases on the campaign trail and in the Greenbook released earlier this year. Breaking with prior messaging that conspicuously did not address the expanded federal estate tax exemption set in 2017, the legislation included a rollback that would affect gifts and inheritances after 12/31/2021. Currently, this exemption is $11.7 million per person, or $23.4 million combined, but, even if the current legislation doesn’t pass, a reduction of this exemption is guaranteed. The exemption is already set to revert to $5 million, adjusted for inflation, beginning 1/1/26. In light of this guaranteed reduction in 2026 and the current legislation in Congress accelerating the sunset, married couples should consider creating a Spousal Lifetime Access Trust (SLAT) to take advantage of the current, historically high exemption. And even if married couples do not have a federal estate tax issue, a SLAT can nonetheless be strategic to avoid Illinois estate taxes.
What is a SLAT?
A SLAT is an irrevocable trust that provides an opportunity for married couples to reduce the size of their combined taxable estate. Unsurprisingly, a SLAT is especially popular prior to an anticipated reduction of the estate and gift tax exemption. Through a SLAT, one spouse (the donor spouse) gifts assets to benefit the other spouse while taking advantage of the donor spouse’s estate and gift tax exemption.
How does a SLAT work?
Although a SLAT is an irrevocable trust, it functions somewhat uniquely. Typically, a SLAT is set up as a grantor trust during the donor spouse’s lifetime. The donor spouse pays income tax (rather than the trust) and assets in trust can thus compound and pass tax-free to future generations.
Another unique advantage of a SLAT is that it mitigates the loss of control generally associated with irrevocable trusts. Through a SLAT, the donor spouse retains indirect access to gifted assets through the non-donor spouse. The non-donor spouse is the primary beneficiary and can therefore access assets and request distributions from the trustee if any financial resources are needed to maintain the couple’s standard of living. Any distributions could potentially augment the couple’s taxable estate, so such a request should be undertaken with the guidance of an advisor and attorney. The donor spouse may also include other family members (i.e., children and grandchildren) as beneficiaries and can structure the trust to minimize taxes generationally.
Some Nuances to Consider:
The donor spouse’s transfer of assets to a SLAT is a taxable gift. Upon transfer, the gift will remove the assets (along with any appreciation) from the donor spouse’s taxable estate. Careful guidance from an attorney and advisor will ensure that gift taxes are avoided wherever possible.
The transfer of assets to a SLAT permanently removes the assets from the donor spouse’s taxable estate. Consequently, these assets will not obtain a step-up in cost basis upon the donor spouse’s death. But a SLAT can include language that enables the donor spouse the power to substitute or "swap" assets. If the donor spouse wishes to achieve a step-up in basis of an appreciated asset, he or she may exercise the power of substitution to swap such an asset with another asset so long as it is of equivalent value as of the date of substitution. The donor spouse will hold the “swapped” asset in his or her name and thereby have the asset included in his or her taxable estate.
Each spouse may want to create his or her own SLAT to fully utilize both spouses’ exemptions. While this can be financially advantageous, the trusts must be structured to avoid running afoul of the “reciprocal trust doctrine.” This doctrine applies when the two trusts are interpreted as interrelated and the arrangement leaves each spouse in approximately the same economic position as if they had each created their own trust and named themself as life beneficiary. If this happens, then the trusts may be "un-crossed" and included in the donor spouses’ respective taxable estates. One way to avoid this doctrine is to create and fund the trusts at different times (in different years, for example).
Upon the death of non-donor spouse, the grantor spouse loses indirect access to the trust assets. And in the event of divorce, the separated non-donor spouse will continue to benefit while the donor spouse will likely lose access to the trust assets. Careful drafting, however, can alleviate some of these risks.
As the House Ways and Means Committee advances its tax proposal, it is increasingly important to utilize planning strategies like SLATs to take advantage of record high exemptions and maximize wealth preservation before favorable conditions expire.
