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Burlington, VT office 802.540.0529
Hanover, NH office 603.643.6072
Rutland, VT office 802.773.3822
Woodstock, VT office 802.457.9492

May 5, 2010 Newsletter Archive


Announcing Melendy Moritz PLLC's
Life Care Planning Program

May in New England always makes us feel hopeful. The spring green of the budding trees and the perennials pushing through the earth on their way to newly found sunlight and warmth ensure that nature's beauty and bounty are just around the corner. The longer days allow our eyes to linger thoughtfully on the variegated green quilts that are our hillsides. With children playing outside, runners, bikers and paddlers everywhere, ball games, graduations and weddings, May begins our short season of warm weather fun. If you are planning your family's summer outings and vacations, please keep in mind that there is no time like the present to review your estate planning.

In this month's newsletter we provide a short guide for parents regarding estate planning. If you know of someone who would like to learn more about estate planning, please feel free to share this newsletter with them and remind them that they can subscribe with one click.

Don't forget that May is Older American's Month as well as National Elder Law Month.

 

Eight Tips to Help You Protect Your Children and Prepare for the Future: The Parents' Guide to Estate Planning

I know I need a will, but I don't like to discuss these matters, you know, of my mortality. How do I go about starting? Should I talk to an attorney, go on-line, buy a do-it-yourself kit?

The best way to begin is by making an appointment with an estate planning attorney. The best way to find such an attorney in your area is to ask family and friends, or peruse the internet. Make sure the attorney that you see has ample depth and experience in the field. A general practitioner may not have the specific answers you seek.

If you choose the do it yourself route and you make a mistake be aware that your loved ones may have to spend a great deal of money fixing the problems. These problems may have no good outcomes and your true dispositive intentions may be thwarted (that is, your assets may end up in the wrong hands).

A very important distinction between doing it yourself and speaking to an estate planning attorney is that attorneys first and foremost provide essential advising, counseling and guidance through this difficult process.

There are a number of issues that at first may seem simple yet upon closer inspection may result in future problems if not managed correctly at the outset. And of course, there are the obvious matters of planning for the taxable estate and for children with special needs that do it yourself options will not consider. In this case, do-it-yourself may be the short-term cheaper solution, but you will get what you pay for.

We have named our child's guardian but we are unsure whether this same individual should be in charge of our child's money. Does the guardian of the child always manage the child's money? If not, what else can we do?

The guardian that you have designated does not have to be the person who handles the money. You may choose to leave your assets distributed to your child in a trust in which the trustee is either the same individual or a different one from your named guardian. You may also choose to have the named guardian serve as co-trustee with an institutional trustee to provide further assurances and minimize any conflicts of interest your guardian may have. You may also designate that your child's resources be used to support extracurricular activities, private school, college tuition and the like.

I want to name my parents as my daughter's guardian, but as they age I worry that if something should happen to me, they would not be able to take care of her. What should I do?

You should always name at least one successor guardian. If you do not and your parents simply cannot fulfill their obligation, it will be as though you have not named a guardian at all. If your parents are in a good position at the moment to step into a guardianship should they be required to it may be fine to name them, as long as you have at least one other successor guardian named.

Should I name my minor children as beneficiaries to my life insurance? To my IRAs?

Naming minor children to receive funds outright is rarely the best choice. One significant benefit of a trust is the ability to manage how and when a child receives money. Through a trust mechanism you can give the child the benefit of the funds through trustee decision-making and better protect a young person from imprudent financial decisions. IRA's (non- Roth) present a further aspect to consider arising from the reality those funds will be subject to income tax liability as the beneficiary receives the IRA distributions. Managing this potential liability through a trust can be complicated, but like much of financial planning, when done well can result in significant benefit to the beneficiaries.

What happens if I include selling personal property and real estate? How do I make sure that the proceeds of these sales goes to my children?

You can include in your Will or trust a discussion of how house proceeds are to be distributed. If you do not then the ultimate decision would rest with the child's guardian. Unfortunately any decision left to the guardian will come to an abrupt end when the minor reaches age 18 because that is the endpoint of a guardianship and all assets held at that time will be simply paid out to the child. The benefit to the use of a trust is that you can control the disposition of those proceeds for a period long after when the child turns 18.

How do I convey my wishes to my guardians to raise my child with certain values including religious beliefs?

For some, naming a guardian is easy. You name a close family member, a sister, brother, cousin, who is near and dear to you and you already know these people share your values and faith. For others it is best to go through an exercise in which you name all those that may be in a close circle to you, and from there you narrow down who is most likely to share the same values and faith as you. You cannot control everything after you are gone but one recommendation is to leave a guardianship directive for the named guardian in which you can state your most important values and other matters which are significant to you.

Where is the best place to store my will?

Depending on your attorney and your state the answers may be different. Sometimes lawyers store your documents in their firm's bank safe deposit box. Some states will allow you to file your will in the local probate court. Do not put your will in your own safe deposit box unless others have access to that box.

How can I best speak to my loved ones about my estate and legacy?

It is a dilemma. Many people believe that planning for these protections is a morbid topic or is taboo. However, one way to enter the conversation with parents, spouses and children is to frame it as "Life Planning." Estate planning encompasses matters in the event that you become incapacitated for the short or long term, it requires consideration of your assets at the moment and well into the future, it embraces leaving your values to your loved ones as much as leaving your possessions to them. Conversations may be a challenge but it may give an opening to your loved ones if you ask them if they have spoken to an attorney, accountant or financial planner about how they can sustain their life styles when they retire. Next, have they considered planning for a crisis? In both scenarios you are not discussing death but you enter into some very substantive life planning arenas which will hopefully open the door to furthering the more difficult conversations.

 

Upcoming Events: Life Care Planning Explained

May is National Elder Law Month

Elder law attorneys focus on what late life elders need specifically to be able to live a dignified life. We want to ensure that our older residents not only have their dispositive wishes executed but that they have supportive care around them, that their daily needs are met, that their living arrangements are safe and suit their specific needs and that their financial matters are organized to allow the best quality care through the rest of their lives.

To support our elder law practice we have developed our Life Care Planning program. To learn more about Life Care Planning please call 802.457.9492 or 603.643.6072. And don't miss the event below:

Life Care Planning Explained

Daphne Moritz will be discussing what Life Care Planning is and how it can be of assistance to you.

June 2, 2010 at 1 PM
Thompson Senior Center, Woodstock, VT
For more information call 802.457.9492


Melendy Moritz PLLC is a client centered boutique firm. We focus on your unique needs by providing the individualized legal counseling and advising tailored to your specific situation.

We concentrate on the planning that matters to you.
Call us at 603.643.6072 or 802.457.9492

 

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