Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

A Common Estate Planning Myth

Bigstock Extended Family enjoying time togetherPeople who do not have a large amount of assets, think that they do not really need an estate plan. They are wrong.

Not everyone is wealthy. Not everyone has billions, or even millions, of dollars that need to be divided up between their relatives after they pass away. In fact, most people do not have that kind of fortune and never will.

Many of the people who are not wealthy, think that means they do not need estate plans. They reason that if there is little to divide up, then there is little to fight over. Consequently, they believe everything will go smoothly.

Unfortunately, that is a myth.

Even people who do not have a large estate need an estate plan, as the Pauls Valley Daily Democrat explains in “More on estate planning myths.”

You never know when family members will decide to fight over an estate and exactly what they will fight over. While it is true that a large amount of money often leads to a fight, it does not always do so.

Sometimes the most bitter of estate battles are actually over little things. Some estates have even been known to easily settle large fortunes, but have long and bitter feuds over small personal items that are not worth very much.

This means families might choose to argue over estates that do not have anything of value, if there are sentimental items wanted by more than one family member.

It happens a lot more often than you think.

No matter how much money you have, you need to see an estate planning attorney and get an estate plan.

Reference: Pauls Valley Daily Democrat (March 1, 2017) “More on estate planning myths.”


Assisted Living Facilities

senior couple standing together outdoorsSenior citizens who no longer feel safe or comfortable at home alone, have options other than going to a nursing home. Moving to an assisted living facility is one of them.

If you ask any elderly person who is not currently living in a nursing home what they think about moving to one, you are likely to get a negative response. People do not want to move into nursing homes. Most only do so, when they have no other options.

Nevertheless, there are many elderly people living at home who are not able to handle their own day to day needs. They need help which can be hard to come by due to a lack of good caretaker options or because it is not practical to move in with younger family members.

These senior citizens do have an option available, short of prematurely going into a nursing home, as Yorktown News points out in “What Is an Assisted Living Facility and Is It the Right Place for You?

An assisted living facility is just what it says it is.

It is a facility that assists an elderly person with daily functions, but not  to the extent that a nursing home does. In an assisted living facility, residents will get help with laundry, cleaning, transportation, medication management etc.. Facilities also usually offer community meals for residents.

While an assisted living facility is not right for all seniors, it is a great option for some. Most will find such an arrangement more enjoyable than a nursing home.

Reference: Yorktown News (March 2, 2017) “What Is an Assisted Living Facility and Is It the Right Place for You?


Millennials Also Need Estate Plans

Attractive Mixed Race CoupleMany articles are written about what the Millennial generation wants and needs. Not enough articles are written about their need for estate plans.

Whatever field you are in, you have undoubtedly heard a lot of talk about how it relates to the Millennial generation. No one hears about it more than Millennials themselves. They like to discuss what their generation needs and their elders like to tell them about what they  think they need.

With all of the talk about how Millennials live, behave and even vote, there is not much room left for talk about what will happen if they pass away.

It might seem premature to have those discussions, because Millennials are young and expect to live for a long time. However, many of them will pass away long before they think they will.

That means they need to think about their mortality and get estate plans established, as the Christian Science Monitor points out in “Millennials, don’t forget estate planning.”

One of the most important things estate planning can do for Millennials is to get them to think about what happens to their belongings and their children after they pass away. Estate planning focuses the mind on how the decisions we make, can have a long-term impact on our loved ones.

If done properly, estate planning also gets young people to think about their need to save money for retirement, emergencies and the possibility they might pass away while they have minor children.

If you are a Millennial, then seek out an estate planning attorney.

You should go ahead and get your first estate plan, just in case something does happen. That will get you started on making important plans, which is a good habit to get into.

Reference: Christian Science Monitor (March 7, 2017) “Millennials, don’t forget estate planning.”


Hire the Right Estate Planning Attorney

Business meetingMost attorneys are specialists in their particular practice areas. For your estate planning, you should hire  an attorney who is a specialist in estate planning.

Human beings can only become truly knowledgeable in a limited number of areas. We cannot all be experts on everything. This is true even within disciplines.

For example, if you wanted to learn something about the history of 16th century Britain, you would be unlikely to learn very much by asking a historian who specializes in the Roman Empire. You would want to ask a historian who specializes in English history. Even better would be asking someone who   only studies 16th century Britain.

A similar need for specialization is even more obvious, when you think about your health.

If you need heart surgery, you would not seek the services of an ear, nose and throat specialist. You would not even want a neurosurgeon. You would want a cardiac surgeon.

The same thing is true with legal matters and estate planning, as the Norman Transcript points out in “The right attorney is needed for wills and estate planning.”

Estate planning is a complicated and specialized legal field.

Only attorneys who have dedicated their lives to studying the field can be guaranteed to give you the services that you need. You might know someone who is excellent in criminal law or who excels at writing contracts. While he or she might even be willing to help you with your estate planning, you would be better off going to an estate planning expert.

Many avoidable mistakes are made when people do not seek out the services of an estate planning attorney. Do not let those mistakes happen with your estate plan.

Reference: Norman Transcript (March 5, 2017) “The right attorney is needed for wills and estate planning.”


IRS Audit Strategy Targets the Wealthy

Bigstock-Elder-Couple-With-Bills-3557267[1]In 2017 it is expected that the IRS will focus its auditing efforts on the wealthy, in order to get the most that they can out of their limited enforcement budget.

It used to be that the IRS was actually more likely to target middle class taxpayers for an audit than wealthy people. It is more difficult to audit the wealthy because they can afford to hire expert lawyers and accountants to fight the auditors.

However, years of cuts to the IRS budget have led to a change in tactics.

The IRS now prefers to target the wealthy for audits, so the agency gets the most bang for its buck. There is simply more money that the IRS can get by auditing the wealthy than by making sure middle class Americans have filed all of their taxes correctly.

This trend is expected to continue in 2017, according to Private Wealth in "This Year's Audits Are Bad News For The Rich."

The IRS is expected to go after common ways the wealthy often lower their tax bills and challenge  them to prove that they have done everything correctly.

For example, a charitable deduction over a certain limit might trigger the IRS to send a letter demanding proof of the donation. Reporting that money was put into a 529 education savings plan over a certain amount, could also trigger an automatic letter as could a whole lot of other common practices.

It is important that wealthy people get together with their estate planning attorneys and accountants to make sure they have done everything correctly to lower their tax bills, if they want to avoid problems with the IRS.  

Reference: Private Wealth (Feb. 28, 2017) "This Year's Audits Are Bad News For The Rich."