ELM GROVE - With as many as 120 million Americans not
having an up-to-date estate plan, industry expert Richard Behrendt
is eager to share helpful advice.
As director of estate planning at Annex Wealth
Management, Behrendt said everyone should have an element of estate
planning - whether thatís a young adult at age 19 who should have a
power-of-attorney in case he is in a bad accident to a 60-year-old
mother and grandmother who should have a irrevocable living trust.
ďI can make an argument every adult should do some
estate planning,Ē he said.
There is no size-fits-all option for what each
individual needs, Behrendt said, so he advises meeting with someone
who specializes in estate planning every three to five years or
during a major life change, such as the birth of children or
grandchildren, a move out of state or retirement.
ďIf you are not going to someone who is not really
top shelf, really well versed, you are not going to get the right
documents,Ē he said,
Itís important for young adults to be protected as
well, he said, because itís possible for him or her to become
incapacitated and the parent will no longer have legal
responsibility for her child.
For one of the next major life stages, parenthood,
Behrendt said a guardian should be appointed to raise the child in
case something doesnít allow the parents to have that role anymore.
When a person reaches their 40s or 50s and have started to pay off
bills and accumulate more net worth, Behrendt advises creating a
revocable living trust. And then at retirement age as a personís
health may start to decline, itís important to have all of these
items and advance health care directives.
A common mistake people make is not having all of
their assets linked, such as their property and IRA fund. Itís also
important to take in mind who the beneficiaries are, Behrendt said.
ďBe careful about leaving too much too soon to
younger beneficiaries,Ē he said, explaining that if a 22-year-old
college student gets what they perceived to be a big windfall of
money he or she may drop out of school. Or, he said, itís important
to take into consideration if the beneficiary is in a rocky
According to the AARP, there are several costly
estate planning blunders that can be made, such as not getting an
expertís review of documents. The organization said there are many
options available for free legal forms, but an expert should review
them after they have been filled in.
Another problem can be leaving lump sums to
beneficiaries. Donald A. DeLong, an estate, business and
tax-planning lawyer in Southfield, Mich., told the AARP that money
left behind should be placed in a trust versus giving cash.
A revocable living trust or an irrevocable trust can
contain so-called spendthrift provisions.
ďA spendthrift provision prevents the beneficiary
from getting advances against or trying to get a loan using his
interest in the trust as collateral,Ē DeLong said. ďIt also leaves
the beneficiaryís creditors in the cold because the beneficiary has
no control over or access to the trust funds in the trust.Ē
A trustee or executor also needs to be selected
carefully, Behrendt said, and should be someone who is organized and
He said itís important to let that person know you
are thinking of her for that responsibility and let her know that if
she isnít interested in that role, you wonít be offended and will
find someone else.
for estate planning
Last will and testament. A last will and testament
directs how assets titled in your individual name will be
distributed upon your death. Without a will, assets titled in your
name will be distributed according to the laws of the state where
Revocable trust. For some, a revocable trust is a
better alternative to a will because a trust allows assets to pass
to beneficiaries without the delay, expense and public records of a
Durable power of attorney. A durable power of
attorney for financial matters authorizes someone else to manage
your financial affairs in the event you become incapacitated.
Advance health care directives. A power of attorney
for health care and a declaration of living will are also essential
documents to have in the event you become incapacitated. A POAHC
allows your agent to consult with your physician and other
caregivers if you are not able to communicate on your own behalf.
Ancillary documents and considerations. You may also
want to prepare a written memorandum of who should receive your
personal property, such as jewelry and collectibles. Another
important document to have is a form that complies with the Health
Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996, which
protects the privacy of your medical records.
Source: Annex Wealth Management
your pets after youíre gone
RALEIGH, N.C. (TNS)
- Four years ago, Pam Miller went to the home of a woman who was
dying of cancer. The woman had lived a full life and was in home
hospice care. She was no longer aware of her surroundings, which
meant it was time for Miller to come for her cats.
The cats were nervously hiding under couches, and
Miller admits she felt sad taking them from the house before their
owner passed. (Two days later, the woman died.) Miller took the cats
to SAFE Haven For Cats, a Raleigh, N.C. nonprofit, non-euthanasia
cat shelter and adoption agency she founded 23 years ago and has run
since. Eight weeks after removing the cats, Miller reports with
satisfaction, they were in new homes.
Miller doesnít want to think about what would have
happened to the animals otherwise. ďIn a (traditional) animal
shelter, the older cats, any cat with a medical issue, a cat that
may not be quite perfect ... most of the time they end up dying,Ē
One way pet owners can prevent that is to take the
steps those catsí first owner did: She included her pets in her
estate planning, and Miller was simply fulfilling her wishes.
In the fallout from a loved oneís death, too, there
are so many things to take care of - the funeral, the house, and all
the usual arrangements that come along with the grief - that itís
easy to forget that something needs to be done with the pets.
To that end, Miller says, put a card in your wallet.
It should say how many pets you have and where they are, and it
should include the numbers of a vet, a pet-sitter and a trusted
friend to whom youíve spoken about caring for your pets in case the
worst happens. Anyone can do this.
If you have the means to leave a trust for your pets,
talk to a lawyer with experience in pet trusts. Pets, being animals,
canít legally inherit money as a child, niece or nephew could. With
a pet trust, the money goes to the care and feeding of the pet.
After the animal dies, the remainder can go to a person or to a
nonprofit, though some pets live longer than others.
The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty for Animals) has a good primer online for setting up a
trust. Here are some of the highlights.
* Consult an attorney who specializes in estate
planning to make sure pet trusts are allowed where you live.
* Itís recommended that your trust cover all pets in
your life, rather than setting up separate trusts for each pet.
* Be detailed about the type of care required for
your pet, and require that the new caregiver will provide regular
* Determine the amount of money needed to cover your
petís needs and the amount of money needed to administer the trust.
* Choose a beneficiary for funds not used by the pet