What’s the Most Important Step in Farm Succession?

There are countless horror stories about grandchildren in tears, as they watch the family farmland auctioned off because their grandparents had to liquidate assets to satisfy the taxes.  Farm Succession planning is crucial.

Another tale is siblings who were once in business together and now don’t talk to each other after one felt slighted because they didn’t receive the family’s antique tractor.

Ag Web’s recent article entitled “Who Gets What? Take This Important Estate Planning Step” says that no matter where you are in the process, you can always take another step.

First, decide what you’re going to do with your assets. Each farmer operating today needs to be considering what happens, if he or she passes away tonight. Think about what would happen to your spouse or your children, and who will manage the operation.

The asset part is important because you can assign heirs to each or a plan to sell them. From a management perspective, farmers should then reflect on the wishes of your potential heirs.

Children who grew up on the farm will no longer have an interest in it. That’s because they’re successful in business in the city or they just don’t have an interest or the management ability to continue the operation.

After a farmer takes an honest assessment, he or she can look at several options, such as renting out the farmland or enlisting the service of a farmland management company.

Just remember to work out that first decision: What happens to the farm if I’m dead?

Once you work with an experienced estate planning attorney to create this basic framework for your Farm Succession planning, make a habit of reviewing it regularly.

You should, at a minimum, review the plan every two to three years and make changes based on tax or circumstance changes.

Reference: Ag Web (August 1, 2022) “Who Gets What? Take This Important Estate Planning Step”

Will Inflation Have Impact on My Retirement?

Inflation means fluctuations to the dollar’s purchasing power may have a significant effect on a retiree’s ability to cover costs of living and maintain a quality of life, says Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “Is Inflation Costing You More as a Retiree?”

  1. Why Could Inflation Impact Disproportionately Retirees. Inflation impacts people differently. There are many who may not feel the effects of inflation when compared to others. However, retirees tend to spend larger portions of their income on items highly impacted by inflation, such as housing, food, gas and health care, all of which are seeing the full effect of inflation.

The recent rise of inflation forces a lot of retirees to address tough questions about how to protect their retirement savings, while covering their costs of living.

  1. The Cost of Inflation. Retirees’ sources of income may be at risk to large inflation spikes. Retiree likely have most of their income tied to markets or in fixed income. These two sources are highly impacted by inflation. Social Security does offer COLAs, but the last increase was 5.9%, which falls short of the 8% to 9% increase in prices we’ve seen over the past year.

Retirees frequently use savings to get them through retirement. However, when inflation happens, the purchasing power of savings declines. As a result, retirees must withdraw larger amounts of savings to cover the costs of living. This shrinks the lifespan of retirement savings.

  1. Protect Yourself with Hedges against Inflation. Inflation-protected securities can be a way to keep income on pace with inflation. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, commonly known as TIPS, offer an interest distribution rate that keeps pace with the CPI inflation rates. This investment has helped retirees mitigate inflation and maintain their quality of life throughout retirement without worrying about outliving their savings.

Retirees and their savings face a stormy forecast ahead due to inflation. Income sources for retirees are largely inflation-exposed, and their spending habits tend to be on products and services affected by inflation.

Reference: Kiplinger (July 16, 2022) “Is Inflation Costing You More as a Retiree?”

What Does a Blended Family Need to Know about Finances?

Family finances can be a big issue in any circumstances. It’s even more significant with blended families, where two sets of often well-established financial histories and philosophies try to merge into one.

Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “Yours, Mine and Ours: A Checklist for Blended Family Finances” says that a blended family is one where people have remarried, either after a divorce or the death of a spouse. Sometimes it’s older couples already in retirement. In other cases, it’s a younger couple still trying to raise children.

However, regardless of the specifics of any individual situation, when families blend, so do their finances. That is when things can get problematic, if careful planning and communication don’t occur.

Here are a few things to consider:

Money habits. People are raised with different ideas about money. They’re influenced by their parents or by the circumstances of their formative years. Some people are exceptionally frugal and save every penny and seldom, if ever, splurge on something just for fun. Others spend with reckless abandon, unconcerned about the unexpected expenses that life can throw at them at any moment.

Many people are somewhere in between these extremes. If you are entering a serious relationship, you should speak to your new partner about how each of you approaches spending money.

Financial accounts and bills. Once you learn each other’s financial philosophy, you will have decisions to make. These include whether to blend your financial accounts or keep them separate. If the two of you are closely aligned with your finances and how you approach spending, you may want to simply combine everything. If you’re older, have adult children from prior relationships and are more financially established, you may decide to keep things separate.

For many, a hybrid approach may be best — keep some things separate, but have common savings, investments and household accounts to reach your blended goals.

