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Estate Planning Articles

Avoid these mistakes when setting up a trust

When setting up a revocable trust, you need to be diligent about asset transfers, beneficiary designations and funding formulas. Failure to complete certain steps can prevent the trust from acting as you intended, creating additional cost and unintended consequences for your estate. Common issues include the following: Failure to transfer assets Setting up a trust is just the first step. You must accurately transfer assets into the trust in order for its proper function to take

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Setting up a medical ID on your phone

You may already be familiar with the idea of setting an “in case of emergency” contact that displays on the lock screen of your phone to let emergency personnel know whom to call if you’re found alone unconscious or unable to speak. Smartphone providers now offer enhanced options that let you provide even more emergency information, such as medical conditions and allergies. Newer iPhones make it easy with their integrated Health app, but there are ways

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Naming a guardian for your children

Resist the urge to avoid naming a guardian as part of your estate plan simply because it’s not easy to imagine someone else raising your children. If you don’t, you leave the guardianship of your children up to the courts if you pass away. Think about who, starting with your family members, would be the best choice. Remember that the guardian you choose doesn’t also have to handle money for your children. Assuming you have life

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Life insurance trusts: fund or collapse?

An Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT) has long been a fundamental tool for managing federal estate tax liabilities. But with a sizable increase in the federal estate tax exclusion, some families are wondering if their ILIT is even relevant anymore. An ILIT owns your life insurance policy for you, essentially removing it from your estate. ILITs were popular for their ability to shelter life insurance proceeds from estate taxes. They also give the grantor the ability

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Passage of SECURE Act anticipated by year-end

Estate planners have been watching Congress closely, waiting to see what will happen with the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act. The legislation, designed to boost Americans’ retirement savings, has implications for individual savers and for those planning to pass an inheritance to the next generation. The SECURE Act passed the House of Representatives in May with a nearly unanimous margin of 417-3. The bill is considered to have strong bipartisan support and

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Should you leave siblings unequal shares of your estate?

When you’re reviewing your estate plan, it’s important to think about how to divide your estate among your children. While you don’t need to leave siblings equal shares, be aware that inheriting unequal amounts can cause arguments among children after you pass. To avoid disagreements from the getgo, you may want to leave your children equal shares. If that is your goal, remember to consider any property or accounts you hold jointly with each child. Jointly

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Avoiding Medicaid penalty period for a house transfer

Under the laws of most states, when you transfer your house to a child or anyone else, you enter into a Medicaid penalty period, barring your eligibility for Medicaid for a period of time. A way to avoid the penalty period is for the Medicaid applicant to transfer the house to a child considered to be his or her “caretaker.” A caretaker child is defined as a child who lived in the applicant’s house for at

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Updating estate-planning documents at divorce

The story of a divorcing couple in Arizona demonstrates why you need to update your estate plan at divorce. The couple, who were in their early 40s and had been married for several years, had created a multimillion dollar business together. When they filed for divorce, the process became bitter and full of disagreements about small issues. They were thinking in the moment about the immediate dollars and cents, but didn’t consider what would happen with

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Benefits of mediation in estate planning

A recent case in Illinois highlights the value of mediation in resolving estate-planning disputes. The case involved a successful family business created by Daniel and Mary O’Brien. The business, valued at $125 million as of 2013, included interests in hotels, a nursing home, a golf course, gas stations, fast-food franchises and warehouses. Most of the business assets were operated through limited partnerships, and the rest were held in revocable trusts, in S corporations or in the

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Guidance on grandparent gifting

Grandparents are regularly generous with grandchildren, sometimes giving significant amounts of money. Often they want to share their resources to leave a legacy. In some cases, their children or grandchildren are dealing with financial hardship. Grandparents might also believe that their kin shouldn’t have to wait for their inheritance. Grandparents commonly provided assistance paying for summer camp, college tuition, weddings or down payments for homes. They should keep the following factors in mind when giving to

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