What Should I Look for in a Trustee?
A Trustee Manages a Trust

What Should I Look for in a Trustee?

Selecting a trustee to manage your estate after you pass away is an important decision. Depending on the type of trust you’re creating, the trustee will be in charge of overseeing your assets and the assets of your family. It’s common for people to choose either a friend or family member, a professional trustee or a trust company or corporate trustee for this critical role.

Forbes’s recent article, “How To Choose A Trustee,” helps you identify what you should look for in a trustee.

If you go with a family member or friend, she should be financially savvy and good with money. You want someone who is knows something about investing, and preferably someone who has assets of their own that they are investing with an investment advisor.

A good thing about selecting a friend or family member as trustee, is that they’re going to be most familiar with you and your family. They will also understand your family’s dynamics.  Family members also usually don’t charge a trustee fee (although they are entitled to do so).

However, your family may be better off with a professional trustee or trust company that has expertise with trust administration. This may eliminate some potentially hard feelings in the family. Another negative is that your family member may be too close to the family and may get caught up in the drama.They may also have a power trip and like having total control of your beneficiary’s finances.

The advantage of an attorney serving as a trustee, is that they have familiarity with your family, if you’ve worked together for some time. There will, however, be a charge for their time spent serving as trustee.

Trust companies will have more structure and oversight to the trust administration, including a trust department that oversees the administration. This will be more expensive, but it may be money well spent. A trust company can make the tough decisions and tell beneficiaries “no” when needed. It’s common to use a trust company, when the beneficiaries don’t get along, when there is a problem beneficiary or when it’s a large sum of money. A drawback is that a trust company may be difficult to remove or become inflexible. They also may be stingy about distributions, if it will reduce the assets under management that they’re investing. You can solve this by giving a neutral third party, like a trusted family member, the ability to remove and replace the trustee.

Talk to your estate planning attorney and go through your concerns to find a solution that works for you and your family.

Learn why a trust is so valuable in estate planning.

Reference: Forbes (May 31, 2019) “How To Choose A Trustee”s

Are You Spending Your Children’s Inheritance?
Spending Your Children's Inheritance or Preserving the Nest Egg

Are You Spending Your Children’s Inheritance?

Once you get to retirement, it’s important to identify what your goals are for your nest egg. Do you intend to spend it down enjoying your golden years, pursuing passions and activities that bring you and your spouse joy, or do you want to leave an inheritance to loved ones? The question, whether to spend your children’s inheritance, is posed in the article “Will You Spend Your Retirement Savings or Leave It Behind? The Answer May Surprise You,” from the Warwick Advertiser.

For many people, the goal of retirement is to do all the things that had to be put off while working. That might include a hobby that requires time and resources, travelling, purchasing a vacation home, or fulfilling a dream of going back to school. If that’s your retirement dream, bear in mind that these dreams all come with costs. Spending in the early stages of retirement often goes up, as retirees are still healthy enough to do everything on their bucket lists.

Given the reality of longer life expectancies, it’s important for retirees to understand that they may be living from their retirement investments for three or more decades. That means that you’ll need to have enough money to cover routine expenses plus health care and most likely, long-term health care services. Make sure your financial planning takes these factors into account.

Once you know how much money you’ll need for your costs of living and health care, plus inflation, then what’s left behind is your retirement fun money.

Knowing how to work within the constraints of a budget, is actually more important during retirement. You can’t just go back to work for a few decades, if you find yourself running short. You still may need to pick up a part-time gig on the side. However, that income is quite lower than a full-time position at the peak of your earning career.

What if leaving a legacy is more important to you than buying a second home? Just like the plan for retirement fun, you’ll need to do some financial planning to make this goal come to fruition. Remember that your legacy will include whatever is left at the time of your death, as well as what you may give while you are living.

Giving your children or grandchildren their inheritance while you are alive, is a way to enjoy the gift twice — once when you give and a second time when you see what they do with your gift. You might want to help the family reach their own financial milestone, like covering the cost of a college degree, helping with a deposit on a home or helping to pay off a mortgage.

Charitable giving may also be part of your legacy. If there is a charity, foundation, or alma mater that aligns with your values, you may choose to set aside a portion of your estate for a donation.

