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The Importance of Trusts in Protecting Your Blended Family’s Future

Estate planning presents unique challenges and requirements for those with blended families, which is becoming increasingly common. The Pew Research Center has reported that 40% of families in the U.S. are blended. These can create complex estate planning issues, but trusts serve as effective mechanisms for addressing them. Trusts give precise control over asset distribution that respects the needs of all family members. With their adaptable nature, trusts ensure that assets are allocated relatively according to the specific intentions of the person setting up the trust.

Essential Characteristics of Trusts

A trust establishes a legal framework in which assets are placed under the control of a trustee. This trustee is then responsible for managing these assets on behalf of the beneficiaries, as directed by the trust’s creator, known as the grantor. This setup enables the grantor to define specific conditions under which assets are to be distributed, which is particularly advantageous in situations involving blended families. 

Trusts can be structured to disburse funds when beneficiaries reach particular life milestones or to earmark assets for specific purposes such as education or maintaining a family property. They can also be designed to include provisions for charitable contributions as part of the asset distribution. Additionally, because trusts can shield assets from creditors and legal claims, they help preserve the estate for the intended recipients. This protective quality of trusts makes them an invaluable component of estate planning for families aiming to secure a lasting legacy.

Trusts & Their Benefits to Blended Families

Trusts are particularly valuable in blended families, where it might be necessary to balance a current spouse’s financial support and children’s rights from previous relationships. They provide a means to control asset distribution, ensuring the surviving spouse is supported while the children’s inheritance from prior relationships is safeguarded. This is crucial to prevent scenarios where the entirety of an estate unintentionally passes to the surviving spouse, who may redistribute it in a manner not intended by the deceased. Trusts establish a source of income for the surviving spouse while preserving the main assets for the children from previous marriages. 

A trust also allows for the designation of specific family heirlooms to remain within particular family lines, which can prevent disputes. Planning with a trust fosters family harmony and addresses each member’s expectations and needs by setting clear directives for who inherits what and when. This systematic planning is essential to avert disputes that often arise from vague estate plans or plans that do not fully consider the intricacies of a blended family setup.

Let Us Get Your Estate In Order 

Navigating the estate planning landscape with a blended family necessitates a careful approach to ensure that the future of all family members is protected. Trusts offer a strategic way to manage your estate according to your specific wishes, balancing the needs of a surviving spouse and the children from different relationships. If you are contemplating how to effectively arrange your estate to reflect the unique structure of your blended family, set up a consultation. We are equipped to provide custom legal support, helping you to formulate a secure and comprehensive estate plan that addresses the complex dynamics of your family.

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What Does It Mean To Break A Trust?

When you create a revocable trust, it’s usually because you want some level of control and flexibility over the operation of that trust. As a result, you may be able to dissolve the trust at some point in time. If you no longer need or want the trust, you can choose to revoke it or change the stipulations inside so long as it’s a revocable trust.trust

Breaking a trust refers to the process of dissolving a trust that has been established for estate planning purposes. This can also refer to one party distributing its assets and dissolving the trust, either to the trust beneficiaries or back to the original donor. This can only happen at the discretion of the creator of the trust. A trust fund is one way for managing assets held on behalf of someone else or yourself. When you create a trust and find those assets into the trust, you also set terms for how the trust assets will be distributed.

Breaking or dissolving a trust is only possible with a revocable trust, which by its very nature can be changed or revoked over any period of time. An irrevocable trust, however, must be established and maintained over the course of the creator’s lifetime. The main benefit of an irrevocable trust is that because the assets truly do not belong to the person who has created it, it may be protected from creditors more than a revocable trust.

There are many different kinds of trusts you can use for estate planning in New Hampshire. If you’re interested in using these or other estate planning strategies to accomplish your goals, set aside a time to meet with a qualified attorney.

 

 

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Should I Have a Trust Only When I Hit a Certain Level Of Net Worth?

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Everyone needs estate planning, regardless of how much you own or your net worth. Sometimes, people skip valuable estate planning tools because of misconceptions about needing a certain level of wealth to benefit from them.

A trust is a popular estate planning tool that can be used by a wide range of people to achieve their goals. You do not need to reach a certain level of net worth or have a specific number of assets to benefit from using a trust. However, there are certain points of financial stability and wealth that trigger advanced considerations in estate planning.

Trusts offer numerous safeguards and benefits for your loved ones and assets. In these legal arrangements, you transfer assets inside the trust for a trustee to manage on behalf of the beneficiaries. The appointed trustee has a legal responsibility known as a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries. Trusts provide numerous benefits, such as minimizing estate taxes, avoiding probate, adding a layer of privacy, and ensuring that your assets are distributed to your heirs.

