How Do Your Family’s Needs Connect to Estate Planning?

A will is the document most likely to come to mind for someone realizing they haven’t created an estate plan. Whether it’s a change in life circumstances or the loss of a loved one and the discovery they didn’t have a will, you must have a plan. Your family’s needs are core to the creation of the proper estate planning documents.

The will is truly just the beginning. It’s where you document most of your plans and intentions, but this often means exploring other estate planning options as your needs grow, too. In order to determine what you’ll need, you start by looking at what you already have and where there are gaps.

Here are some key questions to consider in that process:

  • Do you already have a life insurance policy in place? This is especially vital if you have children, mortgages, or other needs that you’d like a spouse to be able to manage if something happened to you.
  • Do you have a legally appointed guardian for any minor children? While you certainly hope your children don’t ever need a guardian that you’d name in your will, make sure you have documented your intentions and had a conversation with the intended guardian about serving in that role.
  • Do any of your children have special needs or are there parenting issues and values you’d like passed on to them if something happened to you?
  • What kinds of property do you own? Do you have specific intentions for it? Do you want it placed inside of a more advanced tool like a trust, or are you okay with an outright bequest listed in your will?

Your desires and your concerns around protecting your family should be front and center for your estate plan. If you need support in creating your plan, talk to a NH estate planning lawyer now.


What Happens If I Need to Settle a Revocable Trust After the Trust Maker Has Passed Away?

Most people will not have had the experience of being named a successor trustee in charge of settling a person’s revocable living trust after a loved one passes away. There are many different steps involved in closing out this trust and all of these should be approached with care and with the possible support of an experienced probate lawyer.

The first step to settle a revocable living trust is to locate all of the important papers and estate planning documents owned by the creator of the trust. You will also need to look at their will in addition to trust documents, but you might also encounter things, such personal property memorandums or memorial instructions.

All of these documents should be kept in a safe place until they can be passed on to the attorney helping you with the administration of the trust. You might also find other things that will not be included in their probated estate, such as certain brokerage account statements or life insurance policies.

After you’ve looked at all of the important documents, read through the specific provisions of the individuals revocable living trust. Make note of the beneficiaries of any residuary trusts, personal effects or specific bequests and whether or not a person has been named to serve as successor trustee.

You’ll also want to make a list of how each asset is titled from the list of what the decedent owed and owned as well as any questions you may have for your estate planning attorney in NH.


When Should I Use a Corporate Trustee as My Successor Trustee?

A successor trustee is the individual or entity appointed to handle trust affairs should you become incapacitated or pass away. If you are not sure that a family member or friend you intended to appoint in the role of successor trustee could handle this responsibility well or you fear that it could only spark further family conflict, you may be able to avoid some of these problems by using a trust company or the trust division of a bank.

No matter who you choose, your trustee should be professional and competent and have good skills when it comes to record keeping and decision making for distributing money to beneficiaries. A professional trustee might make the most sense in your case if you have a trust that is intended to last for a long time such as one that would provide for grandchildren.

Another example when it makes sense to choose a corporate trustee is if you have very valuable assets. In most simple revocable living trusts, however, that are designed for avoiding probate, it might not make sense to pay a professional because professional management in a successor trustee role is expensive.

Many trust companies won’t accept accounts that are below a certain minimum and will charge a percentage of the assets as the fee. Some of the potential downsides of going with professional management might include:

  • Not accepting other kinds of assets beside cash.
  • The management might not be as personal as that from a friend or family member.
  • Beneficiaries might have to deal with new people frequently as bank or trust company employees come and go.
  • Beneficiaries may not get a quick decision when they ask for trust funds since this will need to go through the other entity.

If you need help figuring out how to approach trustee issues, look for a time to meet with our NH trust planning lawyer.

What You Need to Know About Qualifying for Medicaid in New Hampshire

When you or another loved one is looking at the prospect of staying in a nursing home, the cost of the required care can be overwhelming. For an average couple, a stay in a nursing home could decimate the pair’s savings, which is why more couples are doing advanced planning to work with elder lawyers regarding Medicaid qualification in NH.

