Estate Planning

Retirement Planning and Saving

Many Americans are saving nothing or very little in their day to day lives for retirement. While the unemployment rate has previously been  low and wages are seeing an increase the American worker is not saving enough of their income which will inevitably lead to short falls of operational cash during an unexpected crisis and in their retirement years further down the road. (https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/15/bankrate-65-percent-of-americans-save-little-or-nothing.html)

Bankrate maintains that half of all Americans will not be able to maintain their standard of living once they have stopped working. GoBankingRates corroborates these findings citing that over forty percent of Americans have less than $10,000 dollars saved for their retirement. These statistics point to a dismal retirement future for nearly half of all Americans.

This doesn’t have to be your future. It doesn’t matter how little you currently save. You don’t have to become the horror story of retiring and meeting financial ruin like so many do. What matters is that you change the trajectory of your retirement life by proactively examining how you are spending and saving. The sooner you begin the better your chances of success.

The first and most important strategy to implement is learning to live beneath your means. That translates into saving money: probably more than you currently do. Saving money is an underestimated survival skill. To save begin by tracking your spending habits for thirty days. Once you have the data create a realistic and doable budget. Fluid expenditures like groceries, eating out, clothing, gasoline and auto maintenance need to have a set monthly budget. Create a simple two columned sheet of paper with budgeted and actual expenditures to monitor your progress. Typical categories where you can reduce expenditures include; cable packages, phone plans, groceries, entertainment costs, gym memberships, clothing and dining out. Start asking yourself over and over “Is this a need or a want?” and if it is a need, how can you make the cost lower. The game is how much money you can save, not spend.

Consolidate your non essential debt and pay it off, completely. Make it a primary goal to get out of debt. Stop being a debt slave. In the credit card industry there is an insider term used for people who fully pay their credit cards off each month. Guess what it is? It is a deadbeat. Companies cannot make money off of you if you stop becoming a slave to debt. If you can’t afford it then find a way to live without it.

Double check your insurance rates on your car, homeowner, and health. Do not purchase flight insurance, extended warranties, and disease insurance. Check this site for fifteen insurance policies you don’t need. (https://www.investopedia.com/insurance/insurance-policies-you-dont-need/). Get rid of the policy all together or find wiggle room for reduced premiums or get a more competitive provider to save money.

Get rid of automatic payments attached to your banking accounts. Most people can eliminate expenditures they forgot they are even locked into. This also forces you to take control of your bill/payment cycles. Being involved in the day to day of bill payment keeps you far more aware of your financial situation and keeps your mind active.

Consider downsizing your home. If you are in a two story house it is inevitable that one day you will not be able to climb those stairs. A one story home or a first floor condo or apartment can help you purge your life of ‘stuff’ you no longer need. Some of those things can be sold and the proceeds can be saved. Any profit left over from downsizing immediately goes into savings or a financial investment vehicle to provide and protect your senior years.

These are some but not all of the ways it is possible to change your savings habits. Guidance from a trusted professional is key to the pathway of success because there will always be roadblocks and setbacks that you must make adjustments for.  Structuring a legal plan in connection with a retirement plan can provide added protection and allow you to enjoy retirement more thoroughly.

Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Law

The Benefit of an Elder Law Attorney

An elder law attorney specializes as a legal advocate for aging adults and their loved ones. Elder law encompasses a wide range of legal matters affecting an older or disabled person. Issues related to guardianship, retirement, health care including advance directives, long term care planning, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and other relevant matters to aging all fall under the umbrella of elder law.

An older family member who legally prepares for their aging process helps their family members by addressing day to day issues that affect their actual care through proper legal documentation should the senior become incapacitated. Seniors often falsely assume that a close family member, including a spouse, will automatically be able to make decisions on their behalf if something goes wrong with their finances or health. Postponing legal document preparation through an elder attorney generally winds up being more problematic and expensive to a senior’s estate and wellness.