Determining whether or not you should establish a trust depends on multiple factors, including the complexity of your assets, your net worth, your desire for privacy, and your estate planning goals. Net worth is not the sole determining factor for choosing a trust, although it is an important one.

Working with an experienced estate planning attorney is one of the best ways to cover all your bases when it comes to establishing a trust and using other estate planning tools. Finding an attorney early on allows you to establish a relationship now so that you can continue to update your estate plan over time. Contact our NH estate planning office today for more information.

Yes, Even Gen Z Needs Estate Planning

Retirement and long-term care needs feeling far off? Not so for Gen Z, who spend more time educating themselves about planning for the future and getting their ducks in a row with finances. And given that 25% of Americans will need long-term care at some point in their lives, it’s wise to spend the time creating an estate plan now.

Too many people are under the impression that estate planning is just about taxes and money, but it goes so much further. An increasing number of the Gen Z population are reaching out to do everything they can to protect their finances. Estate planning is also about the people you love, your hopes for them, their values and their character.

While many people put off the estate planning process until their 50s, 60s or even 70s, influencers in the social media world are inspiring Gen Z to learn more about finances much early. These individuals called finfluencers focus on living sustainably, investing in real estate, how to be frugal, becoming debt free and retiring early. One recent study found that nearly 20% of Gen Z-ers watch videos on YouTube or read blogs to learn more about financial matters. Since estate planning also incorporates the appointment of an agent to take care of your finances or health care decisions in the event that you’re unable to do so, Gen Z individuals can benefit from creating a basic estate plan.

Over time, the estate plan can be updated to incorporate more complexity in your life, such as buying a home or starting a family. Even a few documents such as a basic will and a power of attorney will give anyone peace of mind that they’ve taken proactive steps to protect their future. Let a NH estate lawyer help you with your plan.

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What Role Does a Trustee Play in The Management of Your Estate?

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A trustee is not an applicable player in every single estate filed across the country. A trustee is only relevant when you have established trusts for the distribution of assets during your life or after you pass away.

 

A trustee is the person officially responsible for administering these trusts, and the trustee’s role is very similar to that of an executor. However, the trustee’s responsibilities may extend much further because they must be handled until the trust is fully distributed. You can determine what type of trust you need to use and the length of time over which it will be distributed by communicating with an estate planning attorney about your specific goals.

 

A trustee also may have more discretion than a typical executor when it comes to distribution of income and principal being made to beneficiaries and how that happens. The trustee must act impartially by continuing to communicate with beneficiaries and may not be involved in any self-interested activities, such as doing things that benefit their personal interests rather than that of the trust or its beneficiaries. Choosing a trustee is a complicated process.

 

You may choose to appoint someone who has experience in financial tax or other legal related matters. It is very important to have a conversation with your chosen trustee before establishing them in this role. The trustee must be someone who can communicate well with beneficiaries and who has great organizational skills. Do not unload this responsibility on someone without first confirming that they are willing and able to serve in this manner.

 

Contact our New Hampshire or Maine estate planning lawyers now to learn more about your options in creating a trust and naming a trustee.

 

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Just Retired? It’s the Perfect Time to Revisit Your Estate Plan

 

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Hitting your chosen retirement age brings about a lot of emotions, and it can seem overwhelming to make this change from working full-time to stepping into whatever your next chapter looks like. Retirement brings about a significant amount of transition, and while you may be celebrating, you may also be nervous about what’s ahead. This substantial change in your life coincides with the need to review your existing estate plan.

 

What you had listed in your plan during your work years may not match up with your needs now. Perhaps your power of attorney agent is no longer around or able to serve in that role. Maybe you just want peace of mind that you’ve thought through all the possible options for your next phase.

 

A well-thought-out estate plan becomes an even more important consideration later in your life, especially in terms of planning for incapacity, but also in terms of deciding what happens to your assets when you pass away. Review your wills, trusts, and beneficiary designations on an annual basis to make sure that your intended plans align with what’s documented in your estate strategy. If you don’t already have one, work with an estate planning lawyer to create a power of attorney document, which enables another person known as your authorized agent to step in and handle tasks on your behalf if you become unable to do so.

 

Once you hit retirement, let your loved ones know where they can find all the most important documents related to your estate administration. You may also choose to introduce your professional team of experts like your insurance agent, financial advisor, CPA, and attorney to any of your grown children who may step into the important role of executor of your estate. While it will be difficult for them to deal with the loss of a loved one, you can make this process easier by planning for it well in advance. Set aside a time to meet with a talented estate planning attorney in NH today to discuss your options.