Qualification for Medicaid is a popular question among those who are in need of advanced nursing home care. Financial requirements for Medicaid are specified at the state level.

The primary purpose of this program is to enable those who do not otherwise have financial resources to get support for their health care. Many people are mistakenly under the impression that Medicare will cover the expenses of their nursing home stay or other long term care needs.

Qualifying for Medicaid is not guaranteed and careful thought must be put into your advanced Medicaid qualification plan. You must meet the resource requirements as well as the income requirements to be eligible for Medicaid in New Hampshire. The program considers household income, the counting of household resources where applicable, and potential income. In addition to these financial requirements there are medical requirements that can be supported by proof of your medical condition.

Medical records are most frequently used to determine whether or not you need the long term care you are intending to have paid by Medicaid. If you need more specifics on qualifying for Medicaid in New Hampshire, schedule a consultation with an estate planning lawyer today. Get answers to your most important questions and start roadmapping your plan for long term care.



What Is Long Term Care Insurance?

Like many insurance policies, the goal is to sign up for long-term care insurance well before you need it so that the benefits are there in the event of an unexpected issue.

Many retirees can realize that the same amount of money they have projected to cover their vacation, property taxes and food after the workforce will also have to support their long-term care in their older years.

Approximately half of the US population, according to research from the US Department of Health and Human Services, will need long-term care services and support, such as payments to live in an assisted living community or an in-home caregiver.

Many Americans will pay much higher than the national average for those services of $140,000. Long-term custodial care represents a significant threat to a couple’s retirement savings and one way to minimize this risk is to leverage long-term care insurance which offers one way to prepare for in-home nursing care or extended stays in certain assisted living facilities while protecting your overall retirement funds.

Most LTC insurance policies will cover costs related to staying in an assisted living facility, nursing home or adult day care. It will not cover medical expenses, however. A doctor will have to verify that you meet the appropriate level of support for long-term care services. 

You will need assistance with at least two of the five activities of daily living, which are feeding, toileting, transferring, dressing and bathing. For more information about how to protect your interests and whether or not long-term care insurance makes sense for you, schedule a consultation with an attorney.




Are You One of the Many Americans Not Financially Prepared for Retirement?

When it comes to your finances and your future, you’ve got to be the one who takes the reins and protects your nest egg. In addition to funding your retirement, those accounts might also become the payment source for long-term care health needs. You and your spouse should both be on the same page about saving for these possible issues.

A recent study of US adults between the ages of 50 and 64 revealed that plenty of Americans do not feel confident about being able to afford health care costs in retirement. Nearly 45% of the survey respondents had low confidence in their ability to afford appropriate health insurance coverage for their potential needs during retirement.

The average 65-year-old couple in 2020 will require nearly $300,000 in today’s terms during their retirement to cover health care expenses outside of long-term care. That number could also fluctuate dramatically based on location, income, health and Medicare eligibility.

The expenses for health care can increase considerably when you consider the possibilities with long term care, given that the national average median cost is $8,821 for a private room in a nursing facility.

Leveraging tools such as long-term care insurance policies and health savings accounts can help to empower retirement savers today with a better understanding of what’s required to protect their own future.

The support of an experienced NH elder law lawyer can help guide you through this process and ensure that you have considered all different aspects of appropriate planning.

Three Things to Keep in Mind with Beneficiary Distributions

Do you know who in your life would receive assets from your retirement accounts or a life insurance policy? Have you updated this recently?

Beneficiaries are the people who will receive assets inside your estate or directly receive assets inside other accounts like brokerage accounts or from life insurance policies. There are many different things to keep in mind as you think about who to name as a beneficiary.

The first of these is when and how a beneficiary should receive. In the event that your property will go to your surviving children or other relatives like nieces, nephews or grandchildren, are you comfortable with these beneficiaries receiving all of their assets at age 18 or would you like to delay distribution until later point in time?

A trust is one of the most flexible estate planning tools to help you exert more control and determine when beneficiaries will receive these assets.

