Estate Planning Articles

Some of these articles have been written by our law firm and other articles are written by the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys and compliments of our law firm. Any feedback or questions about the articles can be addressed by contacting our office.

Can Purchasing an Annuity Allow You to Keep Assets and Still Qualify for Medicaid?

Like many people, you may not have given much thought to the possibility that you will need to qualify for Medicaid later in life. More importantly, you may not realize that the retirement nest egg you have worked so hard to establish over the course of your lifetime could be at risk if you do ultimately need to qualify for Medicaid benefits

Do You Know Who Your Designated Beneficiaries Are?

Who are your designated beneficiaries? Not sure? If so, you are not alone; it’s not uncommon to select designated beneficiaries without considering your overall estate plan. However, the failure to coordinate them could wreak havoc on your overall estate

A Funeral Plan is Not Always the Best Medicaid “Spend-Down” Solution

Although purchasing a pre-paid funeral and burial plan may be a good estate planning decision, it may not provide the Medicaid “spend-down” benefits many applicants think it will. Understanding when a funeral plan is exempt, and when it is not, is crucial for a senior who is trying to “spend-down” for purposes of Medicaid eligibility.

How You Can Provide for Your Disabled Child and Still Qualify for Medicaid

Amy and David both need nursing home care as well as Medicaid’s help paying for that care; however, they have assets that exceed the program limit. The couple also wants to continue to provide financial assistance to their disabled adult son. However, they are concerned that the Medicaid asset transfer rules will prohibit them from doing so. The good news is they can continue to provide for their son and qualify for Medicaid immediately.

Medicaid Gifts to Children

Do the Medicaid gifting rules and asset transfer penalties have you confused? If so, you are not alone! Unfortunately, failing to understand the rules and penalties could result in your ineligibility for benefits right when you need them the most. The answers to several common questions may help you gain a better understanding of Medicaid’s rules and penalties.

Is a Health Savings Account (HSA) Right for You?

While the American health care system has undergone major changes in recent years, the potential to save money and taxes through a Health Savings Account (HSA) has not changed. Find out whether you’re eligible to get started with an HSA, and how an HSA can be an excellent tax saving vehicle that provides the benefits of both a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA all-in-one!

I was Appointed Trustee of a Trust. Now What Do I Do?

Did you just find out you are the Trustee of a Trust? If so, you are probably feeling honored, and maybe a bit intimidated if this is your first time acting as a Trustee. In this article, find out what a Trustee’s role is within the Trust as well as the duties and responsibilities of a Trustee.

A Nursing Home’s Take on the Need for Medicaid Planning

Nursing homes have historically resisted the concept of Medicaid planning based on the assumption that patients who engaged in Medicaid planning were trying to avoid paying their bills. In recent years, many nursing homes have started to rethink that position as they realize that Medicaid planning is often in their best interest as well as the patient’s.

Is Purchasing Long-Term Care Insurance a Good Idea?

Is a long-term care insurance policy a wise addition to your estate plan? Ask yourself if you can afford to pay over $200,000 out-of-pocket for long-term care. If not, you may want to consider purchasing long-term care insurance because that’s what the average stay in a facility will cost you; however, don’t sign on the dotted line until you understand how long-term care (“LTC”) insurance works.

The Hidden Benefits of Home Ownership

Do you know what your home’s value is? Not just the home’s market value, but all the myriad of ways you can benefit from being a home owner? Though you may not realize it, the benefits of home ownership go far beyond the value of the equity you have in the home.

A New Approach to Wealth Planning

Today’s estate planning tools provide families a host of financial and legal vehicles that can help ensure a family’s legacy easily pass to the next generation. In fact, we have more options now than our grandparents had in their own efforts of passing down the values and wealth.

A New Paradigm: Planning for State Estate Taxes

This month’s Alert examines issues concerning state estate taxes. While the federal exemption has increased to over $5 million per person, about 1/3 of the states have exemptions as low as $675,000

DOMA’s Impact on Estate Planning for LGBT Couples

Many in the LGBT community and nationwide are celebrating the Supreme Court’s rulings in U.S. v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry. What questions do these rulings raise, and how will they affect your estate plan?

