Is Your Health Care Power of Attorney Available?

According to a recent American Academy of Estate Planning Attorney’s article, when emergency medicine physicians were surveyed about the availability of advanced directives (i.e. Health Care Powers of Attorney):

•93% reported  less frustration in situations where advance directives are easily accessible

•88% said having an advance directive helped ensure better quality patient care

•85% indicated that families were more we’re more comfortable with how doctors cared for their love ones when they patient had an advance directive

•and 55% were relieved upon learning that a patient already had an advance directive.

If you do not already have an advance directive, you should make getting one prepared a priority. Moreover, if you have one, you need to make sure that it is readily available when it is needed. One author suggests taping a copy to your refrigerator or carrying one in your glove box. An alternative that we are now making available to our clients is to enroll in DocuBank, a service that makes your advance directive available 24/7 through a simple phone call to DocuBank.

More information on DocuBank and how to enroll is here.

How Long Is A Will Valid?

Passage of time has no effect on the validity of a Will. So, even though your family needs likely have changed over the past 10 or 20 years, that long ago prepared Will is still controlling. Tax laws, and laws concerning Wills might have changed as well.

To be sure your estate plan is up to date, it should be reviewed by you annually. Have there been major life change such as a death in the family, the birth or adoption of a child, a divorce or marriage, or a significant change in assets.

New Tax Benefit of Charitable Contribution From Your IRA

The recently passed Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015 made Charitable IRA rollover legislation permanent for 2015 and future years.

With the Charitable Rollover IRA, you can make a contribution to a public charity directly from your IRA (or Roth IRA). To qualify:

  • you must be at least age 70 ½ on the date of the contribution
  • the contribution may not exceed $100,000
  • the contribution has to be made directly by the IRA custodian to the charity.

To take advantage, simply direct the custodian of your IRA to make the charitable contribution. The portion of the IRA so contributed (up to $100,000) never comes into your income.

Please note, a 401k or other retirement plan is not eligible unless it is first rolled into an IRA.

Beware of Obituary Scam

In a popular obituary scam, the con artist begins by searching obituaries from the local paper looking for a recent widow.  A messenger then arrives at the home of the recent widow with a cash-on-delivery package.  The messenger claims that the recently deceased spouse ordered it, and requires immediate payment.

Only after paying for the package, when the messenger is long gone, does the victim open the box and discover that it contains old magazines or newspapers that are worthless.

To avoid the scam, don’t be afraid to ask for more information (i.e. where package is from, etc.) so you can look into it before accepting delivery. A legitimate delivery service will give you information so you can make a decision about accepting the package. If you are still not sure, then don’t accept the package.

A Tax-Smart Strategy for Managing Retirement Withdrawals

Here is a link to a  Morningstar interview of Vanguard retirement expert Maria Bruno in which she discusses strategies for managing retirement withdrawals to minimize tax consequences. Maria explains which accounts (i.e. taxable investments, IRAs, 401ks, Roth IRAs) should be used before others in order to minimize your taxes.

Tom

 

Help Prevent Identity Theft After-Death

You can help prevent a loved one’s identity from theft after their death by contacting the credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). You will have to provide their Social Security number, and tell the credit bureau that the person has died. Request that their credit report be flagged with the note “Deceased. Do Not Issue Credit.”

If you are in charge of settling the estate you can, also, request a copy of the deceased’s credit report so you know what accounts need to be closed. You might have to provide the credit bureau with a death certificate and your Letters of Authority.

New Medicaid Planning Alert for Married Couples

As of August 2014, the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) has started rejecting “solely for the benefit of” trusts. There hasn’t been a change in the law, but in the way that DHS interprets policy. Previously, a married couple could utilize a “solely for the benefit of” trust for the spouse not entering a nursing home and preserve a majority of a couple’s estate, while the spouse entering the nursing home still qualified for Medicaid coverage. This tool was not employed until a married couple knew which spouse would need nursing home care (i.e. when said spouse went into the nursing home). However, DHS has begun treating assets in these trusts as countable for Medicaid eligibility purposes. This means that the assets are not excluded and may have to be spent before the spouse requiring care will qualify for Medicaid.

For now, planning with a “solely for the benefit of” trust is not a practical solution. As such, it is even more important to discuss and consider other Medicaid planning options ahead of time.