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Beneficiary Designations

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Don’t Let Your Ex Get Your Money. A Recent Court Decision May Allow Your Ex to Get Your Money!

A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit should cause anyone who has been divorced scrambling to ensure his or her beneficiaries are property listed on life insurance or retirement accounts. Namely, be sure your ex-spouse is NO LONGER listed as a beneficiary.

Read more . . .


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Simple Will Is Not Enough

Minneapolis Estate Planning and Probate Lawyer Explains the Minimum Documents You Need to Protect Your Family

I sometimes hear comments like "I just need a simple will" or "Why can't I just get my will on the internet"?  I want to be clear that a basic last will and testament cannot accomplish every goal of estate planning; in fact, it often cannot even accomplish the most common goals.  This fact often surprises people who are going through the estate planning process for the first time. Or worse, the family left behind finds this out when they attempt to settle a loved ones estate.  In addition to a last will and testament, there are other important planning tools which are necessary to ensure your estate planning wishes are honored.


Read more . . .


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

19 Smart Ways to Protect Your Assets

Minneapolis Estate Planning and Probate Lawyer Explains How to Protect Your Assets

Smart Way #1: Make a promise to yourself -- now.  Make a personal commitment to yourself and your family that you will do everything possible to protect your family and your assets.

Smart Way #2: Identify your personal and financial goals.  If you could have anything you want, personally and financially, what would it be?  What are your dreams?  How do you and your spouse want to spend your retirement years?

Smart Way #3: Discover which tools you can use to achieve those goals.  You have many legal tools at your disposal that, when used correctly, will create exactly the plan you want for yourself and your family.  Ask your estate planning attorney to explain the tools that will achieve your personal and financial goals.

Smart Way #4: Avoid probate and the Court system, as appropriate.  Create a family estate plan that, upon your death, distributes your assets to your heirs without going through the Court-supervised process called probate.  Most often a Revocable Living Trust is used for this purpose.

Smart Way #5: Reduce income taxes whenever possible.  Create a family asset protection plan that eliminates unnecessary income and capital gains taxes and minimizes all other taxes.  Without proper planning, much of your estate can be lost to various types of taxes.

Smart Way #6: Protect yourself with insurance.  Lawsuits can quickly tie up your assets.  And if the other party wins the lawsuit, the judgment against you could quickly deplete your funds.  If you drive frequently, own rental property, or operate a business, buy an umbrella liability policy that protects your assets from lawsuits.

Smart Way #7: Provide for future health care and financial decisions.  Your family estate plan should protect you and your spouse if the time comes when either of you cannot make decisions.  Your estate planning attorney can make sure you have the legal documents in place so a competent, trusted person can make these important decisions according to your wishes.

Smart Way #8: Plan now to fund nursing home care.  Sadly, many people think the only way they can pay for their nursing home care is by spending down their estate.  But, in fact, you can fund your long-term care in ways that do not require that you spend down your estate.  One common way is with long-term care insurance.  Don’t wait until it’s too late to decide how to fund your nursing home care.  Do it now, long before you need it.

Smart Way #9: Pay close attention to Alzheimer’s disease and its associated costs -- even if you have no reason to worry about it.  Many people who never expect Alzheimer’s disease to strike have had to face its problems with no advance planning.  So, plan for Alzheimer’s disease now, while you have time.  This includes the need to address issues of backup decision-makers, assisted living, and nursing home care.  If your children can care for you later in life, that’s fine.  If they cannot, your advance planning will pay big dividends.  Plan for the worst -- and hope for the best.  Then, in either case, you will have all your bases covered.

Smart Way #10: Keep all control within your family.  If you don’t plan properly, you could find that a friend or relative has petitioned the Court to intervene on your behalf.  Once a judge gets involved, you have ongoing legal and accounting expenses, plus more problems and hassles than you would ever want to endure.  The smart way to plan for your later years is to keep total control within your family.
Smart Way #11: Create your plan now, while everyone involved is competent to make decisions.  Seniors often come to our office seeking help only to learn that they are too late to correct a terrible situation.  We feel awful when we must tell them that the much-needed planning should have been done two, five or ten years earlier.  Don’t wait until you need help to create your plan.  By then, it’s too late.

Smart Way #12: Review your plan at least once a year.  Every time your circumstances change or your goals change, you should change your estate plan.  If your plan is not up to date, the unintended consequences to you and your family could be disastrous.  Make an appointment at least every year to meet with your estate planning attorney.  Then you can go over your plan and discuss any changes in your life circumstances.

Smart Way #13: Make proper decisions concerning your retirement benefit distributions.  Make sure your estate plan maximizes income-tax-free deferrals and minimizes income and estate taxes.  

