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Estate Planning Blog

Serving Clients Throughout North Central Missouri

elder care

What’s the Difference between a Living Will and a DNR Order?

A living will and a Do Not Resuscitate Order, known as a DNR, are very different documents. However, many people confuse the two. They both address end of life issues and are used in different settings, according to the article “One Senior Place: Know the difference between ‘living will’ and ‘do not resuscitate’” from Florida Today.

What is a Living Will?

A living will is a written statement describing a person’s wishes about receiving life-sustaining medical treatment in case of a terminal illness if they are near death or in a persistent vegetative state. This includes choices such as whether to continue the use of artificial respiration, a feeding tube and other highly intensive means of keeping a person alive.

The living will is used to make your wishes clear to loved ones and to physicians. It is prepared by an estate planning elder care attorney, often when having an estate plan created or updated. To ensure it is valid and the instructions can be carried out, be sure to have this document created properly.

What is a DNR?

A DNR is a medical directive used to convey wishes to not be resuscitated in the event of respiratory or cardiac arrest. This document needs to be signed by both the patient and their treating physician. It’s often printed on brightly colored paper, so it can be easily found in an emergency.

The DNR should be placed in a location where it can be easily and quickly found. In nursing homes, this is typically at the head or foot of the bed. At home, it’s often posted on the refrigerator.

The DNR needs to be immediately available to ensure that the patient’s last wishes are honored.

A key mistake made by well-meaning family members is to have the DNR with someone else, rather than at home or at the bedside of the patient. If the DNR cannot be found and emergency medical responders arrive on scene, they are legally bound to provide CPR or other medical care to revive the patient.

When the DNR is available, the emergency responders generally will not initiate CPR if they find the patient in cardiopulmonary arrest or respiratory arrest. They may instead provide comfort care, including administering oxygen and pain management.

If a person is admitted to the hospital, their living will is placed on the chart. Depending on the state’s laws, a certain number of physicians must agree the patient is in a persistent vegetative state or has an end-state condition and can no longer communicate. At that point, the terms of the living will are followed.

In addition to having these documents created with your estate plan, make sure that family members know where they can be found.

Reference: Florida Today (July 19, 2022) “One Senior Place: Know the difference between ‘living will’ and ‘do not resuscitate’”

 

estate planning help

Who Inherited Chadwick Boseman’s Estate?

Nearly 70% of Americans still don’t have a will or living trust in place, despite all the events of the past few years, according to a survey from Caring.com published in 2022. Even more revealing, 16% don’t think they need a will by age 45. They’re making a grave mistake, for more than a few reasons.

A recent article from NBC News titled “What happened to Chadwick Boseman’s $2.3 million estate is an exception, not the rule” looks at a few different reasons why wills, trusts and estate planning in general are so important for families.

Chadwick Boseman, known for his roles in Marvel’s “Black Panther,” “42,” and other award-winning movies, knew he was very sick for many years, yet he did not have a will created. Boseman was only 43 when he died in 2020. A Gallup poll from 2021 indicated only 36% of Americans between ages 30—49 had a will detailing how they want their assets distributed after death.

When a loved one dies without a will, many families become embroiled in battles lasting years, fracturing families and breaking more than a few hearts along the way. The fights aren’t always about big money either. Even small estates can engender family feuds.

Boseman’s family is the rare exception. His widow Taylor Simone Ledward asked the court to divide his estate evenly between herself and his parents. Compared to other entertainers—Prince is a powerful example of how badly things can go—this is a relatively happy ending.

However, the Boseman case is not without significant lessons.

First, Boseman kept his private life very private. He dated Taylor Simone Ledward for years, with little of the fanfare that accompanies most Hollywood romances. He was also ill with colon cancer for several years, and few people outside of his family knew he was sick.

However, because of the lack of planning, we know a lot more about Boseman than we would if he had an estate plan. His documents became part of the public record. We know his widow had to petition the court to be named as his administrator with limited authority over his estate and filed a probate case in Los Angeles.

We also know Boseman’s estate had to pay higher court fees because there was no will, reducing his estate from $3.8 million to $2.5 million. It’s always more expensive not to have a will than to have a will.

Dying without a will means the laws of the state determine how the estate’s assets are distributed. If parents die without a will, the court will determine who will raise the couple’s children by naming a guardian. Without a will, heirs will also be forced to devote time, money and emotional energy to settle the estate.

Taking the time to have an estate plan prepared with an experienced estate planning attorney is an act of love for those you care about. It preserves your privacy, minimizes costs and allows loved ones to focus on what truly matters.

