Are you single? Estate Planning is Vital.

Are you single? Estate Planning is Vital.

You may not think much about estate planning if you’re single, but you should. If you don’t have a spouse or close relatives, who will you leave your estate to? A close friend? A charity?

Additionally, you should specify who will make healthcare and financial decisions for you if you can’t make them for yourself. These documents are called Financial & Healthcare Power of Attorneys.

True story (names changed): a young woman graduates from a renowned Veterinary School fulfilling a lifelong passion for animals. At 32 years old, she enters a hospital for a suspicious heart condition. She dies. She is an only child. Her grieving parents grow apart and divorce. Her mother, now single, establishes a trust that, upon the mother’s death, will fund a scholarship program for underprivileged veterinary students in her daughters name at the Veterinary School.

If you die without a will, the State will locate your closest relative so that he or she can receive all of the proceeds of your estate. That may not be what you want. Here is the beneficiary seniority should you die without declarations (Will or Trust):

  1. Spouse
  2. Children
  3. Grandchildren
  4. Parents
  5. Siblings
  6. Nieces/Nephews
  7. Grandparents
  8. Aunts/Uncles
  9. Children of a deceased spouse
  10. Any relatives of a deceased spouse
  11. Your state of legal residence

You may have other intentions; a close friend, a charity or organization, scholarship or educational institution, a step-child, a trust to care for a minor or a pet, or maybe a business partner.

Do I really need a Will if I’m single?

If you have a positive net worth, the answer is yes. It’s normal to choose people who mean something to you and who can benefit from your estate after you pass away.

If you prefer, there are various trusts you can set up, some of which are especially good at transferring money to charities.

Incapacity Planning for Singles

You may not have named a health care representative or indicated your wishes in a medical power of attorney or a health care directive. Without these, you’ll have no control over who will represent you if you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated.

Someone will be making these decisions regarding your physical health. So, if the state can’t find a family member to represent you, everyone will be looking for an heir to act on your behalf. Thus, someone who may not know you will be making decisions about whether you will receive artificial sustenance or will become an organ donor.

A close friend, a professional representative, a lawyer or even a family doctor can be chosen to represent you. You need someone who you would feel comfortable with making decisions on your behalf. If you have strong feelings about resuscitation or other procedures, you need to make these known so your wishes are followed.

Inheritance of Your Business

If you’re a business owner, you’ll want to consider who will inherit your business and determine what restrictions (if any) you would like to put on your beneficiaries. If you’re an entrepreneur with no spouse or children, if you’re widowed or divorced, estate planning can be a little more difficult. Ask yourself, do you want your shares to be left to a business partner or another loved one, or held in trust for a minor?

You are protecting yourself and your preferences with your estate plan, using it as a tool to help you protect your loved ones and the things that are important to you.

Contact Estate Planning Attorney Chuck Bendig today.

The Top Estate Planning Errors and How To Avoid Them

The Top Estate Planning Errors and How To Avoid Them

There are many myths and misconceptions about estate planning. In this article, we’ll discuss the top common mistakes and how to avoid them, which will help your family save thousands of dollars in unnecessary taxes and probate fees:

Beneficiary omissions
Not naming beneficiaries or failing to review your beneficiaries often enough could subject your estate to probate, creditors and delays.

Forgetting to change an ex-spouse on an IRA
Many people aren’t aware that when you remarry, your new spouse becomes your beneficiary on the day you get married, but not in an IRA. This can have disastrous consequences for your new spouse and family.

Leaving assets directly to a minor without addressing guardianship issues
Who will handle a child’s inheritance? The phrase “for their benefit” welcomes a whole host of potentially abusive interpretations. Make sure to address this in your estate plans to avoid any misinterpretations.

Ownership mistakes and imbalances
If too many assets are in one spouse’s name, it could wreak havoc when it comes to tax planning. One spouse could have a much larger IRA and own a vacation house in his or her name only. By shifting the house or investment to the other spouse, the estate becomes more equalized, possibly reducing taxes.

Not having a residuary clause
A residuary clause covers items not named in a will or included in a trust, typically including items you don’t yet own but will before your death. Sometimes there are things you might not even know you own.

Not planning for the unexpected
There are a multitude of things that can happen, such as a sudden decline in your spouse’s health or a change in your assets. You can address this by having assets go to a trust. You can control how, to whom and when money gets distributed.

