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Downsizing tips for seniors

Seniors; Is is time to Downsize?

Seniors; Is is time to Downsize?

Senior-Friendly Guide to Downsizing


Tips to make downsizing later in life easier

1. Start early to downsize.

Seniors; Children of Seniors; Give yourself plenty of time for this process, because it will inevitably take longer than you expect. Take your time, and don’t try to sort through your entire house in one day or weekend. A couple of weeks to a month is a more realistic timeline. Take it one room at a time, and take breaks throughout.

“Go through each item one by one,” says Alison Kero, CEO of ACK Organizing in Brooklyn. “It’s important to give everything you own your attention for at least a second or two. It will also help you develop a great decision-making system because you’re learning how to focus and then choose.” If you aren’t rushed, you’ll find downsizing to be much less stressful.

2. Start small, downsize small.

You probably already  have things you want to get rid of in the kitchen or garage, but avoid diving into such a big room at the very beginning. You have years and years of things to sort through. Start in an area with little emotional attachment. The laundry room or linen closet are good options.

Understand your needs. If you’re moving into a two-bedroom house, four sets of sheets should be plenty. The rest can go.

“Garages/attics/basements are notorious for being the hardest rooms to tackle,” says Debra Blue, of Blue Moon Estate Sales. “These rooms tend to accumulate all the old hobbies, boxes, old holiday decorations, and clutter. They’re also known to be rather uncomfortable spaces. In the summer it’s too hot, winter it’s too cold, and in the springtime, it can be too humid.”

3. Eliminate rooms you won’t have in your new home.

If you’re moving to an apartment or townhome, you might not have a garage or office space. Nearly everything in those spaces will need to be sold, donated, tossed, or relocated to other rooms. These areas might also be good items for consignment or garage sales; nice office furniture and outdoor tools are more valuable than old sofas or mattresses.

“Organize backwards,” suggests Jamie Novak, author of ‘Keep This Toss That.’ “A common suggestion is to pick out the stuff you don’t want and pack the rest. Try the opposite — pack the keepers. What’s left can be looked at and most can be shared or donated.” This is another way seniors and children of seniors can downsize.

4. Get rid of duplicates.

You’ll find this is especially true in your kitchen. You have two or three spatulas and ladles, a couple of oversized stock pots, and four different sized cookie sheets. Now’s the time to reduce the clutter. If you’re feeling wary of handing off that second roasting pan because you use it every Christmas (but at no other time during the year), consider giving it to a child or grandchild who can bring it over for the holiday and take it home when they leave.

5. Only make Yes or No piles — no Maybes.

When you’re going through years of belongings, some things are going to tug at your heartstrings, and you’ll be tempted to make a third pile of things to keep if you have space. Don’t fall for it. You’ll end up with a Maybe pile that’s bigger than either of the other two. When that happens, you haven’t really made any progress in sorting, just moved it across the room.

Take a hard look at every item you pick up. If you use it regularly, keep it. But it’s time to let something go if it’s been sitting in a closet or on a shelf for a year or more.

“If you already weren’t using it, or didn’t like it, why on earth would you want to pack it up and schlep it to your next house?” says Hazel Thornton, of New Mexico-based Organized for Life. “I know it sounds silly, but people do it all the time. Moving isn’t cheap, either; do you really want to pay extra to move stuff you don’t even want? Don’t delude yourself by telling yourself you’ll deal with it at your next destination. No, you won’t.”

6. Reduce collections creatively.

It can be hard to let go of a lifetime collection of porcelain dolls or snow globes from all your vacations, but they will eat up a lot of space or end up stored in a box where you’ll never see them.

Instead, pick a couple to keep and take high-resolution photos of the rest, then have them made into a photo book that can sit on your coffee table or mantle. You and guests will be able to enjoy them without the clutter. There are also tech tools or websites such as Footbridge.com that will convert those boxes of photo negatives to digital.

7. Don’t be afraid to sell things yourself.

With Craigslist, eBay, numerous smartphone apps, yard sales, and an abundance of consignment shops, selling your belongings has never been easier. You probably won’t make a ton of money on most items, so consider how much time you want to invest.

Yard sales are usually faster, but items won’t sell for as much. Craigslist has its drawbacks, but you’ll have a much wider audience and can probably get rid of more for your stuff. Consignment is a good option for high-end furniture, handbags, and other accessories; prices are reasonable, and they’ll sometimes pick up heavy furniture for you.

If you aren’t handy with a computer, your grandchildren can probably help. But if that all sounds like more than you care to deal with, hiring a firm to run an estate sale might be your best bet.

8. Consider legacy gifts early.

Is there an antique clock in your foyer that you plan to one day leave to your son? Maybe a china collection your granddaughter adores? If there are certain heirlooms or pieces you plan to leave to your family in your will, consider giving those gifts now.