Smart Way #14: Work closely with your physician about your Medicare coverage.  Often skilled nursing services and home health coverage are terminated or denied with little or no input from your treating physician.  Before you go without health care that could be covered by Medicare, talk with your physician about your concerns so that he or she can help you get the Medicare coverage you deserve.

Smart Way #15: Think about future housing options.  Start from the perspective of where you would like to live.  Then determine if you could afford this option by comparing your monthly income along with your life savings to the initial cost and the ongoing financial commitment you would have to make.  Make sure you consider (1) your healthcare needs that will not be covered by insurance, (2) financial security for your surviving spouse, and (3) your desire to pass on a legacy to your children.

Smart Way #16: If you are in a second marriage, decide how you will handle the high cost of nursing home care.  If you are not able to pay $5,000 per month to a nursing home and want your children from an earlier marriage to receive your property, a Marital Agreement alone will not do the trick.  Medicaid ignores these contracts and considers all of the couple’s assets, whether owned jointly or individually, in determining Medicaid eligibility.  A better choice is to include in your Marital Agreement a provision that requires each spouse to obtain and maintain long-term care insurance.  Also, you can include additional provisions that clearly state that the healthy spouse is able to take all necessary steps to protect his or her separate property from a Medicaid “spend-down.”

Smart Way #17: Keep the lines of communication open within your family.  If one of your children will be managing your finances, you should take specific steps to help him or her avoid conflict within your family.  Insist that your child disclose to other family members what has been done on your behalf.  You can do this by adding this instruction to your Trust or General Durable Power of Attorney.  By doing this you accomplish two things: One, you keep everyone in the loop so feelings of distrust are eliminated.  And two, you reduce the risks of financial abuse because other family members will know how your finances are being managed.

Smart Way #18: Don’t let incapacity put your family at risk for criminal or social worker investigations.  Many professionals are responsible for protecting frail and elderly people from predators.  If your legal documents don’t provide clear legal authority and guidance on how to manage your assets, the police or adult protective services could step in and question your children’s actions and motives.  If authorities investigate your children’s actions, at worst, they could file criminal charges.  At best, an investigation by adult protective services could return a “finding” of no current financial abuse.  You can eliminate these risks to your children -- and avoid becoming a burden to your children -- with a competent estate plan.

Smart Way #19: Hire a competent, experienced estate planning attorney to create an estate plan.  The areas of estate planning and elder law are far too complex to hire just any attorney.  Often, strategies used in estate planning to minimize taxes directly conflict with strategies used in elder law planning to protect assets and achieve Medicaid eligibility for nursing home care.  In situations where both goals are important, you and your family need a lawyer who has in-depth knowledge and experience with both sets of rules and strategies.  Most attorneys are not qualified to provide these services.  Make sure the estate planning attorney you hire has the knowledge, skill, judgment, and experience to create a competent plan for you and your family.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Helping the Family Prepare for Loved Ones in Advancing Age


Advance Planning Can Help Relieve the Worries of Alzheimer’s Disease

The “ostrich syndrome” is part of human nature; it’s unpleasant to observe that which frightens us.  However, pulling our heads from the sand and making preparations for frightening possibilities can provide significant emotional and psychological relief from fear.

When it comes to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, more Americans fear being unable to care for themselves and burdening others with their care than they fear the actual loss of memory.  This data comes from an October 2012 study by Home Instead Senior Care, in which 68 percent of 1,200 survey respondents ranked fear of incapacity higher than the fear of lost memories (32 percent).

Advance planning for incapacity is a legal process that can lessen the fear that you may become a burden to your loved ones later in life.
Read more . . .


Monday, September 30, 2013

12 Problems That Could Cost Your Family a Fortune – and Their Solutions

Minnesota Estate Planning Attorney Discusses Frequent Issues/Concerns that Arise When Handling Someone's Estate

Problem #1: Probate. Probate is the Court-supervised process of passing title and ownership of a deceased person’s property to his or her heirs. The process consists of assembling assets, giving notice to creditors, paying bills and taxes, and passing title to property when the judge signs the order. Probate can cost your loved ones a sizeable portion of your estate. The biggest portion of the costs are the fees charged by attorneys and personal representatives for their services for the estate, in addition to filing fees, costs of publication, fees for copies of death certificates, filing and recording fees, bond premiums, appraisal and accounting fees, and so on. Often the fees of attorneys and personal representatives are based on a hourly rate, and while they can tell you what their hourly rate is, they cannot tell you the number of hours their services will take, so they cannot tell you what their total fees will be. Like surgery, probate can be simple and easy, but frequently probate can have very drastic and damaging results. Accordingly, like surgery, because of its uncertainty in terms of both the potential for problems and high costs and fees, probate is something best to prepare for if you can. You can avoid a substantially larger probate process by having an estate planning lawyer set up and fund a Revocable Living Trust. Since the Trust actually owns your assets, no significant probate of the estate will be required, saving your family many thousands of dollars.