Planning for Adoption

When you make the decision to adopt a child into your family, it can be an exciting and emotional time. Don’t let this joyous occasion of adoption lead to legal or financial trouble that can be avoided with proper planning. Find out why it’s important to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney when you’re ready for that big step!

Gifting Your IRA to Your Favorite Charity

Many people may be considering giving to a favorite charity or cause especially around this time of year. However, it’s important to make sure you’re informed about the latest tax rules before drawing from your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Find out why you should speak with an experienced attorney when you’re feeling charitable this holiday season.

Open Communication Avoids Disputes After Death

Proper planning with a qualified estate planning attorney can help to ensure that your assets are distributed appropriately after death. However, unless you have spoken to your loved ones and beneficiaries, there may still be conflicts if the terms of your inheritance come as a surprise. Find out more about the importance of communication with your loved ones sooner rather than later, and what to discuss to avoid unnecessary conflicts after you pass.

Estate Planning for Young Adults

Estate planning for an 18-year-old isn’t something most people think about, but there are certain documents you need to create in case something happens to a young adult. An estate planning lawyer can help.

Selecting an Estate Planning Attorney Wisely

Poor estate planning can lead to disagreements among heirs and your legacy being lost. Don’t make the mistake of failing to plan properly, as these famous celebrities did. Ensure you have a good estate planning attorney helping you prepare for the future.

How to Leave Behind a Lasting Legacy for Your Loved Ones

Leaving any bequest to your loved ones after you are gone can make a huge impact in their lives. However, it takes more than a few basic steps to ensure they receive the greatest benefit from your gift. Find out how to avoid these common estate planning mistakes and ensure you’re leaving a legacy that will last.

Proper Planning Protects Your Vacation Home

Your vacation home is a source of countless cherished family memories, and you may want to keep the property in the family, for your children and grandchildren to enjoy even after you’re gone. However, without proper planning, your vacation home can become a source of conflict for your loved ones. Learn how good planning can protect your vacation home for future generations.

Fair Does Not Always Mean Equal

It’s something you figure out early in your role as a parent: treating your children fairly does not always mean treating them exactly equally. The fair vs. equal dilemma extends far beyond the days of mediating sibling squabbles and enforcing bedtimes. Sometimes in estate planning, as in parenting, fair does not necessarily mean equal.

Common Estate Planning Terms You'll Want To Know

Most people won’t be familiar with legal terminology if it’s their first time considering a visit to an estate planning attorney. Before a consultation, review this short list of common estate planning terms to help you prepare and feel more comfortable as you begin to create your plan.

What Does it Mean to Leave a Legacy?

We all want to leave a lasting legacy for our children and grandchildren, but it can be easier said than done. In this article, find out how legacy wealth planning can go beyond basic estate planning to provide your loved ones with a true legacy, rather than a set of inheritances.

Sometimes “No” is the Best Answer

Just because you receive an inheritance does not mean you have to accept the assets. You have the right to disclaim the inheritance, which can be beneficial in some circumstances.

My Will and Trust are Complete, Do I Still Need an Attorney?

If you’ve already created your Will or Trust, chances are that most people think they’ll no longer need the advice of an estate planning attorney. However, even minor life changes may require attention in your plan. Find out why it’s absolutely essential to review your Will or Trust periodically with an experienced estate planning attorney.

Choosing a Trustee: The Relationship Matters

Selecting your trustee is a critical decision because that person will be responsible for making sure your wishes are carried out in your estate plan. But what should you do if there’s tension between that person and other family members? Find out why relationships matter when selecting your trustee.

How to Include Service Providers in your Estate Plan

We typically have several companies or individuals who provide important services in our day-to-day life. Would your Trustee know who to contact in order to make sure everything from your home to your medical care continues to run smoothly if you were no longer able to? Find out what to consider when creating a list of important “service providers” when creating your estate plan.

Include Personal Property When Creating Your Estate Plan

Even with extremely careful planning, people can often neglect to outline who should receive their family heirlooms and emotionally valuable property. Find out what you can do to avoid unnecessary feuds over your tangible personal property and help prevent potential family conflict.