Family. When there are children from a prior marriage — especially young children — additional financial situations will need to be addressed. Issues of child support and how it fits into the overall budget is one concern, as is the status of college funding for the children.

Talk to an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure you have the plans for your blended family set up the way you wish.

Reference: Kiplinger (June 27, 2022) “Yours, Mine and Ours: A Checklist for Blended Family Finances”

Understanding the Issues of Elder Law

The legal needs of many older Americans go beyond basic legal services. They are also all intertwined. In addition to understanding the legal issues and complications that older Americans face, elder law attorneys must also understand the surrounding personal concerns of their clients, such as health, financial and family issues, and how those affect their clients’ legal issues.

Recently Heard’s article entitled “What You Need to Know About Elder Law” explains that other specific areas of expertise include the following:

  • End of life planning could extend to planning your health care support system as you age, signing a power of attorney, establishing a living will and other issues surrounding end of life care.
  • Financial issues frequently entails questions about retirement and financial planning, housing financing, income and estate tax planning and gift tax issues.
  • Long term care can include planning for asset protection, insurance for in-home care or assistance with activities of daily living, Medicare planning, insurance, veterans’ benefits and other issues.
  • Residents’ rights issues may include claims or complaints you bring while a patient in a nursing home or long term care facility.
  • Workplace discrimination issues stem, from the fact that older Americans sometimes face age and disability discrimination in the workplace.
  • Guardianship issues might include guardianship avoidance, planning wills and trusts, planning for the future of a special needs child, probate court and other issues surrounding minor or adult children.
  • Landlord-tenant law may mean handling disputes with landlords, contesting an eviction, dealing with foreclosure issues, rent increases and more.
  • Abuse, neglect, and fraud. These elder law attorneys specialize in cases where an older client is being victimized.

An elder law attorney can be a great partner for you as you plan out the legal and financial aspects of the next stage of your life-or the life of a loved one. Speak to one today.

Reference: Recently Heard (June 23, 2022) “What You Need to Know About Elder Law”

What Do I Need to Do Right after Spouse Dies?

If you are very close to the person who has passed away, you’ll likely have a lot to do immediately after their death.

Katie Couric Media’s recent article entitled “What to Do Immediately After the Death of a Loved One” says that it’s normal to feel like your brain short circuits each time you try to make a decision and you find it hard to concentrate. Making it through the days after a loss will be painful. However, here are some things to do immediately and shortly after someone dies to make the process of grief a bit easier.

Plan ahead. This can make a big difference. It will let you have the time and space to grieve after death. This involves both talking about priorities and, ideally, talking to an elder law or estate planning attorney.

Call 911 if they’re at home. To get a death certificate, first, you have to get an official declaration of death. If your loved one died at home without a medical professional present, a medical professional must declare them deceased. Call 911 soon after they have died and have them transported to a hospital, where they can be declared deceased and moved to a funeral home.

Get organized. Make a list of the things people are doing for you and your family, and keep a folder to keep all the documents you’ll be given.

Get the death certificate — and make copies. Without a declaration of death, you can’t get a death certificate. You also won’t be able to handle the deceased’s legal affairs. Obtain a dozen copies of the death certificate from the funeral home because you’ll need these copies for things, such as insurance claims and closing accounts.

Read everything carefully. In your grief, haste and anxiety, it is easy to overlook things. Therefore, when it comes to things like the death certificate — which the funeral home staff often prepares based on the information you provide — the exact spelling of names matters. Draft the obituary and send it to a family member or close friend to review before submitting it to the funeral home.

Think through, or put off, financial decisions. Wait on making financial decisions. In times of distress, especially grief, your judgment may be a bit clouded. So, unless a big purchase is absolutely necessary for the funeral or the burial, wait on other financial decisions.

Take a video of the home. It’s important to document what assets are in the home, such as any valuables, both of financial and sentimental value. A good way to do this is to record a video of the house. Record each room, and every detail. Be sure to open up cabinets and drawers. If there is ever an issue as to the person’s assets later, or even the insurance company, you have your video.

Overcoming sadness accompanied by grief is a terrific feat. Use these tips to help you.

Reference: Katie Couric Media (April 28, 2022) “What to Do Immediately After the Death of a Loved One”

When Should I Think About Business Succession?

The pandemic has made many business owners rethink their business succession and retirement planning. Insurance News Net’s recent article entitled “Succession Planning For Business Owners: More Important Than Ever” reports that according to PwC’s 2021 US Family Business Survey, only a third of US family businesses have a robust, documented and communicated succession plan in place.

If you wait too long, you may not have the right people in place to run the business. It also restricts the tax planning options for the business and your personal estate. Either error can cause a business to fail, when it passes from one generation to the next.

