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Beneficiary Designations – What are Common Mistakes?
Elderly lady typing on laptop. Shallow DOF.

Beneficiary Designations – What are Common Mistakes?

Many people don’t understand that their will doesn’t control who inherits all of their assets when they pass away. Some of a person’s assets pass by beneficiary designation. That’s accomplished by completing a form with the company that holds the asset and naming who will inherit the asset, upon your death.

Kiplinger’s recent article, “Beneficiary Designations: 5 Critical Mistakes to Avoid,” explains that assets including life insurance, annuities and retirement accounts (think 401(k)s, IRAs, 403bs and similar accounts) all pass by beneficiary designation. Many financial companies also let you name beneficiaries on non-retirement accounts, known as TOD (transfer on death) or POD (pay on death) accounts.

Naming a beneficiary can be a good way to make certain your family will get assets directly. However, these beneficiary designations can also cause a host of problems. Make sure that your beneficiary designations are properly completed and given to the financial company, because mistakes can be costly. The article looks at five critical mistakes to avoid when dealing with your beneficiary designations:

  1. Failing to name a beneficiary. Many people never name a beneficiary for retirement accounts or life insurance. If you don’t name a beneficiary for life insurance or retirement accounts, the financial company has it owns rules about where the assets will go after you die. For life insurance, the proceeds will usually be paid to your estate. For retirement benefits, if you’re married, your spouse will most likely get the assets. If you’re single, the retirement account will likely be paid to your estate, which has negative tax ramifications. When an estate is the beneficiary of a retirement account, the assets must be paid out of the retirement account within five years of death. This means an acceleration of the deferred income tax—which must be paid earlier, than would have otherwise been necessary.
  2. Failing to consider special circumstances. Not every person should receive an asset directly. These are people like minors, those with specials needs, or people who can’t manage assets or who have creditor issues. Minor children aren’t legally competent, so they can’t claim the assets. A court-appointed conservator will claim and manage the money, until the minor turns 18. Those with special needs who get assets directly, will lose government benefits because once they receive the inheritance directly, they’ll own too many assets to qualify. People with financial issues or creditor problems can lose the asset through mismanagement or debts. Ask your attorney about creating a trust to be named as the beneficiary.
  3. Designating the wrong beneficiary. Sometimes a person will complete beneficiary designation forms incorrectly. For example, there can be multiple people in a family with similar names, and the beneficiary designation form may not be specific. People also change their names in marriage or divorce. Assets owners can also assume a person’s legal name that can later be incorrect. These mistakes can result in delays in payouts, and in a worst-case scenario of two people with similar names, can mean litigation.
  4. Failing to update your beneficiaries. Since there are life changes, make sure your beneficiary designations are updated on a regular basis.
  5. Failing to review beneficiary designations with your attorney. Beneficiary designations are part of your overall financial and estate plan. Speak with your estate planning attorney to determine the best approach for your specific situation.

Beneficiary designations are designed to make certain that you have the final say over who will get your assets when you die. Take the time to carefully and correctly choose your beneficiaries and periodically review those choices and make the necessary updates to stay in control of your money.

Reference: Kiplinger (April 5, 2019) “Beneficiary Designations: 5 Critical Mistakes to

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Figuring Out A Parent’s Financial Life, When They Cannot
Elder Couple at Home with Bills

Figuring Out A Parent’s Financial Life, When They Cannot

Imagine that your perfectly fine, aging-well parent has had a minor stroke and is no longer able to manage their financial or legal affairs. Your parent has been living independently, waiving off offers of help or even having someone come in to clean for years. It seemed as if it would go on that way forever. What happens, asks the Daily Times, when you are confronted with this scenario in the aptly-titled article “Senior Life: What a nightmare! Untangling a loved one’s finances”?

After the health crisis is over, it’s time to get busy. Open the door to the home and start looking. Where’s the will, where are the bank statements and where’s the information about Social Security benefits? When you start making calls or going online, you run into a bigger problem than figuring out where the papers are kept, no one will talk with you. You are not legally authorized, even though you are a direct descendant.

This happens all the time.

Statistically speaking, it is extremely likely that your parent will end up, at some point, in a nursing home or a rehabilitation center for an extended period of time. Most people have no idea what their parent’s financial situation is, where and how they keep their financial and legal records and what they would need to do in an emergency.

