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Estate Planning for Women

0x600It’s vitally important for everyone to have a plan for their estate, but in the absence of a well-crafted plan, women can be affected more often and more directly than men.  According to www.forbes.com, women live longer than men, on average, and tend to marry older spouses; this makes women three times more likely as men to be widowed at age 65.  An estate plan, as part of an overall retirement plan, is a key necessity for women of all ages, no matter the dollar amount of the estate.  Your estate is everything you own when you pass away, including your home, personal property, investments, bank accounts, retirement plans, life insurance, and business interests.

Northwest Herald’s article, “Home State Bank Emphasizes Estate Planning For Women,”says that a key aspect of estate planning is designating someone you trust to act on your behalf in financial and legal matters in the event you can't (even temporarily) due to illness or disability. Designate this person in a durable power of attorney.

This durable power of attorney is a separate estate planning document from a living will. It expresses your personal preferences about end-of-life care. Also, you need a health care proxy (or health care power of attorney), which authorizes someone to make medical decisions for you. If you don't have a will or living trust indicating who should receive your estate, remember that your state law will do this for you!

Talk to an experienced estate planning attorney in your area to get all of the facts and to help you create these forms.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: Northwest Herald (May 29, 2015) “Home State Bank Emphasizes Estate Planning For Women”

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In Anchorage and in Our State, Folks are Making End of Life Plans

Make-a-plan-wideAt Pretty Thrifty, an Eagle River consignment shop, owner Christy Carter helps client Bonny Stark unpack a set of hand-painted china. Stark has had it for years and is bringing it in to consign it as she prepares for retirement. "I'm not going to take it to Mexico," she said.

Many of Ms. Carter's customers—and folks all over the country—are starting to think about downsizing for retirement. Ms. Carter said in a KTUU.com article, “End of life planning a 'gift for family,' experts say,”that she also receives a lot of merchandise from families who are cleaning up the estate of a loved one who has recently passed away. Most of the furniture she sells are from estates.

Many who have already lost a loved one don't want to deal with all of the details because they're going through their grief process emotionally. However, end of life planning is what the clinical director of an Anchorage area hospice recommends. Having advanced directives or a living will, and a power of attorney in place is a gift to family, she said.

The article explains that ultimately it’s the family that must make those decisions. However, many family members have complicated grief afterwards because they're trying to honor their loved one and don’t know exactly what they should do. This can be very distressing.

The hospice director in the article recommends what’s called “the five wishes" model. The Five Wishes lets your family and doctors know:

  • Those you want to make health care decisions for you when you are unable to;
  • The kind of medical treatment you do or don’t want;
  • The type of comforts you want;
  • How you want people to treat you; and
  • What you want your loved ones to know.

The article explains that a five wishes document not only addresses medical wishes, but also can detail emotional, personal, and spiritual wishes.

Talk with an elder law attorney for long-term care planning and estate planning. It’s smart to plan for death at any stage in life.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: KTUU.com (May 13, 2015) “End of life planning a 'gift for family,' experts say”

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Make Estate Planning Your New Year’s Resolution / York, PA

Shutterstock_62795851The holidays are upon us. It’s also a good time to get started with some Old Year end and New Year beginning planning activities, especially if family members are going to be celebrating the holidays with you. Start with reviewing what you have and how you own it (by yourself, with your spouse, with a child or with whomever). Do you still want to own it in this way?

This timely topic was the theme of a recent article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette titled "Holiday season is the best time to update your estate planning."

Here are some questions you ought to ask yourself as 2015 draws near:

What do you have that may be beneficiary designated (life insurance, IRAs, 401ks, etc.)? Do you want the same beneficiaries on all of these? If not, plan to change them.

Do you have contingent beneficiaries, if the first beneficiary predeceases you? If the answer is no, you could pay significant taxes for your IRA, for example. Some of the money will go to income taxes because the funds are going to your estate instead of being able to stretch out the distributions over the life expectancy of the beneficiary.

Have you sat down with an estate planning attorney to create your estate planning documents?If so, review them before the family gatherings and make any changes needed.

Who is going to handle your affairs if you’re incapacitated or when you pass away?Designate the individuals you trust to take care of your affairs before they’re needed, and make sure they’ll do it. You can also make sure your family members know your wishes for health care decisions and end-of-life choices.

Do the parties acting on your behalf know the location of your important documents, like power of attorney and health care directives? You don’t need to give out copies of these documents, but let someone know where they can find them.

Last but not least—before the year ends—are you able to make gifts of some of your assets to loved ones?  If you are financially able, take advantage of the $14,000 annual exclusion from federal gift taxes to give that amount to as many people as you want.

Make it a truly Happy New Year and get that estate plan together.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (November 23, 2014) "Holiday season is the best time to update your estate planning"

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A Checklist for When a Loved One Passes Away / York, PA

MP900442275Losing a loved one is a difficult experience. Yet, during this time, you must complete a variety of tasks and make important financial decisions.

Have you lost a loved one? If yes, then you will want to read a recent article in the Des Moines Register titled "Important financial steps to take following a death." The article contains a helpful checklist to help guide you through the matters that will need attention.

Here are some of the initial tasks:

  • Contact family members, friends, and clergy;
  • Make funeral, burial, or cremation arrangements (there may be final wishes detailed in his or her will or estate planning documents);
  • Notify family and friends of final arrangements;
  • Contact the deceased's workplace, union, and professional and volunteer organizations;
  • Talk to your employer about bereavement leave;
  • Place an obituary in the local paper;
  • Notify your Estate Planning Attorney; and
  • Obtain certified copies of the death certificate (needed when applying for benefits and settling the estate).

You should also take a look at your loved one’s financial records to see if you can locate his or her estate planning documents. While you are at it, be sure to collect deeds, insurance policies, titles, marriage certificate (if relevant), birth or adoption certificates of children, and military discharge papers.

Report the death to the Social Security Administration. If your loved one was receiving benefits via direct deposit, ask the bank to return funds received for the month of death and after that to Social Security. Do not cash any Social Security checks received by mail, and return them ASAP.

The original article recommends making a list of assets and placing safeguards on them to protect any property. See to it that the mortgage and insurance payments are paid while the estate is being settled.

Within one or two months after death, you should meet with your estate planning attorney to determine if probate is required and update your estate planning documents.

These are some very valuable steps to keep in mind when a loved one dies. Read the original article for more information. If you have not organized and planned your own estate, then there is no time like the present.

For more information about estate administration & estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: Des Moines Register (August 19, 2014)"Important financial steps to take following a death"

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