An exit that is too sudden or without direction can leave a vacuum at the top and damage relationships with existing clients and customers. With clear objectives, a sense of urgency and an experienced estate planning attorney, you can help ensure that your business, and your future, are secure.

There are a number of areas of transition that should be addressed:

  1. Founder Transition: Determine how long you plan to stay with the business, and what your retirement plans are;
  2. Family Transition: If you plan to leave your business to your children, determine the way in which the roles and power relationships will change;
  3. Business Transition: How will the company’s operations and customer relations be maintained through other transitions;
  4. Management Transition: Decide who will make up the new management team, such as family, non-family, or both, and how new leadership will be evaluated. You should also map out the schedule for transferring control of day to day decisions;
  5. Ownership Transition: Determine how ownership is to be transferred; and
  6. Estate Transition: see how you will coordinate your estate plan to ensure that the other transitions above occur as planned.

Many of these transitions will be accomplished through formal documentation, such as an operating agreement, buy-sell agreements and trusts. Sit down with an attorney soon rather than later to sort this out.

Reference: Insurance News Net (December 30, 2021) “Succession Planning For Business Owners: More Important Than Ever”

What Should I Know about Estate Planning before ‘I Do’?

Romance is in the air. Spring is the time for marriages, and with America coming out of the pandemic, wedding calendars will be filled.

AZ Big Media’s recent article entitled “5 estate planning tips for newlyweds” gives those ready to walk down the aisle a few things to consider.

  1. Prenuptial Agreement. Commonly referred to as a prenup, this is a written contract that you and your spouse enter into before getting legally married. It provides details on what happens to finances and assets during your marriage and, of course, in the event of divorce. A prenup is particularly important if one of the spouses already has significant assets and earnings and wishes to protect them in the event of divorce or death.
  2. Review you restate plan. Even if you come into a marriage with an existing plan, it’s out of date as soon as you’re wed.
  3. Update your beneficiary designations. Much of an individual’s estate plan takes place by beneficiary designations. Decide if you want your future spouse to be a beneficiary of life insurance, IRAs, or other pay on death accounts.
  4. Consider real estate. A married couple frequently opts to live in the residence of one of the spouses. This should be covered in the prenup. However, in a greater picture, decide in the event of the death of the owner, if you’d want this real estate to pass to the survivor, or would you want the survivor simply to have the right to live in the property for a specified period of time.
  5. Life insurance. You want to be sure that one spouse is taken care of in the event of your death. A married couple often relies on the incomes of both spouses, but death will wreck that plan. Think about life insurance as a substitute for a spouse’s earning capacity.

If you are soon-to-be-married or recently married and want to discuss it with an expert, make an appointment with a skilled estate planning attorney.

Reference:  AZ Big Media (March 23, 2022) “5 estate planning tips for newlyweds”

Why Is Communication Important in Estate Planning?

Successful transition of wealth from generation to generation is best accomplished when family members have a shared understanding of the overall use of the family wealth. While the initial wealth creators have final say about how their assets are distributed, awareness and agreement on the part of the receiving family members regarding how the wealth is used can help preserve assets as they move to the next generation.

Forbes’ recent article entitled “Communication Can Be The Key To Creating Harmony In Multi-Generational Estate Planning” says that coming to an agreement can sometimes be difficult, especially if family members bring their own perspectives and values to the estate planning process. However, good communication can help head off potential multi-generational conflicts before they happen.

One of the most significant challenges in achieving multi-generational wealth preservation is that each individual and generation has a different outlook on wealth. Today’s families could include four or even five generations. This big gap in ages could mean differing perspectives on many topics, including:

  • Personal values. Family members may have different belief systems and values, including how they view work, social and political systems, relationships, and other topics.
  • Investing priorities. Some generations may give greater importance to socially conscious investing than others. This could create a conflict when it comes to how and where to invest.
  • Shifting economic environments. Older generations who have lived through various economic scenarios may have very different perspectives than younger generations, particularly those just coming of age in a time of high inflation and a slowing economy.
  • Communication. Not every generation or family member is comfortable talking openly about money, especially when it comes to sharing how much is involved and how to spend it.
  • View of the role of a financial advisor. Some family members may see a financial advisor as a trusted partner, and others may be more skeptical.

While these differences can create challenges in the estate planning process, you can resolve them and reach an agreement about how to best manage the family’s wealth. Begin with a plan designed for the long-term, spanning current and future generations that’s flexible to meet the family’s changing needs and shifting economic environments.

Reference: Forbes (April 18, 2022) “Communication Can Be The Key To Creating Harmony In Multi-Generational Estate Planning”

Should I have a Charitable Trust in My Estate Plan?

Charitable trusts can be created to provide a reliable income stream to you and your beneficiaries for a set period of time, says Bankrate’s recent article entitled “What is a charitable trust?”