This has two benefits: you’ll get the items out of our way, and you’ll be able to enjoy the feeling of giving those items to your loved ones now. While you’re at it, find out if there are any items your children want that you don’t know about — you might find an easy way to make them happy and lighten your load.

9. Allow some time to reminisce.

While you’re cleaning and sorting, there will be some days when you want to stop emptying the kids’ bedrooms and just look through the kindergarten drawings, soccer trophies, and once-prized stuffed animals. It’s OK to pause and let the nostalgia take over for a bit. Cry if you need to, or move on to another room and come back. This is why you started early — just don’t let it prevent you from eventually getting the job done.

“I always ask my clients how the item at hand makes them feel,” says Morgan Ovens, of Haven Home in Los Angeles. “If it brings up any negative feelings, let it go. If it brings happiness of course it stays! The idea here is to only be surrounded by things you absolutely love. Isn’t that a great goal?”

10. Use this as a chance to bond.

Invite the kids and grandkids over for the weekend. Talk to the young ones about where you bought your favorite trinkets. Tell them about your family’s heirlooms. Let them help pack, ask questions, and spend time with you. Get help posting items for sale online.

It can be one more moment your family shares together in the house you’ve loved — before you start making those memories together in your next home. Remember that it’s your family that’s important for the memories you cherish, not the stuff around you.

Making the move after you pack

Now that you’ve downsized your belongings, how are you going to make your move? You’ll want to have an answer in mind from the beginning of your downsizing process.

Will you be rounding up family members to help pack and drive a moving truck? Or will you pay for a full-service moving company to pack, ship, and unpack your things? Perhaps something in-between, with a mobile storage option in which you pack a container, and then the storage company does the shipping?

For seniors, there’s often another option. More companies, known as senior move managers, are popping up across the country that cater specifically to seniors moving — either to smaller homes or moving into senior living or nursing communities. They’ll usually do as much or as little as you want, from packing and moving to home cleaning and estate sales.

There are hundreds of senior move specialists. The National Association of Senior Move Managers reported nearly 1,000 companies as members in its 2015-16 annual report.

“There are now senior move specialists in most communities,” says Sara Geber an aging transition coach with LifeEncore. “These are people trained to help at every step of the way, from selecting the new residence to downsizing, to transportation back and forth, etc. They are generally very reasonable in cost and well worth the expenditure. Most real estate brokers know of such professionals, as do estate attorneys and financial advisers.”

It’s important to keep these options in mind as you downsize because it might change your opinion on whether to keep or sell certain items. If you’re moving everything yourself, a 300-pound china cabinet might be better suited for the consignment shop to avoid the hassle and risk of injury. If you’re paying for full-service, you might be more inclined to keep it, but know that such heavy items add onto the price tag.

You’ll also want to be on the lookout for potential scammers. It’s fairly rare, but there are some companies out there that will promise one attractive price for a full-service move, and then once your stuff is all packed up in the truck, they’ll demand more money while holding your items hostage. Do your research and use companies that come with recommendations from family and friends.

If you’re undecided about what type of move is best for you, let MYMOVE help you compare moving options.

Dealing with the emotional toll of the downsize.

Inevitably, most people will struggle a bit with nostalgia when they’ve reached a point where it’s time to downsize. Geber, with LifeEncore, spoke with MYMOVE about how to make the best of this difficult time.

“Change is hard for everyone, but the older we get, the more accustomed we are to our surroundings and our ‘stuff,’ even if all that stuff threatens to strangle us,” she says.

She says a lot of these negative feelings come from both sadness and fear, which is why she recommends making a downsize as early as possible when it’s easier to adjust to a new environment.

Many senior living communities allow potential residents to spend a few nights on site to get an idea of what it would be like to live there. Take advantage of that if you can. You want to make sure you find the right fit, Geber says.

And don’t let the apprehension get you down.

“Looking forward to a new environment” can help ease the transition, Geber says. Focus on the positives and appreciate how much simpler life will be with fewer surfaces to dust, rooms to vacuum, or towels to wash.

Your downsize doesn’t have to be stressful, or scary.  Stay positive and get excited about a simpler life in a new place with less clutter. So, Seniors; Children of Seniors; Is is time to Downsize?

Read more related articles at:

Downsizing Tips for Seniors

How to Embrace the Small Things After Downsizing

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

Downsizing Seniors Find Help from Senior Move Management Companies

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.


Avoiding Probate in Florida

Avoiding Probate in Florida

Avoiding Probate in Florida

How to save your family time, money, and hassle

Need Professional Help? Talk to a Probate Attorney.

