We’ve talked to many Wisconsin families about things that they had done in an effort to protect their money from all being sucked up by the nursing home costs which can exceed $100,000 annually. Lots of mistakes are being made by people who don’t truly understand the intricacies of the Wisconsin Long Term Care Medicaid law and regulations. While you won’t get all the answers in this post, you’ll learn what some of the common mistakes are. So… here are options that just don’t work. Continue reading

Retirement plans, including IRAs, 401Ks, 403Bs, and 457As, are not controlled by common estate planning documents such as wills and revocable living trusts. They transfer to heirs by a beneficiary designation. So whoever is named as the beneficiary when you initially signed that plans document, is the person that will receive the value in the account when you pass away.
This lack of control sometimes can be problematic, especially when an individual retirement saver has designated a beneficiary and has forgotten to keep those designations up to date. The plan documents will control where the money goes and your last will and testament will have no effect because beneficiary designations avoid probate. Your retirement plans will also not be controlled by a revocable living trust because the plans are not trust property; they are individual property.

Is The Title of A Retirement Plan Going To Be Transferred To A Trust Upon Someone’s Death?retirement

No, what happens is that beneficiary is contacted by the custodian. For example, you have an IRA in a brokerage account. You pass away, and hopefully, you have designated beneficiary’s, for example, your spouse as the primary beneficiary. The broker or your financial advisor calls up your spouse and says, “You are the designated beneficiary of this retirement account there is $100,000 in it and you have a few options for distribution. What would you like to do? Would you like to pay the income tax obligation now, cash it out and do whatever you wish with the money, or do you wish to inherit this IRA and stretch out the tax obligation over your lifetime keep it as your own retirement fund?” Now there are different rules as to whether spouses inherit or if children inherit, but that’s effectively what happens when a custodian handles the transfer to the designated beneficiary.

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A lot of people do not understand the landscape of how retirement plans pass to beneficiaries. They do not necessarily understand the particularities and technicalities of how one inherits and their choices presented by fund custodians. IRAs have only been around since the mid-1970’s and we are only beginning to see multiple generations inheriting them. The lifetime distribution option (stretch IRA) is an even more recent addition to the mix so the idea of not just simply cashing it out is relatively new. Whenever you have these options and choices, people just aren’t savvy enough. Continue reading

Probate obstacles can start with being able to locate and notify all “persons interested.” Everyone must be notified before the probate can begin. An investigation and special hearing would have to take place in order to have a probate move forward if not everyone has been made aware.

“Persons interested” are the people named in a will as beneficiaries, and the Personal Representative. But, the persons interested also include all people who would inherit if there were no will (according to the law of intestate succession). This means that even if a will was left that said “Everything goes to my sister Laura,” interested persons would include all of the people who would inherit if there were no will. This could be parents and all other siblings including any unknown half-siblings from a father who disappeared when the decedent was a small child. It could also include nieces, nephews and cousins.

probateAs you can see, when families are not close, or when a person is very old and the last surviving sibling, it is often difficult to trace a family tree and locate a missing interested person.

Another obstacle people may face in probate is the fact that the courts are located in the county seats. This can mean travel for some people who find travel difficult. Sometimes people are intimidated by going to the court in order to file documents or to figure out which documents need to be filed, etc.

A third barrier in the probate process is knowledge barrier. People need to know about the taxing of estates, court procedures, court processes and the probate process in order to make this happen smoothly. As many people go through probate only once in their lifetime for a loved one, they don’t have time to spend learning all of these particular pieces of knowledge that they need to know.

Lastly, is the fact that people who are dealing with these matters are probably not their best after they have lost a loved one. Sometimes they don’t have the patience or the time to deal with the intricacies involved in the probate process.

What Actually Happens During The Probate Process? Continue reading

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The Most Important Thing You Can Do For Your Aging Parents

How to Ensure Your Parents Don’t Lose Their Home, Bank Accounts, & Assets To Long Term Care Costs

A friend relayed a story that is one I hear all too often when it comes for caring for aging parents.

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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