 

Proactive Financial Steps for Women in Their 50s To Protect Their Future

Once you’ve reached the decade of your 50s, it’s time to tap into your accumulated life experience and wealth by investing with purpose and confidence. You also need to take steps for risk management such as ensuring that you have the right estate planning documents in place for your needs. As you enter your 50s, you may already be thinking about your intended retirement date and whether you have enough saved. It’s also natural to think about documenting your medical wishes should you be unable to share them on your own, too.

A sudden disability, injury or illness may render you unable to make decisions for yourself, and these important estate planning documents can make things easier for the loved ones appointed in those critical decision-making roles. You having these documents in advance makes it easier for them to take action quickly and make decisions that are aligned with your personal wishes. For many women, the stage of being in their 50s brings the experience of empty nest.

The average woman in the United States, however, becomes widowed at around age 55. Factoring in the unexpected is extremely important. You and your partner’s finances and estate plan may be combined together, but it’s worth another look with the help of a qualified estate planning attorney to consider issues you may have neglected previously. A lawyer’s guidance can help you adapt your estate plan for every decade of life and season. Call our New Hampshire or Maine estate planning attorneys for a deep dive into your planning future.

 

 

How Do Living Trusts Work?

When you set up a trust, it is recommended that you do so with the help of an experienced estate planning lawyer. An estate planning lawyer can assist you with determining your individual estate planning goals and how these connect to the type of trust you select.

When you choose a living or revocable trust, this gives you flexibility over your future use of this estate planning vehicle. When you put assets inside a living trust, you continue to access those assets as needed. You can select an appointed person known as a trustee to serve as the manager of your revocable trust if you become unable to manage your affairs or if you pass away. The trustee would then follow any terms you have already outlined in the trust document.

Assets that are named and then funded into your living trust, meaning they have been retitled into the trust management, are distributed to your beneficiaries according to your wishes. Usually this is done without having to go through probate and that is one of the biggest advantages of using a living trust. The probate process can be costly and time intensive.

When you choose a revocable living trust, the distribution of your assets from that trust is kept private. This is most helpful if you have people in your life from whom you would like to shield the details related to your estate. Talk to your estate planning lawyer about the opportunities available with using a living trust to your benefit. A NH estate planning lawyer can guide you through the important questions of what to consider.

 

 

Tangible Versus Intangible Assets in Your Estate Plan

One of the first steps to take for creating an estate plan is to complete an inventory of all of the assets you own. It’s easy to overlook assets as you may not realize how many of them you have that are digital or those that are tangible versus intangible.

Common tangible assets in most people’s estate plans include vehicles like motorcycles, cars or boats, homes or other real estate, personal possessions or collectibles like antiques, coins, art or trading cards. Many people know that these belong in their estate plan and make specific efforts to include them.

Intangible assets inside someone’s estate plan, however, can include things like life insurance policies, savings or checking accounts, CDs, mutual funds, bonds and stocks, health savings accounts or ownership in a business. In addition to pulling together all of the assets, you’ll want to make a thorough list of all of your outstanding liabilities. This will make things easier for your executor when it comes time to handle the administration of your estate.

Your executor will gather all of this information, open the probate process and then follow paying out any creditors or debtors before distributing the remaining assets to your beneficiaries as you wish. Note that if you skip the important step of creating a will to name your executor or to determine the transfer of assets, the state has specific rules that will determine who receives what and will still handle the appointment of a person in the role of executor or personal representative. Speak with a talented estate planning attorney in NH now.

 

 

Does My Trust Automatically Avoid Taxes?

Many people fall for the estate planning myth that establishing a trust avoids taxes. This is not normally true and in certain situations may actually increase taxes. It is very important to work with a local estate planning professional to handle all aspects of your estate plan creation.

There are two different types of taxes that might apply to assets you place inside a trust or your state overall. These are the income tax and the estate tax. The person who creates the trust typically pays for income tax on any revocable living trust. This means that there is no difference between that person’s individual taxes and the trust’s taxes.

Until a trust becomes irrevocable, these rules apply. In an irrevocable trust, which is one that cannot be amended or revoked, income held at the trust is taxed at rates that are typically close to the highest individual tax rates.

For very wealthy people, however, additional estate taxes may apply. Even if your trust does not avoid taxes, there are still other benefits to using this estate planning tool. For example, although you can transfer your assets through your will after you pass away, a trust gives more of a shield of protection since your asset transfer is not part of any public record. When this transfer happens through probate, though, it is a matter of public record and other people may be able to search for it and see it. You also get more control over when and how your assets transfer when you use a trust.

If you have other questions related to the estate planning process and need support and determining how to move forward, contact an estate planning lawyer today.