Living Trusts

In Florida, you can make a living trust to avoid probate for virtually any asset you own—real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, and so on. You need to create a trust document (it’s similar to a will), naming someone to take over as trustee after your death (called a successor trustee). Then—and this is crucial—you must transfer ownership of your property to yourself as the trustee of the trust. Once all that’s done, the property will be controlled by the terms of the trust. At your death, your successor trustee will be able to transfer it to the trust beneficiaries without probate court proceedings.

Joint Ownership

If you own property jointly with someone else, and this ownership includes the “right of survivorship,” then the surviving owner automatically owns the property when the other owner dies. No probate will be necessary to transfer the property, although of course it will take some paperwork to show that title to the property is held solely by the surviving owner.

In Florida, two forms of joint ownership are available:

  • Joint tenancy. Property owned in joint tenancy automatically passes to the surviving owners when one owner dies. No probate is necessary. Joint tenancy often works well when couples (married or not) acquire real estate, vehicles, bank accounts or other valuable property together. In Florida, each owner, called a joint tenant, must own an equal share.
  • Tenancy by entirety. This form of joint ownership is like joint tenancy but is allowed only for married couples in Florida.

Payable-on-Death Designations for Bank Accounts

Transfer-on-Death Registration for Securities

Florida lets you register stocks and bonds in transfer-on-death (TOD) form. People commonly hold brokerage accounts this way. If you register an account in TOD (also called beneficiary) form, the beneficiary you name will inherit the account automatically at your death. No probate court proceedings will be necessary; the beneficiary will deal directly with the brokerage company to transfer the account.

Transfer-on-Death Deeds for Real Estate

Florida does not allow real estate to be transferred with transfer-on-death deeds. There is a type of deed available in Florida known as an enhanced life estate deed, or “Lady Bird” deed, that functions like a transfer-on-death deed. This type of deed is not common. For more information, read one of our Blogs at: What is a Lady Bird Deed?

Transfer-on-Death Registration for Vehicles

Florida does not allow transfer-on- death registration of vehicles.

Simplified Probate Procedures

Even if you don’t do any planning to avoid probate, your estate may qualify for Florida’s simplified “small estate” probate procedures. Contacting a Probate Attorney is your best course of action to point you in the right direction for a solution that best fits your personalized needs.

Read more related articles at:

How to Avoid Probate in Florida

Florida Courts Probate

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

Why You Might Want to Avoid Probate and How to Do It

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.




privacy estate planning

How to Keep Your Estate Plans Private.

How to Keep Your Estate Plans Private.

Did you know that having a Will does not mean that it will not become public record? In fact, in the state of Florida, Wills are still subject to probate and all of the contents of your Will become public record, available for anyone to see. Many families are hesitant to discuss financial affairs together.  Parents do not necessarily want their children to know how much or exactly what they have.  Some do not want their loved ones to know exactly how they plan to dispose of their assets when they die. However, someone needs to know where the estate planning documents are located and/or how to access those documents when they are needed. All too often it is the lack of information and knowledge not disclosed by the decedent that leaves a very trying and difficult estate planning process for their surviving loved ones.

You might want to consider that the people who are named to various roles in your planning know that they have been named.  For instance, if Child A knows that you would like him to serve as your Executor but after learning what the job entails, he/she decides they do not want the job, it is far better to learn that while you are alive and well so that now you can make alternative plans.

While someone is alive, there is little to be gained from sharing the contents of a Will with other family members.  There can easily be resentment caused by plans to give certain items of personal property to specific individuals or to bequeath different portions of one’s estate to different children or other relatives.  Also, once family members know how someone plans to dispose of their assets, there can be additional resentment caused if those plans are changed later.

But sooner or later a Will can no longer be kept private.  That is because eventually a testator dies, and their estate must be formally settled.  In order for the Executor named in the Will to become the Executor, the Will must be filed with the probate court.  Once that Will is filed with the probate court, it is part of the public record.  In many states, including Florida, even if a decedent leaves no assets that need to be formally probated, by statute the Will still needs to be submitted to the Probate Court. 

For those who value privacy and wish to keep their estate planning a family affair, other estate planning can ensure that the Will is only a small part of the overall picture of one’s estate planning.  A pour-over Will provides that any assets in an individual’s name when they die should be distributed to a trust at the conclusion of the probate process.  If most of the decedent’s assets were already funded into a trust before they died, then there may be very little, or nothing left in the probate estate.

For the most part, trust planning can be kept private.  Unlike a Will where the document becomes part of the public record and must be furnished to interested parties, a trust agreement with some exceptions need not be filed with the probate court.  That is one of the many advantages to using trusts in your planning.  A Trustee of course must administer the trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries in adherence to all of the instructions and requirements in the trust, so the Trustee is privy to what is in your Trust. 