It’s not that difficult to fix, but you and your hopefully healthy parent or parents need to start by planning for the future. That means sitting down with an estate planning attorney and making sure to have some key documents, most importantly, a Power of Attorney.

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document that gives you permission to act on another person’s behalf as their agent, if they are unable to do so. It must be properly prepared for your state’s laws.  It allows you to pay bills and make decisions on behalf of a loved one, while they are alive. Without it, you’ll need to go to court to be appointed as legal guardian. That takes time and is more expensive, than having a POA created and properly executed.

If you have downloaded a Power of Attorney and are hoping it works, be warned: chances are good it won’t. Many financial institutions insist that the only POA they will accept, are the ones that they issue.

Once you have a POA in place, assuming that your parent is able to sign it, then it’s time to get organized. You’ll need to go through all the important papers, setting up a system so you can see what bills need to be paid, how many bank accounts or investment accounts exist and review her financial status.

Next, it’s time to consolidate. If your parent was a child of the Depression, chances are they have money in many different places. This gave them a sense of security and gives you a headache. Consolidate four different checking accounts into one. The same should be done for any CDs, investment accounts and credit cards. Have her Social Security and any pension checks deposited into one account.

If you need help, and you might, don’t hesitate to ask for it. The stress of organizing decades of a loved one’s home, plus caring for them and managing the winding down of a home can be overwhelming. Your estate planning attorney will be able to connect you with a number of resources in your area.

Reference: Daily Times (April 9, 2019) “Senior Life: What a nightmare! Untangling a loved one’s finances”

 

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How ABLE Accounts Work for People with Disabilities

People with disabilities and their families face large financial hurdles. For many years, they were not permitted to accumulate any assets, or even work part-time, without losing Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or any means-tested government benefits. However, with the introduction of the “Achieving a Better Life Experience” or ABLE account in 2016, children or adults with disabilities may save as much as $100,000, without putting their benefits at risk. And, according to Consumer Reports, in the article “ABLE Accounts Can Help People with Disabilities Save Tax-Free,” the accounts are now available nationwide.

Anyone, including the beneficiary, can contribute to these accounts, up to the $100,000 limit. However, there are some people who may be able to put even more money into ABLE plans, as a result of the 2017 tax law change. Eligible individuals who are employed may earn up to $12,140 without endangering their benefits, as long as the funds are put into their ABLE account. And those who also have a 529 college savings plan, can roll that money into an ABLE account.

These are improvements, says experts in the disability world. However, making more eligible people aware of these accounts is a challenge. Without access to an ABLE account, a person with disabilities who has more than $2,000 in a savings account might lose out on essential services, including SSI and Medicaid.

Special needs trusts have long been available to help disabled individuals or their families put aside money, but the cost to set them up is higher than simply opening an ABLE account.

Research shows that there are about 8 million disabled individuals who are eligible for ABLE accounts, but at the end of 2018, there were only 35,000 ABLE accounts, with more than $170 million in assets.

There are some limitations to ABLE accounts. The disability must have occurred before the person turned 26. Since 2016, bills have been introduced into Congress, including some new legislation that is before both the House and the Senate, that would raise the qualifying age to 46. However, it’s not yet clear whether this amendment is going to get enough support to pass.

There is good news for those who have had a diagnosis prior to turning 26 and are already receiving SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) or SSI. They automatically qualify. If you aren’t receiving those benefits but your disability fits with Social Security’s criteria, most plans actually let you certify yourself. You just need a doctor’s note and a date of diagnosis. Be prepared to have to prove that in the future.

Like college 529s, you don’t have to live in the state where you open an account. Any plan that is nationally available can be used. There are now more than 40 state plans, and only a few are limited to state residents. The account can be opened by a parent, guardian, or person who has power of attorney for a disabled person or a minor.

Unlike 529 plans, there can only be one account for one person.

The most you can save every year is $15,000.

The total able account balance can grow to $100,000, without triggering an SSI benefit loss. However, if that limit is exceeded, the SSI payments will be suspended until the account falls below the limits.

If you are not receiving SSI benefits, you can save up to the 529 limit for the state, which is usually $350,000 or more.

The money is intended to be spent on qualifying expenses, which are things that enhance a person’s health, well-being and independence. Typical qualifying expenses include basic living expenses, education, career training and assistive technology

An estate planning attorney, who works with Special Needs families to create estate plans that incorporate Special Needs Trusts (SNT), will be able to provide guidance, so that the ABLE account aligns with the overall estate plan for the family.