Many seniors find making legal preparations uncomfortable at first, as the task forces them to confront and assess their mortality. Further into the process, many aging adults experience relief, having removed the fear of the unknown of aging to the best of their ability. Legal preparation can keep a senior from health or financial ruin if they become incapable of making informed decisions regarding these matters. In the absence of legal documents, their family is left with the expensive and time-consuming process of petitioning the courts for legal authority to act on their loved one’s behalf – referred to as establishing a guardianship. By planning early and making sure the correct legal documents are prepared stress on the senior and the senior’s loved ones is greatly reduced.

Personal choices regarding end of life care and the disposition of assets and property outlined in legal documentation guarantees that your wishes will be respected by law. This documentation is especially important for seniors when a family member might seek control over the process, whether moral or self-serving, to follow their whims when handling your wellbeing when you are most vulnerable. Besides adhering to your expressed wishes, having your choices documented relieves family members from guessing what you want.

When preparing for your aging process, seek out a well-regarded attorney who specializes in elder law. While many general practice attorneys may have some experience with elder law topics, regulations are ever-changing and complex. It is best to find an attorney who specializes in elder law so that you get the best and most up-to-date advice.

Proactively address your aging process with a qualified elder attorney to ensure your wishes are carried out now and in the future, regardless of what happens with your health. Both you and your loved ones will garner invaluable peace of mind knowing that your wishes are known and legally documented. We would be happy to help you with your planning, and we look forward to hearing from you. Please don’t hesitate to contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Law

Legal planning Related to Alzheimer’s Disease

Currently, there is no cure for the more than 5 million Americans who have Alzheimer’s disease. Projections by the Alzheimer’s Association (alz.org) are that by 2050 more than 14 million Americans will suffer from this disease. What can you do if you are medically diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? Aside from following the advice of your medical doctor an important step in your overall estate plan is an advanced directive to ensure your future wishes are met when you are no longer able to think or communicate clearly because of your disease progression. Having an advanced directive that accurately and legally reflects your financial and health care wishes allows you to focus on enjoying your life knowing you are doing all that you can to address your future circumstances.

You may already have advanced directives. It is a general term for various documents like a living will, instruction directive, health care power of attorney, and health care proxy. Now that Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the US, a newer advance directive specifically addressing dementia is becoming more common and is called the Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Mental Health Advance Directive.

An advanced dementia directive takes a comprehensive look at living with Alzheimer’s. Issues like where you will live, coping with profound changes in intimate relationships, how to finance your care, your preferred caregiver and healthcare agent, care of your pets, when you stop driving, and more. The essence of a dementia directive is to make life decisions that will span the course of time you survive with the disease. Life expectancy after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can range from as short as three years, with an average of eight to ten years, and as long as twenty years. Your advanced dementia directive provides you a measure of control and a sense of relief that your intentions are known when the time comes when you can no longer communicate them effectively. This document also serves as a detailed guideline for your loved ones to follow.

Some advanced dementia directives may even include an end of life strategy known as “voluntarily stopping eating and drinking” or VSED.  A VSED is considered a legitimate way to hasten death and is used in cases of terminally ill patients. Originally a VSED addressed a patient experiencing physical decline while maintaining cognitive function. In the case of Alzheimer’s, a VSED addresses the opposite issue of cognitive decline. Most people, when faced with a future of being mentally unfit in a body that will not quit, prefer to find an exit strategy they consider has a modicum of dignity. A VSED can prevent distressing situations for yourself and your family system.

Though requests for VSED are currently uncommon there is a groundswell of patient-driven need. This need says that if incapacitated through dementia, their choice is not to endure what can be a long physical decline while cognitively absent. Most people do not want life prolonged beyond the point where they are participating in it. Still, state and federal laws have to catch up to VSED as, by law, long term care facilities are required to offer daily meals with feeding assistance if necessary.