Problem #2: Lawsuits and Creditors. Protect the property you leave to your partner/spouse and children from the claims of their creditors, ex-spouses, and the IRS. This can best be done with proper creditor protection provisions in a Revocable Living Trust.

Problem #3: Estate Taxes. For married couples, protect your assets from state and federal estate taxes by setting up and funding a tax-saving Credit Shelter Trust. Under current law, a Credit Shelter Trust will completely protect your assets from estate taxes for estates valued up to a certain amount will have to pay federal estate taxes. What is that amount? No one knows right now. The current exemption is $5,000,000 a person or $10,000,000 for a married couple.

Further, in Minnesota, the estate limit is $1,000,000 so your estate will pay taxes TO THE STATE for anything over $1,000,000. The tax rates generally comes out to 10% of the assets over that 1,000,000 mark.

Most couples don’t realize that the value of their estate for purposes of determining estate taxes includes their life insurance death benefit proceeds. Your estate includes EVERY asset you own at the time of death: real estate; cash, stocks, bonds, life insurance, retirement accounts, automobiles and personal property. It is not difficult to reach the $1,000,000 mark once all these assets are added up.

A well-designed estate plan costing between $3,000 and $6,000 will save a significant amount in federal estate taxes. Other ways you can avoid or reduce estate taxes include setting up (1) an Irrevocable Trust for your children, grandchildren or other heirs, (2) an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust, (which detaches your life insurance benefits from your estate), (3) a Charitable Remainder Trust, and (4) Second-to-die Life Insurance so you can pay estate taxes for pennies on the dollar.

Problem #4: Income Taxes. A family can lower its overall income taxes by setting up a Family Limited Partnership to own income-producing property. A parent can do this by setting up a Family Limited Partnership and making gifts of limited partnership interests to the other limited partners, normally their children or grandchildren who pay income tax at lower tax rates. A Family Limited Partnership is an excellent tool to shift income to partners who pay taxes at lower rates. It is also an effective way to make gifts and still keep total control of the property owned by the partnership.

Problem #5: Lawsuits. Protect your assets from lawsuits by doing any or all of the following, as appropriate: (1) purchasing an umbrella liability insurance policy, (2) setting up a Family Limited Partnership, (3) setting up a program for lifetime gifting, (4) setting up a Limited Liability Company, and (5) incorporating. Further, you can protect your children from lawsuits by putting their inheritances into a Discretionary Trust. This is especially important if your children are likely to become professionals subject to potential malpractice actions or, on the other hand, are spendthrifts!

Problem #6: Inexperienced Beneficiaries. Protect your assets from being wasted by young or inexperienced family members. Most beneficiaries spend their entire inheritances in less than two years, regardless of the size of the estate or the heir’s socio-economic background. Your lawyer can set up your Family Trust with protective provisions that provide guidance and safeguard your life savings.

Problem #7: Guardianships. Protect your assets from the high costs of incapacity by (1) setting up a Living Trust so you avoid the need for a guardianship, (2) drawing up an Advance Healthcare Directive, and (3) drawing up a Health Care Power of Attorney.

Problem #8: Nursing Home Care. Protect joint assets from the high costs of nursing home care. Buy insurance that covers nursing home care and provides a death benefit that returns the money spent on nursing home care to your heirs.

Problem #9: Unwanted Medical Care. Protect your assets from unwanted and costly medical care by having an Advance Healthcare Directive and Health Care Powers of Attorney that spell out your instructions, including which medical care, treatment and procedures you want -- and which you don’t want.

Problem #10: Unwanted Emergency Care. Protect your assets from unwanted emergency care. If you have a terminal illness, you can draw up and sign a Pre-hospital Medical Directive that will tell emergency personnel not to resuscitate you in the event of a medical emergency. This directive is often referred to as a “Do Not Resuscitate Order”.

Problem #11: Ineffective Estate Plans. Protect your assets from an ineffective estate plan. Don’t depend on pre-printed “cookie cutter” form kits or document preparation services for your estate plan. Contrary to what you may have heard or read, one size does not fit all! You may think you have precisely what you need. But you will never know -- because your family members will have to clean up the mess. You see, after you die, your family members will try to use your documents to settle your estate. And if the documents weren’t drafted correctly, they will cause additional expense and long delays because a probate will have to be done to convey title to your assets.

Problem #12: Unqualified Lawyers. Many attorneys are getting into estate planning because it’s less stressful than other areas of law. Not surprisingly, most of these newcomers focus on the needs of senior citizens and almost never deal with issues affecting young families. If you have young children, make sure you choose an independent attorney who focuses their law practice on asset protection and estate planning for young families. This will help insure that the lawyer you choose has the knowl­edge, skill, experience and judgment necessary to fully protect your family and your assets, and to give you advice and counsel that is in your best interests.


