Avoiding Estate Planning Scams

Avoiding Estate Planning Scams

a salesman and elderly coupleWhen it comes to estate planning, there’s definitely a great deal of confusion and misinformation. This is one of the bigger decisions you’ll make and your  getting it right is key to making sure that you leave your loved ones and your assets protected. One thing is clear, it’s important to make sure that you have a will or trust in place, regardless of your age. These documents can help make your final wishes clear and will help protect your interests once you’re gone. In the event of an untimely death, you’ll want to make sure that your loved ones receive certain items or that you are able to provide the financial help a spouse, child, or other loved one might need after your passing.

While it’s recommended that all adults have some type of plan in place, it’s also important to make sure that you know how to avoid some of the most common estate planning scams. There are individuals who seem intent on preying on seniors and other vulnerable adults. Even if you think that you would never fall for one of these scams, it’s important to know what to look out for and how to avoid becoming a victim.

Unfortunately, it’s often the elderly who are targeted by these scammers, especially if they have diminished cognitive abilities or don’t have close relatives to act as a second set of eyes for them. Scams targeting the elderly often revolve around having them sign a power of attorney, giving someone else control over their property, or it could be as straightforward as having the elderly sign their property over to someone who doesn’t have their best interest in mind.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

One of the most recent scams come from what is referred to as “trust mills.” These establishments offer a one-size-fits-all solution by using scare tactics to push an expensive “living trust kit” on people. These cookie-cutter-solutions are not efficient, and in most instances will not hold up legally. Trusts and wills are complex legal documents that need to be customized to the individual with special care. We don’t recommend buying software, or prepackaged documents to fill out.

Avoiding Estate Planning Scams

Finding a reputable estate planning lawyer is really the only way to avoid getting scammed. We don’t recommend using software, or prepackaged documents to plan your estate. Ask friends and family if they can refer an attorney to you that handled their will or trust.

If you can’t get a referral, use review sites like Yelp or Avvo to find an estate planning attorney with a high rating and a good reputation who will be able to properly advise you on these matters.

 

 

 

What Anthony Bourdain’s Estate Plan Teaches Us About Estate Planning

What Anthony Bourdain’s Estate Plan Teaches Us About Estate Planning

Anthony Bourdain Anthony Bourdain’s estate plan has become a public matter due to his celebrity status, and can be used as a learning opportunity. His estate plan offers practical insights that can be used when developing your own estate plan.

While some folks might question how Bourdain was worth “only” $1.21 million at the time of his death, that figure still places him among the wealthiest three percent of Americans. If his estate plan was centered on stock, bonds, and other “rich people” financial instruments, his wishes would not carry much value to a general audience.

However, Bourdain did two things in specific that set a good example for others. First, he left nearly his entire estate to his 11-year old daughter.

That may seem like an obvious thing to do, but many individuals fail to realize that they still need to have a proper estate plan in place in order to ensure their wishes are carried out correctly. The ultimate purpose of any estate plan is to protect the interests of those you love, and you’re not doing that unless they’re mentioned by name in your will or trust.

According to Caring.com, 60 percent of Americans don’t have an estate plan at all. This opens up a gray area that can lead to your assets getting distributed in a manner you may not expect.

Worse, the same source noted that 64 percent of Gen Xers and 78 percent of Millenials have yet to engage in any estate planning at all, even though they have reached a child-rearing age. Should something unforeseen happen to them, their children may not inherit everything that they should.

The other interesting thing Bourdain did is to leave his frequent flyer miles to his estranged wife. Bourdain traveled a lot for his job, especially to film his “Parts Unknown” TV show. As a result, he would have accumulated more miles than the average person by a significant margin.

Yet frequent flyer miles, rewards points, and other perks are often neglected in estate planning. Considering that it has become nearly impossible to shop without hearing a sales pitch for some type of rewards system, there is real value in this category. For example, 68 percent of American adults have at least one credit card that earns travel rewards according to Nerd Wallet.

Part of the reason that these assets are often neglected is that they cannot be exchanged through a simple beneficiary designation form.

Instead, each airline has its own policies on what can be inherited and by whom. They can do this because every rewards program is essentially a contract between a consumer and a company.

Some estate planning attorneys in Chino might not know the specific rules every different airline utilizes, so they group these assets under the “Tangible” category in the formal estate plans that they draw up.

Bourdain has the advantage of a celebrity status, so any airline that failed to honor his wishes would likely face a substantial PR backlash. Therefore, it is probable that his wishes will be honored even if the airline(s) in question would not do so otherwise.

That said, regular people may be able to mimic the strategy to an extent by sharing their story with the local media in their area. It’s unlikely to receive the amount of coverage Bourdain’s estate plan has, but may generate enough buzz to get you what you want.

Bourdain also documented his estate plan in his formal will and named a specific agent to ensure its execution. Both are “estate planning best practices” that everybody should follow his example on.

In summation, Anthony Bourdain’s estate plan illustrates several practices that may be utilized by the public at large. The purpose of an estate plan is to protect your loved ones, so make sure that yours does so. Rewards points and frequent flyer miles are assets, so make sure they are accounted for. Finally, include your estate plan in your will and talk to your estate planning lawyer about naming a specific agent to bring it to fruition.

Getting The Most Out Of Your Social Security Survivor Benefits

Getting The Most Out Of Your Social Security Survivor Benefits

elderly couple looking at billsOur estate planning attorneys receive a lot of questions regarding social security survivor benefits. To shed some light on the process, we’ve put together the following guide.