Reference: NBC News (July 1, 2022) “What happened to Chadwick Boseman’s $2.3 million estate is an exception, not the rule”

 

estate planning for singles

Who Should Be Your Executor?

While the executor is usually a spouse or close family member, you can name anyone you wish to be your executor. A bank, estate planning attorney, or professional trustee at a trust company may also serve as the executor, according to a recent article from Twin Cities-Pioneer Press titled “Your Money: What you need to know about naming an executor.”

Regardless of who you select, the person has a legal duty to be honest, impartial, financially responsible and to put your interests ahead of their own. This person and one or two backup candidates should be named in your will, just in case the primary executor declines or is unable to serve.

How does someone become an executor? When your will is entered into probate, the court checks to be sure the person you name meets all of your state’s legal requirements. Once the court approves (and usually the court does), then their role is official and you executor can get to work.

The executor has many responsibilities. You can help your executor do a better job by making sure that financial and personal business documents are organized and readily available. Here are some, but not all, of the executor’s tasks:

  • Making an inventory of all assets and liabilities
  • Giving notice to creditors: credit card companies, banks, mortgage companies, etc.
  • Filing a final personal tax return and filing the estate tax return
  • Paying any debts and taxes
  • Distributing assets according to the directions in the will and in compliance with state law
  • Preparing and submitting a detailed report to the court of how the estate was settled

If there is no will, or if no executor is named in the will, or if the executor can’t serve, the court will appoint a professional administrator to settle your estate. It won’t be someone you know. Your family may not like all of the decisions made on your behalf, but there won’t be any options available.

Does an executor get paid? A family member may or may not wish to be paid. However, given how much time it takes to settle an estate, you might feel it’s fair for them to be compensated. The amount varies depending on where you live, but you can leave the person between 1% to 8% of your total estate. A professional administrator will likely cost considerably more.

How do you document your estate to help out the executor? If you think this task is too onerous, imagine how a family member will feel if they have to conduct a scavenger hunt to identify assets and debts. If a professional administrator ends up doing this work, it will take a bigger bite out of your estate and leave loved ones with a smaller inheritance.

Start by making a list of all of your assets and liabilities, plus a list of all advisors who help with the business side of your life. Recent tax returns will be helpful, as will contact information for your estate planning attorney, CPA and financial advisor. You should include retirement accounts, life insurance policies and any assets without beneficiary designations.

Reference: Twin Cities-Pioneer Press (June 25, 2022) “Your Money: What you need to know about naming an executor”

 

Caring-Hands

What Should I Know About Buying Funeral Services?

People usually don’t buy funeral services frequently, so they’re unfamiliar with the process. Add to this the fact that they’re typically bereaved and stressed, which can affect decision-making, explains Joshua Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, an advocacy group. In addition, people tend to associate their love for the dead person with the amount of money they spend on the funeral, says The Seattle Times’ recent article entitled “When shopping for funeral services, be wary.”

“Grieving people really are the perfect customer to upsell,” Slocum said.

The digital age has also made it easier to contact grieving customers. Federal authorities recently charged the operator of two online cremation brokerages of fraud. The operator misled clients and even withheld remains to force bereaved families to pay inflated prices.

The Justice Department, on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission, sued Funeral & Cremation Group of North America and Legacy Cremation Services, which operates under several names and the companies’ principal, Anthony Joseph Damiano. The companies, according to a civil complaint, sell their funeral services through the websites Legacy Cremation Services and Heritage Cremation Provider.

These companies pretend to be local funeral homes offering low-cost cremation services. Their websites use search engines that make it look like consumers are dealing with a nearby business. However, they really act as middlemen, offering services and setting prices with customers, then arranging with unaffiliated funeral homes to perform cremations.

The lawsuit complaint says these companies offered lower prices for cremation services than they ultimately required customers to pay and arranged services at locations that were farther than advertised, forcing customers to travel long distances for viewings and to obtain remains.

“In some instances when consumers contest defendants’ charges,” the complaint said, the companies “threaten not to return or actually refuse to return” remains until customers pay up.

Mr. Slocum of the Funeral Consumers Alliance recommends contacting several providers — in advance, if possible, so you can look at the options without pressure. And ask for the location of the cremation center and request a visit. Also note that cremation sites in the U.S. are frequently not located in the same place as the funeral home and may not be designed for consumer tours.

Note that the FTC’s Funeral Rule predates the internet and doesn’t require online price disclosure. Likewise, most states don’t require this either.