**The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and not BMO Harris Bank N.A.
As 2020 comes to a close, we may be impatient to move beyond this year. It has been an especially difficult and uncertain year, and we may be eager to let go of it and look ahead. These sentiments are understandable.
However, the year-end holidays are often a good time to complete or review your estate plan. We may have some time away from work to focus or find ourselves more reflective during the holidays. Take advantage of this unique time to move ahead with your planning goals. Without question, this year has been turbulent, but it has undoubtedly taught us the importance of a plan.
Here are 5 helpful tips for your planning as we approach 2021:
As the holiday season nears, we continue to live with our “new normal.” This year’s holiday celebrations will involve virtual conversations and social distancing. Even still, they are a good time to reflect on your planning goals and/or begin conversations with loved ones about their planning needs.
We recognize that estate planning isn’t an easy or natural topic. Talking about finances, relationships, health and death within a family can bring up conflicting emotions and awkwardness. Even the timing of when to discuss estate planning can be a source of stress. Here are some suggestions on how to navigate these discussions with grace, supportiveness and tact:
1. Parents speaking with adult children.
If you’re a parent initiating this conversation with adult children, you may want to pick a quiet moment to have a virtual or socially distant 1:1 chat. Explain that you feel ready to create a plan that memorializes your wishes and avoids confusion and stress for your family down the road. This will be an ongoing conversation, so start slowly and be patient with yourself and others.
It may be easier to have an initial conversation as you reflect on a holiday meal rather than in the lead-up to festivities. People may be more focused and calmer at that time. Distractions will likely be minimized. This will help your loved ones to better understand the benefits of planning ahead and the peace-of-mind it brings with it.
2. Adult children speaking with aging parents.
If you’re the adult child of aging parents, you should be honest about why you’re initiating this discussion. Explain that this isn’t about being nosy with other people’s lives. Instead, it’s about ensuring that your parents’ wishes are properly memorialized. Avoid getting into the details of decisions your parents must make and focus instead on helping them understand the importance of planning while they are healthy.
One possible approach is to discuss how current circumstances have led you to plan more robustly. You may point out that your family is starting to gather telephone numbers and passwords in the event of an emergency, that you’ve begin thinking about who will make healthcare decisions for you if you cannot, etc. Another approach is to seek their guidance on your estate planning objectives. From there, you can guide the conversation towards ensuring that your parents also have such plans in place.
3. Talk about specific estate planning documents.
Sometimes you can diffuse the awkwardness of such conversations by focusing on a checklist of documents. This checklist should include:
Focus on the purpose of these documents rather than what they contain. That will help your family better appreciate your intentions and prevent emotions from running high. If documents are not yet drawn up, address what steps you can take to do so. Here at Rao Legal, LLC, we provide our clients with sample documents whenever possible so that they can become more familiar and comfortable with planning.
Perhaps you or your parents need time to think about who will serve in key roles. Who will be the executor of a will? Who will make decisions if you/they cannot? Recognize that these are important decisions and give each other the space to make them.
4. Lead with Empathy.
Remind your family that estate planning is about ensuring that everyone is on the same page in honoring another’s wishes. Handling this now prevents conflicts and minimizes stress. Nonetheless, you should proceed gently. Listen and watch carefully to see how others are responding. Put yourself in their shoes and recognize how difficult this may be. The goal is to establish open and mutually supportive communication.
If you need help, please feel free to call or email. We’re here for you. We take pride in providing counseling-oriented advice and are experienced in helping families handle such conversations. In the meantime, we wish you a wonderful and safe holiday season.
We are pleased to share a guest post from Dr. Madhu Guliani, MD.
Dr. Guliani is a board-certified internist and a certified yoga teacher. She received her 200-hour certification in yoga from the Himalayan Institution of Yoga and Meditation. For the past year, she has been practicing medicine via telehealth and offering free online yoga classes during the pandemic. Fun fact: During her final year of medical school, Dr. Guliani received a gold medal, which is awarded to the best graduate of the year.
