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Lady bird deed

What Is a ‘Lady Bird Deed’?

What Is a ‘Lady Bird Deed’?

I heard about something called a “Lady Bird deed” that could be useful if I need to apply for Medicaid. What exactly is it and why is it named that?

A “Lady Bird deed” (also known as an enhanced life estate deed) is a way to transfer property to someone else outside of probate while retaining a life estate in the property. But unlike a regular life estate, a Lady Bird deed gives you the power to retain control of the property during your life, including the right to use the property for profit or to sell the property.

Lady Bird deeds can be very beneficial if you want to pass your home to someone else but may need to apply for Medicaid soon thereafter. In order to qualify for Medicaid, an applicant cannot have transferred property within five years of the application. Because the deed allows you to retain control of the property, depending on the state it may not count as a transfer of assets for Medicaid eligibility purposes. In addition, these deeds can help avoid estate recovery.  After a Medicaid recipient dies, the state can make a claim for repayment of benefits from the recipient’s estate. Because property under a Lady Bird deed passes outside of probate, it won’t be subject to a claim for reimbursement in states that make claims only against probate property.

These deeds are not legal in most states, so you need to talk to an attorney to find out if you can use one in your state.

What about the deed’s name? According to Texas Tech professor Gerry W. Beyer,  the Florida lawyer who created this form of deed in the 1980s explained the concept by using the names of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s family, and the name stuck.

Read more related articles at:

How Lady Bird Deeds Protect a Medicaid Recipient’s Home for Their Loved Ones

What Is an Enhanced Life Estate Deed?

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

How Does a Life Estate Work?

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

Emotional Blocks to Estate Planning

5 Emotional Blocks to Estate Planning 

5 Emotional Blocks to Estate Planning 

By:

 

Here are 5 Emotional Blocks to Estate Planning. Death and taxes are two subjects that are both emotionally charged. Nobody wants to talk about either one of them — together they are, well, taxing and deadly. Do you break out in a cold sweat when discussing your will? Can you bear to think about whether there will be enough money to live on if your husband dies? Can you even think about which kid will run the business when you die; let alone talk about it in a family meeting?

The “D ” Word

The first hurdle to be overcome is facing your own mortality. Find your own euphemism for death, then use that expression for the rest of the conference. There’s a wide selection of substitutions for the “D” word – “pass on,” “kick the bucket,” “meet my maker,” “when something happens to me,” “get hit by a truck,” “pushing up daisies,” “six feet under” – just to name a few. People will say anything rather than “when I die.” ​​Some folks hold to the superstition that making a will brings on death. Superstitious, yes, but nevertheless, it is a real impediment to many people.

Giving Up Control

The next hurdle is the fear of giving up control. Estate planning doesn’t mean giving your assets away. Many people know they must do something to reduce taxes, but fear giving control of their assets to their children. They have heard too many horror stories about ungrateful children who spend the family savings and turn their backs on their parents. Most people want it both ways – they want to retain complete unfettered control over all their assets and also pay no estate taxes. There are techniques that permit transfers while retaining significant control, and there are ways to protect funds. Learning about these approaches is part of the estate planning process.

Dealing With a Lawyer

Fear of dealing with an attorney is another big hurdle. (Fun fact: Dikigorosophobia is the fear of lawyers.) You might be afraid the lawyer will think you are uninformed, unsophisticated. Do you feel uninformed because you have to call the repairman to fix the air conditioner? Of course not! In the same way that you don’t know how to fix an air conditioner, you don’t know how to complete a thorough estate plan. This is no reflection on your intelligence or character.

You might be afraid of being gouged by attorney fees, or be afraid the attorney isn’t going to listen to you and will just forge ahead with a standard plan that you don’t want. The key to overcoming these fears is finding the right lawyer. Like anything else, a referral from a satisfied client is often the best approach. [Ask your friends who they use for an estate lawyer. Like any other important decision, it is good to do research and talk to a few lawyers, or firms, before making the hiring decision.