Last year during the pandemic, the government issued a warning about fraud related to the funeral benefits. They said FEMA had reports of people receiving calls from strangers offering to help them “register” for benefits.

Reference: Seattle Times (May 15, 2022) “When shopping for funeral services, be wary”

 

estate planning

What Did the Rolling Stones’ Drummer Say in His Will?

Charlie Watts, the drummer who found fame with The Rolling Stones, died on August 24, 2021, at the age of 80 after having a heart surgery.

Metro’s recent article entitled “Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts leaves £30,000,000 fortune to his family following his death in August” reports that Watts’s will left the majority of his fortune to his family. His estate, was estimated at roughly $38 million, excluding the value of his estate in France.

Most of the money left by the star will go to his 83-year-old widow, Shirley. His treasured car collection will be given to others, according to the wishes in his will.

These instructions in the 14-page will were not made public, unlike those for his money.

Watts’s will had been drafted in 2017. His estate’s executors were told to use the income from his fortune to support “beneficiaries.”

The will directs the executors that when his wife dies, the inheritance will be passed down to his daughter Seraphina, his sister Linda Rootes, sisters-in-law Jackie Fenwick and Jill Minder and brother-in-law Stephen Shepherd.

Watts had married Shirley in 1964, before the Rolling Stones found international fame and fortune.

The drummer was seen as the shy, quiet and sensible member of the band.

He had battled throat cancer in 2004, after quitting smoking in the late 1980s. He was eventually given the all-clear after intensive radiotherapy.

Shortly before his death, Watts was forced to pull out of the Stones’s No Filter tour in America because of the operation on his heart.

Announcing the news of his death, a spokesperson said at the time: “It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of our beloved Charlie Watts. He passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his family.”

Reference: Metro (May 18, 2022) “Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts leaves £30,000,000 fortune to his family following his death in August”

 

Probate

What Is the Best Way to Leave Money to Children?

Parents and grandparents want what’s best for children and grandchildren. We love generously sharing with them during our lifetimes—family vacations, values and history. If we can, we also want to pass on a financial legacy with little or no complications, explains a recent article titled “4 Tax-Smart Ways to Share the Wealth with Kids” from Kiplinger.

There are many ways to transfer wealth from one person to another. However, there are only a handful of tools to effectively transfer financial gifts for future generations during our lifetimes. UTMA/UGMA accounts, 529 accounts, IRAs, and Irrevocable Gift Trusts are the most widely used.

Which option will be best for you and your family? It depends on how much control you want to have, the goal of your gift and its size.

UTMA/UGMA Accounts, the short version for Uniform Transfers to Minor or Uniform Gift to Minor accounts, allows gifts to be set aside for minors who would otherwise not be allowed to own significant property. These custodial accounts let you designate someone—it could be you—to manage gifted funds, until the child becomes of legal age, depending on where you live, 18 or 21.

It takes very little to set up the account. You can do it with your local bank branch. However, the funds are taxable to the child and if an investment triggers a “kiddie tax,” putting the child into a high tax bracket and in line with income tax brackets for non-grantor trusts, it could become expensive. Your estate planning attorney will help you determine if this makes sense.

What may concern you more: when the minor turns 18 or 21, they own the account and can do whatever they want with the funds.

529 College Savings Accounts are increasingly popular for passing on wealth to the next generation. The main goal of a 529 is for educational purposes. However, there are many qualified expenses that it may be used for. Any income from transfers into the account is free of federal income tax, as long as distributions are used for qualified expenses. Any gains may be nontaxable under local and state laws, depending on which account you open and where you live. Contributions to 529 accounts qualify for the annual gift tax exclusion but can also be used for other gift and estate tax planning methods, including letting you make front-loaded gifts for up to five years without tapping your lifetime estate tax exemption.

You may also change the beneficiary of the account at any time, so if one child doesn’t use all their funds, they can be used by another child.

From the IRS’ perspective, a child’s IRA is the same as an adult IRA. The traditional IRA allows an immediate deduction for income taxes when contributions are made. Neither income nor principal are taxed until funds are withdrawn. By contrast, a Roth IRA has no up-front tax deduction. However, any earned income is tax free, as are withdrawals. There are other considerations and limits.  However, generally speaking the Roth IRA is the preferred approach for children and adults when the income earner expects to be in a higher tax bracket when they retire. It’s safe to say that most younger children with earned income will earn more income in their adult years.