If a person with social security benefits dies, leaving behind a surviving spouse or dependent child, the person left behind is entitled to receive two types of social security benefits: a one-time lump-sum death benefit, or a monthly survivor benefit. When it comes to later-in-life planning, knowing what you are entitled to can help ensure that you are not missing out on anything. According to the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration’s Office, more than 11,000 widows and widowers are receiving lower social security benefits than they are entitled to. Make sure you know your claim options so you don’t become one of those statistics.

Who is Entitled to Receive Survivor Benefits?

Survivor benefits are paid out to the spouse of the worker who has died. To be eligible, you will need to have been married for at least nine months. Qualified children are eligible to receive the survivor benefits as well as ex-spouses, if the marriage lasted for more than 10 years.

Two Types of Social Security Survivor Benefits: Lump Sum and Ongoing Monthly Payments

Lump Sum Death Benefit Payment

If the spouse of the worker who has died is living in the same household, they are entitled to receive a one-time payment benefit of $255. In cases where there is no spouse left behind, a dependent child, under the age of 18, can receive the lump-sum death benefit. If it has been determined that the deceased worker was currently insured, the lump-sum death payment is payable as long as at least six quarters of the workers’ earnings were covered by social security during the 13-quarter period leading up to their death.

Ongoing Monthly Death Benefit Payments

Monthly survivor benefits are paid to widows/widowers, dependents, and minor children. To qualify for ongoing monthly death payment options, Social Security will need to be notified at the time of the workers’ death. Generally, benefits start from the time the application is received, rather than the time of the individual’s death.

Spousal Death Benefit Payments

If you are the surviving spouse, you are entitled to receive 70-to-100 percent of what the deceased worker would have received when they reached their full retirement age. The deceased workers’ current spouse, aged 60 or older, is entitled to receive a lifetime monthly income in the form of social security survivor benefit, as long as they had been married for at least nine months.

For ex-spouses of the worker, if they were married for more than 10 years and remained unmarried until the age of 60, they are also eligible to receive the lifetime survivor benefit. Individuals who remarry and divorce again might also qualify.

Retirement Benefits and Survivor Benefits

If a person has their own retirement benefits, they might think they are not eligible to receive the survivor benefit as well, and this is where many people miss out. Although you can’t receive both benefits simultaneously, you can take them serially. Knowing this little tidbit of information can help increase your lifetime income substantially. The other key is to take whichever benefit is the lower one right away and switch over to the higher one when you reach full retirement age. Another piece of information that many people don’t know is that to use either of these switching strategies, you have to only apply for one benefit initially; otherwise, you might not be able to switch if you are considered to have applied for both benefits at the same time.

It is an unfortunate thing when widows, widowers, and dependent children miss out on benefits they are entitled to because they were unaware, uninformed, or make a mistake during the application process.

Getting The Most Out Of Your Social Security Survivor Benefits

elderly couple looking at billsOur estate planning attorneys receive a lot of questions regarding social security survivor benefits. To shed some light on the process, we’ve put together the following guide.

If a person with social security benefits dies, leaving behind a surviving spouse or dependent child, the person left behind is entitled to receive two types of social security benefits: a one-time lump-sum death benefit, or a monthly survivor benefit. When it comes to later-in-life planning, knowing what you are entitled to can help ensure that you are not missing out on anything. According to the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration’s Office, more than 11,000 widows and widowers are receiving lower social security benefits than they are entitled to. Make sure you know your claim options so you don’t become one of those statistics.

Who is Entitled to Receive Survivor Benefits?

Survivor benefits are paid out to the spouse of the worker who has died. To be eligible, you will need to have been married for at least nine months. Qualified children are eligible to receive the survivor benefits as well as ex-spouses, if the marriage lasted for more than 10 years.

Two Types of Social Security Survivor Benefits: Lump Sum and Ongoing Monthly Payments

Lump Sum Death Benefit Payment

If the spouse of the worker who has died is living in the same household, they are entitled to receive a one-time payment benefit of $255. In cases where there is no spouse left behind, a dependent child, under the age of 18, can receive the lump-sum death benefit. If it has been determined that the deceased worker was currently insured, the lump-sum death payment is payable as long as at least six quarters of the workers’ earnings were covered by social security during the 13-quarter period leading up to their death.

Ongoing Monthly Death Benefit Payments

Monthly survivor benefits are paid to widows/widowers, dependents, and minor children. To qualify for ongoing monthly death payment options, Social Security will need to be notified at the time of the workers’ death. Generally, benefits start from the time the application is received, rather than the time of the individual’s death.

Spousal Death Benefit Payments

If you are the surviving spouse, you are entitled to receive 70-to-100 percent of what the deceased worker would have received when they reached their full retirement age. The deceased workers’ current spouse, aged 60 or older, is entitled to receive a lifetime monthly income in the form of social security survivor benefit, as long as they had been married for at least nine months.

For ex-spouses of the worker, if they were married for more than 10 years and remained unmarried until the age of 60, they are also eligible to receive the lifetime survivor benefit. Individuals who remarry and divorce again might also qualify.

Retirement Benefits and Survivor Benefits

If a person has their own retirement benefits, they might think they are not eligible to receive the survivor benefit as well, and this is where many people miss out. Although you can’t receive both benefits simultaneously, you can take them serially. Knowing this little tidbit of information can help increase your lifetime income substantially. The other key is to take whichever benefit is the lower one right away and switch over to the higher one when you reach full retirement age. Another piece of information that many people don’t know is that to use either of these switching strategies, you have to only apply for one benefit initially; otherwise, you might not be able to switch if you are considered to have applied for both benefits at the same time.

It is an unfortunate thing when widows, widowers, and dependent children miss out on benefits they are entitled to because they were unaware, uninformed, or make a mistake during the application process.