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.

How Does an Estate Plan Address Long Term Care Costs?

Estate planning considers aspects related to management of your assets over the course of your life and what happens to them after you pass away, but it can also go so much further.

When you work with a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer, you should be able to develop a holistic plan that considers multiple aspects of elder law and potential long term care needs. Increasingly, clients are asking their estate planning attorneys for support with the cost of long-term care.

Having Medicare doesn’t cover many of the expenses associated with a stay in a nursing facility, which can come as a shock when you or a loved one need to be moved into that facility as soon as possible. Without planning in advance, you may not qualify for Medicaid quickly enough to cover those expenses, either.

Given that one in four adults over age 65 will need to spend some time in a nursing facility at some point in the future, it is very valuable to think about how long-term care costs may be addressed in your estate plan. This may be liquidating an asset that could influence the rest of your decisions around what to pass on to future heirs, but it can also include a plan to qualify for Medicaid.

This often requires advanced forethought and the consideration of what you would do if you or a spouse needed to access long term care. Reviewing all of your options now puts you in a much better position if and when this issue comes up in the future.


Why Would Someone Revoke a Trust?

What if you put together an estate planning tool now, but it’s no longer relevant for what you want in the future? Coming up with a plan that addresses your current needs but also allows for flexibility over the years can be a challenge. This is why it’s best to find a NH estate planning lawyer who can help you as your needs evolve.

A trust is a powerful estate planning tool. It gives you privacy, flexibility and the opportunity to control what happens to the assets you place inside the trust. A revocable trust, however, comes with an additional layer of flexibility in that you can revoke this trust or amended at any point in time. This raises the question of why someone would want the revocable benefits of a trust. Things can change as you go throughout life.

An estate plan that made sense previously may not align with your current values and goals. It is always a good idea to talk to your estate planning attorney about what to do with any expected changes in your estate, including when it makes sense to revoke an existing trust. You may be able to make amendments to the trust to accomplish your goals. Working with your lawyer can help you understand the implications of any decisions made around the trust and other factors you should keep in mind as you update various aspects of your estate plan. Revoking a trust might make sense for your goals, but you may wish to amend it instead or establish new estate planning vehicles to accomplish new goals.


How Do I Know If I Need an Advanced Directive in My Estate Plan?

What happens if you become sick, injured, or otherwise unable to speak up for yourself and the medical care you’d like to receive? If you find yourself dealing with these issues, it can also put your loved ones in a very difficult situation trying to navigate what they believe to be your wishes or care options.

You may need to document if you have certain concerns or desires surrounding medical care. This may be outlined in an advanced directive. New Hampshire recognizes an advanced directive as a legal document that has two components: a durable power of attorney for health care and a living will.

An advanced directive may be an important component for your overall estate plan. This must be completed before you become incapacitated. This can seem counterintuitive, since you won’t need an advanced directive when you’re able to speak for yourself, but the risk is that something happens to you in which you are unable to voice your opinions for yourself.

An advanced directive is a legal document that you use to record your medical preferences for life saving care in advance. This is only used when lifesaving care or emergency treatments are given but it does become part of your medical directive. Older people who are at higher risk of medical emergencies should get an advanced directive as soon as possible. Those with specific conditions, such as hypertension, dementia, cancer, heart disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease should all consider creating an advanced directive. Communicate with your lawyer about the opportunity to develop an advanced directive.

An elder law attorney or estate planning attorney in NH can assist you with this process and help you document and consider the important issues related to life saving medical care.



What Does Inflation Mean for Your Retirement Savings?

You may have earmarked your retirement savings not just for your own purposes after you exit the workforce or downgrade your current work role, but also to support your loved ones in estate planning. One of the biggest challenges for retirement savings is inflation.

Rising prices can erode the value of the money you’ve set aside no matter how much you’ve set aside over the course of your working years. This is especially important to consider in 2023 when the consumer price index hit 6.4%, one of the highest since the early 1980s. Prices for goods and services are affecting many people already in retirement and this leads many looking ahead to the future wondering how inflation will influence their retirement savings too.

In fact, 40% of workers in the United States have already postponed their retirement due to the increasing cost of living. Here are some tips to keep in mind to continue setting aside savings:

  • Not every investment decreases in times when prices are rising. Some actually perform better.
  • Bonds may be a good opportunity to explore with your financial professional.
  • Spend less and save more. Can you make any adjustments to your current expenses to set aside more money in savings? Withdrawing money at a conservative rate during retirement is one other option to pursue.
  • Discuss potential health care costs with your estate planning attorney or long-term care insurance agent. You may be able to prepare yourself to better adjust to some of the most expensive costs in retirement in this way.

If you’re concerned about inflation influencing your future, talk to a knowledgeable lawyer about your options with estate planning in NH.


Why You Should Share Your Funeral or Memorial Instructions

Do you have specific wishes or plans related to a funeral or memorial? If so, your family may not know these plans unless it was discussed with them and documented in a place they can find it.

It is a common misconception that the proper place for your final burial and funeral wishes is in your will. Many wills are not located, read or filed until days or weeks after the death. Setting up a memorial service, however, is a more immediate concern.

Your loved ones may find themselves arguing with one another or feeling so overwhelmed by grief and all of the emotions that come with the loss of a loved one, that they may not be able to arrive on a final decision for your funeral or burial. You need to identify in a separate document what kind of memorial service you want and whether you want to be cremated or buried.

Equally important to creating these documents is your decision to inform your family and friends about these wishes. You also need to give them copies of any relevant documents and tell them where this information can be found. Furthermore, if you have taken the step to purchase any advanced burial plots or cremation services, such as a deed to a cemetery plot, this information needs to be shared with important decision makers or actors in the handling of your estate.

A knowledgeable estate panning attorney can help you work through all of the major questions and concerns around the estate planning process. Set aside time to work with an estate planning lawyer and make sure to review your estate plan regularly. Contact our office now to learn more about drafting a full estate plan.


What Are the Downsides Of Going Through Probate?

Probate refers to the legal process in which your estate is distributed to your heirs, either according to your wishes or according to intestate succession rules. One of the most common aspects of estate planning is to minimize the impact of probate and to remove as many assets as possible from your probate estate. You can work with a lawyer in New Hampshire or Maine to create an estate plan that carries out your wishes after you pass away.

Although probate does provide for reliable procedure for the distribution of your property in the absence of a will, or enforces and validates the wishes of the deceased if a will exists, there are several different cons. The first of these is that probate is a matter of public record, meaning that many documents may become accessible to the public. There might also be substantial costs, including executor fees, court fees and attorney fees, and probate can be very time consuming.

The inheritance payment to your beneficiaries may be delayed by months or even years and that’s assuming there are no additional estate disputes, such as someone alleging that the will is invalid. In order to discuss your options for minimizing the impact of probate and removing as many of your assets as possible from it, it is best to work directly with a qualified and experienced estate planning lawyer.

You may be eligible to use other estate planning strategies like the creation and funding of a trust to ensure that your beneficiaries receive their assets as soon as possible and in a streamlined and private manner. Contact our NH estate planning law office to begin discussions about the best planning tools for you.