A directive that addresses Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia does not replace the more standard advance health care directive. Most conventional health care directives address cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the use of ventilators, artificial hydration (intravenous fluids) and nutrition (feeding tube), participation in research and clinical trials, organ donation, comfort care, and pain relief services. Having both advanced medical and dementia directives in place not only assures you but also provides relief to your family. Your clearly defined choices can lighten the suffering your own family will feel when you can no longer communicate with or recognize them. Reconciling end of life scenarios is always challenging, but once handled, it frees you up to get on with the joy of living. 

We would be happy to help you determine the correct advanced directives for your needs and desires. Please contact us if you would like to discuss this matter further. Please don’t hesitate to contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Estate Planning

Dangers of Adding Others to your Accounts

I want to leave my bank accounts to my children when I’m gone. Can’t I just make the children joint owners?

That idea sounds better than it actually is. Yes, you would avoid court proceedings when you pass. But you’d put yourself at risk, at a time when you might need your money yourself. Your accounts would be exposed to your children’s divorcing spouses, bankruptcy, liability for legal actions, or, last and doubtless most uncomfortable to think about, your children could simply spend your money without your permission.

The best way to resist temptation is to avoid the opportunity in the first place.

Plan for the Future of Your Finances

While you are alive, it is essential to designate a person you trust to pay your bills when you can’t. With our comprehensive power of attorney document, your trusted person can take care of your finances when you aren’t able. Avoid downloadable internet versions. Come see us instead. You don’t want banks and insurance companies rejecting your document as insufficient when you most need it!

Then, for when you pass, make your bank account “payable on death” (POD). You remain sole owner of your account during your lifetime. Then, when the time comes, the POD designation is a simple and no-cost way to leave your money to your heirs.

Just gather your heirs’ contact information, Social Security numbers, and birth dates. Then visit the bank, ask for their POD forms, and fill them in with the people or charities to whom you would like to leave your money. Tell your heirs what you are doing, and where your accounts are located, so they will know to come forward to claim the money at the appropriate time.

Power of Attorney

If your power of attorney is powerful and detailed enough, you can be confident that your trusted person will take care of your finances if you become disabled. For when you pass, you will have your POD in place to transfer your money to your heirs at that time. No fees, no court costs, and your accounts are covered. That’s a much better plan than a joint account.

For help with your planning needs, please give us a call. We’d be honored to help make sure your plan is what you want and that it is properly documented.

If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Uncategorized

Millennials Financial Planning

A large part of millennials’ formative years was influenced by the US sub-prime mortgage crisis beginning in 2007, shortly followed by an international banking crisis, which led to what became known as the Great Recession. Millennials include fiscally conservative, savings oriented, and future planners seeking financial freedom as core attributes. The millennial generation would have ranged from ages 11 – 26 years of age when this economic downturn began. Living through this economic volatility, not seen since the Great Depression, gave rise to the fiscally conservative millennial mindset. The other socio-economic force that continues to shape the millennial fiscal mindset is the student loan crisis. Cbinsights.com finds 41 percent of millennials carry student loan debt for which there is no personal bankruptcy relief. This debt crisis places unique financial pressures on nearly half of a generation, and many are seeking new ways to manage their income, debt, and future savings. 

This conservative mindset has underpinnings of investment optimism about achieving financial goals according to reporting by the Union Bank of Switzerland Investor Watch report (UBS), and millennial goals are different from generations before them. The definitions of what being successful include a focus on personal success rather than maxing out returns on investments. This personal success is a balance of financial, relationship, and experiential factors, prioritizing long-term financial considerations like retirement or caregiving aging parents. Millennials understand their number one goal is to attain financial freedom, with a conscience. The UBS report goes on to say that 78 percent of millennials are more likely than other generations to believe income is a critical success factor and feel that income should be about 220,000 dollars to be considered a success. Millennials are also more apt to think money can buy happiness because their pursuit of money is geared toward financial freedom rather than excessive accumulation.

