How Do You Want to Be Remembered…

When it comes to being remembered, you may have very detailed plans that you want implemented or you may not have thought about it at all.  During the recent blizzard or Snowzilla on the East Coast, the Tomb of the Unknowns was constantly guarded, as it has been since 1937, a tribute to those who had fought in earlier wars.   Of course this raises the question as to how you would want to be remembered.  Here is a short list of some considerations:

(1) Who should be notified – Family, friends, colleagues, organizations or groups, listservs, newsletters or other publications?

(2) What personal information would you want to have included? Certain information is required for a death certificate, but are there certain accomplishments or interesting stories you would want shared?  Do you want an obituary, and if so, what should it say?  

(3)    How do you want your remains handled and where do you want to be buried? This could include your preference for cremation versus burial or use of a family burial plot, mausoleum crypt or cremation niche for an urn.

(4) Do you want a marker or headstone? If so, what should the engraving say and how should the marker be designed?  Do you have a preference as to the type of urn or casket?

(5) Do you want a memorial service or just a big party? Should any service be religious, and if so, are there particular hymns to sing, certain readings to include and/or particular persons you want to provide eulogies or words of remembrance?  Are there military honors to be bestowed?  Should any service be for family and close friends only?  If you are to be buried, are there personal items to include in the casket? A particular outfit in which you want to be buried?  Do you want a viewing?

(6) How should the costs and expenses be paid and by whom?

This list includes only a few of the items to consider, but will hopefully start the conversation with family members.  Ultimately, the more planning that is done can help alleviate stress on surviving family members during an already difficult time and also pay tribute in a respectful, thoughtful manner.  #estateplanning #howtoberemembered #blizzard2016 #snowzilla

If I Won a $1 Million in the Lottery or $1.5 Billion…

Today there is a lot focus on the Powerball lottery that currently has a jackpot of $1.5 billion (and climbing) and many discussions are being had detailing what one would do if they won. Some of the considerations include making gifts and loans to friends and family members.

Although chances of winning are 1 in 292 million, if you are in a position to consider making gifts or loans to friends and family members, there are a few key points to remember as to minimize any gift tax consequences. As highlighted in an earlier article, we each have the ability to gift during our lifetimes without incurring gift tax. The current exemption is $5.45 million per person above which a 40% flat tax is imposed. In order to utilize that exemption, a gift tax return is required.

Furthermore, each of us has the ability to gift up to $14,000 per person to an unlimited number of people each year. If you are married, a married couple can gift up to $28,000 per person each year. These annual gifts do not count against the lifetime exemption, and are therefore a separate method in which gifting can be made.

IRS regulations also permit you to pay the tuition expenses for a full-time or part-time student directly to the “qualifying educational organization” without having to claim an exemption from gift tax or incurring gift tax. Tuition expenses do not include books, supplies, dorm fees, board or other such expenses that are not direct tuition expenses.

In addition, you can pay for “qualifying medical expenses” that include expenses for diagnosis, cure, treatment, prevention as well as amounts paid for medical insurance. This exemption does not include any expenses that were reimbursed ultimately by medical insurance. Again, such expenses can be paid directly and you would not have to claim your lifetime exemption or incur gift tax

And what about making loans to friends and family? Be sure that any loan you make is not deemed to be a gift. That is, the loan should impose interest at current fair market values. Applicable Federal Rates (AFR) for January range from 0.75% for short term loans (up to 3 years) to 2.65% for long term loans (over 9 years). Loans can be structured in a myriad of different ways.

So, while you are thinking about what you would do if you won a million dollars or more in the lottery, be sure to keep in mind a few gift exemptions that are available to you that help minimize potential tax consequences and good luck! #powerball #ifIWonPowerball #winningthelottery #lottery #gifttax #estateplanning #taxplanning

Online Forms – To Use or Not to Use?

Many people ask why they should not use online forms that are available for free? Why do I need to go to an estate planning attorney? If you choose to use a form, you run the risk that the form will not be accepted in the state in which you live. Each state has different requirements for the execution of a will, trust or power of attorney. An estate planning attorney can help guide you through the requirements and also ask the tough questions about the family dynamics that are often not considered when using a form. More importantly, using an estate planning attorney ensures that your wishes for the disposition of your estate are clearly identified for your family in the proper manner.

In addition, a form does not encourage the dialog that a visit with an estate planning attorney does. That dialog includes important topics such as incapacity planning, tax planning, health care decisions and guardianship. However, an estate planning discussion also involves the little stuff. For example, who will receive Aunt Sue’s china or Uncle Frank’s antique car. Very often people forget about the little things and focus on the house, bank accounts or life insurance, when in fact, the disputes arise over a particular piece of furniture or jewelry that had strong sentimental value. Forms do not address these issues in the way that having a conversation does. Regardless of the value of your estate, forms do not lay the complete groundwork for your legacy. #legalforms #estateplanning

Your final moments…

We may not know what Army veteran Matthew Whalen’s final wishes were, but one can imagine that dying so young was not in his plans although saving lives seemed to be part of who he was.  Many of us would like to control our final moments, but very often cannot. However, by having an advance medical directive and living will, we can control who is in charge of making those final healthcare decisions and provide guidance to our family and friends about end of life decisions and organ donation.  And, what is more important is that by establishing these directives, the conversations can be had with family and friends about those specific wishes and desires and avoid having to figure out what was wanted at an already stressful time. #advancedirective #estateplanning #livingwill #organdonation