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Estate Planning Blog

Serving Clients Throughout North Central Missouri

Approaching Retirement

Do You Know about the Grandparents Scam?

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office explains that the Grandparents Scam involves someone posing as a grandchild or relative of the victim and claiming to be out of town and in need of help, usually involving an arrest.

Local10.com’s recent article entitled “Man, 22, arrested in connection with ‘Grandparents Scam’” notes that, in some cases, the scammer says he or she is a relative’s lawyer or bail bondsman.

County prosecutors explain that the fake relative claims to require cash for bail, hospital bills, or other bogus expenses. The caller provides the victim with directions on how to deposit money into their bank account.

The victims are asked to not tell anyone and are sometimes called again, so the fake relative can ask for additional funds due to “negative developments” in their case, prosecutors said.

“When a 22-year-old like Alvaro Esteban Jaramillo Fajardo revels in helping to allegedly steal the savings of caring grandparents and the elderly, there is something truly wrong. Sadly, some people seem to believe that it’s always easier and more sophisticated to take someone else’s money rather than work for it oneself,” State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement.

“The grandparent scammers and those ensuring that the scam works all deserve to hear the sound of a jail door closing behind them.”

Jaramillo Fajardo is facing charges in connection with eight victims, ranging in age from 71 to 88.

In all, these Grandparents Scam victims suffered financial losses of more than $480,000.

According to a news release from the state attorney’s office, Jaramillo Fajardo acted as the facilitator of the cash withdrawals from his associates’ bank accounts, “which effectively laundered the stolen money.”

Prosecutors explained that Fajardo paid the account holders about $2,000 for each incident in which they were involved.

Authorities say the Defendant frequently sought out his associates on social media and also offered a finder’s fee, if they obtained new, usable bank accounts to receive the illicit funds.

Fajardo also boasted that none of the account holders had previously gotten into any trouble, prosecutors said.

Reference: local10.com (April 15, 2021) “Man, 22, arrested in connection with ‘Grandparents Scam’”

 

Trust Administration

Did Pop Entertainer Pink Change Estate Plan because of COVID-19?

Pink and her four-year-old son, Jameson, tested positive for the virus in March 2020, but her husband, Carey Hart, and daughter, 9-year-old Willow, did not contract the coronavirus.

MSN’s recent article entitled “Pink Reveals She Rewrote Her Will Because She Thought ‘It Was Over’ Amid COVID-19 Battle” reports that the entertainer did change her will.

“It was really, really bad, and I rewrote my will,” she said. “… At the point where I thought it was over for us, I called my best friend and I said, ‘I just need you to tell Willow how much I loved her.’ It was really, really scary and really bad. ”

The experience inspired her single, “All I Know So Far.” Pink described the song as “a letter to my daughter.” The single was released May 7, and a documentary and album of the same name will follow on May 21.

“As a parent, you think about, ‘What am I leaving for my kid? What am I teaching them? Are they going to make it in this world, this crazy world that we live in now? What do I need to tell them if this is the last time that I get to tell them anything?'” she said. “So, that was kind of the song.”

Pink first announced that she and Jameson were fighting the coronavirus in April 2020. That same month, she described “the scariest thing” she has ever been through on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, sharing that her son was the first one to get sick.

“[It] started with a fever for him and it would come and go, and he would have stomach pains and diarrhea and chest pains and then a headache, sore throat,” she said. “It sort of was just all over the place. Every day was just some new symptom. His fever stayed it did not go. It just started going up and up and up and up and then at one point it was at 103.”

As for herself, Pink said, “I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t breathe and I needed to get to a nebulizer for the first time in 30 years. I have this inhaler that I use, this rescue inhaler, and I couldn’t function without it, and that’s when I started to get really scared.”

In a December 2020 Instagram post, Pink, whose real name is Alecia Beth Moore, called 2020 a “poop sandwich of a year.” She also had a staph infection and a broken ankle.

See your estate planning attorney about changing your will based on current events.

Reference: MSN (May 4, 2021) “Pink Reveals She Rewrote Her Will Because She Thought ‘It Was Over’ Amid COVID-19 Battle”

 

estate planning newsletter

Seven Items Medicare Doesn’t Cover

AARP’s recent article entitled “7 Things Medicare Doesn’t Cover” talks about some needs that aren’t part of the program — and how you might pay for them.