Planning for a Stress-Free Vacation

While many people plan out their vacations in great detail, they may be forgetting to address what to do if the unexpected happens while they're out of town. Find out how setting an estate plan in place, even a basic one, can minimize your worries about those “what if’s,” and enjoy that vacation you’ve been dreaming of.

Loaning Family Money – What You Need To Know

Loaning Family Money – What You Need To Know Loaning Family Money – What You Need To Know Written By: The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys People lend money to family members for a variety of reasons.

Next Generation Planning for Your Family Business

Many business owners spend so much time working in the business on day-to-day tasks that they forget to ask one essential question: "What will happen to my business after I'm gone?" Most family-owned businesses fail to outlive their owners. Learn how you can help your business survive you.

Cross-Training for Financial Fitness

Many couples take a divide and conquer approach to household chores, and this tends to include finances as well. Often, this means one spouse is in the dark when it comes to the family's bills, budget, and important documents. Here's how you both can get up to speed.

Peace of Mind for New Moms and Dads

As a new parent, estate planning might be at the bottom of your long list, however, it can bring you immense peace of mind. Here's what you need to know.

More Bang for Your Buck: Education Planning with Deferred Annuities

With college costs at an all-time high and no relief in sight, parents and grandparents are looking for ways to maximize their education savings dollars. Learn how you can combine the savings from an education trust with the tax savings feature of a deferred annuity to increase your college spending power.

Does Your Estate Plan Include Digital Assets?

Your estate plan covers your real estate, your financial accounts, and your family heirlooms, but what about your digital assets? Learn what your digital assets are and how to protect them.

James Gandolfini's Will: 3 Lessons for You and Yours

Sopranos star James Gandolfini died in 2013 at the age of 51. Within weeks of his death, his Will was made public and put under a media microscope. Why did this happen and, more importantly, what lessons can you learn from it to protect yourself and your family?

I'm a Trustee! Now What?

A loved one has given you the honor and responsibility of serving as a successor Trustee. But what does this really mean? Keep reading to learn about the responsibilities involved in administering a Trust.

An Estate Plan: Don't Leave Home Without it

As you review your vacation checklist, make sure you're not forgetting your estate plan. Without an up-to-date estate plan, a vacation emergency could leave you and your loved ones vulnerable. Here's what you need to know.

Estate Planning is Essential for Same-Sex Couples

For most people, dying without an estate plan means burdening loved ones with added inconvenience, delay and expense. For same-sex couples, however, dying without an estate plan can spell disaster. Find out why and learn what you can do about it.

Eighteen: The Magic Number?

You might look at your eighteen-year-old and see an average teenager, but, legally speaking, eighteen means adulthood. When your child turns eighteen, you no longer have the right to manage their property, access their medical records, or do any number of things you’ve taken for granted until now. Learn about the practical problems this can present and how you can plan around them.

Five Things Every Woman Should Know About Estate Planning

Women’s roles in society and within the family have shifted dramatically over the past several generations and women have more earning power than ever before, yet too many wives take a backseat to their husbands when the subject of estate planning comes up. Here are five things every woman should know when it comes to estate planning.

How the American Taxpayer Relief Act Will Affect You

Congress pulled America back from the fiscal cliff when it passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act on New Year's Day. The law covers a range of issues, form income taxes to the estate tax. Learn the specifics and find out how the new law will affect you and your family.

Five Non-Tax Reasons You Need an Estate Plan

Estate planning is only for wealthy people who want to reduce their estate taxes, right? Wrong! Only a tiny percentage of Americans need to worry about estate taxes but every adult needs an estate plan. Find out why.

This New Year, Resolve to Review Your Estate Planning Options

It's time to make your New Year's resolutions. This year, consider adding a review of your estate planning options to your list. Whether or not you already have an estate plan in place, a careful review of your planning options will ensure that you protect your family and assets and leave a lasting legacy. This article reviews some estate planning information for you to consider for this New Year.

What You Should Know About Seminars on Wills & Living Trusts

Have you ever been invited to an estate planning seminar, but been hesitant to attend? When a seminar is conducted by a licensed estate planning attorney, it can be the perfect way to learn about your planning options. Here's how an estate planning seminar can help you.