The most versatile way to make gifts to minors is through a trust. There’s no one-size-fits-all trust, and tax rules can be complex. Therefore, trusts should only be created with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney. A trust is a private agreement naming a trustee who will manage the assets in the trust for a beneficiary. The terms can be whatever the grantor (the person creating the trust) wants. Trusts can be designed to be fully asset-protected for a beneficiary’s lifetime, as long as they align with state law. The trust should have a provision for what will occur if the beneficiary or the primary trustee dies before the end of the trust.

Reference: Kiplinger (May 15, 2022) “4 Tax-Smart Ways to Share the Wealth with Kids”

 

estate planning help

How Did Rock Star’s Estate Planning Help Future Musicians?

The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, a nonprofit supporting music education in at-risk public schools, announced it had received a “transformative donation” from the late Eddie Van Halen.

MSN’s recent article on this is entitled “Eddie Van Halen left a huge donation in his will to support music education for kids”

Before his death in October 2020, Van Halen was involved with the foundation and supported the nonprofit over the years.

He made numerous appearances at the organization’s events and took part in various opportunities helping teach music to kids. As part of his will, Van Halen made a considerable donation that will have a profound effect on the foundation for many years.

The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation was inspired by the movie titled Mr. Holland’s Opus. It is the story of the profound effect a dedicated music teacher had on generations of students. Michael Kamen, who wrote the score for the film, started the foundation in 1996 as his commitment to the future of music education.

The foundation says that Van Halen’s donation “will enable MHOF to fulfill requests from a greater number of schools, add employees to its staff, improve the foundation’s technology and more.”

“Eddie’s support and friendship over the years meant the world to us and to his fans. His passion for music and our work created a strong bond, which is evident in his extraordinary bequest,” Felice Mancini, President and CEO of MHOF said in a statement.

“To know how much our foundation meant to Eddie is intensely humbling and gratifying to all of us – and we know that Eddie’s family is confident that his powerful legacy and values live on through our efforts.”

Van Halen’s son, Wolfgang Van Halen, will continue the family’s involvement and support of the organization. He has donated proceeds from his single “Distance” to the foundation in support of school music programs across the country and as a dedication to his father.

“Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation and the work they do for music education was always something that was important to my father,” Van Halen said in a statement. “I am incredibly proud to help facilitate this donation as he wished. Mr. Holland’s Opus are champions for our musicians of the future, and it is my privilege to continue supporting that mission and carrying on my pop’s legacy.”

Reference: MSN (April 21, 2022) “Eddie Van Halen left a huge donation in his will to support music education for kids”

 

Elder Law, Medicaid and VA Benefits

Does a Supplemental Needs Trust have an Impact on Government Benefits?

Supplemental Needs Trusts allow disabled individuals to retain inheritances or gifts without eliminating or reducing government benefits, like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). There are cases where the individual is vulnerable to exploitation or unable to manage their own finances and using an SNT allows them to receive additional funds to pay for things not covered by their benefits.

Having an experienced estate planning attorney properly create the SNT is critical to preserving the individual’s benefits, according to a recent article titled “Protecting Government Benefits using Supplemental Needs Trusts” from Mondaq.

Disabled individuals who receive SSI must be careful, since the rules about assets from SSI are far more restrictive then if the person only received Medicaid or Social Security Disability and Medicaid.

The trustee of an SNT makes distributions to third parties like personal care items, transportation (including buying a car), entertainment, technology purchases, payment of rent and medical or therapeutic equipment. Payment of rent or even ownership of a home may be paid for by the trustee.

The SNT may not make cash distributions to the beneficiary. Payment for any items or services must be made directly to the service provider, retailers, or other entity, for benefit of the individual. Not following this rule could lead to the SNT becoming invalid.

SNTs may be funded using the disabled person’s own funds or by a third party for their benefit. If the SNT is funded using the person’s own funds, it is called a “Self-Settled SNT.” This is a useful tool if the disabled person inherits money, receives a court settlement or owned assets before becoming disabled.

If someone other than the disabled person funds the SNT, it’s known as a “Third-Party SNT.” These are most commonly created as part of an estate plan to protect a family member and ensure they have supplementary funds as needed and to preserve assets for other family members when the disabled individual dies.

The most important distinction between a Self-Settled SNT and a Third-Party SNT is a Self-Settled SNT must contain a provision to direct the trust to pay back the state’s Medicaid agency for any assistance provided. This is known as a “Payback Provision.”

The Third-Party SNT is not required to contain this provision and any assets remaining in the trust at the time of the disabled person’s death may be passed on to residual beneficiaries.

