Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

Will SAFE Act Really Make Seniors Safe?

Elderly woman looking serious

“In an attempt to take a step toward countering some of the negative impact of elder financial abuse, the government recently passed the Senior Safe Act in May 2018, as part of a bipartisan banking reform set of laws. “

Elder abuse costs millions of Americans an estimated $2.9 billion annually. The expectation is that these numbers are only going to increase, as the scams targeting the elderly become more and more sophisticated. This is according to Forbes in ““After SAFE Act Passage, The Battle Against Elder Financial Abuse Remains Far From Over.”

The aim of the Senior Safe Act is to encourage financial institutions of all kinds to play a larger role in fighting against elder financial abuse. The law, which was modeled after the Senior$afe program created in Maine, requires financial institutions to train employees on detecting activities that may indicate elder abuse is occurring. If the employees are trained, the Senior Safe Act also provides a reporting process and liability protection for those who report the possible abuse.  It is thought that the liability protection would make those individuals reporting the possible abuse more proactive.  However, there are still some problems with this.

Some advisors report being reluctant to report any client who seems to be suffering from mental deficiencies or elder abuse. The problem, advisors say, is that they are not trained and won’t feel confident in making a judgement about competency. Some court cases have put the onus on the advisor, when selling certain products or strategies but advisors lack both the training and the ability to make a medical diagnosis of senior clients. Without the ability to identify competency, it is very likely that any reporting will only take place well after the elder financial abuse has taken place.

Another issue is that family members or friends are typically the ones who commit elder financial abuse. The victim usually does not want to press charges, fearing that the person will become angry with them and withdraw their emotional support. Being dependent upon the same person who may have perpetrated financial abuse, puts the elderly person in a no-win situation.

Elder abuse prevention, financial and otherwise, should start years in advance, at the first signs of declining physical and mental health. It should begin with a plan for managing financial assets and having the proper legal documents in place, including a will, power of attorney, general durable power of attorney, healthcare directive and other estate planning documents.

By being proactive while the individual is still relatively well and healthy, it may be possible to create protections that will be crucial later in life. Speak with your estate planning attorney now, to make sure that your estate plan is in place, so you and your family are protected.

Reference: Forbes (July 23, 2018) “After SAFE Act Passage, The Battle Against Elder Financial Abuse Remains Far From Over”

 

Why You Need an Estate Planning Attorney

Why You Need an Estate Planning Attorney

MP900400337You might think that you do not need professional assistance for your estate plan because you know who you want to get what. There is more to estate planning than that.

It is actually easy to create an estate plan for yourself. You can simply write your own will, directing who should get what pieces of property.  If you execute that will properly with witnesses and signatures, your will can be probated.

If you are not certain that is the best idea and would like a little bit more help, download some prepared forms to fill out from an online service at a low cost. The ease of doing that might make you think that an estate planning attorney is not necessary.  However, there are other reasons to see an attorney, as the Huntsville Item points out in "Do you really need an estate planning attorney?"

Those other reasons include:

  • The estate planning attorney knows about property law and how different types of property are handled differently by courts. If you do not get this correct in your will, your estate can face difficulties.
  • There are different types of estate planning documents that do different things. Estate planning attorneys can help you pick the right ones for your unique circumstances.
  • Estate taxes are still a concern at the federal level for many people and in several states. A professional is needed to properly plan around them.
  • The attorney can also help craft your estate plan in a way that compliments your other financial goals, often including paying less in taxes.

Reference: The Huntsville Item (May 21, 2018) "Do you really need an estate planning attorney?"

 

Planned Giving

Giving-to-charity2One of the ways that you can leave a good legacy behind, is to provide money to charity in your estate plan.

Your worth is likely more than the sum total of your assets. You have worth that does not have any direct monetary value. Your capacity to like and love your friends and family cannot be given a monetary value, for example. However, in estate planning, it can often seem like the only thing you will have left at the time you pass away, are assets that have monetary value and need to be given to other people.

You cannot give away your capacity to love after death. However, that does not mean your other value has to be left out of your estate plan completely. You can use your estate plan for planned charitable giving, as the Nashua Telegraph discusses in "Planning to give and leaving a lasting legacy."

Planned giving is simply making provisions in your estate plan that a certain amount of money or a percentage of your estate's assets should be given to charity. It is a popular option for people. It is popular not only with the wealthy, but also with people of more modest means who want to leave something behind for good causes.

There are several different ways you can make charitable donations a part of your estate. Some are as simple as a few lines written into a will and others are for more complicated, including setting up special trusts for the purpose. An estate planning attorney can help you choose the best way to do so.

Reference: Nashua Telegraph (May 20, 2018) "Planning to give and leaving a lasting legacy."

Estate Planning, Wills, Trusts

Do You Want Your Child to Be Your Executor?

MP900448494[1]Without thinking about it too much, many people designate one of their children to be the executor of their estate. They should think about it carefully, before doing so.

The executor of your estate should be someone you trust to handle your estate just as you want it handled. You want to be certain that the executor will faithfully follow the instructions laid out in your will, including distributing your assets according to your wishes.

Many people trust one of their own children above all other potential candidates for this responsibility. They name that child as their executor, having put little thought into the consequences of doing so. It is not always a good idea, as Texas Lawyer discusses in "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Executors."

Being an executor is not an easy job. If people do not know what they are doing, it is very easy for them to make mistakes. They can often be held personally liable for those mistakes.

An executor does more than just distribute the assets of the estate. He or she must be able to communicate with the court and with any heirs about the estate. If, for example, the executor and a sibling do not get along, there can be problems. In some cases, executors will need to invest assets for a period of time, before they can be distributed. The executors need to do that investing wisely.

Before naming one of your children to be the executor of your estate, think through whether it is a role you really want that child to have. It might be better, in some cases, to name a professional.

Reference: Texas Lawyer (March 6, 2018) "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Executors."

 

A Big Myth Concerning Trusts

Wills-trusts-and-estates-covered[1]If you do too much reading online about the difference between wills and trusts, then you are likely to think of the two as something that you have one or the other. That is a myth.

One of the key concerns for people planning their estates today, is whether they should use a will or a trust. Everyone seems to have an opinion about which one of the two main estate planning vehicles is better for general purposes. The two are often discussed, as if they are oppositional.

If you do some research and decide you want to get a trust, then you might go to an online service, pay a fee and download a form to create a trust. The problem? Getting a trust does not mean you should not get a will. You still need a will, as Lake County News discusses in "The difference between a trust and a will."

It is likely that when you pass away you will have some assets that for one reason or another were never put into your trust. Those assets will need to be distributed by your estate and often under the guidance of the probate court. You need a will so what you want done with those assets can be done.

Often that will is only a “pour-over will” that directs that everything should be transferred to your trust. However, there are other things you might also need to accomplish with a will, such as directing who should be appointed as a proper guardian for your minor children. You also might have some assets you do not want to go through a trust for other reasons, for which a will would be appropriate.

The best way to make sure you have all the documents you need in your estate plan, is to hire an estate planning attorney to draft your plan.

Reference: Lake County News (Feb. 24, 2018) "The difference between a trust and a will."