We will offer more estate planning tips soon and recommend you check out our past posts by scrolling down. Topics include estate planning tips, retirement benefits and advance care directives. And, of course, check out our "Upcoming Events" page for webinars.
For now, we are thrilled to share Dr. Guliani's wisdom!
As we already know, stress has a huge impact on our physical and mental health. We are all aware that everybody’s stress has increased in midst of the COVID-19 pandemic due to job loss for some, kids being at home, the loss of domestic and caregiver help, increased work at home, wearing masks, and social isolation from our family and friends. This can make us eat poorly, keep us away from exercising regularly, spike blood pressure, affect our sleep, and decrease our immunity.
Yoga can give us tools to cope with our depleting energy and provide us with physical and mental well-being and peace of mind. It is a tradition practiced for over 5,000 years.
Following are some very basic poses, which can be practiced at any time of the day and even before retiring to bed.
1. Shoulder shrugs (especially helpful if you have neck and shoulder issues).
Sit on a chair with your feet on the floor or sit on a floor (on a mat or blanket) cross legged. Sit up with your back straight. Inhale and bring your shoulders to the ears. Exhale and release the shoulders. This can be repeated 5 to 10 times.
2. Knee hugs (especially helpful if you have back pain).
Lie down on the floor on a mat or blanket. Inhale slowly. Bring one or both knees to chest while exhaling. Clasp one or both of your knees with both hands and hold it for 5 breaths. Then keep on breathing. You can rock from side to side. Release your knees gently. This can be repeated 2-5 times.
3. Shavasna (very refreshing and rejuvenating when you are tired).
Lie down supine on a mat or blanket. Keep your feet 2 feet apart. Keep your arms by your side with your palms facing up. Allow your body to relax and gently close your eyes. Breath slowly and focus on your breath. Don’t dwell on our thoughts. This can be done for 5-10 minutes.
I hope these poses help you cope and wish you all a good journey.
In Part I of our blog series for young families, we focused on outlining planning considerations that can help determine which type of estate plan is optimal. In Part II of this series, we outline some tailored options that may help families customize their plan more thoroughly.
1. Uniform Transfer to Minors Act.
A minor cannot own assets until he or she achieves the age of majority. Because of this, parents of minor children in Illinois must select a guardian of the estate to manage a minor’s assets until he or she achieves the age of majority. The guardian is subject to strict oversight by a court. Thus, families may opt to create minor’s trusts and transfer assets after their children achieve the age of majority to avoid some of the court costs and fees associated with a guardianship.
However, setting up a trust may require an investment of cost and effort that exceeds what is practicable for some young families. If this is true for your family, then an intermediate option that may prove worthwhile is to proactively set up a custodial account under the Illinois Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (“UTMA”). A UTMA account provides a simple, inexpensive option to transfer assets and property to a minor. The account is under the management of a custodian until the minor becomes 21. The custodian is chosen by the individual(s) who set(s) up the UTMA account.
There are key advantages to such an account. For starters, a custodial account set up under the UTMA increases the age of majority from 18 (under a guardianship) to 21. Thus, your child has additional years to mature before he or she inherits assets. Additionally, a custodian generally does not require court oversight, which may result in less court time and expenses.
But there are also key risks that should be discussed with a financial advisor or estate planning attorney. Notably, any assets transferred to a UTMA are irrevocable. In light of this inflexibility, parents should consider whether they want to set up a UTMA account today or empower their executor of their will to do so upon administration of their wills. Additionally, assets placed in a custodial account are subject to a federal gift tax. Thus, it is advisable to engage in some reflection with an experienced counselor before you make the leap so that you do not incur unnecessary taxes and headache.
2. Digital Assets.
Estate planning encompasses not just tangible property like real estate but also digital assets like credit card rewards points and frequent flier miles. It is therefore vital that you put the proper estate planning provisions in place to ensure that your digital assets are effectively protected and passed on in the event of your incapacity or death. Here are some best practices:
a. Create an inventory of your digital accounts.