Read more related articles at:

How to Keep Your Estate Plan Private


Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

How Do You Stop Family Fights Over an Inheritance?

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Pet Trusts

Pandemic Pets and Pet Companionship: 7 Benefits/Considerations for Care Coordination and Estate Planning

Pandemic Pets and Pet Companionship: 7 Benefits/Considerations for Care Coordination and Estate Planning

One thing that many people learned as they were forced to stay at home during the pandemic is that pet companionship is important. For many, life trapped in their home would’ve been unbearable had they not had their furry friends.

An unanticipated effect of the pandemic was “a surge in interest in fostering and adopting pets.” Although unanticipated, this effect is not surprising given the cancellation of social human interaction during the stay-at-home orders.

With the surge in pet adoption, the significance and importance of care coordination and estate planning advice in regard to pets became increasingly clear.

Below are seven benefits for pet owners and key considerations for aging individuals and people with special needs.

  1. Reducing Isolation and Loneliness
  2. Lowering Stress and Anxiety
  3. Improving Fitness
  4. Increasing Social Interaction and Connection to the Community
  5. Improving Cardiovascular Health
  6. Improving Signs of Depression
  7. Providing Routine and a Sense of Purpose


  • Choose someone you trust and who knows your pet to designate as a temporary or permanent caregiver for the pet.
  • Estimate how much it will cost to feed, care for, and provide veterinary treatment for your pet’s lifetime.
  • Include pets in your estate plan to ensure that they have a caregiver and money is set aside to pay for care.
  • Write down information about the pet’s feeding schedule, personality and behavior, medical conditions, and veterinarian information and provide the information to the designated caregiver.
  • Consider the benefits of pet trusts.

Read more related articles at: 

3 Financial Planning Tips For Pets Owners

Yes, You Should Include Your Dog in Your Will

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

Do You Have a Pet Trust?

Establish a Pet Trust to Protect Your Pets After You’re Gone

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.


executor of estate

Things to Know About Being an Executor.

Things to Know About Being an Executor of an Estate

Closing out the estate of a relative or friend who has died is an important, and time-consuming, responsibility


Things to Know About Being an Executor. Life is complicated, but it turns out death is complicated, too. Winding up the lifelong financial affairs of a deceased loved one often requires generous amounts of patience, free time and organizational smarts. The skills of a sleuth may be needed to uncover assets tucked away or forgotten. And even then, things are sometimes missed. It’s natural to feel honored if a friend or relative asks you to serve as executor, or personal representative, as the position is also called. If the person is near death, the urge to say yes is all the more pressing. But given the complexities of the role, it’s crucial that you take it on only if you feel fully capable. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you do.


1. Do you have the time?

When her mother died in 2011, Susan Crim had no idea that it would take nearly two years, as executor, to close out the estate. Wrestling with paperwork, faxing documents and traveling from Virginia to consult with legal and financial experts became a way of life as she grappled with a confusing bureaucracy. “I was grieving,” says Crim, 59. “It was challenging.” Then last February, just two months after she settled her mother’s affairs, her father died. And her duties as an executor began all over again.

Phone calls, trips to the county courthouse to record financial information standing in line at the post office to mail registered letters — these and countless other tedious duties may await you. You’ll need to have information from banks, mortgage servicers, investment firms, life insurance companies and all other firms that had a role in the deceased person’s holdings. Among the more grueling tasks, you may be called on to sort and value the contents of the person’s home.

“Often, it’s 50 years of accumulation,” says Harry Margolis, an elder law attorney in Boston. “Trying to figure out which family members want which items — how do you choose among them? How do you take care of their interests and make sure they’re treated fairly?”

2. Do you have the skills?

Being an executor requires a high degree of organization. One executor recalls keeping a notebook and recording every single communication with lawyers, bankers and other contacts.

“People who can’t balance their own checkbook, who have financial difficulties of their own, who have no idea how to organize financial information, people who don’t like detail — those are not good candidates,” says Sally Hurme, a lawyer at AARP and author of the American Bar Association’s The ABA Checklist for Family Heirs. Like a private eye, you may have to know how to dig for assets. Finding dusty stock or bond certificates in a drawer, rather than at a brokerage firm, may be a clue there are more awaiting discovery.

3. Do you have the temperament?

As you sort through legal and financial matters, you’ll confront a range of personalities, so it helps to be calm. Min Zwang, 84, initially appointed all four of her children as executors when she created her estate plan. But she began to question that decision and recently changed her will. She named one daughter as the sole executor to help the process go more smoothly.

The daughter is easygoing, Zwang says, and she’s married to an accountant, whose skills would be helpful. “It’s a tremendous burden I’m putting on her, and I realize that,” says Zwang, who lives in Toms River, N.J. “I tried to make it as easy as possible by dividing everything equally. I don’t want there to be any disharmony.”