UBS Investor Watch Report

According to Forbes, many mid-life millennials (late 20’s and 30’s) are changing the order of, or opting out of traditional family and financial milestones of their predecessor generations. Some will have children before marriage; others will resolve all debt (think student loans) before entering into homeownership, and most will invest with sustainability and environmental concerns at the forefront of decision making. As the oldest millennials turn age 40 in 2020, many are conducting personal financial checkups, taking stock of their assets, liabilities, and insurance needs. Re-evaluation of and adjustments to financial plans help to ensure financial goals can be met.

Though most millennials do not yet have a professional financial advisor, ten self-directed steps can help to evaluate your current financial plans and make any necessary adjustments.

  • Specifically, relist your financial goals and work backward from them to see what financial processes you need to put in place to achieve those goals. Embrace learning and be patient as you track your spending, pay yourself first, and break long term goals into short achievable steps.
  • Think about life insurance. What will happen to your family or loved ones in the event your family has to survive without you and the income you provide? A death benefit will provide financial stability and help them to survive.
  • If you have not already done so, make a will and include medical directives, and consider a durable power of attorney should you become incapacitated.
  • Revisit the parameters of your current budget, and if you are willing, get outside professional input as most people’s expenses are higher than they think. There is a human tendency to overlook some existing expenditures and not be aggressive enough when it is time to make cuts in spending.
  • Assess and update your investment choices. Particularly pay attention to your 401(k) plan and other retirement savings vehicles like IRAs. Confirm they are aligned to your risk tolerance and perhaps reduce the number of high-risk equities into slower, high-dividend stocks. Look at the advantages of adding an annuity into your 401(k) plan and other changes that the SECURE Act of 2020 brings to retirement planning. Understand that the old model of 60 – 40 equities to bond ratio is no longer deemed advisable.
  • If you have excessive credit card debt, address it now. Pay down the highest interest balance(s) first if you are servicing debt as opposed to attacking a principal payment.
  • Do you have student loans? Again, pay down the highest-interest loans first by monthly auto-deducting it from your checking account. Explore the possibility of consolidating multiple student loans into one payment and negotiate a lower rate and longer time to pay lower monthly payments.
  • Weigh the costs of homeownership. Some millennials, particularly those without children, may prefer not to be anchored to home real estate, maintaining the flexibility of movement for job opportunities. Those who want a home must assess financial responsibilities beyond the costs of a mortgage and real estate tax, considering the workload and cost of home upkeep.
  • Review your health insurance, and be sure it is adequate to cover your family’s needs. Children especially are subject to many doctor visits and requirements for attending school with proper vaccinations. If you are fortunate enough to have health insurance through your employer, check that the deductible and co-insurance options make the most sense for your situation.
  • Finally, take a good look at your health situation. While this doesn’t sound related to finances in the long run, it is. Is your diet unhealthy, and are you overweight? These factors potentially set you up for the likelihood of diabetes two and future joint and mobility problems. Are your cholesterol and blood pressure numbers in a healthy range? Do you need to reduce alcohol intake? Do you work out consistently in the three formats you need, which are weight training (strength building), aerobic exercise, and a stretching routine like yoga? Being as physically healthy as possible reduces overall health costs.

Millennials are at the cusp of their middle age planning stage of life and realizing that life’s priorities are a moving target.  While the above pertains to millennials, the importance of planning – both legal and financial – is critical at any age.

We help families of all ages plan for what is important to them, and to make sure their plans and wishes and properly documented. If you’d like to discuss your particular situation, please give us a call. We’d be honored to help. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Healthcare

Why You Should Have a Strategy for Your Aging Parents Before a Medical Crisis Hits

Many adult children in the US live far away from their parents. Managing aging parents or in-law medical events can be a serious challenge without proper preparation and understanding of what your parents’ strategy may or may not be, no matter where you live. Do you know what legal documentation your parents have in place regarding their medical care? Do they have advance directives that can help guide your medical decision-making process? Do you and your spouse openly discuss the situations of each other’s parents?