  1. Opticians and eye exams. Original Medicare will cover opthalmologic expenses like cataract surgery, but it doesn’t cover routine eye exams, glasses, or contacts. In addition, it’s usually not covered by Medigap plans (supplemental insurance available from private insurers to augment Medicare coverage). Some Medicare Advantage plans cover routine vision care and glasses. As such, it may be wise to purchase a vision insurance policy for a few hundred dollars a year for the expense of glasses or contact lenses.
  2. Hearing aids. Medicare covers ear-related medical conditions, but original Medicare and Medigap plans won’t pay for routine hearing tests or hearing aids. You may need to purchase insurance or a membership in a discount plan that helps cover the cost of such hearing devices.
  3. Dental care. Original Medicare and Medigap policies don’t cover dental care like routine checkups, dentures, or root canals. Some Medicare Advantage plans offer dental coverage, but if yours doesn’t, or if you opt for original Medicare, you may want to get an individual dental insurance plan or a dental discount plan.
  4. Care When Overseas . Original Medicare and most Medicare Advantage plans offer next to no coverage for medical costs incurred outside the U.S. However, there are a few Medigap policies that cover certain overseas medical costs. However, if you travel a lot, you might want this option. In addition, some travel insurance policies provide basic health care coverage. You should also look at medical evacuation (medevac) insurance for your time abroad. This is an inexpensive policy that will transport you to a nearby medical facility or back home to the U.S. in an emergency.
  5. Podiatry. Routine medical care for feet, such as callus removal, isn’t covered. Medicare Part B does cover foot exams or treatment, if it’s linked to nerve damage because of diabetes, or care for foot injuries or ailments. Therefore, you may want to set up a separate savings program for this expense.
  6. Cosmetic surgery. Elective cosmetic surgery isn’t included in Medicare. This includes procedures, such as face-lifts or tummy tucks. However, Medicare will cover plastic surgery in the event of an accidental injury. So, if you face these costs, you also may want to set up a separate savings program for them.
  7. Nursing home care. Medicare pays for limited stays in rehab facilities. This may be a situation where you have a hip replacement and need inpatient physical therapy for a few weeks. However, if you become so frail or sick that you must move to an assisted living facility or nursing home, Medicare doesn’t cover your custodial costs.

Reference: AARP (Oct. 1, 2020) “7 Things Medicare Doesn’t Cover”

 

elder care

Should You Get Medical Power of Attorney?

The pandemic has created awareness that being suddenly incapacitated by an illness or injury is no longer a hypothetical. The last year has reminded us that health is a fragile gift, regardless of age or any medical conditions, explains the article “Now Is the Time to Protect Your Health Care Decision Making Rights” from Kiplinger. Along with this awareness, comes an understanding that having control over our medical decisions is not assured, unless we have a well-considered health care decision-making plan created by an estate planning attorney, while we are well and healthy.

Without such a plan, in the event of incapacity, you will not have the opportunity to convey your wishes or to ensure they will be carried out. This also leaves the family in a terrible situation, where siblings may end up in court fighting against each other to determine what kind of end-of-life care you will receive.

The best way to exercise your medical decision rights will vary to some degree by your state’s laws, but three are three basic solutions to protect you. An estate planning attorney will be needed to prepare these properly, to reflect your wishes and align with your state’s law. Do-it-yourself documents may lead to more problems than they solve.

Living Will. This document is used when you are in an end-stage medical condition or permanently unconscious. It provides clear and written instructions as to the type of treatments you do or do not want to receive, or the treatment you always want to receive in case of incapacity.

Health Care Durable Power of Attorney. The health care durable POA is broader than a living will. It covers health care decisions in all situations, when you are not able to communicate your wishes. You may appoint one or more agents to make health care decisions, which they will base on their personal knowledge of what your decisions would be if you were able to speak. Just realize that if two people are named and they do not agree on the interpretation of your decision, you may have created a problem for yourself and your family. Discuss this with your estate planning attorney.

Health Care Representative Laws. There are laws in place for what occurs if you have not signed a Health Care Durable Power of Attorney or a Living Will before becoming incompetent. They are intended to fill in the gap, by authorizing certain family members to act on your behalf and make health care decisions for you. They are a solution of last resort, and not the equal of your having had the living will and/or health care durable power of attorney created for you.

If the statute names multiple people, like all of your children, there may be a difference of opinion and the children may “vote” on what’s to happen to you. Otherwise, they’ll end up in court.

The more detailed your documents, the better prepared your loved ones will be when decisions need to be made. Share your choices about specific treatments. For instance, would you want to be taken off a ventilator, if you were in a coma with limited brain function and with no hope of recovery? What if there was a slim chance of recovery? The decisions are not easy. Neither is considering such life or death matters.

Regardless of the emotional discomfort, planning for health-care decisions can provide peace of mind for yourself and loved ones.