Some lawyers say it’s best to appoint one executor, as Zwang did. But Anthony Enea, chair of the elder law section of the New York State Bar Association, advocates choosing at least two children. “It creates a system of checks and balances,” he says. “If you pick one child, it gives that person a lot of power and discretion. But it depends on the family dynamics. There’s no set formula.”

To keep peace and create trust, it’s important that the executor settle the affairs openly, says elder law attorney Margolis. “What you’re doing, how much money is there, what’s happening in the process — the more transparent you are, the more [the other siblings] will relax.”

4. Do you know the rules?

Each state has specific laws on executors’ responsibilities, along with timetables for them to perform their duties. Paying the funeral expenses, publishing death notifications and filing estate tax returns are a few examples of what might be required. Your state may have an online law library that details the rules and requirements. The American Bar Association website also offers guidance about settling an estate — search online for “ABA guidelines for individual executors and trustees.”

Many executors find certain tasks so daunting that they consult lawyers for help. Others hire lawyers to manage the entire process, which is of course much more expensive. Either way, you need to follow the law strictly — you are personally liable for the proper administration of the estate. If you misrepresent the value of any assets, you could be held accountable by the IRS or by the beneficiaries. If you’re found to have shortchanged the heirs, you could be required to reimburse them out of your own pocket or pay fines.

5. Can you afford to be an executor?

If you live in another state, will you need to travel to the person’s hometown, and if so, how often? Will the estate cover travel expenses?

Crim made repeated trips from her home in Alexandria, Va., to her late parents’ place in Saline, Mich., to deal with paperwork and other tasks. “I fax things all over the country, but I do sometimes have to sign papers and fill out forms with lawyers and financial professionals in Michigan,” she says. The estate will pay for those travel costs. It would be an expensive proposition otherwise, Crim says.

What about the value of your time? Will you be expected to do this work for free? In most states, executors are entitled to take a percentage of the estate’s value, even if a fee wasn’t specified in a will. But with those legal guidelines, it’s still common for executor fees to become a source of conflict with heirs. Some family members may view the money as their own or be unaware of the time you’ve invested.

Elizabeth Haase, a Washington, D.C., psychologist, says administering a friend’s estate was like a second job. Yet at least one extended relative balked at her taking the fee specified in the will — 2 percent of the estate’s value. She wanted to honor her friend’s dying wishes by being executor but felt guilty about accepting payment. In the end, it was so much work that she took the fee. It hardly seemed like a windfall. “Nobody does it for the money,” Haase says.

The Estate-Planning Checklist

Who hasn’t heard tales of relatives fighting over bank accounts, siblings no longer speaking to one another, or loving relationships severed for good as estates are settled and assets distributed? You can help head off those dramas in your own family by putting your financial affairs in order now.

1. Make a list: Write down all the numbers for your credit cards, bank accounts, passwords, retirement and investment accounts, life insurance policies, tax records, safe-deposit boxes and real estate. Include the names and contacts of any lawyers and financial experts you’ve used. Keep the list updated and tell your executor where it’s located.

2. Be specific. Create a will or trust that clearly specifies your wishes. Do you want your granddaughter to inherit your diamond wedding ring and your grandson to have your car? Put that on a separate list and attach it to your will.

3. Talk openly. If you appoint one sibling as executor, tell the others why you made that decision. Perhaps it’s because the designated child is the eldest, or lives close by, which will make the process easier.

4. Be clear on fees. Realize that asking someone to be an executor is more than a favor. It’s a very demanding job. Consider specifying that a fee will be paid, and how much. Explain to everyone else why.

Carole Fleck is a writer and editor for AARP Media.

Read more related articles at:

Executor of a Will Checklist: Your Step-by-Step Guide

What is an executor? Things you need to know

Also, read one of our previous Blogs here:

Do You Know Your Job as Executor, Agent or Trustee?

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Protect your assets

Do You Need An Asset Protection Plan?

The Basics of Asset Protection Planning – The Rules You Need To Know


While working with clients for almost two decades one of the most pressing concerns shared among all of them was protecting the nest egg they had accumulated. Any news headline or market correction would evoke fear about losing their portfolio. It didn’t take long to realize that utilizing asset protection strategies was a must for my clients emotional well-being.

Read more related articles at:

How Does an Asset Protection Trust Work?

Annuity Asset Protection Strategies

Also, Read one of our previous Blogs at:

About Asset Protection Plans

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Estate Planning

Estate Planning Meets Tax Planning

Estate Planning Meets Tax Planning


Estate Planning Meets Tax Planning.  Not keeping a close eye on tax implications, often costs families tens of thousands of dollars or more, according to a recent article from Forbes, “Who Gets What—A Guide To Tax-Savvy Charitable Bequests.” The smartest solution for donations or inheritances is to consider your wishes, then use a laser-focus on the tax implications to each future recipient.