The Cost

What does it cost? Fear of the expense is another thing that keeps people from estate planning. Let’s face it. Estate planning is not for you – it’s for those you leave behind. You aren’t going to be hurt by estate taxes. You will be “long gone.” You aren’t going to have to negotiate who gets the grandfather clock – the kids are going to have to slug that out. So how much money (not to mention time and emotional energy) are you willing to spend on an estate plan for your family? Estate planning is truly a gift to your family.

Recognize it for what it is – caring for others. Leaving a well-designed plan behind is the best gift you can give your family. Arrange your affairs to do the most good for your family, friends, and charities.

Don’t be afraid to ask how the attorney charges. Most attorneys will charge an hourly rate, and you can expect to pay a high rate for a specialist (for example heart surgeons charge more than nurse practitioners). Some estate planning is done on a flat fee basis, but an estimate can’t be given until the attorney knows what will be involved. Almost no one gets a “simple will.” More is involved in estate plan than just a will, and every family situation is different.

Family Ties

Tough family decisions are another emotional stumbling block. Is there a divorce looming for one of your children? Does one of the grandchildren have special needs? Will you or your spouse remarry? Who is going to control the family business after the parents are dead? Facing these issues can be so painful that they are avoided indefinitely. Then, a real mess is left behind. Avoiding the problem doesn’t make it go away.

What if one of the children is in and out of drug rehab, or one of the kids is a successful professional, and the other is a struggling single parent with small kids and a minimum wage job. Do these children get treated equally in the estate plan or do you disinherit a child?

What about blended families – the children are yours, mine and ours. Do all of them share equally in both Mom’s and Dad’s estates? Facing tough decisions like these is hard. An estate planning attorney can help you by giving you options and choices. Do you want to have someone else make these decisions for you after you are dead? Worse, do you want your family to be torn apart with the fighting over your estate?

Read more related articles here:

 Emotional Blocks to Estate Planning

5 Common Emotional Roadblocks that Could Halt a Successful Estate Plan

Also, read one of our previous blogs at:

Do We Need Estate Planning?

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

 

Geriatric Care

The Growing Need for Geriatric Care Managers

The Growing Need for Geriatric Care Managers

The name can be misleading as professional geriatric care managers tend to a senior’s unique health care situation needs rather than being responsive to a particular age. The truth is aging is a complex, highly individualized process, and a geriatric care manager (GCM) may be appropriate at age 65 or 105 and any age in between. A geriatric care manager is a highly-skilled advocate for older adults and is specially trained to help identify resources to make managing your loved one’s daily life easier. A GCM is sometimes referred to as “aging life care professional” or “senior care manager,” as some find the term geriatric to be outdated. When is it appropriate to employ a care manager for your aging parent or loved one?

You live far away

Even if you leverage in-home technology and the internet of things to monitor and assess your loved ones well being, it isn’t easy to manage your older adult’s care if you do not live near to them. If you cannot frequently visit, a geriatric care manager can supervise care, alert you to potential or real problems, and work with you to arrive at the best decision for any issues that may prevent themselves.

Your loved one refuses to discuss their health with you

Many seniors, especially parents, do not want to burden their adult children with worries or problems. If you get the feeling your loved one is not telling you the full story about things affecting their health and well-being, hiring a geriatric care manager to check on them is a prudent strategy. Often, a senior is more willing to share their concerns with an expert outside of the family system.

There is a complex behavioral issue to address

Serious behavioral issues can manifest themselves in many ways, such as constant verbal abuse or being physically combative. These issues typically present themselves during the onset of dementia, and the root cause of the problem can be difficult to pinpoint. A geriatric care manager can connect you to an appropriate specialist to diagnose the problem.

You need to solve a problem in the senior living community

You might sense your parent needs more individualized care in their assisted living community, but the community’s administrator will not permit you to hire a private aide. A geriatric care manager understands how these communities work, the relevant state laws that may apply to the situation, and can negotiate on your behalf.  Because a GCM is an industry insider, they are more likely to find a solution in your loved ones’ best interest.