Establishing a charitable trust can be a critical component of your estate plan and a rewarding way to make an impact for a cause you care deeply about. There are a few kinds of charitable trusts to consider based on your situation and what you may be looking to accomplish.

Charitable lead trust. This is an irrevocable trust that is created to distribute an income stream to a designated charity or nonprofit organization for a set number of years. It can be established with a gift of cash or securities made to the trust. Depending on the structure, the donor can benefit from a stream of income during the life of the trust, deductions for gift and estate taxes, as well as current year income tax deductions when the assets are donated to the trust.

If the charitable lead trust is funded with a donation of cash, the donor can claim a deduction of up to 60% of their adjusted gross income (AGI), and any unused deductions can generally be carried over into subsequent tax years. The deduction limit for appreciated securities or other assets is limited to no more than 30% of AGI in the year of the donation.

At the expiration of the charitable lead trust, the assets that remain in the trust revert back to the donor, their heirs, or designated beneficiaries—not the charity.

Charitable remainder trust. This trust is different from a charitable lead trust. It’s an irrevocable trust that’s funded with cash or securities. A CRT gives the donor or other beneficiaries an income stream with the remaining assets in the trust reverting to the charity upon death or the expiration of the trust period. There are two types of CRTs:

  1. A charitable remainder annuity trust or CRAT distributes a fixed amount as an annuity each year, and there are no additional contributions can be made to a CRAT.
  2. A charitable remainder unitrust or CRUT distributes a fixed percentage of the value of the trust, which is recalculated every year. Additional contributions can be made to a CRUT.

Here are the steps when using a CRT:

  1. Make a partially tax-deductible donation of cash, stocks, ETFs, mutual funds or non-publicly traded assets, such as real estate, to the trust. The amount of the tax deduction is a function of the type of CRT, the term of the trust, the projected annual payments (usually stated as a percentage) and the IRS interest rates that determine the projected growth in the asset that’s in effect at the time.
  2. Receive an income stream for you or your beneficiaries based on how the trust is created. The minimum percentage is 5% based on current IRS rules. Payments can be made monthly, quarterly or annually.
  3. After a designated time or after the death of the last remaining income beneficiary, the remaining assets in the CRT revert to the designated charity or charities.

There are a number of benefits of a charitable trust that make them attractive for estate planning and other purposes. It’s a tax-efficient way to donate to the charities or nonprofit organizations of your choosing. The charitable trust provides benefits to the charity and the donor. The trust also provides upfront income tax benefits to the donor, when the contribution to the trust is made.

Donating highly appreciated assets, such as stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds, to the charitable trust can help avoid paying capital gains taxes that would be due if these assets were sold outright.  Donations to a charitable trust can also help to reduce the value of your estate and reduce estate taxes on larger estates.

However, charitable trusts do have some disadvantages. First, they’re irrevocable, so you can’t undo the trust if your situation changes, and you were to need the money or assets donated to the trust. When you establish and fund the trust, the money’s no longer under your control and the trust can’t be revoked.

A charitable trust may be a good option if you have a desire to create a legacy with some of your assets. Talk with an experienced estate planning attorney about your specific situation.

Reference: Bankrate (Dec. 14, 2021) “What is a charitable trust?”

How to Protect Valuable Assets in Estate Planning

If you fail to take the necessary measures, you can lose your assets and property, which might cause financial challenges when you will not be working in retirement.

Legal Reader’s recent article entitled “How to Legally Protect Your Assets” says there are different strategies you can use to protect your personal assets.

This will help you to prepare for any eventuality. Let’s look at some of them:

A Family Trust. This may be one of the best strategies to protect your personal assets. A trust will help protect your assets when you lose all your money. A family trust can also provide tax benefits to family members in lower tax brackets. However, talk to an experienced estate planning attorney before setting up the trust to make the right decisions.

Start a Company. This may be an alternative to setting up a family trust, since your property will be more secure than when operating a sole proprietorship or a partnership business. This gives you a more secure future, even when you face financial challenges. However, there are many legalities in starting a company, so talk to an attorney.

Register Your Most Valuable Assets in the Name of the Low-risk Spouse. This tactic will make it difficult for a trustee or liquidator to gain access to the property in case of bankruptcy. However, ask an attorney to help you to structure the purchase to make certain that the low-risk partner’s name appears on the legal documents. An experienced estate planning attorney can also help you access benefits, such as Social Security and Medicaid.

These laws keep changing. You might miss an opportunity of getting long-term care planning, if you keep postponing a review with an experienced estate planning attorney.

As you spend your hard-earned cash, take some time to learn how to protect what you buy.  You should also use the legal strategies above to keep your property secure.

Reference: Legal Reader Jan. 26, 2022) “How to Legally Protect Your Assets”