After the SECURE Act destroyed the stretch IRA strategy, heirs now have to pay income taxes on the IRA they receive within ten years of your passing. An inherited Roth IRA has an advantage in that it can continue to grow for ten more years after your death, and then be withdrawn tax free. After-tax dollars and life insurance proceeds are generally not subject to income taxes. However, all of these different inheritances will have tax consequences for your beneficiary.

What if your beneficiary is a tax-exempt charity?

Charities recognized by the IRS as being tax exempt don’t care what form your donation takes. They don’t have to pay taxes on any donations. Bequests of traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, after-tax dollars, or life insurance are all equally welcome.

However, your heirs will face different tax implications, depending upon the type of assets they receive.

Let’s say you want to leave $100,000 to charity after you and your spouse die. You both have traditional IRAs and some after-tax dollars. For this example, let’s say your child is in the 24% tax bracket. Most estate plans instruct charitable bequests be made from after-tax funds, which are usually in the will or given through a revocable trust. Remember, your will cannot control the disposition of the IRAs or retirement plans, unless it is the designated beneficiary.

By naming a charity as a beneficiary in a will or trust, the money will be after-tax. The charity gets $100,000.

If you leave $100,000 to the charity through a traditional IRA and/or your retirement plan beneficiary designation, the charity still gets $100,000.

If your heirs received that amount, they’d have to pay taxes on it—in this example, $24,000. If they live in a state that taxes inherited IRAs or if they are in a higher tax bracket, their share of the $100,000 is even less. However, you have options.

Here’s one way to accomplish this. Let’s say you leave $100,000 to charity through your IRA beneficiary designations and $100,000 to your heirs through a will or revocable trust. The charity receives $100,000 and pays no tax. Your heirs also receive $100,000 and pay no federal tax.

A simple switch of who gets what saves your heirs $24,000 in taxes. That’s a welcome savings for your heirs, while the charity receives the same amount you wanted.

When considering who gets what in your estate plan, consider how the bequests are being given and what the tax implications will be. Talk with your estate planning attorney about structuring your estate plan with an eye to tax planning.

Reference: Forbes (Jan. 26, 2021) “Who Gets What—A Guide To Tax-Savvy Charitable Bequests”

Read more related articles at:

5 Estate Planning Tips to Keep Your Money in the Family

Estate Planning Strategies to Reduce Estate Taxes

Also, Read one of our previous Blogs at:

Big News for Trust Taxation

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.


What Can You Do to Help Support the Seniors You Love Right Now?

What Can You Do to Help Support the Seniors You Love Right Now?

From Focus on the Family.com

Assisting Aging Loved Ones With Estate Planning

What Can You Do to Help Support the Seniors You Love Right Now? Do you have any advice for me as I attempt to help my elderly mother protect her financial assets and make sure her wishes will be carried out after her death? Wills, trusts, partnerships, probate, power of attorney — I know next to nothing about them. How should we plan her estate?

In response to the growing aging population in the U.S., a new, specialized area of law has emerged over the past several years – elder law. Elder-law lawyers are a relatively new specialty of attorneys who concentrate on handling the often complicated legal affairs of seniors. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) maintains a website that includes a series of “Law and Aging” brochures addressing various elder law topics. An elder-law attorney can help you clarify the pros and cons of obtaining a power of attorney, a trust, a conservatorship, a guardianship, Medicare benefits and Medicaid benefits and a number of other legal documents designed to preserve and protect your mother’s assets. You need to be aware of both your rights and obligations as you enter into any of these binding agreements. Here’s a list of the ten most common arrangements:


Every person should have a will. This is a legal document that describes how the person wants her property distributed after her death. A will can contain the name of an executor or personal representative who will take responsibility to see that it is carried out. Unless a will has been drawn up, the state will decide how to divide the person’s possessions and property according to its own guidelines.


A trust is a document that gives a person the right to manage another person’s money and property. It’s an agreement between your mother (the settlor or trustor) and the individual she appoints (the trustee) to carry out her wishes. Unlike a durable power of attorney, the trust is a long and detailed document that outlines specifically how money and property should be handled. In addition, the trust often remains in effect after the person dies. It can be either revocable or irrevocable, and there are several different kinds of trusts, depending on how your loved one wants to arrange the protection and disbursement of her inheritance.

Letter of instruction

This is a document prepared by your mother and her lawyer. It should contain the names of the individuals to be notified upon her death, funeral arrangements, directions for disposal of personal property, numbers of bank accounts, information on insurance policies, anatomical-gift information, etc. This is not a legal document; it’s just a listing of personal requests to be followed along with the will.