You do not know how best to help your loved one

There comes a time in your older family member’s care where you might feel utterly lost and unsure about what to do. A GCM can help you get unstuck by providing available options, tradeoffs, and costs. An initial assessment by a GCM can help navigate complex funding care options or uncover unknown resources for funding care.

Geriatric care managers can provide many services, including:

  • Evaluating, arranging for, and monitoring in-home care needs and the personnel that provide it
  • Coordinating medical appointments and arranging transportation to them
  • Identifying available programs and social services that can help your loved one
  • Making referrals to medical, legal, or financial professionals and suggesting ways to avert problems
  • Explaining difficult or complex topics to family members or care recipients
  • Creating short and long-term care plans that may include changes in living arrangements
  • Acting as a liaison to families who live far away from their loved one
  • Addressing and answering questions and emotional concerns of caregivers and their loved ones
  • Arranging for respite care providing relief to stressed-out caregivers

Medicare and Medicaid do not pay for a geriatric care manager’s services, so count on paying out of pocket. The initial assessment cost may range from 300 dollars in more rural settings to 800 dollars or more in larger urban areas based on a survey from 2017. After an initial assessment, a GCM bills by the hour and sometimes on a case-by-case basis. A reputable, certified GCM will have required degrees in one or more health care fields as well as several years of hands-on experience caring for the elderly. They will help assess, plan, coordinate and monitor your loved one’s insurance and entitlements, financial and legal matters, medical issues, involvement in activities, and family communication.

The National Institute on Aging (NIA), through the US Department of Health & Human Services, provides links on its webpage to locate geriatric care managers, as do many other organizations specializing in senior care like AgingLifeCare, and caring.com. You can also learn what to ask a potential GCM at caregiversamerica.com and other websites that provide senior information.

There is much to consider about your aging family member’s health and welfare, whether aging in place or an assisted living community. An experienced geriatric care manager, along with trusted legal counsel, can provide the best overall planning for a loved one. If you have questions or would like to discuss further how a GCM may help you or a loved one, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Read more related articles at:

How Can a Trust Help You Avoid Nursing Home Costs?

Top 5 Strategies for Protecting Your Money From Medicaid

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

How Do I Keep My Assets from the Nursing Home?

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

EXERCISE 1

Exercise May Help Slow Cognitive Decline in Some People with Parkinson’s Disease

Exercise May Help Slow Cognitive Decline in Some People with Parkinson’s Disease

Exercise May Help Slow Cognitive Decline in Some People with Parkinson’s Disease. Parkinson’s disease can and often does affect thinking and memory skills. Actually, these problems are “among the most common nonmotor symptoms of the disease.” “A new study shows that exercise may help slow cognitive decline for some people with the disease.”

Research has also indicated that those with Parkinson’s disease who have the gene variant apolipoprotein E e4 or APOE e4, may experience cognitive decline at an earlier, and at aquicker rate than those without the variant. Also, APOE e4 is known as a “genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.”

The new study focused on whether exercise could slow down the cognitive decline for people that have the APOE e4 variant.

According to Jin-Sun Jun, M.D., of Hallym University in Seoul, Korea stated, “[problems with thinking skills and memory can have a negative impact on people’s quality of life and ability to function, so it’s exciting that increasing physical activity could have the potential to delay or prevent cognitive decline.”

Jun also stated that there will need to be more research done in order to confirm the findings, but the results of the research suggests that “interventions that target physical activity” play a role in delaying cognitive decline in people with early Parkinson’s who have the APOE e4 gene variant.

See EXERCISE MAY HELP SLOW COGNITIVE DECLINE IN SOME PEOPLE WITH PARKINSON’S DISEASE, American Academy of Neurology, March 31, 2021.

