Written by Robert T. Nickerson
If you frequent our website and social media page, then you are already aware that plenty of celebrities have not planned out their estate well. This has resulted in their families facing legal trouble and hardship, which only gets worse if their net worth was significant. Now here's a fun fact; did you know that Abraham Lincoln didn't have an estate plan either? Yep, a lawyer by trade and the president never had an estate plan drawn up before his assassination.
Even if one of them most popular presidents made mistake, you don't have to. Everyone should have an end of life plan. You want to have a good retirement and an ease of mind, right? Here are four things you can do to improve your estate plan.
1. Review Beneficiary Designations
Did you know that a lot of accounts can pass to heirs without the need of going to probate? This is done through a Beneficiary Designation form. It is a piece of paper that can take something like Life Insurance contracts, 401Ks, and IRA and state who you want to inherent access to those accounts. It's easy to name people, backups, and even split accounts by dollar amount between the people you want to be beneficiaries.
Check to see if those documents are updated with the beneficiaries you want.
2. Have Proper life Insurance
What does life insurance do? It's to give the family a safety net when a loved one passes and provide an temporary income to compensate for the loss of life. It comes in handy if you need more time to figure out the finances in case some are still working.
This is especially helpful in retirement. Let's say a loved one spent the majority of time putting money into a retirement account along with social security and another income source, it makes sense to have life insurance to help with the blow.
It can also help in the event of a funeral. It can cost a lot of money to provide a grave and a tombstone. It can even cost money for the urn should they be cremated. Having life insurance can provide funds for a proper memorial.
Check to see if the loved one has some kind of life insurance.
3. Avoid Probate with Trusts
Probate can give you a lot of trouble if you don't have the proper wills and trusts in place. A will is something that everyone needs, but a trust is a lot more. They can provide similar executions that a deed does, but it can help control assets for those that the loved one cares for, but that individual is not able to care for themselves.
A lot of people will get a revocable trust, which allows the trustee to manage the assets of a loved one and follow through on proper instructions. Though an irrevocable trust is more complicated, it can help within an annual tax liability and protect certain estate taxes. Because their more expensive, I'd advise you to speak to an attorney before making any of these kinds of decisions.
4. Incorporate Charitable Giving
For a lot of people, they want to leave a legacy by donating to a church, ala mater, charity or an organization they care about. This is why it's possible to set up your assets to be passed to a charitable goal.
Estate plans can be easily set up to include charitable giving. This gives you the chance to create gifts for charitable remainder annuity trusts (CRAT) to allow part of your assets to go to a beneficiary and the rest to a charity. This can even be included in an IRA, which allows assets to be passed onto both loved ones and charities.
In the end, no estate plan is like another and should be looked at carefully. I can't stress enough that estate plans are not about money; their about protecting the rest of your family and making sure the transition process is as smooth as possible.
Written by Robert T. Nickerson
Let's see: You've made your travel plans, figured out whose going to bring what dish and it's time to visit that loved one for Thanksgiving. But when you get there, it's clear that the loved one isn't getting any younger and is going to need help at some point. I say take the day to watch one of many football games and maybe even the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. But the next day should remind you that time cannot be replaced, and should be used to consider what kind of plan to make. It'll be something to be thankful for the next year.
An estate plan is more then a glorified will. An estate plan is also going to have several documents that will set things. Some of them will include;
Ask the loved one if they've created an estate plan with similar documents. If they answer yes, take a look at them to see if their up to date (which is a mistake people have made). If everything looks good, then you won't have to do much work and can relax. If not, work with them to set up a meeting with an estate planning attorney.
While your having a bite of the mashed potatoes at the Thanksgiving table, you might be asking yourself, "As the one in charge of the financial power of attorney, what responsibilities do I have?".
What this means is your going to be in charge of making the financial decisions for the loved one whose agreed to put you in that position. It's not just for medical related finances, but it can also fall under general finances should they not be in a position to make reasonable decisions. The documents for financial power of attorney will also lay out if those powers are immediate or delayed for something more urgent.
Some other responsibilities could revolve around purchasing real estate, paying bills and taxes, acquiring insurance, representing them in a court of law, going into personal records and even applying for government benefits.
Just as your about to help yourself into some stuffing, you may realize your not the only one concerned. Do you have a sibling? Their probably thinking about that loved one as well. They may have been selected for health care power of attorney.
What do they do? A health care power of attorney will be responsible for making healthcare decisions if the loved one is unable to. By being "unable" is within the condition of not being able to communicate on their own due to an ailment. They'll also be selecting the medical care they feel will benefit the loved one the best and also make life decisions should they be given a recommendation by a doctor. This is understandably putting a lot of pressure and you should be sure the person in charge of health care is ready for that kind of responsibility.