Family limited partnership

This estate-planning tool allows seniors who own their own businesses to reduce the value of the business for tax purposes and to adjust the cash flow received by children who are “limited partners” in the business. It’s a way for a businessperson to protect his or her business and provide for surviving relatives.

Joint tenancy

Husbands and wives quite often have joint ownership of their money, property and other possessions. One form of common ownership is called “joint tenancy with a right of survivorship.” This means that if one spouse dies, the other automatically inherits everything. Other joint-tenancy agreements add an adult child to the agreement. Joint tenancy can help a loved one avoid probate, but it has its drawbacks and it’s certainly no substitute for a will. A lawyer can advise you on the pros and cons of joint tenancy.


This is the process by which legal title to property is transferred from the deceased’s estate to her beneficiaries. If the person dies with a will (“testate”), the probate court determines if the will is valid, orders that creditors be paid, and makes sure the will distribution instructions are followed properly. If a person does not have a will (“intestate”), the probate court appoints a person to process all claims against the estate. A will can be contested during probate for a variety of reasons.

Power of attorney

Your mother can give someone power of attorney over her affairs. You can have either general or special power of attorney. General power of attorney grants you power to take care of any financial transactions, and sometimes includes the power to make health care decisions as well. A special power of attorney authorizes you to do a limited number of actions for your grandmother. A power of attorney is usually granted only for a specific period of time. A Durable power of attorney, which does not terminate if the person granting it becomes mentally incompetent, involves the creation of a document (with the help of a lawyer) to give a trusted friend or relative the power to make either financial or medical decisions on your mother’s behalf when necessary.


If your mother becomes legally incapacitated, you can go to a probate court and ask that you be appointed a conservator over her property. Note that this can be done against your mom’s wishes and may cause friction between siblings. So use extreme caution before adopting this plan, and be sure to communicate clearly with other members of the family.


If the court determines that your mother is incapacitated and unable to make her own decisions because of physical or mental disability, you can be named her guardian. She becomes your “ward,” and you have authority to manage her money or property.

Representative payee

If your mother has a disability and is unable to manage a pension or public-benefit income, you may want to consider becoming a representative payee. Social Security, Veterans Affairs, and other public agencies can appoint you to disburse the funds. You should contact each specific agency for an application form.

For more information, you may wish to take a look at the website of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. If you could use further information and guidance, please don’t hesitate to give our Gift and Estate Planning staff a call. They would be happy to listen to your concerns and assist you with some practical suggestions. You can contact them Monday through Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Mountain time at (800) 782-8227.

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Avoiding Probate

Avoiding Unnecessary Probate Costs

Avoiding Unnecessary Probate Costs


Each year, millions of dollars are spent on soaring attorney and court fees associated with probate proceedings upon the death of a loved one. Avoiding probate in estate planning allows the decedent’s property to be distributed to the designated person at a designated time without substantial costs.

  • Avoiding probate can help allow the distribution of the estate with fewer costs.
  • The probate process involves proving the last will.
  • Transferring property to a trust is one way to avoid probate.


Background on the Probate Process

Probate is the process of proving the will is, in fact, the last will, and there are no challenges to it and of adjudicating any claims against the estate under court supervision. Probate usually occurs in the appropriate court in the state and county where the deceased permanently resided at the time of his or her death. If there is no valid will (called intestacy), the title to the property will pass under state intestacy laws to “heirs at law,” normally giving one half to the surviving spouse and dividing the remainder equally among the children. With or without a will, the property must go through the probate proceedings. Even if a person dies with a will, a court generally must allow others the opportunity to contest the will. Creditors are allowed to step forward; the validity of the will can be scrutinized, and the deceased’s mental capacity at the time the will was drafted can be questioned. These proceedings take time and money, and your heirs are the ones who will have to pay. Since probate proceedings can take up to a year or two, the assets are typically “frozen” until the courts decide on the distribution of the property. Probate can easily cost from 3% to 7% or more of the total estate value.


Simplifying or Avoiding Probate Altogether

Even though probate takes place regardless of whether you made a will you can look to other tools that help your inheritors. Transfer Property to a Trust.  Revocable living trusts or inter-vivos trust were invented to help people bypass the probate process. Unlike the property listed in your will, the property in a trust is not probated, so it passes directly to your inheritors. You simply create a trust document and then transfer the property title to the trust. Many people name themselves as the trustee  to keep total control of the trust property. A trust also allows you to name alternate beneficiaries; it does not require a waiting period after death and is much harder to attack in court.