Regardless of whether you are planning on spending everything, giving away your assets to family members, or to a preferred charity, an estate plan is necessary to ensure that your wishes will be followed.

Your estate plan needs to include written instructions on how you want your assets to be distributed. That usually happens through a will, and trusts are often part of an estate plan. Make sure that you know what your beneficiary designations are—these are the people who are named in your insurance policies, investment accounts, IRAs, 401(k), or other retirement accounts. They will receive the assets as noted in the beneficiary designations, regardless of what your will says.

Learn more about preserving the nest egg.

Reference: Warwick Advertiser (April 18, 2019) “Will You Spend Your Retirement Savings or Leave It Behind? The Answer May Surprise You”

Forgot to Update Your Beneficiary Designations? Your Ex Will be Delighted
Surviving spouse happy about deceased spouse not changing IRA beneficiary designation

Forgot to Update Your Beneficiary Designations? Your Ex Will be Delighted

Your will does not control who inherits all your assets when you die. This is something that many people do not know. Instead, many of your assets will pass by beneficiary designations, says Kiplinger in the article “Beneficiary Designations: 5 Critical Mistakes to Avoid.”

The beneficiary designation is the form that you fill out, when opening many different types of financial accounts. You select a primary beneficiary and, in most cases, a contingency beneficiary, who will inherit the asset when you die.

Typical accounts with beneficiary designations are retirement accounts, including 401(k)s, 403(b)s, IRAs, SEPs, life insurance, annuities and investment accounts. Many financial institutions allow beneficiaries to be named on non-retirement accounts, which are most commonly set up as Transfer on Death (TOD) or Pay on Death (POD) accounts.

It’s easy to name a beneficiary and be confident that your loved one will receive the asset, without having to wait for probate or estate administration to be completed. However, there are some problems that occur and mistakes get expensive.

Here are mistakes you don’t want to make:

Failing to name a beneficiary. It’s hard to say whether people just forget to fill out the forms or they don’t know that they have the option to name a beneficiary. However, either way, not naming a beneficiary becomes a problem for your survivors. Each company will have its own rules about what happens to the assets when you die. Life insurance proceeds are typically paid to your probate estate, if there is no named beneficiary. Your family will need to go to court and probate your estate.

When it comes to retirement benefits, your spouse will most likely receive the assets. However, if you are not married, the retirement account will be paid to your probate estate. Not only does that mean your family will need to go to court to probate your estate, but taxes will be levied on the asset. When an estate is the beneficiary of a retirement account, all the assets must be paid out of the account within five years from the date of death. This acceleration of what would otherwise be a deferred income tax, must be paid much sooner.

Neglecting special family considerations. There may be members of your family who are not well-equipped to receive or manage an inheritance. A family member with special needs who receives an inheritance, is likely to lose government benefits. Therefore, your planning needs to include a SNT — Special Needs Trust. Minors may not legally claim an inheritance, so a court-appointed person will claim and manage their money until they turn 18. This is known as a conservatorship. Conservatorships are costly to set up. They must also make an annual accounting to the court. Conservators may need to file a bond with the court, which is usually bought from an insurance company. This is another expensive cost.

If you follow this course of action, at age 18 your heir may have access to a large sum of money. That may not be a good idea, regardless of how responsible they might be. A better way to prepare for this situation is to have a trust created.  The trustee would be in charge of the money for a period of time that is determined by the personality and situation of your heirs.

Using an incorrect beneficiary name. This happens quite frequently. There may be several people in a family with the same name. However, one is Senior and another is Junior. The person might also change their name through marriage, divorce, etc. Not only can using the wrong name cause delays, but it could lead to litigation, especially if both people believe they were the intended recipient.

Failing to update beneficiaries. Just as your will must change when life changes occur, so must your beneficiaries. It’s that simple, unless you really wanted to give your ex a windfall.

Failing to review beneficiaries with your estate planning attorney. Beneficiary designations are part of your overall estate plan and financial plan. For instance, if you are leaving a large insurance policy to one family member, it may impact how the rest of your assets are distributed.

Take the time to review your beneficiary designations, just as you review your estate plan. You have the power to determine how your assets are distributed, so don’t leave that to someone else.

Learn more about updating your beneficiary designations.

Reference: Kiplinger (April 5, 2019) “Beneficiary Designations: 5 Critical Mistakes to Avoid”