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Will These Life Insurance Mistakes Hurt You?

Life insurance is an important part of estate planning and taking care of the people you love after you pass away. Here are some common mistakes that you should avoid.

1. Not naming a beneficiary

Too many people forget to name a beneficiary or backup beneficiaries. Those mistakes can result in your life insurance proceeds having to go through the probate court process. That can tie up your money for months and even open up the life insurance proceeds to your creditors. And that can wipe out your funds.

2. Naming an individual as beneficiary to take care of that money for someone else

You might be tempted to list someone you know and trust as beneficiary of your life insurance, with the understanding that he or she would use that money to take care of another person that you have in mind. This could result in a number of problems. For example, you list your sister as beneficiary of your life insurance so that she can take care of your daughter.

3. Not keeping your beneficiaries up to date

Too many people forget to update their beneficiary designations.  You should review your beneficiary designations at least once a year so that you can make sure you update them upon events like divorce, deaths, and births.

4. Naming a minor as beneficiary

We see this ALOT. And it can result in expensive and time consuming complications for your family. That is because in Florida, minor children can’t directly inherit assets over $15,000. If a minor is listed as the beneficiary, the proceeds of your insurance will be distributed to a court-appointed custodian (guardian of the property), who will be in charge of managing the funds (often for a fee) until the age of majority, at which point all benefits are distributed to the beneficiary outright.

Instead of naming a minor as beneficiary, consider setting up a trust to receive the insurance proceeds, and name a trustee to hold and distribute the funds to a minor child you would want to benefit from your insurance proceeds. By doing so, you get to choose not only who would manage your child’s money, but also how and when the funds are distributed and used.

5. Naming an individual with special needs as beneficiary

If a loved one has special needs, chances are you want to help provide for a lifetime of care and protection. But if you leave the money directly to someone with special needs, it could disqualify that individual from receiving much-needed government benefits. Consider creating a “special needs trust” to receive the insurance proceeds. That way the money won’t go directly to the beneficiary upon your death, but it would be managed by the trustee you name and dispersed according to the trust’s terms, without affecting benefit eligibility.

You owe it to your loved ones to get this right.

Naming life insurance beneficiaries might seem pretty straight forward. But if you mess this up, you can create pretty big problems for the people you love.  But don’t worry, we can support you in planning for the people you love, whether it’s through life insurance or other tools such as wills or trusts.  Schedule an estate Planning Session to get started.

Call us at (813) 902-3189.

pet-trust-estate-planning

How can you use estate planning to take care of your pet?

If you have a pet, he or she probably feels like part of your family.  So it makes sense to take care of your pet if you become incapacitated or pass away. Because if you don’t make any plans, your beloved companion could end up in an animal shelter or worse.

The law looks at pets as personal property. So you can’t just name your pet as a beneficiary of your will or trust without some careful planning.

Be careful with your Will.

Since you can’t name your pet as a beneficiary, you might consider leaving your pet and money for its care in your will to a trusted person who would be your pet’s new caregiver. But your pet’s new caregiver would not be legally required use the funds properly. In fact, your pet’s new owner could legally keep all of the money for themselves and drop off your beloved friend at the local shelter.

You’d like to think that you could trust someone to take care of your pet if you leave him or her money in your will to do so. But it’s impossible to predict what circumstances might arise in the future that could make adopting your pet impossible.

Also, a will has to go through the court process known as probate, which can last for months. That can leave your pet in limbo for a while.  And remember that a will only goes into effect upon your death, so if you’re incapacitated by accident or illness, it would do nothing to protect your companion.

Consider a pet trust.

A pet trust in a revocable living trust in order to be completely confident that your pet is properly taken care of and the money you leave for its care is used exactly as intended.

This way, you can lay out detailed, legally binding rules for how your pet’s chosen caregiver can use the funds in the trust. And unlike a will, a pet trust does not go through probate. So it goes into effect immediately and works in cases of both your incapacity and death.

Also, a  pet trust allows you to name a trustee. That trustee is legally required to manage the trust’s funds and carry out your wishes. And to provide a system of checks and balances to ensure your pet’s care, you might want to name someone other than the person you name as caregiver as trustee.

Do right by your pet.

With Myrna’s guidance and support, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your beloved pet will receive the kind of love and care it deserves when you’re no longer around to offer it. Contact us today to get started.

Call us at (813) 902-3189.

Part 2: The real cost of not planning

This article is part of a series discussing the true costs and consequences of failed estate planning. The series highlights a few of the most common—and costly—planning mistakes we encounter with clients. If the series exposes any potential gaps or weak spots in your plan, meet with us to learn how to do the right […]

When a Will Isn’t Enough to Avoid Conflict: Remember Your Personal Property

“When the parents are gone, there’s all kinds of unforeseen stuff they leave us with, stuff they never intended.” – Ira Glass, in This American Life, Episode 763: “Left Behind”

If you grew up with siblings, you probably remember some sibling rivalry. That rivalry can continue well into adulthood, especially after the parents are gone. In many families, parents are like the glue that keeps the family together. Once their gone, old issues can resurface, especially when it comes to dividing the parents’ personal property.  That’s why it’s important to have a plan for how you want your personal, sentimental property distributed to the people that you love. If you don’t, that can make an already tough situation so much worse.