Medical advancements facilitate aging Americans’ longevity even with comorbidities such as high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, atrial fibrillation, and other health issues. Hospitals can typically fix non-life-threatening conditions easily enough, but what happens when a parent is released to return home? Are you prepared? Is there a plan? Many adult children tend to practice avoidance, denial, and wishful thinking when thinking about their aging parents’ behalf in a potential medical crisis. It is advisable to organize and prepare for the changes that inevitably come to your parents’ health.

More than ever, seniors are choosing to live independently and with autonomy about their life decisions. Even if your parents are in a well-run continuing care retirement community, there will come a day when their health will force a change in their lifestyle and living arrangements. Many parents will resist “help,” which they may consider more as interference. Whether they believe they are being a burden to you or decline a geriatric care manager’s services due to “cost” concerns, most older people do not want others interfering in their private affairs. 

The goal is to find a way to help while still affording your parents the dignity and respect they want and deserve. To achieve a comprehensive plan on your parents’ behalf, travel to them for an honest discussion. If this is not possible due to COVID-19 restrictions, then virtual meetings are best, followed by phone calls as hearing loss typically makes communicating useful information difficult. Even on a screen, a face-to-face connection allows a parent to read lips, which is a typical strategy for older people experiencing hearing loss.

Review what legal paperwork your parents have and make sure it is in order. Many documents have a signature from many years ago, and things may have changed. If there is no designation of a medical power of attorney, be sure there is a document naming a “personal representative” to address restrictions outlined in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). This document allows the waiving of privacy concerns that permits access to a parent’s medical information while the parent is in the hospital.

Create an up-to-date list of all your parents’ doctors. The list should include medical contact information and all medicines (prescription or otherwise) that the parents take. If their general physician is not a geriatric specialist, it will help to find them one. Post-hospital fog and newly prescribed medications from an adverse health event can create confusion in an older parent. A geriatric doctor will know to look for and resolve these types of issues. Ask about the parameters for health care intervention, such as dialysis, post-hospital during the time of COVID-19?

Explain to your parents that being released from a hospital for a non-life-threatening, yet serious health episode is usually followed by the need for a care manager, at-home nursing care, or at least companion care. This additional care should not fall to a spouse if the parents live together. A spouse has their unique role to fill as well as personal health challenges with which to contend. Heaping an increased responsibility for spousal health care upon them may be damaging to their health.

Before an unforeseen medical crisis can occur, identify several qualified agencies in your parents’ hometown. Review each agency and candidate carefully. It is easier to integrate a suitable candidate at the outset than having the chaos of retaining and releasing multiple workers. Remember that a candidate who works for one parent may not be another parent’s preference in the future. Maintain a strong relationship with the agency provider. They are an essential resource, and you will probably need them in the future.

Take the time to learn the specifics of your parents’ healthcare and living arrangements. Coordinating your plan of response is contingent upon whether your parents live independently, in assisted living, or a retirement community. Wherever it is your parents live, their first desire will be to go home after an unexpected hospitalization. The desire to return home is a universal truth. Knowing the agencies that can quickly provide the type of care your parent needs in their home setting will go a long way to a successful transition. The road to recovery may require a few weeks of nurse visits, physical or occupational therapists, or simply companionship. The faster you can meet the need, the easier it will be on your parent.

If a full recovery is not possible, what will be your plan to address the new status of their normal? How much more medical oversight and assistance will they require? Know that in these instances, a parent can quickly spend through Medicare allotments afforded for temporary care. If they do not have long-term care, and many aging Americans do not, you will have to find ways to help them receive the care that they require.

If there are multiple adult children, is there an expectation that all siblings share information and work on the problems at hand, or is one in charge? Is this designation formally documented? Managing sibling relationships is key to avoiding family conflict. Also, understand your parents’ financial arrangements. Most parents will ask about the cost of any new healthcare service being arranged and decline using it. It is hard for a parent to spend down the money they worked their entire life to amass.