You can either compile a list of all your log-in and password credentials or take advantage of password managers that store this information in a centralized repository. Popular choices are Dashlane, LastPass and 1Password.
b. Determine the level of access you want your fiduciary to have.
As you compile this information, consider the level of access you want your fiduciary to have. If you want your fiduciary to have limited access, then you may not want to share your log-in and password credentials with them. Rather, you should work with your e
state planning attorney and the particular service provider to limit the fiduciary’s access.
c. Investigate whether your service provider has options.
Some service providers like Google, Facebook, and Instagram have tools in place that allow you to easily designate access to others in the event of your death. If such a tool is offered, you should use it to document who you want to have access to these accounts. Carefully read through any terms to determine what access your fiduciary will have.
This month, we published Part II of our estate planning blog series for young families. We are also thrilled to share a guest post from Anne Haag. Anne Haag is a Practice Management Advisor at the Chicago Bar Association. Anne worked as a patent paralegal at a Chicago IP firm before arriving at the CBA in 2017 as the Law Practice Management and Technology department’s trainer/coordinator. She is also a certified crisis counselor and volunteers as a patient advocate in the ER.
Check out Anne's insights below on how to maintain calm during this time:
2020 has been a stressful year, to say the least. In times like these, it becomes more important than ever to have a set of habits you can return to in order to find clarity and calm. Taking inspiration from Seinfeld, we all need our ‘serenity now’! Here are some habits you can develop that might help you cultivate a calmer mental state and better process stress triggers:
In between the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests that have been taking place in cities around the country, it feels more important than ever to keep abreast of the news. I’m not suggesting that you tune out entirely, but it’s important to set boundaries if you find the news to be triggering or anxiety-inducing. Remember, social media and the 24-hour news cycles are designed to be addictive. Find your own balance between staying informed and obsessing over things you can’t control. You can use screen time tracking tools on your phone to examine how much time you’re spending on different activities on your phone and go from there. “Screen Time” is a function built-in on Apple devices. It’s a little more complicated on Android devices, but you can follow steps to access your screen usage statistics here: https://www.guidingtech.com/check-screen-time-different-devices/.
2. Make your notifications work for you.
In keeping with the previous point, you might want to restrict the notifications you receive on your phone. You can set restrictions based on time of day, type of notification, etc. You can use the ‘Do Not Disturb’ setting to turn off notifications altogether or after a certain time of day. Personally, I found banner notifications (the kind that roll down from the top of your screen while you’re using another app or looking at your phone) to be an odd source of stress. I removed them altogether and feel like I have greater control over my attention when using my phone.
3. Get some fresh air.
If you’re working remotely, be sure to set aside some time each day to spend outside. Outdoor exercise is particularly beneficial to your state of mind. It’s been so hot in Chicago this summer that you may feel more inclined to stay indoors. Finding time in the mornings or evenings to breathe fresh air might take additional planning (and the resolve to get out of bed a little earlier), but you’ll reap the benefits without having to contend with the heat. Even just a 15-minute walk (with a mask, of course) around your neighborhood is a great way to remind yourself that your world isn’t totally bound by the confines of your abode.
4. Practice mindfulness meditation and gratitude.
The pandemic has brought home the fact that we have limited control over our lives. This is an uncomfortable feeling to sit with, and we might spend hours wishing we were literally anywhere else. The practice of mindfulness draws you in to the present moment and grounds you in it. This may seem like the opposite of what you want to do, but it might also open you up to experiencing joy in ways you might otherwise miss. When you’re fully rooted in the present, you’re better able to notice small moments of beauty and warmth – something we all need right now. Taking stock of the things you’re grateful for also unlocks this same sentiment.