Reference: Consumer Reports (April 11, 2019) “ABLE Accounts Can Help People with Disabilities Save Tax-Free”

 

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Healthcare Proxy – How to Decide Who Should Pick?
Family together in the kitchen

Healthcare Proxy – How to Decide Who Should Pick?

It’s especially important to name a healthcare proxy, because the chances of having a crisis escalates dramatically as we age. That’s why so many people put off naming a healthcare proxy, says Forbes in the article “How to Select A Healthcare Proxy,” often only addressing this, when they are completing other documents for their overall estate plan.

What usually happens is that people get so stressed out about naming a healthcare proxy that they put it off or make a bad selection. Making it even worse, is neglecting to tell the person they have chosen for this important responsibility.

It’s not guaranteed that the person you chose as your healthcare proxy will ever be called on to serve. However, if they are, you’ll want to make sure they meet certain guidelines. For one thing, they’ll need to be at least 18 years old. They cannot be your direct health care provider or any of the direct health care provider’s employees, unless that person is also your spouse. They have to be willing to speak up and adhere to your own wishes, even if those wishes are not the same as their own. You’ll want to have a very candid conversation with the person you think you want to name as your healthcare proxy.

You might want to go through this exercise to make sure they are really willing to carry out your wishes. Create a worksheet that describes in detail some of the situations they may face. There are a few sources for this kind of worksheet, including one from a group called Compassion and Choices, a nonprofit centered on helping people get what they want at the end of their lives.

If you are close with your family, it may seem obvious to select your spouse, first-born child, or a sibling for your healthcare proxy. However, be realistic: when push comes to shove, will they be able to stand up for your wishes? Will they be able to deal with the fallout from family members, who may not agree with what you want at the end of your life? They’ll need to be up to the challenge.

Age is a real factor here. You want your proxy to be available in both the immediate and distant future. If you have a sibling who is only two years younger than you, she’ll be 84 when you are 86. That may not be the time for her to make hard decisions, or she may not be available—or alive. Select a few backups for your healthcare proxy, and make sure the primary, secondary and even tertiary are listed on your advance directive.

Geography also matters. The person may be called upon in a crisis—if you are on the West Coast and they are in the Midwest, will they be able to get to your bedside in time? Many hospitals and skilled nursing facilities require a live human being to be physically present, if critical care decisions need to be made. Someone who lives within a 50-mile radius of you, might be a better choice for your healthcare proxy.

Once you’ve made the decision, you’re almost done. Have a conversation with the person, whether they are the primary or a backup. You should also have a conversation with your estate planning attorney, to make sure that your healthcare directive and any related documents are all set for your future.

Reference: Forbes (April 10, 2019) “How to Select A Healthcare Proxy”

 

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Does A No Contest Clause Really Mean No Contest?
Walking on the Sidewalk --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Does A No Contest Clause Really Mean No Contest?

An article concerning California law demonstrates that a no contest clause applies only when you lose the case. It’s impossible to know what is in the heart and mind of the deceased, except to consult their last will and testament. However, when there is a suspicion that the last will and testament has been changed through undue influence, the care that went into the will might be undone cautions the Santa Cruz Sentinel in “No contest clause throws kink into trust plan.”

The example given is of a woman whose mother was in the care of her niece, who was also the trustee of her mother’s trust. The mother modified the trust to give the niece her home, which is estimated to be worth about a fifth of the total estate value. The daughter notes that at the time these changes were made to the will, her mother was in hospice care and being given morphine. It does sound as if it could be influence because changes made to a will during a critical illness, especially in the presence of strong pain medication, are questionable.

Since the trust included a no contest clause, the daughter wonders if it’s worth challenging the will for one-fifth of the estate to charge the niece with undue influence?

An undue influence claim needs to have three points:

  • A confidential relationship — that between the grandmother and the grandchild;
  • Active procurement — the granddaughter got her grandmother to amend the trust;
  • Unjust enrichment — the granddaughter’s inheritance was increased to more than she would have otherwise received.

If all three elements are met, then the burden of proof shifts to the niece to show that she was not doing anything wrong.

There may also be a lack of capacity claim, based on the medication. It may be that the grandmother was too medicated to understand what she was doing.