Monday, September 16, 2013

A Simple Will Is Not Enough


A Minnesota Estate Planning Attorney Explains Why You Need to do More Than Draft a Will

A basic last will and testament cannot accomplish every goal of estate planning; in fact, it often cannot even accomplish the most common goals.  This fact often surprises people who are going through the estate planning process for the first time.  In addition to a last will and testament, there are other important planning tools which are necessary to ensure your estate planning wishes are honored.

Beneficiary Designations
Do you have a pension plan, 401(k), life insurance, a bank account with a pay-on-death directive, or investments in transfer-on-death (TOD) form?

When you established each of these accounts, you designated at least one beneficiary of the account in the event of your death.  You cannot use your will to change or override the beneficiary designations of such accounts.
Read more . . .


Monday, June 24, 2013

8 Reasons Young People Should Write a Last Will and Testament


 

A Minneapolis Estate Planning Attorney Discusses the Reason Young People Should Think About Their Estate Plans

Imagine if writing a last will and testament were a pre-requisite to graduating from high school.  The graduate walks across the stage, hands the completed will to the principal, and gets the diploma in return.   It might sound strange because most 18 year olds have little in terms of assets but it’s a good idea for all adults to draft a last will and testament.

Graduation from college is another good milestone to use as a reminder to create an estate plan.  If you haven’t created a will by the time you marry – or are living with a partner in a committed relationship – then it’s fair to say you are overdue.
Read more . . .


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Estate Planning Lessons, Part 2: Marriage Is Not Enough - You Must Get a Financial Power of Attorney Now

This continues my series on lessons I learned in handling the estates of my parents who both passed away last year. This post will discuss reasons why you should plan things now - do not wait!

I am an estate planning attorney with the knowledge and experience to handle complex issues but found myself running around at the last minute to take care of things for my own father. It turns out that my father had never signed a financial power of attorney.  What does that mean? It means that his wife was unable to handle simple financial transactions on his behalf while he was in the hospital and unable to do things like go to the bank. But they're married you say. For many financial matters, even a spouse does not have the right to act on your behalf. For instance, a spouse may not deal with anything listed solely in your name. This generally includes such things as your retirmenet plan, stocks or bank accounts. 

So, on a Thursday afternoon I was in my office (instead of the hospital) drafting a power of attorney for him to sign so that his wife could take care of some financial matters he thought were crucial in his last few days of life. Then I ran it to the hospital and got it signed and notarized.

You could look at this and note that we were lucky as he was awake, competent and alert enough to know what he wanted done and still capable of signing the Power of Attorney - even one day later and that would not have been the case. Many people simply put it off unti it's too late and the family has to fight to get a conservatorship to be allowed to make decisions they know the loved one would have wanted.

Please plan now so no one is running around trying to get these things done during such a difficult time.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Should You Borrow From Your Retirement Account?


Borrowing from your retirement accounts: Issues to consider

So you have credit card debt, overdue mortgage payments, or suddenly need to buy a new car. We’ve all been there. You need money now, and your retirement accounts continue to climb. Fortunately, many employers allow you to take out loans on these accounts, but should you really begin spending that money before you retire?

On one hand, there are benefits to borrowing from your retirement accounts. You are essentially borrowing your own money, so the payments you make, plus interest, go back into your account.
Read more . . .


Friday, December 28, 2012

Unique Estate Law: 2012 Wrap Up for a Nontraditional Law Firm


An Estate Planning Attorney Provides a Personal Review of 2012

The state of the firm

For Unique Estate Law 2012 was a fantastic year. The firm beat projections and I was able to assist more clients than ever before. I had referrals from a wide range of sources and a constant stream of clients coming through my website. I’ve done well enough to start advertising on a local radio station and in a local magazine. I have met many wonderful people and have given them guidance and peace of mind when facing an uncertain future.
Read more . . .


Thursday, December 6, 2012

How To Prepare for a Meeting with an Estate Planning Attorney


Preparing to Meet With an Estate Planning Attorney

A thorough and complete estate plan must take into account a significant amount of information about your assets, your family, your property, and your wishes during and after your life.  When you make your first appointment with an estate planning attorney, ask the attorney or the paralegal if they can provide a written list of important information and documents that you should bring to the meeting.  

Generally speaking, you should gather the following information before your first appointment with your estate planning lawyer.

Family Information
List the names, birth dates, death dates, and ages of all immediate family members, specifically current and former spouses, all children and stepchildren, and all grandchildren.

If you have any young or adult children with special needs, gather all information you have about their lifetime financial needs.
Read more . . .


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From within Hennepin County Unique Estate Law represents clients throughout Minnesota, including Minneapolis, Edina, Bloomington, St. Louis Park, Minnetonka, Plymouth, Wayzata, Maple Grove, St. Paul, and Brooklyn Park.


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