Three Ways the IRS Rewards Your Generosity

Giving to charity is wonderful way to support your favorite cause, and it makes you feel great. But what if you want to go the extra mile and make a larger than usual contribution? Here are three ways the IRS rewards you for including philanthropy in your estate plan.

Three Simple Steps for Managing a Windfall

What would you do if you suddenly became wealthy? Did you know that there are certain steps you should take if you win the lottery, inherit a fortune, or receive some other form of a windfall? Find out how to make the most of sudden riches – and how to avoid financial trouble.

Tax Alert! Special Gifting Opportunities Expire December 31, 2012

Is estate tax planning on your autumn “to do” list? If not, maybe it should be. On January 1, 2013, federal estate and gift taxes stand to increase dramatically, affecting everyone who dies with an estate valued over $1 million. Learn the steps you can take now to save yourself - and your loved ones - millions.

Home: Your Most Valuable Investment

Your home is likely your family's most valuable asset, not only emotionally, but also financially. Read this article to learn how you can take advantage of the tax, estate planning, and asset protection benefits available to you as a homeowner.

Estate Planning Across Borders

Owning assets outside the United States raises a number of estate planning questions: Who gets your property when you pass away? What taxes are due? And how should your estate plan in the U.S. be tailored to ensure that all your property – here and abroad – is transferred as efficiently and effectively as possible?

The Problem With Joint Tenancy

Joint tenancy is a popular form of property ownership, primarily because when one owner dies, title to the property automatically re-vests in the surviving joint tenants. But using joint tenancy to avoid probate can create more problems than it solves.

Why Everyone Needs an Estate Plan

People tend to think of estate planning as something that only the wealthy or the elderly need to do. In truth, regardless of your age, your situation in life, or your level of wealth, estate planning accomplishes a few universal goals.

Planning for the Worst-Case Scenario

Sometimes, in an attempt to avoid thinking about the worst, we miss the opportunity to do the best for our loved ones. A comprehensive estate plan can help you confront your fears in a way that will ease your family’s responsibilities, should the unexpected happen.

Insurance: The Missing Link in Your Estate Plan?

Insurance has a number of uses as an estate planning tool. It helps protect and preserve your estate, giving you more to pass on to your loved ones. It also has special characteristics that allow you to position your estate for sophisticated estate planning. Learn about the basic categories of insurance and how they strengthen your estate plan.

Why Your Trust Shouldn't be Short and Sweet

The draft of your new Trust makes you wonder if your estate planning attorney gets paid by the word. Is all this verbiage really necessary? In fact, a good plan has many points to cover.

Tax Breaks for the Sandwich Generation

It can be a surprise to find yourself caring for elderly parents at the same time that you’re raising your own children. The emotional demands of these multiple roles are often coupled with financial challenges as well. That’s why it’s important to know when you can claim your aging or ill parent as a dependent for income tax purposes.

Trusts and Income Tax: Who Pays?

As Trusts gain popularity, a question comes up more and more often: who pays the income tax on a Trust? It seems like a simple inquiry, but the answer can be hard to pin down. So, who does pay income tax on a Trust? Here is the answer, in a nutshell.

A Quick Guide for Basis

You might have heard the word basis used in reference to taxes. Learn the definition of basis and how it can make a big difference in your estate plan.

What Does It Mean To Be a Trustee?

If you’ve been chosen to serve as a Trustee, what responsibilities can you expect? Learn about the basic duties that come with this important and sometimes daunting job, and find out where you can go for guidance.

Avoid These Four Asset Protection Pitfalls

The estate planning process presents a number of opportunities for using asset protection strategies to protect yourself and your loved ones. Learn about asset protection, and avoid these four common pitfalls.

Expecting the Unexpected

Life is full of surprises. None of us have a crystal ball, and this means it is unreasonable to create an estate plan without flexibility regarding your long-term wishes for your loved ones. When you build flexibility into your estate plan with a power of appointment, you can empower your spouse or children to stand in your place and make decisions based on your family’s changed circumstances.

The Accidental Spouse

Could you be married and not even realize it? If you live in a state that recognizes common law marriage, you could be married even without a marriage license or an official ceremony. Find out how common law marriage affects your estate plan and what you can do about it.

