Editor’s note: This is the eighth in my series of the 10 most common Estate Planning Mistakes.
Perhaps you are concerned about the value of your estate. With today’s changing stock market and declining home values it may be very hard to keep a handle on your net worth.
Most likely, you are not alone. You are most likely a member of a family with several generations. As a family member you also need to consider the situation of other family members.
Consider your children and their spouses. Perhaps you have a sibling without children. Will there be any inheritance for either you or your children? Will it be necessary for you to help your parents or will your children need to help you with extended care?
Almost every situation requires a different set of plans. As a reader of Senior LifeTimes you are likely concerned about being able to afford medical and/or long term care expenses. Just having enough to hang on to your present lifestyle may be your biggest concern.
On the other hand, you may be fortunate enough to be concerned about having assets to pass on to your children or grandchildren.
Your ability to pay for your personal care will depend on your assets, the need to qualify for government assistance or help from your children. Having assets will require that you maintain contact with your investment adviser and tax consultant to ensure the stability of your assets and income will be sufficient for your needs.
A part of that plan may be the use of long-term care insurance. Unless you have sufficient assets which provide sufficient income to cover this need, it is a good idea to have long-term care insurance. Without assets or insurance, you may have to depend on governmental assistance.
Medicare has many requirements. It will be necessary for you to contact the state division of family services to determine whether you qualify for benefits. If not, you must determine how to plan to meet the qualifications. Depending on help from your children may not be very wise.
However, if your children have done significantly well, you may seek assistance from them. This is a touchy situation as one child may be more able to help than others. Be careful how you handle this.
If you were born before 1945 you are in a generation which is collectively sitting on $11.6 trillion. How will this huge sum be passed on to the “Baby Boomers”? You can pass it on during your life or pass it by will or trust at your death. In either case, it will be necessary to obtain the assistance of your financial adviser, lawyer and tax adviser.
The recent economic instability has made contact with your financial adviser even more important.
Let’s look at a child’s spouse who may have inherited a large sum. That places a whole new dynamic within the total family. Knowing this may allow you to pass larger amounts of your assets to other children. An unequal distribution of your assets may help equalize the financial equality between your children. This is a situation you should discuss with the entire family to ensure that everyone understands your intentions.
In the situation of a single, childless sibling you will need to discuss with him/her about their intentions toward you and your children. If you are financially situated and will not need anything from the sibling, suggest that your children be the beneficiaries of their estate. This may be a delicate topic, but it is one you should discuss. If handled properly, it should not be a problem.
There are four stages of your financial life cycle: accumulation, preservation, distribution and wealth transfer. Each stage has its own concerns. Please discuss your specific stage with your investment adviser and family. Hopefully you have accumulated assets and have established a preservation plan. Then you are concerned with distribution and transfer.
In such situations, discussion with the family and lawyer and tax adviser are of utmost importance.
Much information in this article and all of the statistics have been obtained for Well Fargo Funds Management LLC and have been used with permission. As with all my articles you should consult with your own financial adviser, lawyer and tax adviser before taking actions which may affect your financial situation.
Nothing herein is specifically intended to fit your individual situation as all of us have different needs.