Knowing your parents’ aging strategies will not address every issue you might encounter because they may not have all the necessary decisions and documents in order. You can only work within the authority they choose to provide. As attorneys, we can help identify gaps in their planning and recommend ways to fill those gaps so everyone can have peace of mind.  If you’d like to discuss ways we can help, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700 to learn more about your Medicaid planning needs.

Estate Planning

The Importance of Keeping Your Estate Plan Current

You should check your estate planning documents every so often, to make sure they’re still good, especially with big life changes like births, marriages, divorces, and moving to another state. Children grow up, marriages dissolve, property gets sold, residences change. That’s why we recommend that you consult us for an estate-plan check-up every five years or so.

What Happens If You Retire in Another State?

If you retire to another state, your will would probably be good, but powers of attorney vary from state to state. Documents from the “old” state might not work in the “new” one, and your documents would not be there for you when you need them.

How Does a Spouse or Ex-spouse Effect My Estate Plan?

Suppose you willed your property to your spouse and appointed that person to be your power of attorney. You got divorced, but you never got around to changing your plan. The law would usually step in to prevent your ex-spouse from inheriting, but you might be stuck with that person holding power of attorney over your property and health care.

Maybe you named your ex-spouse’s father as your executor and agent. Now he can’t stand you and blames you for the break-up.

How Do I Divide my Assets Equally to my Children?

Perhaps you willed your property to your two children equally – but now one child is addicted to opioids. Your will did not restrict how money should be spent. If your addicted child inherits a lot of money in one chunk, that money could vanish to drugs and your child’s survival might be at risk.

Or, you deeded your house to one child and made a will leaving money to your other child. Then you forgot about the deed and made another will, years later. That will split everything equally. The law would invalidate the second will as to the house, because deeds supplant wills. Consequently, one child might end up receiving more value than the other. That unfairness might sour the children against each other forever.

If you got divorced, sold property, moved to another state, or did your documents more than five years ago, come see us for an estate plan check-up.

When it comes to estate planning, “once is not done.” Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700 to learn more about your estate planning options.

Estate Planning

Understanding the Differences Between Wills and Trusts

Wills and trusts have specific and quite different benefits for estate planning purposes. Each state has specific laws and regulations governing these legal documents. You can have both a will and a trust; however, the information in each should compliment the other. As a standalone, it is not accurate to say one is better than the other. The better choice for you, or a blend of both documents, depends on your assets and life circumstances. Begin by assessing your situation, goals, and needs, and understanding what wills and trusts do to guide your decision making. Then, along with an attorney, you will be able to identify the solution that best suits and protects your family.

At its most basic level, a will allows you to appoint an executor for your estate, name guardians for your children and pets, designate where your assets go, and specify final wishes and arrangements. A will is only enacted upon your death. It has some limitations regarding the distribution of assets, and wills are also subject to a probate process (which occurs in court and is overseen by a judge) and, as such, are part of public records.

Types of Wills for Your Estate Plan

The last will and testament designates a person’s final wishes about bank accounts, real estate, personal property, and who should inherit these items. A personal will outlines how to distribute possessions, whether to another person, a group, or donate them to charity. It also deems responsibility to others for custody of dependents and management of accounts and other interests. Accounts can include digital assets with a tangible or monetary value associated with it, such as funds in a PayPal account.

A pour-over will ensures an individual’s remaining assets will automatically transfer to a previously established trust upon their death. This type of will always accompanies a trust.

A living will or advance directive specifies the type of medical care that an individual prefers if they cannot communicate their wishes.

A joint will and mutual will is meant for a married couple to ensure that their property is disposed of in an identical manner. A mirror will is two separate but identical wills, which may or may not also be mutual wills.

A holographic or handwritten will is valid in about half of the states and must meet the specific state’s requirements. Authentication of this will type for acceptance to the probate process also varies by state. There is always the possibility that a court will not accept a holographic will. Even if you have limited assets, your best strategy is to have your will professionally documented by an attorney. A video of your final wishes does not create a valid will.