Reference: Kiplinger (April 29, 2021) “Now Is the Time to Protect Your Health Care Decision Making Rights”

 

estate planning

Should I Create a Trust?

Most people know that a will instructs your executor regarding where to transfer your assets when you die. You may also want to consider a trust.

Nbcnew25.com’s recent article entitled “Elder law and estate planning: What you need to know” explains that a trust can give you peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out when you pass away. Your property won’t need to go through the probate process, if it’s in a trust. Your family can focus on the grieving process without having any problems with wrapping up your estate.

In addition, financial and health care powers of attorney should also be part of your estate plan. Ask an experienced estate planning or elder law attorney to help you draft these documents to save your loved ones the worry, if you must be moved into a nursing home and are unable to make decisions for yourself.

Having the correct documents in place before you or a loved one goes into a nursing home is extremely important. With a financial power of attorney, an elder law attorney could design a Medicaid plan for someone entering a nursing home to help protect their assets.

If the correct documents aren’t in place when a loved one enters a nursing home, it could create issues—one of which is the inability to protect their assets. In that case, you may also be required to appear in front of a judge to get permission for an elder law attorney to assist in protecting assets. That request could even be denied by the judge.

For a married couple, 100% of cash assets, plus the home, can be protected, and Medicaid would cover most of the nursing home cost. This is big because the cost of nursing homes can exceed be tens of thousands of dollars every month.

For married couples, in many instances, the income of the spouse who is entering the nursing home may be able to be transferred to the spouse who still lives at home. That’s important because the spouse at home may depend on the other spouse’s income to help make ends meet.

For singles, at least 60% to 70% of cash assets, plus the home, can be protected, so that Medicaid would cover most of the nursing home cost.

Moving a loved one into a nursing home can be stressful enough, without having to worry about the cost. Help yourself and your family, by preparing the proper documents ahead of time to eliminate some of the stress.

Working with an elder law attorney who specializes in Medicaid planning is a wise move. Don’t wait until it is too late.

Have things in order, so you or a loved one can avoid any unnecessary stress and keep the assets that you’ve acquired during your lifetime.

Reference: nbcnew25.com (April 30, 2021) “Elder law and estate planning: What you need to know”

 

ims

How to Protect Digital Property

When people built wealth, assets were usually tangible: real estate, investments, cash, or jewelry. However, the last year has seen a huge jump in digital assets, which includes cryptocurrency and NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens). Combine this growing asset class with the coming biggest wealth transfer in history, says the article “What happens to your NFTs and crypto assets after you die?” from Tech Crunch, and the problems of inheriting assets will take more than a complete search of the family attic.

One survey found only one in four consumers have someone in their life who knows the details of their digital assets, from the location of the online accounts to passwords. However, digital assets that require two factor authentication or biometrics to gain access may make even this information useless.

There are many reports about people who purchased digital assets like Bitcoin and then lost their passwords or threw away their computers. More than $250 million in client assets vanished when a cryptocurrency exchange founder died and private keys to these accounts could not be found.

Digital assets need to be a part of anyone’s estate plan. A last will and testament is used to dictate how assets are to be distributed. If there is no will, the state’s estate law will distribute assets. A complete list of accounts and assets should not be part of a will, since it becomes a public document when it goes through probate. However, a complete list of assets and accounts needs to be prepared and shared with a trusted person.

Even traditional assets, like bank accounts and investment accounts, are lost when no one knows of their existence. If a family or executor doesn’t know about accounts, and if there are no paper statements mailed to the decedent’s home, it’s not likely that the assets will be found.

Things get more complicated with digital assets. By their nature, digital assets are decentralized.  This is part of their attraction for many people. Knowing that the accounts or digital property exists is only part one. Knowing how to access them after death is difficult. Account names, private keys to digital assets and passwords need to be gathered and protected. Directives or directions for what you want to happen to the accounts after you die need to be created, but not every platform has policies to do this.

Password sharing is explicitly prohibited by most website and app owners. Privacy laws also prohibit using someone else’s password, which is technically “account holder impersonation.” Digital accounts that require two factor authentication or use biometrics, like facial recognition, make it impossible for an executor to gain access to the data.

Some platforms have created a means of identifying a person who may be in charge of your digital assets, including Facebook and more recently, LinkedIn. Some exchanges, like Ethereum, have procedures for death-management. Some will require a copy of the will as part of their process to release funds to an estate, so you will need to name the asset (although not the account number).

A digital wallet can be used to store access information for digital assets, if the family is reasonably comfortable using one. A complete list of assets should include tangible and digital assets. It needs to be updated annually or whenever you add new assets.