Read more related articles at:

Exercise May Slow Cognitive Decline in At-Risk Patients With Parkinson Disease

Exercise May Slow Cognitive Decline in Some With Early Parkinson Disease

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

The Latest Treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease

 

 

Biden Nursing homes

Biden Administration Eases Recommended Restrictions on Nursing Home Visits

Biden Administration Eases Recommended Restrictions on Nursing Home Visits

Biden Administration Eases Recommended Restrictions on Nursing Home Visits. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued new guidance on whether families can visit loved ones in nursing homes. The guidance allows indoor visitation even when the resident has not been vaccinated.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit long-term care facilities particularly hard, with more than 170,000 residents and employees dying of COVID-19. Most nursing homes have had at least some restrictions on visitors in place since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Some nursing homes have banned all visitors, some allow visits by appointment only, and some restrict visitation to outdoors only. The absence of close contact with loved ones has been extremely difficult for both residents and their families over the past year.

Now that millions of vaccines have been administered to nursing home residents and staff, CMS has revised its guidance on nursing home visitation. The new non-binding guidance notes that outdoor visitation is preferred, even when both the resident and visitor are fully vaccinated. However, the guidance goes on to advise that indoor visitation should be allowed regardless of the visitor’s or resident’s vaccination status in most situations. CMS recommends limiting indoor visitation in the following circumstances:

  • If the resident is unvaccinated and the county’s COVID-19 positivity rate is greater than 10 percent and less than 70 percent of the residents in the facility are fully vaccinated.
  • The resident has a confirmed COVID-19 infection.
  • The resident is in quarantine because of exposure to a person infected with COVID-19.

CMS also states that while physically distancing should be maintained, a fully vaccinated resident may choose to have close contact with a masked visitor who performs good hand hygiene before and after.

If the nursing home has a resident or staff member who tests positive for COVID-19, the CMS guidance recommends that visitation be suspended until the entire facility has been tested. If the outbreak is contained, then visitation can continue, but if additional cases are found, then CMS recommends suspending visitation once again.

While the CMS provides recommendations, each state is free to make its own visitation rules.

To read the guidance, click here.

For resources on visiting long-term care facilities from The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, click here.

Read more related articles here:

Biden Administration eases restrictions for nursing home visits

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

What Should I Ask, If My Mom Is in a Quarantined Facility

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

 

denied power of attorney

Can a Power of Attorney be Refused?

Can a Power of Attorney be Refused?

A power of attorney, or POA, is one of the most commonly used legal documents because of the numerous purposes a POA can serve. At some point in your life you will likely execute a POA, making you the “Principal” as well as be appointed as an “Agent” under a power of attorney executed by someone else. Considering how often POAs are used you might think that the authority of an Agent under a POA is never questioned; however, the truth is that third parties refuse to honor the authority of an Agent under a POA with some frequency.  Banks, for example, are notorious for refusing to honor, or at least questioning, the authority of an Agent when presented with a power of attorney. If you have been appointed as an Agent under a valid POA you need to know whether a third party can legally refuse to honor a power of attorney, and, if so, under what conditions.

What Is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal agreement whereby the Principal (the person granting authority) grants authority to an Agent to act on behalf of the Principal in legal matters. The extent of the authority granted to an Agent by a Principal will depend on the type of POA the Principal executed. Under a general POA an Agent has virtually unfettered authority to act, meaning the Agent can use the POA to do things such as withdraw funds from the Principal’s bank account, enter into a contract in the Principal’s name, and even sell assets owned by the Principal. On the other hand, an Agent with a limited, or special, POA only has the authority specifically enumerated in the POA agreement. A parent, for instance, might grant a caregiver a limited POA that allows the caregiver (Agent) to consent to medical treatment for a minor child in the parent’s (Principal’s) absence. In addition, because the authority granted under a traditional POA terminated upon the death or incapacity of the Principal, the “durable” power of attorney was created. An Agent’s authority under a “durable power of attorney” survives the incapacity of the Principal.