Many estate planning attorneys use a “standby” SNT as part of their planning, so their loved ones may be protected, in case an unexpected event occurs and a family member becomes disabled.

References: Mondaq (May 27, 2022) “Protecting Government Benefits using Supplemental Needs Trusts”

 

401k retirement

How Do IRAs and 401(k)s Fit into Estate Planning?

When investing for retirement, two common types of accounts are part of the planning: 401(k)s and IRAs. J.P. Morgan’s recent article entitled “What are IRAs and 401(k)s?” explains that a 401(k) is an employer-sponsored plan that lets you contribute some of your paycheck to save for retirement.

A potential benefit of a 401(k) is that your employer may match your contributions to your account up to a certain point. If this is available to you, then a good goal is to contribute at least enough to receive the maximum matching contribution your employer offers. An IRA is an account you usually open on your own. As far as these accounts are concerned, the key is knowing the various benefits and limitations of each type. Remember that you may be able to have more than one type of account.

IRAs and 401(k)s can come in two main types – traditional and Roth – with significant differences. However, both let you to delay paying taxes on any investment growth or income, while your money is in the account.

Your contributions to traditional or “pretax” 401(k)s are automatically excluded from your taxable income, while contributions to traditional IRAs may be tax-deductible. For an IRA, it means that you may be able to deduct your contributions from your income for tax purposes. This may decrease your taxes. Even if you aren’t eligible for a tax-deduction, you are still allowed to make a contribution to a traditional IRA, as long as you have earned income. When you withdraw money from traditional IRAs or 401(k)s, distributions are generally taxed as ordinary income.

With Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s, you contribute after-tax dollars, and the withdrawals you take are tax-free, provided that they’re a return of contributions or “qualified distributions” as defined by the IRS. For Roth IRAs, your income may limit the amount you can contribute, or whether you can contribute at all.

If a Roth 401(k) is offered by your employer, a big benefit is that your ability to contribute typically isn’t phased out when your income reaches a certain level. 401(k) plans have higher annual IRS contribution limits than traditional and Roth IRAs.

When investing for retirement, you may be able to use both a 401(k) and an IRA with both Roth and traditional account types. Note that there are some exceptions to the rule that withdrawals from IRAs and 401(k)s before age 59½ typically trigger an additional 10% early withdrawal tax.

Reference: J.P. Morgan (May 12, 2021) “What are IRAs and 401(k)s?”

 

estate planning

What Did Beatles’ Pal Do with Her Estate?

The 1960’s singer Cilla Black passed away at her Spanish villa in 2015, after a stroke following a fall, aged just 72.

The Express’ recent article entitled “Cilla Black’s vast riches and incredible generosity explored as she would have turned 79” reports that this past week saw many in Britain celebrate what would have been her 79th birthday on May 27, as well as marking 50 years in front of the camera and behind the microphone.

After her death, there were many reports of her generosity and that she’d left vast riches to both her family and those close to her. Black left a $19 million fortune — amassed over her entire career — to her three sons. Each of them, Robert, Ben and Jack Willis, were given about $3.75 million each, after paying the British inheritance tax.

However, due to her $2.5 million Spanish mansion and $2 million Barbados penthouse, the three boys were expected to get slightly more. That’s because these properties were not included as part of Black’s UK estate, according to the Mirror.

She lived in an eight-bedroom Buckinghamshire mansion for 45 years in the village of Denham, and after her death, her sons put the property on the market for about $5.5 million. The home had a tennis court, leisure complex and indoor pool and spa, as well as lush green surroundings.

Black also left her housekeeper, Penny Walker, roughly $25,000. Walker had worked for Black for more than 30 years and was seen by her as “part of the family”, even living in a detached cottage on the grounds of Black’s Buckinghamshire mansion.

A source told The Sun at the time: “She adored her sons and treated Penny as part of the family.”

Cilla Black was born Priscilla Maria Veronica White on May 27, 1943, in a working-class area of Liverpool. She frequented the city’s now legendary Cavern Club, which helped the careers of a number of stars, including The Beatles, after she took a brief job working as a cloakroom assistant.

The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, signed her to a recording contract after seeing her perform. He also gave her the moniker ‘Cilla Black’ after a local newspaper incorrectly reported her name. Rather that complaining, she adopted the name and would be known by it for the rest of her career.

Her legacy was immortalized in 2016 with a life-size bronze statue outside the Cavern Club, as a reminder of where that young girl from Liverpool first sang and made history.

Reference: The Express (May 31, 2022) “Cilla Black’s vast riches and incredible generosity explored as she would have turned 79”