Reference: Tech Crunch (April 5, 2021) “What happens to your NFTs and crypto assets after you die?”

 

Is Estate Planning for Everyone?

Can a Person with Alzheimer’s Sign Legal Documents?

If a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or any other form of dementia, it is necessary to address legal and financial issues as soon as possible. The person’s ability to sign documents and take other actions to protect themselves and their assets will be limited as the disease progresses, so there’s no time to wait. This recent article “Financial steps to take when dealing with Alzheimer’s” from Statesville Record & Landmark explains the steps to take.

Watch for Unusual Financial Activity

Someone who has been sensible about money for most of his life may start to behave differently with his finances. This is often an early sign of cognitive decline. If bills are piling up, or unusual purchases are being made, you may need to prepare to take over his finances. It should be noted that unusual financial activity can also be a sign of elder financial abuse.

Designate a Power of Attorney

The best time to designate a person to take care of finances is before she shows signs of dementia. It’s not an easy conversation, but it is very important. Someone needs to be identified who can be trusted to manage day-to-day money matters, who can sign checks, pay bills and supervise finances. If possible, it may be easier if the POA gradually eases into the role, only taking full control when the person with dementia can no longer manage on her own.

An individual needs to be legally competent to complete or update legal documents including wills, trusts, an advanced health care directive and other estate planning documents. Once such individual is not legally competent, the court must be petitioned to name a family member as a guardian, or a guardian will be appointed by the court. It is far easier for the family and the individual to have this handled by an estate planning attorney in advance of incompetency.

An often-overlooked detail in cases of Alzheimer’s is the beneficiary designations on retirement, financial and life insurance policies. Check with an estate planning attorney for help, if there is any question that changes may be challenged by the financial institution or by heirs.

Cost of Care and How It Will Be Paid

At a certain point, people with dementia cannot live on their own. Even those who love them cannot care for them safely. Determining how care will be provided, which nursing facility has the correct resources for a person with cognitive illness and how to pay for this care, must be addressed. An elder law estate planning attorney can help the family navigate through the process, including helping to protect family assets through the use of trusts and other planning strategies.

If the family has a strong history of Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive diseases, it makes sense to do this sort of preparation far in advance. The sooner it can be addressed, even long before dementia symptoms appear, the better the outcome will be.

Reference: Statesville Record & Landmark (April 11, 2021) “Financial steps to take when dealing with Alzheimer’s”

 

401k retirement

How Does an Inherited IRA or 401(k) Work?

The rules for inheriting retirement assets are complicated—just as complicated as the rules for having 401(k)s and IRA to begin with. Mistakes can be hard to undo, warns the article “Here’s how to handle the complicated rules for an inherited 401(k) or IRA” from CNBC.

The 2019 Secure Act changed how inherited tax deferred assets are treated after the original owner’s death. The options depend upon the relationship between the owner and the heir. The ability to stretch out distributions across the heir’s lifetime if the owner died on or after January 1, 2020 ended for most heirs. Exceptions are the spouse, certain disabled beneficiaries, or minor children of the decedent. Otherwise, those accounts must be depleted within ten years.

Non-spouses with flexibility include minor children. That’s all well and fine, but once the minor child turns 18 (in most states), the 10-year rule kicks in and the individual has 10 years to empty the account. Before that time, the minor child must take annual required minimum distributions (RMDs) based on their own life expectancy.

These required withdrawals typically begin when a retiree reaches age 72, and the amount is based on the account owner’s anticipated lifespan.

Beneficiaries who are chronically ill or disabled, or who are not more than ten years younger than the decedent, may take distributions based on their own life expectancy. They are not subject to the ten- year rule.

Beneficiaries subject to that ten-year depletion rule should create a strategy, including creating an Inherited IRA and transferring the funds to it. If the inherited account is a Roth or a traditional IRA, the process is slightly different. Distributions from a Roth IRA are generally tax-free, and traditional IRA distributions are taxed when withdrawals occur. One point about Roths—if you inherit a Roth that’s less than five years old, any earnings withdrawn will be subject to taxes, but the contributed after-tax amounts remain tax-free.

If an heir ends up with a retirement account via an estate, versus being the named beneficiary on the account, the account must be depleted within five years, if the original owner had not started taking RMDs. If RMDs were underway, the heir would need to keep those withdrawals going as if the original owner continued to live.

For spouses, there are more options. First, roll the money into your own IRA and follow the standard RMD rules. At age 72, start taking required withdrawals based on your own life expectancy. If you don’t need the income, you can leave the money in the account, where it can continue to grow. However, if you are not yet age 59½, you may be subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty if you take money from the account. In that case, put the money into an Inherited IRA account, with yourself as the beneficiary.