Not dealing with your own mortality
Don’t leave your family ruined because you don’t want to admit to yourself that you are going to die someday. Don’t make matters worse by failing to plan.

Not updating your will
Many changes take place within a family or business structure. Ensure the assets you leave behind are given to the people you intended to have them. Revisit your will every few years.

Not planning for disability
An unexpected long-term disability can affect your personal and financial affairs in many different ways. Decisions like who will handle your finances, who will raise your children or make health care decisions on your behalf are essential. It may be necessary to appoint a power of attorney or create a living trust to work on your behalf if you’re unable to do it for yourself.

Chances are, you already know you can benefit from having an estate plan. Not only can it help maximize the actual value of the estate you pass on to your heirs and beneficiaries, but you’ll also have an opportunity to make informed decisions concerning how your assets should be handled while you are still alive.

We can help you put together a clean and concise estate plan. Contact Chuck Bendig today.

What happens to her if something happens to you?

What happens to her if something happens to you?

It sounds simple; You just want to give your assets to the people you love in a way that provides for those that can’t provide for themselves and avoids fighting so the family stays strong.

Should I download a Will template or should I meet with a lawyer?

Family structures have gotten pretty complex in the last few decades. With many couples electing to not marry and live together with or without having children, with divorce rates over 60%, and remarriages extending core families, there are lots of horror stories stemming from Wills that weren’t written properly. Loopholes and estate plan ambiguity can provoke your loved ones to contest your Will and file lawsuits to claim what is “rightfully theirs”. Ohio inheritance laws update frequently. Uncle Sam may (but not often) want a piece, how can you minimize the tax? An estate lawyer can be extremely helpful.

What is actually yours to give?

If you’re married, divorced with children, or have contracts (i.e. prenuptial agreements and/or certain trusts), you may have restrictions.

What should your Will include?

Here are a few basics:

Beneficiaries are people you choose to receive real property or personal property in the form of cash or assets. It’s common to name your spouse, children, friends, charities, or other family members.

Executor is the individual who will carry out what’s written in your Will. You can choose whomever you like, but most people choose a responsible friend or family member. If you don’t name an executor, often this job falls into the hands of an administrator who has to pay for a bond.

Parental guardian: If you are caring for young children, it’s important to name the person(s) you want to raise your children should you pass away. Since this is a major life endeavor for the person or people you name, list a few individuals in case one or two of them are not in a position to take on this role at the time of your death.

What should be left out of your Will?

Conditional gifts: You are not allowed to leave conditional gifts, such as bequeathing money to a beneficiary on the condition that they get married, get divorced or make some other life change. Although it may make for a good movie plot, in real life, it’s just not legal.

Final arrangements instructions: Your Will is typically not read until after the funeral, so your requests may not be carried out.

Allocate property to pets: Pets cannot legally inherit any assets. This kind of thing happens more often than you would think! Create a Pet Trust and leave assets in the care of a Trustee for the benefit of your pets.

Should I include a personal note?

You can attach a personal note to your Will as a way to say goodbye to loved ones. It’s a good way to personalize a somewhat sterile document. Some people leave a video.

Your Will may not be the only part of an estate plan. Various trusts can be of enormous help and may have advantages over a Will. You also can leave assets to transfer at death outside of Probate Court. The most important thing is to make sure your Will is as clear as possible so that your wishes are fulfilled correctly.

Contact Estate Planning Attorney Chuck Bendig to get started.

Setting the record straight:  Myths of the Living Trust

Setting the record straight: Myths of the Living Trust

If you’re reading this, chances are you have already thought about setting up a living trust.

First, let’s define the benefits of a living trust.

A living trust allows you to retain control over the trust property until death. Then, the trust is turned over to the successor trustee, chosen by you, to distribute the trust property according to your wishes. This helps to avoid probate, resulting in a faster and easier distribution to your beneficiaries without the additional costs that are often associated with probate. It also maintains your privacy since its provisions stay confidential, compared to a last will and testament, which becomes a matter of public record.

You can update a revocable trust at any time during your lifetime. Revocable living trusts are used to protect your property until your beneficiary is mature enough to make wise decisions about their inheritance.

Next, let’s delve into some common myths about a living trust.

Myth #1: Living trusts are only for the wealthy.
While it is true that many wealthy people set up trusts, it doesn’t mean that this option is only for the rich. In fact, many people with average incomes find living trusts to be extremely beneficial; especially those with children or dependents.