Trusts are somewhat more complicated than wills, and the many different trust types can greatly benefit your estate and beneficiaries. Generally, a trust provides for the distribution and management of your assets during your lifetime and after death. Trusts can apply to any asset you hold inside the trust and offer more control over when and how your assets are distributed. There are many different trust forms and types, far more than wills.

However, the creation of a trust is only the beginning of the process. You must fund your trust by legally transferring assets into it, making the trust the owner of those assets. This process makes creating a trust a bit more complicated to set up; however, a trust is often enacted to minimize or completely avoid probate, thus keeping personal records private. Avoiding probate is a huge advantage for some people and often justifies the additional complex legal work of setting up a trust. There are nearly as many types of trusts as issues to address in your estate planning, and each offers different protections. However, trusts generally fall into three basic categories.

Basic Trust Types For an Estate Plan

A revocable living trust is, by far, the most commonly implemented trust type. The person who creates and funds the trust is known as the grantor and will typically act as the directing trustee during their lifetime. The grantor may undo the trust, change its terms, and move property and assets in and out of the trust’s ownership as they deem desirable. Revocable living trusts are designed to switch to an irrevocable trust upon the death of the grantor.

An irrevocable living trust is legally binding on its date of designation and allows very few provisions for change. The trust grantor funds the irrevocable living trust with property and assets, and the trust property is then under the care and control of the individual the grantor names as trustee. The grantor cannot change their mind and “undo” the trust. There are unique tax implications and other benefits to an irrevocable trust, including protecting a person’s home and savings from the high costs of long term care. These benefits can make relinquishing control worthwhile.

A testamentary trust is a provision within a will, appointing a trustee to manage the deceased’s assets. This trust is often used when the beneficiaries are minor children or someone who is receiving public benefits. This trust type is also used to reduce estate tax liabilities and ensure professional asset management. A testamentary trust is not a living trust. It only exists upon the death of the testator (the writer of the will). The executor of the deceased’s estate would follow the terms of the trust (called administering the trust) as part of the probate process.

Things to put into a trust include but are not limited to:
·      Stocks, bonds, mutual funds
·      Money market accounts
·      Brokerage accounts
·      Patents, copyrights, and royalty contracts
·      House and other real estate
·      Business interests and notes payable to you
·      Jewelry and precious metals
·      Works of art or other valuable collections
Assets that are not affected by trusts include but are not limited to:
·      Life insurance proceeds
·      Payable on death bank accounts
·      Retirement accounts
·      Jointly owned assets
·      Real estate subject to transfer-on-death deed

The many benefits that proper estate planning with wills and trusts can provide to your family are worth some thoughtful contemplation, legal counsel, and properly drafted documents.  We would be happy to meet with you and discuss which options are best for your particular situation. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700 to learn more about your estate planning options.

Estate Planning

The Importance of Family Values as Part of an Inheritance

Addressing and legally formalizing inheritance of family values and assets can be challenging, especially if parents wait too long to begin instilling family values.  Undoubtedly the best time to teach and empower your children as eventual inheritors of your family legacy is during childhood, then continuing throughout adulthood. Waiting until your later stages in life to discuss family values as a guide to handling inherited worth is often ill-received as grown adult children prefer not to feel parented anymore, particularly when they are raising children of their own. 

There is value in the spiritual, intellectual, and human capital of rising generations, and it is incumbent upon older generations to embrace this notion and work with their heirs rather than dictating to them their ideas about how to facilitate better outcomes. While the directions taken by newer generations will likely differ and can sometimes be downright frightening than that of their elders, there can still be a deep sense of service and responsibility to family values and stewardship of inherited wealth. Allow your children to exert their influence over the family enterprise early on in life and make adjustments that create synergy, connection, and like-mindedness.