The no contest clause does present a problem. If the will is challenged, the daughter is disinherited — but only if she loses. If she wins, that no contest amendment is invalid, and the trust returns to what it was before the changes were made.

At one point, no contest clauses were so powerful that there was consideration given to not allowing them to be used in wills. In California, as of Jan. 1, 2010, a person may file a contest and if the judge determines that they had probable cause, they are not automatically disinherited.

In this case, if the facts would lead a reasonable person to conclude that there was undue influence, it’s likely that the daughter in this example would win. It would be up to the court to determine whether she should be disinherited. No contest clauses are strictly construed by the courts, so unless the no contest clause says that it applies to amendments, she may be okay.

There is one fact that she needs to ascertain, before moving forward. If the estate planning attorney met with the mother and prepared the amendment, then the attorney will be a neutral witness who will be able to testify to her mother’s mental capacity and her wishes.

It is not uncommon for people to change their wills to favor the person who spends their last weeks or days with them, as they prepare to die. One must wonder in this case, as to why the niece and not the daughter was with the grandmother at this time. Perhaps the two were very close, or perhaps the granddaughter was manipulating her grandmother. However, no one will ever truly know, except for the granddaughter and the deceased.

Note: New York law is even stricter concerning a No contest clause. In New York you can always challenge a Last Will and Testament if you think the person did not have capacity. It has no effect on the no contest clause.

Reference: Santa Cruz Sentinel (March 3, 2019) “No contest clause throws kink into trust plan”

 

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Family Vacation Home -The Best Way to Pass to the Next Generation?
Family Pulling Party Favors During Christmas Dinner --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Family Vacation Home -The Best Way to Pass to the Next Generation?

The generous exclusion that allows wealthy individuals to gift up to $11.4 million and not get hit with federal estate taxes, came from the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017. However, it’s not expected to last forever, according to the article “What to Know When Gifting the Family Vacation Home” from Barron’s Penta. Those who can, may want to take advantage of this window to be extra-magnanimous before the exemption sunsets to about $5 million (adjusted for inflation) in 2025.

At issue for potentially giving, is that when someone transfers property, the recipients must account for it, according to the original price paid for the property. This is known as the basis. For example, shares of stock valued at $5 million today that were originally purchased for $1 million 10 years ago, would be subject to income taxes only on $4 million, if the recipient were to sell the stock.

Advice given to wealthy individuals is to make use of that higher estate tax exclusion while it’s still in place, and that may include property that they expect to gift to beneficiaries. The most likely asset would be the family vacation home, whether it’s a ski chalet or a beach house.

First, make sure your children want the property. There’s no sense going through all the processes, unless they plan on enjoying the family vacation home. Next, figure out the best way to gift the home, while making the most of the high exclusion.

A nice point: you won’t have to give up the use or control of the house during this process. Experts advise not making an outright gift. This can lead to less control or the loss of a share to a child’s spouse, in the event of a marital split.

Another option: transfer the property into a trust. There are several kinds that would work for this purpose. Another is to consider a Limited Liability Corporation, which also serves to protect the family’s assets against any claims, if someone were to be injured on the property. The parents would transfer the property into the LLC and give children interests in the company.

A fairly common structure for family vacation home ownership is called a Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT). These are used by families who want to retain the right to continue using the home, usually for the rest of their lives. The property is transferred to the designated beneficiaries at death. If it is set up properly, a QPRT avoids any income or estate taxes.

A trust also lets an individual or a couple be very specific in how the property will be used, who can use it and any rules about how they want the home maintained. Making sure that a beloved family vacation home is well-cared for and not rented out for college parties, for instance, can provide a lot of comfort for a couple who have poured their hearts into creating a lovely vacation home.

Always look at the option of a life estate within the transfer, this guarantees you the right to use the property for your lifetime. However, there may be property tax or residency tax implication so

Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to learn how you can take advantage of the current federal estate tax exemption to pass your family’s vacation home on to the next generation.

Reference: Barron’s Penta (March 31, 2019) “What to Know When Gifting the Family Vacation Home”

 

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Elder Abuse -The People They Trust, Rip Off Seniors the Most

Seniors are frequent victims of financial elder abuse, whether the crook is a stranger or someone the older adult knows. Sadly, the people they trust rip off seniors the most. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) analyzed the financial exploitation of older Americans, by poring through government reports that looked into suspicious financial activity.