In conclusion, thinking over these two aspects will give you something to be thankful for as these things are never easy. Once accomplished, then you'll have a clear understanding on your loved one's plans and it'll proceed. You can now spend the rest of your Thanksgiving having some pumpkin pie, watch the game, and maybe the airing of Home Alone.
Written by Robert T. Nickerson
Happy Halloween! With monsters like Freddy Krueger, Dracula, and mummies in a lot of scary thoughts, it's time that I bring about another topic that's only going to add to that fear. A lot of people have finally taken the jump at getting an estate plan created, signed and ready to go in case of a worst scenario event. You must feel a lot of relief after all that work.
There is one more thing that I hope you've been working on: getting your estate plan and subsequent documents in an easy spot to locate when something happens to you. Because of something that goes wrong, you might not be able to get them yourself. And if you died, then whoever you've set up as your executor will be in charge of your estate.
It's a matter of life that we're all going to die. As we get older, a lot of us could end up disabled, whether physical or mentally. According to a statistic by the Social Security Administration, a twenty year old starting a career today has a one in three chance of dying or qualifying for Social Security Disability Income before reaching the full retirement age for Social Security.
The pressure of being in charge of someone else's estate can be daunting and even scary. Executors may be the people in charge of one's estate, but can often have a hard time getting everything organized for such an event.
I have a suggestion to help. It's a simple idea, be we love simple. It's give you and extra sense of confidence that can help you relax further. It's simply putting everything in a retrievable format.
A binder is a good suggestion. Be sure to label it something like "Emergency documents for "________________"".
All of our estate plans are labeled and even come with a digital copy.
Some other things that should go in there include:
- An Financial Asset List
- A Non-Financial List
- Computer passwords
- Credit Cards (email list for cancelation)
- Emergency Contacts
- Estate Planning Documents
- Funeral Arrangements
- Health Information
- Insurance Policies
- Safe Deposit Box (If they have one, keep a list of what in them)
- Tax Statements
I hope I didn't scare you too much. I just wanted to remind you of what needs to be done before anything.
In 1989, the average rent was a little more than $400 a month and you could buy a dozen eggs for less than a dollar. That same year, Congress raised the amount of money that recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) could retain without losing their eligibility to $2,000.
While the cost of rent and eggs and everything else has risen in the last three decades, SSI’s asset limit has remained frozen in time. A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives would finally change that.
Since the program’s creation in 1972, SSI has subjected recipients to strict asset limits. Any recipient having assets over $2,000 is automatically disenrolled, with minimal exemptions and exceptions. For couples, the maximum is $3,000. Because the limit for couples is only 50 percent larger than, not double, the limit for individuals, SSI recipients in effect are penalized if they get married.
Under the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act, introduced in the House in September, individual SSI recipients would be allowed to have $10,000 in assets, while the limit for couples would be double that, or $20,000, eliminating the marriage penalty. And, for the first time, these limits would be indexed to inflation.
The bill would also eliminate what is known as the in-kind support and maintenance rule, which penalizes beneficiaries who receive certain benefits, such as food and shelter, from friends and family.
“The Supplemental Security Income program has succeeded in serving as a last resort to keep millions of elderly and individuals with disabilities out of the harsh realities of poverty, but far too many are being rejected from receiving the assistance they need simply because the program hasn’t kept pace with inflation,” Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), who introduced the bill, said in a news release. “Modest updates will provide needed stability to those with disabilities and seniors who are continuing to struggle to afford basic necessities, such as skyrocketing costs of medication.”
Rep. Grijalva first introduced the bill in 2013, and it has been introduced in both chambers of Congress each year since.
Click here to read the full text of the bill.
For a fact sheet on the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act from Justice in Aging, click here.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 40% of people age 55 and over were working or looking for work in 2014. The labor force participation rate for seniors is expected to increase to around 164 million individuals by 2024. In 2016, over 42% of workers age 55 and over were in management, professional, and related occupations. According to one report, entrepreneurship amongst seniors aged 55-64 increased from 15% in 1996 to 26% in 2017.
The multitude of baby-boomers aging are one reason that there are more elders in the workforce. Other factors are better health and longer lives, the financial need to work longer, and changes to Social Security and pension benefits. And many folks find being idle in retirement doesn’t add to their quality of life, compelling a return to the work force.