How an Agent Uses the Authority Granted in a POA

Once an Agent has been granted authority under a POA, using that authority should be relatively simple. Legally, a POA gives the Agent the authority to act on behalf of the Principal. Consequently, all an Agent should have to do is provide a third party with proof of the Agent’ authority by providing an original, or certified copy, of the POA agreement in order to exercise the Agent’s authority. Sometimes, however, it is not quite that easy to use the authority granted by a POA.

Common Reasons for Refusing to Honor a POA

Despite the clear authority granted to an Agent in a POA, third parties (particularly banks and other financial institutions) sometimes refuse to honor the Agent’s authority. Some of the most common reasons given by third parties include:

  • The POA is “old” – a very common excuse given by third parties for refusing to honor a POA is that the authority granted therein is “old” because the agreement was executed some time ago. Legally, this is not a valid reason to refuse to honor the POA; however, because trying to use an old POA so often leads to problems, it is a good idea to have the Principal update the POA every three to five years just to avoid problems.
  • Not on the proper form – financial institutions, in particular, often refuse to honor a POA if it is not on their own POA form. Legally, a third party usually is required to accept anyvalid POA; however, if the Principal is available it is often easier to just execute a new POA on the third party’s form than to argue the issue. Of course, you should have your estate planning attorney review the form before agreeing to sign it though if you are the Principal.
  • No proof of incapacity – if the POA is a “springing POA” it means the Agent’s authority only “springs” into action upon the occurrence of a triggering event, usually the incapacity of the Principal. Sometimes, therefore, a third party may question whether the event has occurred. In this case, you may need a letter from a physician declaring the Principal to be incapacitated.

Although third parties do sometimes refuse to honor an Agent’s authority under a POA agreement, in most cases that refusal is not legal. If you find yourself facing a refusal, that is not easily resolved, you may need to seek a court order that will force the third party to honor your authority. In that case, the law allows you to collect attorney’s fees if the third party unreasonably refused to accept the POA. It is a good idea to seek the legal counsel of an Estate Planning or Elder Law Attorney.

Read more related articles at:

Power of Attorney: who has the power?

What to Do When the Bank Refuses a Financial POA Document

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

The Wrong Power of Attorney Could Lead to a Bad Outcome

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

Medicaid Work requirements

The Current State of Medicaid Work Requirements

The Current State of Medicaid Work Requirements

Former President Trump made it very clear during his presidency that he supported Medicaid work requirements. Indeed, the former Administrator for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Seema Verma, under Trump’s administration, issued policy memoranda on how states could submit Section 1115 waivers in search of work requirement approval.

Thereafter, several states submitted such waivers, including Arkansas, Arizona, Iowa, Indiana, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Kansas, Maine, North Carolina, Mississippi, Ohio, Utah, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. Kentucky was the first to attempt to implement such work requirements. Under that waiver program, each Medicaid recipient would be required to work, look for work, or participate in volunteer work for 80 hours each month. If the requirement wasn’t met, Medicaid coverage would be lost for 6 months. There were several exceptions to the rule, such as for pregnant women, full-time students, primary caregivers to dependents, the elderly, and the disabled.

However, days before the new work requirements were to become effective, a federal judge blocked the new rule. Similar litigation ensued in other states. Kentucky re-drafted their waiver application, and it was once again approved. During the litigation process, however, a different governor was elected and Kentucky subsequently rescinded the waiver.

Arkansas was the first state to actually implement such work requirement policy. They had their program in place for about a year before a federal judge halted it. A study conducted on the year-length program found that the work requirements did not increase employment and those that lost Medicaid coverage had adverse consequences, such as resulting medical debt and delayed medical care.

So, what is the current state of Medicaid work requirements? The Supreme Court of the United States had granted certiorari in Cochran v. Gresham; arguments were to commence on March 29. However, earlier this month, the Court removed the case from their docket. The current-acting CMS Administrator, Elizabeth Richter, sent letters to various states indicating that CMS was beginning a process of determining whether to withdraw the Section 1115 waivers seeking Medicaid work requirements, as the agency no longer believes work requirements supports the overall objectives of the Medicaid program. Because no states currently have Medicaid work requirements and President Biden’s administration and CMS both do not support work requirements, the Supreme Court has considered the case moot. For now, work requirements are a non-issue and the Supreme Court has declined to move the case forward.

