According to multiple money experts, America is facing a retirement crisis. Many do not have enough savings and Social Security benefits will not be able to cover the cost of living of most Americans in retirement. Unfortunately, many people prefer not to talk about death so they refuse to think about estate planning for the welfare of those they leave behind.

Yet, death is inevitable and whatever you own should be protected to ensure that the people you love are taken care of according to your wishes. According to Greg Stevens of Cabot Wealth, “everyone needs a will.” He adds that the will should be updated regularly. This is one way to transfer wealth and assets, health care, and other proxies smoothly to the next generation. Continue reading

Many people don’t like to talk about death but they will if it has anything to do with protecting their assets – including digital assets. Digital assets are your online accounts, digital currencies, online accounts, passwords, digital files, user names, and any Terms of Service Agreements (TOSA) that you signed. With the growth of digital technology and Estate Planning in the Digital Ageuse, these assets are expected to be worth over US$5 billion by year 2020. You will need and should have a will drawn up to protect these assets either after death or in case of incapacity to ensure that your loved ones gain legal access to these assets.

The First Step: Assigning Assets

Before anything else, you will have to list down all your digital and traditional assets since your will or estate documents will incorporate all assets. You will need a fiduciary, an executor for your traditional assets, a personal agent with power of attorney in case of incapacity to make decisions, and a trustee. These are the individuals chosen by you to manage all your assets according to your wishes so it is important to select them wisely.

The main issue facing digital assets is the fact that they are not tangible assets and exist primarily on the Internet. The individual tasked to manage your digital assets will have to deal with extenuating circumstances far different because these digital assets may or may not have monetary value. In fact, they are valuable to you because they represent something sentimental to you like a memory or a milestone.

The Second Step: Understanding the Laws on Digital Assets
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Probate is a court case that one files against themselves on behalf of their creditors.

Here’s some history of probate: The way property passes upon ones death has gone through various stages over time. In the middle ages, there were certain rules set by the king that would say where the property was to go and that was not able to be changed with a will or a testament. People just had to deal with the fact that their property was going to probatego to certain people when they died. With the introduction of the will, one could choose where the property went, but there was a need to have supervision by the King’s court so that the sovereign could always keep track of where assets ended up. The probate process has developed from those ages to a process that still needs court involvement.

In probate, when someone dies, there is a court case opened and notices are sent to all people that could receive assets of the deceased person. This notice is an option and an invitation to contest any will that might be presented to the court. There is also a notice that is published in the newspaper for anyone that thinks that the deceased person owes them money to come forward and make a claim against the estate. As the claims come in and everyone is being notified, the Personal Representative (a.k.a. Executor) puts together an inventory of everything that the person owned at the time of their death. That information is filed with the court and becomes a public document. Therefore anyone can find out what the deceased person owned at the time of their death. After Continue reading

According to estimates, if you are 61 years old now, the average annual cost of long-term care when you are 79 years old is likely to be: 1) over $180,000 per year for nursing facility care; 2) over $69,000 per year for assisted living care; and, 3) over $80,000 per year for in-home care.

According to the US Government Administration on Aging, “70% of the people who turn 65 can expect to use some form of long-term care during their lifetimes.” Also, according to the Administration on Aging, “one-third of today’s 65 year-olds may never need support, but 20 percent will need it for longer than 5 years.”

So, based upon the skyrocketing costs of long-term care, and the odds that two-thirds of us may someday need long- term care, should we plan ahead? The answer is YES.

1334532_ambulance.jpgIn 2009, approximately 42 million people in the United Stated regularly provided care to an adult who required assistance with daily activities. Another 61.6 million provided care at some point during the year. As the nation’s population ages, more Americans will likely be required to assist aging or disabled parents and other loved ones. Unfortunately, caregivers are not always authorized to make medical decisions for the people they provide assistance to.

One of the easiest and most important steps an individual can take is to create an advance care directive. An advance care directive will generally include a durable power of attorney, a living will, and name a health care proxy. A durable power of attorney will designate an individual to make financial decisions for an incapacitated person. A living will provides instructions for care at the end of a person’s life and will normally specify whether artificial measures such as life support should be used. A health care proxy is similar to a power of attorney except it designates someone to make medical treatment decisions for a person who is no longer able to make such decisions or communicate with doctors.