This American Life, a popular podcast, recently featured a family with such a story. Eleven adult siblings needed to divide their dead parents’ stuff. But they didn’t all get along. Although their parents (who were both attorneys) had wills, they didn’t list in their will which child would get which items. They left all that to the kids, saying simply, everyone should get an equal amount. So the siblings invented a remarkably elaborate cheat-proof system to divide up the remains of their childhood. In the end, it was a system that played off the siblings’ natural suspicions towards each other and did nothing to bring them closer together after losing their parents.

Here’s a quote from the narrator:

“What they have left to them is just these things, right? And this mandate– to get along well enough one last time to split it up amongst themselves. And they don’t want to screw it up. They want to honor their parents’ last request. But they know it’s going to be tough for them, given how they are sometimes with each other.”

This is an example of incomplete planning that can lead to conflict after you’re gone. If the parents in this story had left a personal property memorandum that referred back to their Wills, that could have reduced the strain on their children, especially the estate’s executor. It would have also saved a lot of time and conflict….and their relationships with each other.

You can listen to this story (16 minute run time) here.

Or you can read the transcript here. 

 

This article is a service of the Law Firm of Myrna Serrano Setty, P.A. We don’t just draft documents, we help you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. Call our office today to schedule a Planning Session. Mention this article to learn how to get this $500 session at no charge. 

Call us at (813) 902-3189.

Check out another blog post about embracing the emotional side of estate planning. Here

Fear of Losing Home to Medicaid Contributed to Elder Abuse Case

A California daughter and granddaughter’s fear of losing their home to Medicaid may have contributed to a severe case of elder abuse.

If they had consulted with an elder law attorney, they might have figured out a way to get their mother the care she needed and also protect their house.

Amanda Havens was sentenced to 17 years in prison for elder abuse after her grandmother, Dorothy Havens, was found neglected, with bedsores and open wounds, in the home they shared.  The grandmother died the day after being discovered by authorities.  Amanda’s mother, Kathryn Havens, who also lived with Dorothy, is awaiting trial for second-degree murder. According to an article in the Record Searchlight, a local publication, Amanda and Kathryn knew Dorothy needed full-time care, but they did not apply for Medicaid on her behalf due to a fear that Medicaid would “take” the house.

It is a common misconception that the state will immediately take a Medicaid recipient’s home.

Nursing home residents do not automatically have to sell their homes in order to qualify for Medicaid. In some states, the home will not be considered a countable asset for Medicaid eligibility purposes as long as the nursing home resident intends to return home. In other states, the nursing home resident must prove a likelihood of returning home. The state may place a lien on the home, which means that if the home is sold, the Medicaid recipient would have to pay back the state for the amount of the lien.

After a Medicaid recipient dies, the state may attempt to recover Medicaid payments from the recipient’s estate, which means the house would likely need to be sold.

But there are things Medicaid recipients and their families can do to protect the home.

A Medicaid applicant can transfer the house to the following individuals and still be eligible for Medicaid:

  • The applicant’s spouse
  • A child who is under age 21 or who is blind or disabled
  • Into a trust for the sole benefit of a disabled individual under age 65 (even if the trust is for the benefit of the Medicaid applicant, under certain circumstances)
  • A sibling who has lived in the home during the year preceding the applicant’s institutionalization and who already holds an equity interest in the home
  • A  “caretaker child” who is defined as a child of the applicant who lived in the house for at least two years prior to the applicant’s institutionalization and who during that period provided care that allowed the applicant to avoid a nursing home stay.

With advance planning, there are other ways to protect a house.

A life estate can let a Medicaid applicant continue to live in the home, but allows the property to pass outside of probate to the applicant’s beneficiaries. Certain trusts can also protect a house from estate recovery.

Don’t let a fear of Medicaid prevent you from getting your loved one the care they need. While the thought of losing a home is scary, there are things you can do to protect the house.

This article is a service of the Law Firm of Myrna Serrano Setty, P.A. We don’t just draft documents, we help you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. Call our office today to schedule a Planning Session. Mention this article to learn how to get this $500 session at no charge. 

Call us at (813) 902-3189.

Blended Families, Avoid This $100,000 Mistake.

Picture this: At Thanksgiving, you have your eye on that last piece of pie. You can practically taste it. As you reach for it, someone else grabs it and there’s a tug of war. Do you share it? Does one of you give up and find another dessert? Does someone intervene and decide for you? Are you in a family that will laugh this off? Or is there some drama?

When the stakes are high and there’s money and property involved, the resulting conflict is enough to ruin anyone’s appetite.

Picture this: You’re in a blended family where there’s Mom, Step-Dad, and Mom’s kids from her first marriage. Mom dies without a Will. Step-Dad is distraught, but takes comfort in knowing that the house is almost paid off. There’s about $200,000 of equity. Mom always meant to put Step-Dad on the deed, but never got around to it. Unfortunately for Step-Dad, the “default setting” that is set by Florida law is for him to only inherit half of his wife’s estate. The step-kids inherit the other half.

Step-Dad has 3 options if he wants to keep living in the home.

Option 1: Take a life estate in the home and at his death, the house goes to the step-kids.
Option 2: Take a one half undivided interest in the home as a tenant in common with the step-kids. (The step-kids could force a sale if they wanted to.)
Option 3: Buy out the step-kids’ half share.

Everyone’s upset and relationships are strained. Will the step-kids sign over their interest to Step-Dad for free? Will it take $100,000 to buy out the step-kids? With a thoughtful estate plan, this blended family could have avoided this mess and saved $100,000, plus court costs and lawyers’ fees.

Call our office today at (813)902-3189 to schedule a Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.