Read more related articles at:

Medicaid Work Requirement Experiments at the Supreme Court: What Happens Now?

Did Medicaid Work Requirements Achieve Their Goals in Arkansas?

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

Dark Side of Medicaid Means You Need Estate Planning

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

Background checks

Pennsylvania Creating Uniform Background Check Process for Those Working with Older Adults

Pennsylvania Creating Uniform Background Check Process for Those Working with Older Adults

Pennsylvania’s Department of Aging is looking to update the Older Adults Protective Services Act. This law was enacted originally in 1987 to protect older people who are most vulnerable.

WKBN’s recent article entitled “PA working to decrease elder abuse by updating background check process” reports that Carolyn Green, a spokesperson with the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, said when the law was originally drafted it had a section that regulated criminal background checks for employees. However, that part of the law can no longer be enforced.

“The commonwealth court determined that the employment ban provisions in the Older Adults Protective Services Act was unconstitutional, so we are not able to enforce that portion of the act,” she said.

“Right now, facilities are interpreting it the best they can, so updating this act would allow for more uniformity and a clear understanding of what crimes should prohibit people from working with older adults.”

These criminal background checks assist senior care facilities in eliminating the applications of those persons who might commit elder abuse.

Elder abuse is on the rise.

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging says that cases of suspected elder abuse increased 80% over the previous five years.

Most of that, they say, goes unreported.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Aging’s 2019-2020 annual report, women make up about 64% of victims. Their primary abusers? It’s usually a female caregiver.

“We see a lot of scams happening to older adults but, unfortunately, we do see family members taking advantage or caretakers taking advantage of older adults. Background checks could help eliminate staff that could currently be working with but have committed crimes the facility isn’t aware of,” Green said.

Changes are in the works, Green says.

Reference: WKBN (Feb. 12, 2021) “PA working to decrease elder abuse by updating background check process”

Read more related articles at:

State Requirements for Conducting Background Checks on Home Health Employees

STATES’ CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECK FOR LONG-TERM CARE WORKERS

Also, Read one of our previous Blogs at:

Where are the Worst Nursing Homes in America?

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

 

Selling your Life Insurance Policy

Should I Sell My Life Insurance Policy?

Should I Sell My Life Insurance Policy?

It is quite common to buy life insurance. It may have been to protect your family financially or as a vehicle to provide liquidity for estate taxes. As we grow older and laws change, it is critical to determine if your policy has outlived its intended purpose. The traditional strategy of “buy and hold” no longer applies to the ever-changing world. Today, it may be a good idea to consider selling your policy.

Forbes’ recent article entitled “What You Should Know Before Selling Your Old Life Insurance Policy” explains that a lesser-known alternative to abandoning or surrendering a policy is known as a life settlement. This gives the policy owners the chance to get a much bigger cash lump sum, than what is provided by the life insurance carrier’s cash surrender value.

Life settlements are not new. Third-party institutional buyers have now started to acquire ownership of policies, in exchange for paying the owner a lump sum of cash. As a consequence, the policy owner no longer needs to make future premium payments.

The policy buyer then owns the life insurance policy and takes on the responsibility of future premium payments. They also get the full death benefit payable from the life insurance carrier when the insured dies.

Research shows that, on average, the most successful life settlement deals are with policies where the insured is age 65 or older. Those who are younger than 65 usually require a health impairment to receive a life settlement offer.

Knowing what your life insurance policy is worth is important, and its value is based on two primary factors: (i) the future projected premiums of the policy; and (ii) the insured’s current health condition.

Many policy owners don’t have the required experience with technical life expectancies, actuarial tables and medical knowledge to properly evaluate their life settlement value policies. This knowledge gap makes for an imbalance, since inexperienced policy owners may try to negotiate against experienced and sophisticated policy buyers trying to acquire the policy at the lowest possible cost.