I Have an Estate Plan: Do I Still Need My Attorney?

Your estate plan is prepared. Your Living Trust is in place and properly funded, you have a Pour-Over Will just in case, and your incapacity plan is ready and waiting in the event you need it. Is it time to part ways with your attorney? Not at all! In fact, your relationship with your estate planning attorney has just started.

Why a Trust Makes Sense - Even If Your Child Is Not a Child

If your children have reached adulthood, you might assume it's best to leave them their inheritances outright, with no restrictions. However, you want to make sure your children enjoy flexibility in accessing and using their inheritances while minimizing the impact of taxes, divorce, lawsuits, and other threats. Therefore, it might be better to leave their inheritances in a Trust.

Planning Your Estate With Privacy in Mind

When you use a Will to plan your estate, much of your personal information becomes public after your death. A Trust can help you accomplish your estate planning goals while shielding your personal affairs from prying eyes.

Your Family Deserves More Than an Estate Plan

If you want to leave a true legacy, a traditional estate plan is not enough. With Legacy Planning, you can pass on your values, wisdom, and family heritage along with your nest egg. You can also provide your children's inheritances with just the right amount of protection from the threats and challenges of life.

Helping Your Parents Age Gracefully

Your mom and dad have always been there to guide you through life's challenges. Now, the tables are turning. Learn some strategies for gently helping your parents plan for the challenges they're likely to face as they age.

What to Expect When You're Inheriting

Most of us have daydreamed about inheriting money, but the reality of inheriting often doesn't match our dreams. In the real world, an inheritance can bring with it a number of questions and worries. Here we address four common concerns about inheritances.

Five Estate Planning Myths

Estate planning is on everyone's "should do" list, but it rarely seems to make it to the top of the "to do" list. Perhaps this is because of all the myths surrounding the estate planning process. Here are five common estate planning myths, along with the truths behind them.

Does a Roth Make Sense for You?

Choosing between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA can have significant tax and estate planning consequences. Whether a Roth is the right option depends on a number of factors, including an account owner's current income, anticipated post-retirement income, and estate planning goals.

The Estate Tax Is Not the Only Consideration in Estate Planning

The U.S. Congress continually debates the estate tax, often considering whether or not it should be done away with entirely. Many people think this tax is a cornerstone of estate planning, so if it's eliminated, they don't need an estate plan. Nothing is further from the truth. This article explains why.

Getting Value Out of Giving with Charitable Trust

You've heard the maxim, "It's better to give than to receive." Americans take this aphorism to heart, especially as it relates to contributions to charity. Did you know that our tax laws actually encourage charitable giving? This article will explain gift-giving options from small to large, each with tax-savings implications.

Leaving a Ranching Legacy

Ranch life comes with its own particular challenges and rewards. Therefore, ranch families have even more need for professional advice than other families when it comes to finding the most effective means of passing on their assets, which may be more substantial than they suppose. This article explores various means that can be employed to create an estate plan which minimizes taxes and distributes assets equitably.

There's No Time Like the Present to Review your Plans

Time passes quickly. Life brings change. While these may seem like platitudes, they reflect the truth of most people's lives. This article will encourage you to recognize a new life stage as an opportunity to review and fine tune your estate plan.

Is Your Ex-Spouse Really Out of Your Life?

Divorce is bad enough, but did you know that your children and new spouse can suffer financial devastation if you do not remember to change your estate planning documents after a divorce?

Choose Your Estate Planning Practitioner Wisely

Who should you entrust with planning your estate? Unfortunately, the estate planning industry can be a mixed bag. Along with licensed, qualified attorneys there are unqualified, or even unlicensed, individuals producing cookie-cutter estate plans that may or may not work as intended. Find out why you should choose your estate planning practitioner wisely.

Look After Your Spouse Even After You're Gone

You and your spouse have worked hard to save for your golden years. But have you planned for a long, secure retirement if one of you outlives the other? Here’s how paying attention to certain key financial areas can set both of you up for a secure, worry-free retirement.