Understandably, discussing an aging parent’s medical wishes is not always easy. By creating an advance care directive, an individual may be able to alleviate some of the decision-making burden often placed on family members such as children. Oftentimes, loved ones may disagree with one another regarding an individual’s care, or children may have a difficult time making tough medical decisions for a parent. An advance care directive can eliminate emotional obstacles and prevent a caregiver from being required to petition a court for decision-making authority through a guardianship or conservatorship.

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1323680_question_mark sxchu username 7rains.jpgBecause Wisconsin residents are living longer, their chances for becoming incapacitated before they die have increased dramatically in recent years. Recognizing the potential for incapacitation as part of your Wisconsin estate plan is important in order to avoid unnecessary legal battles and guardianship proceedings (sometimes called “living probate”).

If the capacity of an individual was unclear at the time their estate plan was created, the documents may be questioned either by those who seek to inherit, or by a probate court. Luckily, demonstrating the capacity to create a will or other planning document in is fairly easy and according to now codified Wisconsin case law, anyone who objects to a decedent’s testamentary capacity must do so “by clear, convincing, and satisfactory evidence.” Still, it is important to create your estate plan before an unexpected illness or incapacitation arises.

Today, most estate plans in Wisconsin will include a revocable living trust, a will, a power of attorney for both healthcare and finances, and a living will. A revocable living trust, financial power of attorney, and health care power of attorney will normally name someone else to take over decision-making in the event of the creator’s incapacity. In this way, a comprehensive estate plan preemptively provides for any potential impairment. Additionally, a thorough estate plan may spare your loved ones from going through the process of living probate.

1353627_tullips sxchu website.jpgIn Wisconsin and other states, probate is the legal procedure through which a person’s assets are transferred after their death. The process is supervised by a court of law and designed to protect anyone with a legal interest in the deceased person’s estate. Probate is used to distribute a decedent’s assets not only to beneficiaries, but also to creditors and taxing authorities.

Any Wisconsin estate that exceeds $50,000 in value must go through the probate process unless the property is subject to certain exemptions. Some exemptions include assets that are titled jointly with another individual, life insurance proceeds, and any retirement funds where a beneficiary other than the deceased person’s estate was chosen. Additionally, assets placed in a revocable living trust are not subject to the probate process.

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Over half of American adults and approximately 92 percent of adults under the age of 35 have not written a will. Most assume they do not need a will because any assets left behind will automatically be inherited by family members. Although assets may be distributed according to state intestacy laws, the process can be lengthy. With proper estate planning, however, you Designating a Guardian for Your Childrenmay be able to avoid placing any additional emotional or financial burden on your family after your death.

It is a good idea to create a will once you begin acquiring assets or start a family. In addition to designating how your assets will be distributed upon your death, your will designates an executor who will manage them until they are distributed. If you are a parent, you should also select a guardian who is likely to survive until your minor children reach the age of majority in the event both parents pass away.

Other useful estate planning documents include a durable power of attorney and a healthcare proxy. A durable power of attorney will allow your designee to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so. Similarly, a healthcare proxy allows a designee to make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated and cannot do so yourself. By designating a power of attorney or healthcare proxy, you may save your family from being required to take the matter to court in the midst of an unexpected healthcare crisis.

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Five decades after the Beatles first sang “I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love.” issues of money and love often hit a sour note where inheritance is concerned. The generation that listened to the Fab Five on a record player and the generation that streams videos on their smart phones have vastly different views on whether the distribution of assets to heirs reflects caring or control.

While trying to understand whether or not money equals love is subjective and involves individual family dynamics, the impact of inherited wealth is a clearer area to understand.  Research by the Williams Group indicates that 70% of wealthy families lose that wealth by the second generation. Even more shocking, and disheartening is the study’s conclusion that 90% of the wealth is gone by the third generation.

Perhaps the most important way to connect money and love is to love your children enough to do your best to instill solid values where finances are concerned. Feeling entitled to money someone else earned can result in finding it easier to spend it without thinking through your decision. Because of this, it is important to make earning money and saving a percentage of it a lesson children learn from a very early age. There is truth in the statement “We aren’t raising children, we’re raising future adults.”