Some barriers that seniors might face in seeking employment are the standard stereotypes – that seniors are unwilling to learn new things and their skills aren’t up-to-date. However, many organizations around the country are working hard to dispel these myths. A Colorado group, Changing The Narrative, seeks to end ageism and encourage employers to change their attitudes regarding senior employees. They are sponsoring a campaign from October 25 through November 3 around the country to encourage people from all generations to gather in their own neighborhoods to have a conversation about ageism and how we all can challenge ageist assumptions.
AARP has an Employer Pledge Program that includes an action plan for building an age-inclusive workforce. The program is a way for companies to recognize their commitment to value workers of all ages. Participants can use the official seal of the program on their recruitment materials and website, and may receive discounts on job postings on the AARP job board. Some participating companies include ZipRecruiter, H&R Block, CVS, AT&T, and Ace Hardware.
The Global Coalition on Aging has promulgated their Guiding Principles for Age-Friendly Businesses to help serve as a guide for companies, to facilitate being more inclusive. They suggest employers:
Obviously, just because someone reaches retirement age doesn’t mean that they stop being an asset to a company or project. In fact, seniors presumably have more experience and valuable feedback than their younger counterparts. And oftentimes, seniors are more reliable than those in their youth.
Finding that right fit can be difficult for anyone. So, what are some tips for seniors looking for work?
As our society strives to shake off old-fashioned concepts and biases towards those of different races, ethnicities, sexes, and genders, let’s not forget to add ages to the list. What someone can bring to the table in the workforce is not based on what one can see on the outside – it should be based on the value that person can bring from what they harbor on the inside. And in the case of seniors, that is oftentimes a lifetime worth of valuable experience and life lessons.
The law offices of Jeffrey C. Nickerson is a proud sponsor of the upcoming Field of Honor in Murrieta.
This is taking place in Murrieta Town Square on November 9 - 16 where families and people can have a flag placed to honor a loved who who has served or is currently serving under the armed forces.
Some seniors simply want to downsize. They either can’t afford to live in a large home, or they don’t want the maintenance and upkeep. Or, they would like to move closer to family. In addition, as the multitude of Baby Boomers continue to age, there are oftentimes a shortage of traditional living facilities and care practitioners for seniors who find that they need extra help. As nursing home and assisted living facility costs continue to rise, some elders are finding creative ways to seek care. For whatever reason, some seniors are finding alternative living solutions.
Downsizing in Current Home
A trend for seniors who want to remain in their current home is to restructure the space so that they take up less of the home and rent out the other portions. Websites have popped up that facilitate these endeavors, making matches easier. Some seniors wish to rent to other seniors to foster companionship; others like to open up their doors to families, or invite their own family members to reside with them.
The benefits of home-sharing include sharing in expenses and the upkeep needed to maintain the property. Also, it is possible for two seniors who may need help with care to continue to live independently and stave off assisted living for a while. For example, maybe one senior can’t drive and needs help with grocery shopping. The other senior needs help with their medication or preparing meals. By sharing their strengths, they may be able to minimize their weaknesses.
Tiny Home Alternatives
Tiny homes can be a great alternative to large traditional homes because they are portable and can be placed on the property of caregivers for those seniors who still desire a bit of independence and privacy, but still need care. Or, a collection of tiny homes can make a community for seniors. Dr. Bill Thomas of New York has said “I spent my career trying to change the nursing home industry….now what I’ve got to do is make it so people don’t need nursing homes in the first place.” His idea was to create tiny houses and sell them for an affordable price. His first projects have been to create communities of tiny houses for seniors, affordable alternatives so that folks can age in their own communities and not have the upkeep of traditional homes.
MEDCottages are a mobile medical dwelling that can be temporarily placed on the property of a family member, to provide hospital-like care to a loved one for rehab or extended care. If a family member finds that a senior needs care beyond what the family member can provide, they can elect to have this structure erected on their property so their loved one is still near to them but has access to the medical offerings of the structure. The senior still has their privacy, and access to remote monitoring, but they are still close enough to participate in family activities and enjoy the proximity to their familiar surroundings. MEDCottage also has products that can transform a garage into a senior living space, or even an RV platform.
Adult Family Care
Adult family care is a term that describes a situation where friends or family will take in an elder to care for them. While this has been the norm for centuries, adult family care has also come to encompass taking in an elder that you don’t know. Families will take in unfamiliar seniors and provide care to them. The senior gets to live in a family environment, which is often preferred over an institutional setting, and the family gets paid for the care provided to the senior.
According to a recent article by NPR, adult family care in Vermont is on the rise. In Vermont, there are more seniors who need care than nurses to care for them. Because of this, nursing homes are selective and there can be a long wait for admission. Sometimes, seniors must spend this waiting period in a hospital setting. Adult family care has been a great solution for some seniors, to end their need for institutional care and enter back into the community.