5. Make safe socializing a priority.
The pandemic is probably not going to be resolved anytime terribly soon, and Chicago’s summer weather won’t last. Take advantage of being able to be outside while you can! There are plenty of ways to socialize while practicing social distancing. A weekly picnic in the park with friends might go a long way towards making you feel cared for and content.
During our current times, young families are prioritizing estate planning. We hope to empower these families with the know-how to select an optimal estate plan. In Part I of our blog series, we outline estate planning considerations. We also encourage you to execute advance directives (which we previously wrote about here). Your advance directives and your estate plan work in conjunction to help you achieve peace-of-mind.
Step 1: Determine your goals.
Start the estate planning process by reflecting on your goals. What are your objectives? What are your concerns?
For many young families, the most important concern is the selection of guardians for their minor children. In Illinois, there are two types of guardians: guardians of the estate and guardians of the person. The former manages the money or assets held by a minor child, while the latter becomes a substitute parent. The same person can fulfill both roles, but you have the option to select different people. When making such decisions, it is helpful to consider who will honor your parenting philosophy and values and who has the stability in their own lives to take on such a role.
Young families should also assess whether they have added goals -- i.e., planning for a child with special needs, managing business interests or avoiding probate, etc. Your current goals will guide the estate planning process.
Step 2: What do you think about probate?
Probate court is the court that oversees the administration of the decedent’s estate. In Illinois, if you own real estate or have assets that exceed $100,000, then your will will be administered through probate. Probate takes time. Currently, the process must allow for six months for creditors to be notified before assets can be distributed to your beneficiaries. And, of course, you will have to pay court costs and legal fees. Because of this, some families opt for probate avoidance plans which require more planning than simple wills.
Other families, however, decide to take such steps down the line. Regardless of which route you take, you will need to consider what will happen if you opt for a plan that does not avoid probate. Many partners jointly own assets, which generally means that the assets transfer to the surviving partner upon the death of the first to pass. You may feel comfortable putting off a more costly probate avoidance plan for now because of this. But make sure that you consider the scenario where both of you pass simultaneously or within a short period of time. If there is no probate avoidance plan in place, then your assets must pass through a formal probate process.
Step 3: Are you using devices that bypass probate?
After considering probate, many couples assume that they must set up a trust to avoid probate. Not necessarily. There are devices in Illinois that can help you avoid probate without incurring the expense of a trust.
First, beneficiary designations. On most financial accounts and life insurance policies, you can designate who you want assets to pass to. Once selected, the individual typically inherits the asset without court intervention. Note that some financial institutions will not allow you to name a minor outright as a beneficiary. It is advisable to speak with the institution and your estate planning attorney to consider naming your child as a beneficiary by taking advantage of your state’s Minors Act or by naming a trusted adult beneficiary. The former allows the assets to transfer to a Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (“UTMA”) account that is overseen by a custodian of your choice until the child turns 21. For some young families, this is a great step that avoids the necessity and expense of a trust.
Second, a transfer on death instrument (“TODI”). In Illinois, you can pass your home through a transfer on death instrument -- a document filed with your county recorder of deeds in which you name who will take the property upon your death. The TODI is a great option for families who would otherwise bypass probate but for their home. If, however, you are quite certain that you may move, or that you will engage in trust planning down the line, then a TODI will merely be a stop gap. If that’s the case, it may or may not make sense to invest in a TODI, depending on your circumstances.
Step 4: Do I have multiple properties, want greater control over how my assets are distributed or have complex non-beneficiary designation assets?
For some young families, the devices that bypass probate are insufficient. Once a family has multiple properties, wants greater control over who gets what and when, or has non-beneficiary designation assets that exceed $100,000, then a trust makes more sense.
If you are concerned about life insurance proceeds transferring to your child via a UTMA account at the age of 21, then you may be able to set up a trust to achieve greater control. Make sure that your life insurance policy allows for this. If it does, then this trust can be set up as a living trust to avoid probate or it may be contained in your will as a testamentary trust.
