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last will and testament - trust - beneficiaries

What should you know about naming beneficiaries?

Do you have a beneficiaries in your Last Will and Testament, Life Insurance and Retirement Accounts? Here are some important things you need to know.

Beneficiaries of a Last Will and Testament have to wait.

First, you use a Will (Last Will and Testament) to give assets to your beneficiaries, your beneficiaries don’t inherit automatically. Those beneficiaries will need to wait until the probate court process is over before they can inherit. In some cases, this can take many months or even years. If the estate is complex, the legal fees can deplete that inheritance.  If avoiding probate is a top priority, consider a Revocable Living Trust as part of your estate plan.

Go here to learn more about wills and trusts.
Go here to learn more about avoiding probate.

Your Last Will and Testament does not control your retirement plan and life insurance policy benefits. 

Second, assets in a life insurance policy or retirement plan pass to your beneficiaries directly, bypassing your Will (Last Will and Testament).  Your beneficiaries will receive these assets after completing a claim form.

Minor children should not inherit directly. Consider a trust.

Don’t name a minor child as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy or other assets. That is because minor children cannot inherit assets directly. Instead, the wise move is to create a trust to hold these assets for the benefit of a minor child. Name a trustee to oversee the management and distribution of the funds in a way that complies with your wishes.

Go here to learn more about trusts.

Be careful how you name retirement plan beneficiaries.

Unfortunately, most beneficiaries of a retirement plan take the cash immediately, which may not be your intention.  Don’t name your estate as a beneficiary.  That is because that may not allow your spouse or younger beneficiary to take advantage of an IRA rollover or some provisions that could allow your IRA to grow tax-deferred over many years.

If there are multiple beneficiaries, name them.

Finally, if there are multiple beneficiaries for an insurance policy or retirement plan. Don’t make name one person, assuming he/she will distribute to other beneficiaries.  Instead, designate a separate share for each beneficiary.  Does a beneficiary have special needs? If so, create a trust for their share so any inherited assets don’t disqualify them from important government benefits.

Call our office today at (813) 902-3189 to schedule a time for us to talk about an Estate Planning Session.

Seniors and Student Loans

Seniors and Student Loans

The number of older Americans with student loan debt – either theirs or someone else’s — is growing. Sadly, learning how to deal with this debt is now a fact of life for many seniors heading into retirement.

According to by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the number of older borrowers increased by at least 20 percent between 2012 and 2017. Some of these borrowers were borrowing for themselves, but the majority was borrowing for others. The study found that 73 percent of student loan borrowers age 60 and older borrowed for a child’s or grandchild’s education.

Before you co-sign a student loan for a child or grandchild, you need to understand your obligations.

The co-signer not only vouches for the loan recipient’s ability to pay back the loan, but is also personally responsible for repaying the loan if the recipient cannot pay. Because of this, you need to carefully consider the risk before taking on this responsibility. In some circumstances, it is possible to obtain a co-signer release from a loan after the loan recipient has made a few on-time payments. If you are a co-signer on a loan that has not defaulted, check with the lender about getting a release. You can also ask the lender for payment information to make sure the borrower is keeping up with the payments.

If the borrower defaulted and you are obliged to pay the loan back or you are the borrower yourself, you will need to manage your finances. Having to pay back student loan debt can lead to working longer, fewer retirement savings, delayed health care, and credit issues, among other things. If you are struggling to make payments, you can request a new repayment plan that has lower monthly payments. With a federal student loan, you have the option to make payments based on your income. To request an “income-driven repayment plan,” go to: https://studentloans.gov/myDirectLoan/index.action.

Defaulting on a student loan may affect your Social Security benefits.

If you have a private student loan, a debt collector cannot garnish your Social Security benefits to pay back the loan. In the case of federal student loans, the government can take 15 percent of your Social Security check as long as the remaining balance doesn’t drop below $750. There is no statute of limitations on student loan debt, so it doesn’t matter how long ago the debt occurred. If you do default on a federal loan, contact the U.S. Department of Education right away to see if you can arrange a new repayment plan.

What Happens After You Die?

If you die still owing debt on a federal student loan, the debt will be discharged and your spouse or other heirs will not have to repay the loan. If you have a private student loan, whether your spouse or estate will be liable to pay back the debt will depend on the individual loan. You should check with your lender to find out the discharge policies. Depending on the loan, the lender may try to collect from the estate or any co-signers. In a community property state (where all assets acquired during a marriage are considered owned by both spouses equally), the spouse may be liable for the debt (some community property states have exceptions for student loan debt).

For tips from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to help navigate problems with student loans, click 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.