Green House Home
Most of us have visited a traditional nursing home. Long, dark hallways lead to small rooms – sometimes containing two residents. It oftentimes feels like a hospital environment. The Green House Project has reimagined nursing homes. Instead of an institutional feeling, these Green House homes feel like a real home! There is a dining room, kitchen, common areas, bedrooms and private bathrooms. Each home is designed for about 10 residents. So instead of a more sterile, traditional setting, the Green House plan offers a more family-like environment.
According to an article by The New York Times, the writer was most impressed by the fact that there wasn’t a ridged schedule like there usually is in a nursing home. In a traditional nursing home, because there are so many residents, a strict schedule must be kept. Meals are served during specific times; doctors are on a schedule; help with bathing and dressing must be provided according to a set plan. At a Green House home, seniors are free to eat when they want, just like if they were at home. If a care provider comes to provide care and they find the senior asleep, they will come back at a later time.
In addition, there is four times more staff engagement with the seniors, as opposed to a traditional nursing home. Green House homes practice consistent assignment – the same staff is assigned to the same seniors on an on-going basis. Staff becomes familiar with the seniors, and can now find the time for more personalized care while the senior can enjoy more autonomy. To date, there are 284 Green House homes in the United States.
Many factors go into a senior’s decision on where to live. What can they afford? Do they want to be closer to family? What kind of care do they need? Some trends in senior living include renting out their own home, buying a tiny home, getting care in the community by others willing to share their homes, or finding a place that has reinvented what nursing homes look like.
The good news is that senior living may be finally getting the attention it deserves. Seniors are valuable members of our community, and deserve to live with dignity and respect. A wider array of senior living options means more choices for seniors. They can find a solution that works for their own needs, and not have to conform to traditional institutional care.
Technological innovations designed to help seniors live longer, more fulfilling lives are starting to catch on—everything from companion robots to smart devices that can help monitor, alert, track and support our growing senior community, whether they are living in smart senior communities or in their own homes.
It is important for elder law attorneys and elder care professionals to stay on top of this evolving technology so we’ve created a live program to take a deeper dive into these issues.
Why the Timing is Right
According to recent estimates, the population of adults 85 and older in the U.S. will roughly triple between 2015 and 2060, making it the fastest growing age group over this time period. At the same time, there is a projected decline in the working-age population, meaning there will be fewer people to support the growing elderly population, financially and otherwise.
Just seven years ago, seven able adults were available for every senior in need of care. By 2030, AARP estimates that ratio is estimated to drop to 4:1 and by 2050, to just 3:1. AARP calls this the “caregiver cliff,” as mass numbers of Baby Boomer seniors who need care begin to outnumber those able to help them.
It is also estimated that the costs to provide health care may more than double between the ages of 70 and 90, depending on the region. With rising pressure on governments, payers and manufacturers to reduce healthcare costs, senior care needs solutions in order to be prepared for this impending rise in costs.
Virtual home assistants and portable diagnostic devices will be able to help provide better elder care, help control medical costs—and allow more seniors to stay in their homes longer.
How seniors will take to the technology may also be changing
A 70-year old may have first experienced some form of internet technology in middle age or later and may not be as accepting as someone who at age 50 is already far more comfortable with technology. As a result, there will be a growing interest and market for already available and maturing technologies to support physical, emotional, social and mental health.
The Internet of Things DefinedThe Internet of Things (IoT) is the name given to the expanding network of smart devices currently connecting together in the digital landscape. Just as the Nest camera system allows us to monitor our homes remotely, numerous new technologies promise to connect seniors to care teams and other life-saving processes that can make their lives easier, safer and more enjoyable.
7 Specific Ways Technology Can Help
Written by Robert Nickerson
"Why is this happening to me!? It isn't fair! Where's my moment?" If you’re a parent, you've probably been asked this by your child, especially if they have a sibling that received a little more attention. You might overhear from another parents that in order to be fair, you also had to be equal. The logic seems to be if both children are given and told the exact same thing, then nobody will be seen as a favorite over the other, thus killing any worry that one is getting special attention.
Let's be honest; treating multiple children equal is a lot harder then thought. No matter how we approach matters, we're going to feel guilty that perhaps we made the wrong decision.
You'd think that all children grow up. That's also rarely the case. When a parent dies, if certain children are left out or not given a supposed "fair" share, then the adult could still have a childish reaction. Let's say a younger sibling is chosen over the older to be lead in charge of moms estate. The older might say, "This is proof you were loved more".