And, of course, some families prefer a trust because it does not become a part of the public record. If you would prefer to keep the details of who will inherit your assets and real property private, then a trust is optimal.
Finally, it is important to think of additional wrinkles. Is it likely that you will move? Are you a non-citizen? Are there significant liabilities or inheritances you expect? If so, you should bring this to the attention of your estate planning attorney. This may impact which plan makes sense for you.
We understand that there is a lot to consider. But investing in such decision-making upfront will help you select a plan that more comprehensively addresses your needs and goals.
Stay tuned for Part II!
As we navigate our serious and surreal reality, we are spending more time at home. This provides a good opportunity to have discussions with your family about planning for your future. Indeed, I often hear families say that estate planning involves more thought than they had anticipated. That’s because a good estate plan depends on comprehensively addressing your needs and wishes starting today through the end of your life.
Estate planning involves discussions on relationships, finances and mortality. These are not easy topics to consider at any point of your life, but such times remind us that they are necessary. One silver lining to our current situation is that we now have more time together to partake in them. You can help your aging parents start thinking about who will step into their shoes if they lose their ability to make decisions for themselves or talk to your adult children about ensuring that their minor children are taken care of should something happen to them.
To help you get started, here are quick tips that will save you and your loves ones time, thought and legal expenses down the road:
1. Make sure you have a healthcare directive in place. A healthcare directive allows you to select who will step into your shoes to make medical decisions for you when you cannot speak for yourself. Who will be responsible for your medical care if you lack the ability to make decisions for yourself? The person(s) you select is known as your agent(s). Start thinking about who your agent will be and speak with him or her to obtain your agent’s address and best contact number.
2. Make sure you have a financial directive in place. A financial directive allows you to select who will step into your shoes to make financial decisions for you if you cannot speak for yourself. Who will pay your medical bills? Who will make mortgage payments on your behalf? Again, start thinking about who your agent will be and to speak with him or her to obtain your agent’s personal information.
You can have different agents for different directives. If you do so, it is a good idea to make sure the people you select can work well with each other. For more detail on #1 and #2 and top tips on how best to make these work for you, read here.
3. Start important conversations with yourself and others. Now is the time to speak with loved ones about being a trustee of your trust or an executor of your will. These are the individuals who will administer your trust or will and carry out your wishes upon your passing.
And if you aren’t ready to have these conversations, then at least consider who will carry out these roles on your behalf and what your objectives will be. Who should get which assets? Do you have minors who need care if something were to happen to you right now? And so forth.
4. Compile a list of important people, accounts and documents/valuables. Do you use a financial advisor? An accountant? Do you have online banking accounts? Credit card rewards programs? Start creating a master file of information for your agent, the trustee of your trust, and the executor of your will. Be sure to at least include:
a. The name, address, email address and contact number for accountants, advisors and investment professionals you work with.
b. Log-in credentials (i.e., usernames and passwords) for online accounts you maintain. Without it, your loved ones may not be able to access your accounts. As an additional safeguard, make sure you discuss these digital assets with an attorney who can help you plan for this in your estate planning documents.
c. A location of where important documents/valuables are kept. Write down where original documents are kept for your agent, trustee and executor. If you have any valuable personal property you are keeping for specific people, you should write down the item, who you will be gifting it to, record their value and document the location where they are kept.
5. Update beneficiary designations. For most financial, retirement and life insurance accounts, you can designate a beneficiary who will inherit your account upon your death. If done correctly, these designations avoid probate. Such designations should be reviewed periodically to ensure that they still fit your wishes. You should also select and review contingent beneficiary designations for these accounts -- i.e., who will inherit your account if your beneficiary predeceases you.
To be sure, we are living in unprecedented times, but there are some silver linings. One of these is that we now have more time to be proactive about our future. Estate planning is one way in which you can take care of your loved ones while remaining in control and maintaining peace of mind. We encourage you and your loved ones to get started.
We are here to help. Please email or call us.