Short and Sweet is Not Always Better

When you compare a do-it-yourself living trust with one that was prepared by a qualified estate planning attorney, one of the first things you’re likely to notice is that the attorney-prepared trust is long. And it might not be so easy to read. There’s a good reason for this. This article discusses the reasons why planning for contingencies with an attorney drafted estate plan is the better choice. When it comes to estate planning, there’s any number of contingencies to prepare for.

Practical Strategies for Protecting Your Privacy

We’re all exposed to invasions of our privacy, large and small, during our lifetimes and even after death. These practical strategies make it easier to shield your family’s personal affairs from prying eyes.

Leaving a Lasting Legacy

When you really think about it, your true wealth is much more than just your accumulated assets or material possessions. With the right plan, you can protect and preserve your true wealth and create a legacy for your family that will last for generations to come.

Estate Planning Without a Crystal Ball

When you are planning your estate, it is important to remember that circumstances rarely stay the same over long periods of time. A plan that worked for your family when the kids were little may very well be obsolete by the time they've started families of their own. This is why it's important to ensure that you build flexibility into your plan.

Puppy Love: Planning Your Estate With a Pet Trust

Increasingly, pet owners are not just worried about providing for our pets during our lifetimes, we want to ensure that they get all the love and care they need after we’re gone, too. This article discusses the estate planning benefits a Pet Trust can provide for your furry and feathered animal companions.

Help! My Attorney No Longer Practices Law

It's not something we often stop to think about, but attorneys experience life changes like anyone else. They may change careers or experience an illness or disability, or they may retire or even pass away. This article discusses the steps you should take if your estate planning lawyer no longer practices law.

Planning Your Estate? Don't Forget Insurance

The term "estate planning" usually calls to mind the process of creating a Will, establishing a Living Trust, or naming a guardian for young children. One piece of the estate planning puzzle that might not be readily apparent, though, is insurance. Learn how insurance in its many forms plays an important role in the estate planning process.

Parenting Your Grandchildren? You Need a Solid Estate Plan

According to data collected in the 2010 census, 4.9 million children under age eighteen live in grandparent-headed households. If you are in this growing number of grandparents returning to your “parent” role again, one of the pressing responsibilities that accompany your job as caregiver is to make sure you have a plan for your grandchildren in the event that something happens to you. And because you’re older now than you were the first time around, planning becomes even more important. This article reviews why it is imperative to have an estate plan in place and what a basic plan should include.

What to Expect When You're Inheriting

At some point in our lives, we all dream of receiving an inheritance. We envision buying a new car, finally being able to afford private schools for the kids, or maybe even taking a trip around the world. But the reality of inheriting money or property often differs from our dreams. The process of settling an estate and distributing a deceased person’s assets can be time consuming. During this process you may have questions about taxes on various types of assets you may be inheriting, such as IRAs, valuable collectibles, and other property. This article provides a summary on what you can expect during this process if you’re anticipating an inheritance.

Helping Your Parents Through Their Twilight Years

As a child, your parents were there to guide and support you as you faced life’s challenges and obstacles in your path growing up. Similarly, as your parents age, and become less independent, they will rely on you as they face new challenges in their twilight years. This article examines how planning well in advance is important to ensure that no matter what lies ahead, their care and financial affairs will be looked after. Regardless of their financial means, if they are wealthy or of more modest means, there is a plan that can meet the specific needs of your family.

One Big Happy Family: How to Avoid an Estate Dispute

Picture this… You’re at the end of your long, fulfilling life and you’re ready to say goodbye to your loved ones and leave this world in peace. And then… your family declares war on each other. This scenario plays out all too often even in the closest of families. This article examines helpful ways to plan and avoid divisive family disputes after you are gone.

10 Essential Estate Planning Facts

An alarming 55% of American's don't have an estate plan in place. Procrastination is a common excuse. However, for many people it's a lack of knowledge about estate planning, including the benefits, their options and the protections it offers them and their families. This article reviews 10 essential estate planning facts that will arm with you with enough knowledge to cross estate planning off your "to do" list.

Why are Roth's Such a Big Deal?

A Roth IRA has some important distinctions from a traditional IRA, and, depending on your tax bracket, your retirement needs, and your estate planning goals, a Roth could be a better choice for you. So, what's the difference between the two types of IRAs? This article explores how each IRA works and which option can best fit your personal needs and goals.

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