During a recent four-year period, fraudsters stole or tried to steal more than $6 billion from seniors. The criminal activity is increasing, as shown by the fact that the number of annual reports of financial abuse quadrupled during that time. Since many people do not realize they have been the victim of theft or do not report it, the CFPB estimates that the actual losses could be between $2.9 billion and $36.5 billion every year.

The Older You Are, the More They Steal from You

When the victim was between the ages of 70 and 79, the average loss was $45,300. The average amount stolen from people between 60 and 69 was $22,700. Those in their 50s, sustained average losses of $13,400.

Who Is Stealing from Older Americans?

Strangers account for 51 percent of the scams that take money away from seniors. This category includes thing like:

  • Emails that say the older adult owes money to the government or the electric company;
  • Telephone calls claiming that a grandchild has an emergency in another country and needs money wired; or
  • “Romance” scams in which people in other countries have a fake relationship with the lonely senior, just to get him to send them thousands of dollars for the “fiancé” to fly to the United States for a visit. Of course, the person takes the money and breaks off communication with the senior.

The government does not know who the exploiter was in every case. In about 14 percent of the reports, the victim did not identify the perpetrator.

Family members, caregivers, and fiduciaries account for 36 percent of the financial abuse of seniors. A fiduciary is someone who has the authority to manage the older adult’s money, such as a broker, accountant, trustee, guardian, conservator, or someone who has a power of attorney to act on the senior’s behalf.

Who Steals the Most from the Elderly?

The sad truth is that the people they should be able to trust the most, take the lion’s share of the money from older adults. Here is how the amount of theft breaks down, by perpetrator groups:

How to Prevent Elder Financial Abuse

These tips can help you to shield your aging friends and relatives from becoming victims of financial abuse:

  • Talk with your older loved ones and make sure they understand how to safeguard themselves from the well-known types of rip-offs from strangers. Educate at-risk relatives about suspicious emails, telephone calls, online scams and mail.
  • Set up a system of checks and balances for your loved one’s finances. Never allow the person who provides the caregiving, to manage the person’s money. Have one person perform one task and someone else oversee the finances.
  • Have a two-factor authentication system for any fiduciaries, so someone else always reviews the financial transactions that these people make.
  • Be extremely careful when selecting a fiduciary, whether for yourself or a loved one.

References:

AARP. “Older Americans Hit Hard by Financial Fraud.” (accessed March 23, 2019) https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/cfpb-report-financial-elder-abuse.html

 

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Irrevocable Trust – Can It be Revoked?

A trust can be revocable or irrevocable, says nj.com’s article, “Can an irrevocable trust be revoked?”

A revocable trust is a living trust that’s created with a written agreement between the person creating the trust (also called the grantor or settlor) and the trustee. That’s the person who will manage the assets in the trust. The person who creates the trust, can also name herself as the trustee for her lifetime, and the trust agreement may say that the grantor can revoke or dissolve the trust. That’s why it’s called a revocable trust.

However, with an irrevocable trust, the grantor doesn’t reserve the right to revoke the trust. In effect, once the assets of an irrevocable trust are re-titled and placed in the trust, they belong to the trust beneficiaries, not the grantor. Nonetheless, an irrevocable trust can still be revoked in some states. The grantor may be able to terminate an irrevocable trust, by following the state laws on dissolution. The laws of each state vary in this area. For example, New Jersey has adopted the Uniform Trust Code, which stipulates that an irrevocable trust can be terminated by consent of the trustee and the beneficiaries.

In that state, such a trust may be terminated by a court, provided that the termination isn’t inconsistent with a material purpose of the trust. Likewise, the Minnesota Trust Code grants probate courts authority to modify non-charitable irrevocable trusts in specific situations. In the Gopher State, there are eight different sets of circumstances in which Minnesota’s probate courts have authority to modify or terminate a noncharitable irrevocable trust:

  • With the consent of the settlor and all beneficiaries;
  • With the consent of all beneficiaries;
  • If unanticipated circumstances arise;
  • If there’s the inability to effectively administer the trust;
  • If it’s a non-economic trust, where the costs of administration aren’t justified by value of the trust property;
  • The correction of mistake of fact or law;
  • The achievement of settlor’s tax objectives; or
  • When there’s a combination or division of trusts.

Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney, if you have questions about trusts.