Set up Payable-on-Death Registrations

Also known as transfer-on-death accounts, these allow you to name one or more beneficiaries of the account to avoid the probate process. It’s simple to create and usually free, and the beneficiary can easily claim the money after the owner dies. The ability to name a beneficiary, however, is a feature that you must add to the account, but most banks, savings and loans, credit unions, and brokerage firms allow you to do so. It requires some extra paperwork and time, so you’ll need to be persistent and ask your institution for the required forms.

Make Tax-Free Gifts

Making gifts helps you avoid probate for a very simple reason: you no longer own the property when you die. For tax years 2020 and 2021, you can give your heirs up to $15,000 per person each year without a gift tax penalty. Giving before you die helps lower your probate costs because, typically, the higher the monetary value of assets going through probate, the higher the probate costs.

Revisit the Beneficiary Designations on Your Stuff

Dust off that old life insurance policy and make sure your beneficiaries are up to date. Too many times, individuals forget to change their beneficiary after their second marriage, and then the ex-spouse gets everything. Call your custodians and update the beneficiaries on your IRAs, 401(k), life insurance policies, annuity contracts, and other retirement accounts. These types of accounts pass at your death by contractual beneficiary designation, meaning whoever you name in your will is irrelevant to these accounts; beneficiary designation will take precedence in court. Avoid naming your estate as the beneficiary, which will cause your property to go through probate.

Use Joint Ownership

Joint tenancy with right of survivorship, tenancy by the entirety, and community property with right of survivorship are the types of joint ownership that allow your property to bypass the probate process. If you hold your stocks, vehicles, home, and bank accounts in joint ownership, the title of the property automatically passes to the joint survivor upon your death. Remember, once you title your property jointly, you’ll be giving up half ownership in the property.


The Bottom Line

Although we’ve demonstrated some weaknesses of having a will as your sole estate planning tool, don’t think that you no longer need one. The guidelines above point out great tools to build a more effective plan. However, you’ll want to draft a will to cover property acquired shortly before you die or anything that might have been overlooked. A good estate plan should distribute a decedent’s property when and to whomever the person desired, and with a minimum amount of income, estate, and inheritance taxes, as well as attorney and court fees. Avoiding probate is an important part of achieving these goals.

Read more related articles at:

Consumer Pamphlet: Probate in Florida

How Much Does Probate Cost?

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

How Do You Handle Probate?

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

cremation urn ashes

There Are Now So Many Remarkable Things to Do With Ashes to Honor Your Loved One.

There Are Now So Many Remarkable Things to Do With Ashes to Honor Your Loved One. There are only a few things for certain in this life, and unfortunately death is one of them. Whether you are going through the process and know it is coming, or it happens unexpectant, the grief is none the less. Over the years, cremation has become a more popular way to lay our loved ones to rest. It has also become a more popular wish of people who predetermine their own end of life plans. With the popularity of the cremation option, some remarkable ways in which to use your loved one’s ashes to honor them, have come about.

Just recently a son added his father’s ashes to a bowling ball and scored a perfect game. Some might call that a sign. In 2018, a husband had his wife’s ashes turned into a diamond, almost coining the popular phrase “a diamond is forever”. And in 2014 a mother was able to send her son’s ashes into space. These might seem like extreme or outlandish idea’s, but for those who chose them, it brought great peace and comfort. There are so many ways now in which to use ashes to memorialize your loved one.

Depending upon your beliefs, customs, and perhaps religion, there are choices to make on how to lay your loved one to rest. It is never an easy decision if you are the one left to make it. Having end of life plans in order, can save your loved ones added grief when it becomes your time to pass. Having a Will in place helps map out all your desires from whether you want to be kept alive by machines, to if you want to be buried or cremated. You can even leave instructions on how you want your ashes taken care of. Some people have specific wishes of where they want their ashes spread. It is never too soon to create a Will and make your wishes known.

There have been several cases in which there have been actual court battles over who gets a loved one’s ashes. In 2014, a Florida Judge ruled that cremated ashes are not property, and can’t be divided. A Mother and Father who had divorced in 2007 son passed away in 2014 and a court battle ensued. The father wanted to split the ashes, while the mother protested saying it is against her religious beliefs to split the ashes. If the son had a Will determining how he wanted his ashes dispersed, there would not have been a case, and the sons wishes would have had to have been granted.

Life is full of the unexpected and there is no way to really know when it will end. Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney to draft your Last Will and Testament will ensure your wishes are honored. From the who, what, when, and how of everything, you decide!

Read more related articles at:

Bowler adds father’s ashes to ball, rolls perfect game.

Husband turns wife’s ashes into diamond.

A mother’s campaign will take son’s ashes into space.

22 Remarkable Things to Do With Ashes to Honor Your Loved One.

Florida Couple Fights Over Custody of Son’s Cremated Remains.

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

Am I Too Young to Think About Estate Planning?

Do You Have a Will?

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

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