Another issue to consider with your beneficiaries is equalizing portions. If you would like to equalize to the extent that you can, lifetime gifts made to beneficiaries, you’ll want to think about how this can be done and still maximize your estate plans. This includes helping loved ones who have big ticket costs such as a wedding or college tuition.

You may wish to build in equalization strategies into tools like a trust to ensure that other beneficiaries who didn’t receive these lifetime gifts are still covered. Finally, think about whether any of your beneficiaries are receiving government tested benefits because they have special needs. This should be incorporated in a unique estate planning strategy handled by a knowledgeable attorney in New Hampshire.



What to Consider When Reducing Tax Impacts in Retirement

Looking towards your retirement, you need to think carefully about not just the expenses you might need to pay, but how taxes can impact that landscape. Taxes could reduce the size of your estate that you intend to leave behind for heirs, but they could also influence your overall financial picture.

Investment earnings can be hit hard in your older years when it comes to taxes. An important goal of proper investing is usually maximizing your after-tax returns. Different investments and different kinds of accounts can be taxed differently, which means it is important to consider how you are thinking about the overall growth of your portfolio and the potential tax implications.

Many retirees have established the accounts that are a combination of tax deferred, tax free and taxable. If all of these accounts were taxed the same, then the investor would have no preference into the order in which they would be drawn down.

Because these different kinds of accounts, however, are subject to different types of tax rules and rates, a proper withdrawal sequence is especially important. It is usually recommended, for example, that you withdraw from accounts where required minimum distributions, also known as RMDs, are required.

The second place to tap for distributions are cash flows from taxable accounts followed by tax deferred accounts and then tax free or Roth accounts.

For more information about how your retirement years can be impacted by other unexpected expenses, such as health care expenses, set aside time to speak with a dedicated estate planning lawyer so that you have a comprehensive strategy in place.

Talk to a NH estate planning lawyer today to connect your tax plans to your estate plan.




Two Ways to Protect Your Estate from Taxes

Tax planning is an important component of completing your estate plan and it should always be done under the guidance of an experienced professional. This is because there are many different details to consider in minimizing or avoiding taxes and you want to ensure that you have thought through all of the possibilities.

One of the easiest ways to minimize your tax burden is to put your assets inside a trust. A trust to deal with the assets allows those items to pass to beneficiaries after the creator’s death without having to go through probate. Trusts typically avoid state probate requirements and the expenses aligned with them.

In a revocable trust the grantor can take the assets out if necessary. In an irrevocable trust, however, these assets will be tied up until the grantor passes away. The important component of minimizing a tax burden is to ensure that the assets have been properly titled into the trust. This is the only way to add the additional layer of protection.

Many people default to putting their assets into joint names with a child by assuming this is the most appropriate way to pass on property quickly. However, this can actually increase the taxes that are paid by the child and is not recommended in most cases as an estate planning strategy.

If you need more help determining if trusts are the right tool to help you accomplish estate planning goals, write down your questions and set up a time to speak with a NH trusts lawyer to get more information.

Do You Know Where Your Digital Assets Will Go?

You are creating a digital footprint every time you post something on social media, share a photo gallery with your loved ones, look at your health records electronically or send an email.

But what happens to all of the assets or accounts associated with these actions after you pass away? Have you created a plan for how these will be deleted, preserved, or made inactive once you pass away? If not, you need a plan for your personal assets to be managed or removed. Your estate plan can help you do it.

This situation is compounded if you run a business or have a side hobby with a website, podcast or blog creating even more digital assets to keep track of. A digital estate plan is a crucial component of planning today, whether it’s handled through services that assign digital beneficiaries, documenting this in your will or compiling a list of all of your online accounts and passwords to be given to a trusted friend of family member.

Given the volume of online accounts that most people have today, you could be creating a mess for your executor who is not aware of all of these accounts or how to access or value them.

Saving materials stored in these online accounts could be important for your loved ones who want access to cherished family photos. Schedule a consultation with a trusted estate planning lawyer to discuss what belongs in your digital estate plan and how you can accomplish it effectively.

Our NH estate planning law firm is here to guide you when you need support around digital assets or the rest of your estate plan.