If this description of a somewhat ideal family system does not resemble yours, take heart. Most families do not conform to perfect standards of interaction. The more affluent a family is, the higher the failure rate to disperse assets without severe fallout. The Williams Group conducted a 20-year study and determined there is a 70 percent failure rate that includes rapid asset depletion and disintegration of family relationships during and after inheritance. Establishing inheritable trusts can provide real benefits. Benefits include avoiding probate, reducing time to handle estate matters, privacy protection, the elimination or reduction of the estate tax, and can be effective pre-nuptial planning. A parent who wants to control outcomes should focus on these benefits of the trust instead of trying to legislate their future adult children’s behavior.

It is imperative not to allow your values and legacy to become weaponized within the family system. A sure-fire way to inspire conflict is via “dead hand control,” meaning trying to control lives from the grave. Most often, if you put excessive trust restraints on adult children, they will act accordingly to your perception that they are not adult enough to handle wealth. Instead, consider enrolling them in a few classes about managing wealth. Spark an interest in them to learn how you have created wealth, the mechanisms you used, and what their future endeavors may look like long after you are gone. Formally educate your children about finances, the earlier the better, and instead of talking about who gets what the conversation can shift to the mechanics of managing wealth. This tactic resets the context of the issue and aligns purpose and intended long term outcomes.

Estate planners try to encourage trust choices that lead to flexibility. If a beneficiary is genuinely incapable of making the right decisions, a trustee can be appointed to make distributions in the beneficiary’s best interest. This trustee discretionary power of money management can help a well-funded trust survive for generations.

You can also write a letter of wishes or provide a statement of intent to your children. Though these are not legally binding, it gives you a platform to remind them of family values and your desire for these values to be maintained for future family generations. This type of letter is an opportunity for you to convey your vision for how your wealth can bring growth and chance for fulfillment to beneficiaries.

Prosperity should positively shape lives. Family trust beneficiaries hopefully already have a self-driven life that includes purpose, responsible behavior, and a basic understanding of personal finance. If you worry your children may squander inheritable assets, create the opportunity for them to succeed through classes that teach them about managing legacy family values and wealth. Address your concerns legally and directly through a detailed trust that can help but not overly constrain them to achieve what you envision they can become. Start an honest conversation early on, but remember it is never too late to make good choices and create positive family value influences for the coming generations. A well-known Ann Landers quote sums it up neatly, “In the final analysis it is not what you do for your children but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings” – a worthy goal of any family value system.

If you are interested in establishing a trust to pass wealth on to your children, we can help. We can also guide families on how to pass on family values in a meaningful way. We look forward to hearing from you, please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Estate Planning

The Power of a Personal Property Memorandum with a Will or Trust

Arguments can take place over things like a coffee mug, a piece of jewelry or a painting. Family members often end up arguing over mom or dad’s favorite items when that parent dies. These types of arguments can be eliminated by filling out a personal property memorandum and keeping it with your will or trust.

A personal property memorandum is designed to cover who should receive items owned that don’t have an official title record. Personal property includes furniture, jewelry, art, and other collections, as well as household items like china and silverware. Personal property memoranda may not include real estate or business interests, money and bank accounts, stocks or bonds, copyrights, and IOUs. 

When writing your memorandum, it is best to keep things simple. Personal property memoranda generally resemble a list of items with the attached names of the inheritors. It can be handwritten or typed but should always be signed and dated.

All items should contain sufficient detail so that argument and confusion can be avoided. Complete contact information including address, phone, email, and a backup contact if possible should be included. Do not include items that you have already explicitly left in your will or trust.

The beauty of a separate list of personal items and their planned distribution is that if you later decide to change who receives what, you simply update your current list, or replace the list altogether. You can destroy an old record or maintain signature and dates on each of your personal property memoranda so that it is easy to identify your most current set of wishes.

 A personal property memorandum for your tangible personal effects is a simple way to address how you want your personal property to be distributed. We would be happy to help you create a legal personal property memorandum along with any other estate planning documents you may need. We look forward to hearing from you, please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.