Though it may appear so on paper, this doesn't prove anything (though if you have a favorite over the other, please don't tell) other then you think one might be better at managing or another does deserve a little more for one reason over the other.
Whose going to take the lead?
It always going to be a difficult choice o figure out whose going to handle your estate when your gone. Figuring out which child (if you've decided on that) is going to handle your estate could potentially put things on a freeze. Sometimes, mom and dad will just select all their children to be successor co-trustees.
Maggie was a grandmother who had three grandsons that were all in their twenties. She named all of them co-trustees, having the estate divided equally. When she died, rather then accepting the terms that were drawn upon, they all charged for the bank to empty everything before one could "get their share". This ended up being a legal nightmare.
I recommend that in order not go through the trouble of the kids fighting each other over who gets whatever, that unless you have a specific reason, that they need to work together in advance to help make plans. It can be sad with how far some people will go to get "their share" should something not be brought up sooner.
How about someone more responsible?
A lot of families will make the choice to let someone else manage one's estate, like the fathers brother or a friend of the mother. In order to deflect conflict, especially if the kids are not yet mature enough to understand, this is common. This can even be the better option if the person selected even has legal experience that can guide the adult children within the complex terminology and carefully explain why one receives something over the other.
Thinking about a professional?
Though this is only recommended for large estates, you make want to consider a professional trustee if you cant find someone responsible in the family. I'll warn you though that they can be very expensive and usually don't cater to all needs to beneficiaries.
I'd also think about a professional fiduciary. They'll still likely be expensive, they are more then willing to deal with a midsize estate.
Instead of "fairness", think about "results"
The cheapest way to have a trustee is to simply have one of your children take on that role. After all, the point of an estate plan to administer specific instructions on how beneficiaries are carried out. This is when you do need to think about who is most likely to follow your wishes and ensure it goes to plan, especially if someone in the family needs some kind of care.
If your having trouble figuring out which child to trust, I'd recommend discussing this with an attorney or a financial planner. They can give their recommendation, but you still have to make a final decision.
What about those that say, "What about me!"? The best strategy is to talk to them before hand to deflate the hard feelings that are inevitable. As long as your open with them, their going to understand your definition of "fairness" a lot more.
Written by Robert T. Nickerson
Todays the day! You've signed your last signature and your lawyer has sent you home with your estate plan. So what to do with them?
A lot of lawyers (including Jeffrey Nickerson) will hold your original documents at the office in locked, safe cabinets that clients can have access to anytime. If anything, it's recommended, in case copies of certain documents were needed for other family members, doctors, caregivers, etc…
People are given the option of having their documents being held onto by their attorney. If you decide to take the estate plan home with you, here are some tips on where to put it.
1. Don't put it in a safety deposit box
As tempting as the idea of it being locked away safe, this is something of a major mistake. The purpose of safety deposit boxes are a way to have access for you, not a lot of people. Should you die or find yourself incapacitated, then someone else will need to get them. Those that don't already have authorization to go into another's safety deposit box will have to get a court order to do so. This is going to be a long and bureaucratic process if this route is soughed out.
2. Think about getting a fireproof safe
This is a smart investment (especially if you live in the tinderbox that is Riverside County). Places like Amazon have a lot of options. Though you could keep an estate plan in a file cabinet or a important items bookshelf, a fireproof safe is the safest bet to make.
3. Make sure you have copies
I've said this before and I'll say it again; make sure copies of your estate plan are made available. But it's also important to have copies in other locations. Do you have an office where you work? That’s a good spot. Do you have a storage facility? That's a good spot. Even a safety deposit box is a good spot for copies (BUT NOT THE ORIGINAL). Your attorney should even have a copy so that the family can go to them in any case.
4. Don't forget your digital records
Like the Law Offices of Jeffrey C. Nickerson, your lawyer should give you a digital copy of your estate plan. This is something that not only you should have on your computer or your cloud account (a place where you can access your estate plan information from other computers or smart phones), but this is something that can also go into a fireproof safe.
5. Don't worry if the original gets lost
This is why having copies made are essential. Your family can still carry through your plans with photocopies as long as their updated and the attorney can verify they were made. Otherwise, the attorney is likely to have an on file copy. Otherwise, talk to your attorney and he can have another one printed for you.
6. Just because their done doesn't mean you can put them away forever
As much as you want to forget about it, this is another mistake that people make. An estate plan will reflect the current path for a family. But that's the keyword; current. Plans could easily change in ten or even five years. Take some time to read it to be sure the estate plan is still the way you want to proceed. Grandma may want to do something different from her estate plan that was written in 1987.
Jeffrey C. Nickerson - Estate Planning Attorney - My Passion is Special Needs Planning!