To address this imbalance, the policy owner should seek help from an experienced estate planning attorney to help them with the process to sell the policy for the highest possible price.

If you have an old life insurance policy that’s collecting dust, ask an experienced estate planning attorney to review the policy’s importance and purpose in your portfolio. This may be the right time to turn that unneeded life insurance policy into cash.

Reference: Forbes (Jan. 26, 2021) “What You Should Know Before Selling Your Old Life Insurance Policy”

Read more related articles at:

5 Tips for Selling Your Life Insurance

Can you sell your life insurance policy?

Also, Read one of our previous Blogs at :

Is Life Insurance a Good Idea for My Estate Plan?

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

DEATH OF SPOUSE

How Do You Plan for the Death of a Spouse?

How Do You Plan for the Death of a Spouse?

The COVID pandemic has become a painful lesson in how important it is to having estate plans in order, especially when a spouse becomes sick, incapacitated, or dies unexpectedly. With more than 400,000 Americans dead from the coronavirus, not every one of them had an estate plan and a financial plan in place, leaving loved ones to make sense of their estate while grieving. This recent article from Market Watch titled “How to get your affairs in order if your spouse is dying” offers five things to do before the worst occurs.

Start by gathering information. Make all of your accounts known and put together paperwork about each and every account. Look for documents that will become crucial, including a durable power of attorney, an advanced health care directive and a last will. Gather paperwork for life insurance policies, investment portfolios and retirement accounts. Create a list of contact information for your estate planning attorney, accountant, insurance agent, doctors and financial advisors and share it with the people who will be responsible for managing your life. In addition, call these people, so they have as much information as possible—this could make things easier for a surviving spouse. Consider making introductions, via phone or a video call, especially if you have been the key point person for these matters.

Create a hard copy binder for all of this information or a file, so your loved ones do not have to conduct a scavenger hunt.

If there is an estate plan in place, discuss it with your spouse and family members so everyone is clear about what is going to happen. If your estate plan has not been updated in several years, that needs to be done. There have been many big changes to tax law, and you may be missing important opportunities that will benefit those left behind.

If there is no estate plan, something is better than nothing. A trust can be done to transfer assets, as long as the trust is funded properly and promptly.

Confirm beneficiary designations. Check everything for accuracy. If ex-spouses, girlfriends, or boyfriends are named on accounts that have not been reviewed for decades, there will be a problem for the family. Problems also arise when no one is listed as a beneficiary. Beneficiary designations are used in many different accounts, including retirement accounts, life insurance policies, annuities, stock options, restricted stock and deferred compensation plans.

Many Americans die without a will, known as “intestate.” With no will, the court must rely on the state’s estate laws, which does not always result in the people you wanted receiving your property. Any immediate family or next of kin may become heirs, even if they were people you with whom you were not close or from whom you may even have been estranged. Having no will can lead to estate battles or having strangers claim part of your estate.

If there are minor children and no will to declare who their guardian should be, the court will decide that also. If you have minor children, you must have a will to protect them and a plan for their financial support.

Create a master list of digital assets. These assets range from photographs to financial accounts, utility bills and phone bills to URLs for websites. What would happen to your social media accounts, if you died and no one could access them? Some platforms provide for a legacy contact, but many do not. Prepare what information you can to avoid the loss of digital assets that have financial and sentimental value.

Gathering these materials and having these conversations is difficult, but they are a necessity if a family member receives a serious diagnosis. If there is no estate plan in place, have a conversation with an estate planning attorney who can advise what can be done, even in a limited amount of time.

Reference: Market Watch (Jan. 22, 2021) “How to get your affairs in order if your spouse is dying”

Read more related articles here:

‘When life goes sideways’ – how to prepare for the death of a spouse

Death Of A Spouse Planning Tips

Also, read one of our previous blogs here:

What Do I Need to Do after the Death of My Spouse?

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

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