Myth #2: Living trusts only benefit beneficiaries, not the people making the trusts and not you, the grantor.
In fact, a trust allows for easier handling of your affairs if you become incapacitated, and makes things much less stressful for your loved ones that are left to care for your affairs when you’re unable to do so.

Myth #3: You can’t access funds once they’re in a living trust.
This ignores the “living” part of the living trust. All funds and assets can be made as accessible as you wish, to you or to whomever you choose. You can structure the trust so that everything is accessible to you and you alone until your death.

Myth #4: Creating a living trust is expensive and complicated.
Setting up a trust may cost a bit more up front than a last will and testament, but the cost savings later can make up for these expenses in the long run.

Myth #5: A will can do the same things a trust can do.
A living trust adds flexibility. For one, it allows you to give your hard-earned money and property to those you care about while still protecting it for them. For example, if you have beneficiaries who you feel are not able to handle large sums of money on their own yet. Maybe your potential beneficiary is struggling with debt or an unstable marriage; a living trust may be the perfect instrument for you.

Have a discussion with estate planning attorney Chuck Bendig. Call 614.878.7777

The Estate Planning Challenge of Blended Families

The Estate Planning Challenge of Blended Families

According to statistics from the Pew Research Center, a staggering 42 percent of Americans are in a “step” relationship. Which means that you or someone you know is probably one of the 95.5 million people who are part of a blended family.

Estate planning that is needed to secure a financial future for the millions of Americans who are divorced, remarried and widowed is available, but it can be tricky. There are numerous ways in which your plan can go wrong. The stakes get even higher if you want your estate left to your current spouse and family versus your former spouse.
The problem? Spouses and families, current and former, aren’t always able to come to an amicable agreement on vital issues.

Let’s take a look at some of the vital questions that may loom in a blended family estate plan:

  • How would you like your assets handled when you die?
  • Who do you want to make decisions for you if you were unable to make them for yourself?
  • How will you balance the needs of children from the first spouse with the needs of the second spouse?
  • Would you like your surviving family to have a significant amount of decision-making power over your estate?

You might want to establish a trust to lay everything out in detail.

With a better idea of what you want to happen in the case of your untimely demise, you should discuss your plans with a qualified estate planning attorney, who can formalize them and add legal structure. Leaving open-ended questions may provoke “slighted” family members to sue causing delays, dissention, and legal fees.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Ben Franklin

Using legal documents (Living Will, Trusts, and Power of Attorneys), we can ensure that everyone receives the inheritance that you want.

Contact estate planning attorney Chuck Bendig to get started.

When should I begin my estate planning?

When should I begin my estate planning?

There’s an easy answer to this. It’s never too early. You’ve heard tomorrow isn’t promised. It’s true. At worst, you could die before getting around to executing a plan, and that could leave your heirs with a costly, divisive mess.

What happens if you suffer a debilitating health crisis that prevents you from seeing that your wishes are carried out, or even prevents you from signing essential documents?

Did you know that applicable laws that are favorable to you now may be changed to be less so later? The more years that slip by, the more vulnerable you become to being taken advantage of because of your advanced age.

If your needs change in the future, you can modify your plan; although prospective change isn’t a valid excuse for delay. Do your best to look out for yourself and for your family now, and be sure to keep your plan current. Make sure that you have the right documents and that they are in keeping with estate laws now and in the future. An estate & probate attorney can help you with this.

Here is a quick summary of the estate-planning process

Getting started on estate planning can be a lot simpler than you think. To start with, you will want to go through these basic steps:

Take inventory of your assets, including investments, retirement accounts, insurance policies, real estate holdings and valuable items including your digital assets.
Determine your goals and your inheritors. If you have minor children or elderly loved one, who will care for them when you are gone?
Designate a person that you trust to manage your business affairs; Power of Attorney.
Designate a person to direct your medical care should you become incapacitated; Power of Attorney Healthcare
Designate an Executor to implement the directives outlined in your Will.

After deciding what kinds of bequests you wish to make, it’s important to discuss your plans with your heirs. You don’t want to leave any unpleasant surprises. Think about how best to leave your assets. A simple Will may not be the best option. An attorney can help you with a variety of trusts, which have many advantages in creating an estate plan.

I can’t stress enough that the earlier and the greater the degree of clarity you use when you outline your plans to family and friends, the less chance there will be for disagreements when you are gone.