Reference: nj.com (March 25, 2019) “Can an irrevocable trust be

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Surviving Spouse Needs An Estate Plan such as a Revocable Trust
Two Adirondack chairs on deck

Surviving Spouse Needs An Estate Plan such as a Revocable Trust

When one spouse dies after meticulously titling assets to pass through joint tenancy to the surviving spouse, estate planning attorneys flinch. There are occasions when everything works smoothly, but they are the exception. As this article from the Santa Cruz Sentinel warns “After husband’s death, wife needs to create revocable trust.” Actually, she needs more than a revocable trust: she needs an estate plan.

Most of the assets in the plan created by her husband, in this case, did pass to the wife outside of probate. However, there are a number of details that remain. She needs to obtain date-of-death values for any non-IRA securities the couple owned, and she should also have their home’s value determined, so that a new cost basis for the house will be established. She also needs an appointment with an estate planning attorney to create a will and an estate plan.

If she dies without a will, her children will inherit the estate in equal shares by intestate succession. However, if any of her children pass before she does, the estate could be distributed to her grandchildren. If they are of legal age, there is no control over how the assets will be managed.  Making matters worse, if a child or grandchild is disabled and receiving government benefits, an inheritance could make them ineligible for Social Security and Medicaid benefits, unless the inheritance is held within a Special Needs Trust.

Another reason for an estate plan: a will details exactly how assets are distributed, from the set of pearls that great aunt Sarah has kept in the family for decades to the family home. A durable power of attorney is also part of an estate plan, which lets a named family member or trusted friend make financial decisions on your behalf, if you become incapacitated. An estate plan also includes an advance health care directive, so a loved one can make medical decisions on your behalf if you are not able.

These are the basics of an estate plan. They protect loved ones from having to go to court to obtain the power to make decisions on your behalf, as well as protect your family from outsiders making claims on your estate.

A revocable trust is one way to avoid probate. An estate planning attorney will be able to evaluate your own unique situation and determine what the best type of trust would be for your situation, or if you even need a trust.

You may be thinking of putting your home, most families’ biggest asset, into joint tenancy with your children. What if one or more of your children have a divorce, lawsuit or bankruptcy? This will jeopardize your control of your home. A revocable trust will allow your assets to remain in your control.

The last piece in this estate is the IRA. If you are the surviving spouse, you’ll want to roll over your spouse’s IRA into your own. Make sure to update the beneficiary designation. If you neglect this step and the IRA pays into your estate when you pass, then the IRA has to be cashed in within five years of your death. Your children will lose the opportunity to stretch IRA distributions over their lifetimes.

An estate planning attorney can help guide you through this entire process, working through all the details. If your goal is to avoid probate, they can make that happen, while protecting you and your loved ones at the same time.

Reference: Santa Cruz Sentinel (March 24, 2019) “After husband’s death, wife needs to create revocable trust”

 

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What Are the Common Myths of Powers of Attorney?

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s recent article entitled “Five common myths about powers of attorney” explains away some misconceptions about a power of attorney.

  1. There’s just one uniform power of attorney document. No, there are many types. However, they can vary by state. Talk to an experienced estate planning attorney to draft a document to meet your specific needs.
  2. It’s OK to sign a power of attorney, even if I lack mental capacity. No, to be valid, the person granting the rights (the principal) must have mental capacity to execute the document. A power of attorney can be valid for an individual with mental incapacity, provided the document was signed before the occurrence. That’s a key reason to have a durable power of attorney in place.
  3. A durable power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney are the same thing. No, a durable power of attorney grants rights to an agent to act on your behalf, regarding your assets. These rights can be general to all assets for an unlimited time, or the POA can be limited as to the time frame and assets included. A medical power of attorney grants an agent the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf.
  4. Senior citizens are the ones who need a power of attorney. Not true, because accidents and unforeseen illness can strike at any age. You need to have a plan in place to ease the burden of one aspect of an already stressful and complicated situation. Don’t assume your spouse has automatic power to make decisions on your behalf. It can be much more difficult, unless you have given them the power of attorney.
  5. A power of attorney can be used to handle my relative’s estate at death. Again, not true. Although there are other ways to structure an estate to avoid probate, a power of attorney isn’t one of them. A power of attorney lets the agent to stand in the place of the principal to make decisions. It doesn’t continue beyond the death of the principal.

If you avoid these common misconceptions, a power of attorney can be a very useful tool to meet your needs.

Reference: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (March 15, 2019) “Five common myths about powers of attorney”

 

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