IRAs and 401(k)s are complicated. Speak with your estate planning attorney to make an informed decision when creating an estate plan, so your inherited assets will work with, not against, your overall strategy.

Reference: CNBC (April 11, 2021) “Here’s how to handle the complicated rules for an inherited 401(k) or IRA”

 

estate planning for Retirement

What Emergency Documents Do I Need in Pandemic?

With the threat of COVID-19, we’ve all come face-to-face with our mortality. However, are you prepared for the worst?, asks KSAT in its January 23 article entitled, “Important documents you need to have handy in case of an emergency.”

A consumer report recently found that just 7% of those ages 19 to 29 have an advance directive for health care emergencies, and even fewer have a will. Estate planning is one of the most worthwhile things we could do for ourselves or our loved ones.

The article explains that your estate is everything you own, and if it’s not protected, it could be taken away from your loved ones.

An extremely important document to have, in addition to a will, is a living will and a healthcare proxy or power of attorney. These documents let you designate the individual who will make decisions on your behalf, if you cannot speak for yourself.

In addition, a HIPAA authorization permits an individual you trust to speak with your healthcare staff and receive your personal medical information.

Another key document is a financial power of attorney. This empowers you to designate an agent to handle your debts, contracts and assets. A financial power of attorney must be signed and notarized.

You should also consider payable on death and transfer on death designations, which transfer assets to designated beneficiaries without probate.

It is important to conduct a digital asset inventory to list your entire online presence and include all accounts, logins, passwords, social media, and professional profiles, and most importantly, a list of everything you have on autopay.

Last, you need a last will and testament. This lets you to name an executor or personal representative to handle your postmortem affairs. However, a last will does not keep assets out of probate.

One last note: you can prepare a personal property memorandum to list the beneficiaries of any sentimental, non-monetary items.

Reference: KSAT (San Antonio) (Jan. 23, 2021) “Important documents you need to have handy in case of an emergency”

 

photographer

Which Celebrities have Left Spouses Out of Their Wills?

However, it’s not a given that a spouse will become a decedent’s heir or guardian of their estate, says Wealth Advisor in its recent article entitled “These Celebs Cut Their Spouses Out Of Their Will.” This can make headlines because it’s so rare and appears to be cold-hearted.

Some think the first famous person to do this was William Shakespeare. The Bard gave his wife the “second-best bed” and other furniture. He bequeathed his substantial fortune to their daughter. Read about other famous spouses who were disinherited.

Ric Ocasek. In 1989, Ocasek of the Cars married supermodel Paulina Porizkova. In a May 2018 Instagram post, Porizkova announced that she and Ocasek had “peacefully separated” a year earlier. Porizkova also tried to make it clear that she felt no animosity toward Ocasek, and that their relationship had evolved over the decades. According to USA Today, the two had begun the formal process of legally divorcing, before Ocasek died in September 2019. At the time, they still lived together. When Ocasek’s will was read, it included an addendum which said, “I have made no provision for my wife Paulina Porizkova (‘Paulina’) as we are in the process of divorcing.” He added, “Even if I should die before our divorce is final… Paulina is not entitled to any elective share… because she had abandoned me.”

Larry King. The famous broadcaster who survived multiple heart attacks, quintuple bypass surgery, lung cancer, angina and COVID-19, died in January at 87. King was married seven times, the last being Shawn Southwick. They wed in 1997 at UCLA Medical Center right before he underwent heart surgery. Like so many of his other marriages, that one ended in divorce. Just after beginning divorce proceedings, King amended his will — albeit with a handwritten note expressly denying Southwick any claims to the estate he’d leave behind. In the document, King requested that his money “be divided equally among my children Andy, Chaia, Larry Jr, Chance & Cannon.” However, the divorce was never finalized, so King and Southwick were still technically married, and he purposely left her nothing. It is looking like a lawsuit between Southwick and his estate.

Mickey Rooney. Rooney was married eight times between the 1940s and 1970s, among them screen stars Ava Garner and Martha Vickers, and Jan Chamberlin, his final wife. Rooney and Chamberlin wed in 1978 but separated in 2012. They did not divorce, and they were still legally married when Mickey died at age 93 in 2014. The Los Angeles Times says that Mickey “disinherited everyone except one stepson, according to a will filed along with court papers that showed assets of just $18,000.”

Reference: Wealth Advisor (April 5, 2021) “These Celebs Cut Their Spouses Out Of Their Will”