Available for Interviews: Glenn Matecun.
Glenn R. Metecun, CELA, is certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Catching the early warning signs of dementia is crucial in helping to get the care your loved one needs.
Talking Points from Glenn Matecun
on Mistakes Women Make in Their Estate Planning:
Planning ahead ensures that you stay in control while you are here, and that your property and money are distributed in the easiest, most efficient, tax-friendly way possible. If you don’t plan, your estate will likely be involved in the time-consuming, expensive and emotionally-draining probate court process, and also place a burden on your loved ones who may or may not know what you wanted.
3 Critical Mistakes Women Mae in Their Estate Planning
- Not updating their estate plan after a divorce. Rules are complicated and if you leave an old plan in place so that it can cause confusion and problems. This is particularly true for beneficiary designations on life insurance or retirement accounts. If you leave an ex-spouse on as a beneficiary after a divorce, he or she may still be entitled to your money after you’re gone.
2) Not planning after a second marriage. Second marriages, especially where each spouse has children from a prior relationship, are complicated. Without good planning, all assets of one spouse pass to the other on the first spouse’s death. What does that mean? It means that the surviving spouse can leave those assets to his or her own children, and not yours. One of the biggest areas of lawsuits we see are stepchildren fighting about their inheritance.
3) Adding a child’s name to your home or financial accounts. I call this “colliding your assets with your children’s problems.” Many times we see women placing a child’s name on their home or financial accounts. This is particularly true after the death of a spouse, where the widow feels like she needs to put someone in place to manage assets in case she can’t do it herself. Here’s the problem. Adding someone’s name to your account makes them an “owner.” If they have a problem (divorce, car accident, IRS lien, etc.), that problem attaches to your home or your money. Also, as the co-owner with you, they receive the asset immediately on your death. This is true whether you have a Will, and it is true whether or not you wanted those assets to be divided among other beneficiaries (for example, your other children will get nothing if you make one child co-owner of your home or financial accounts). There is a much better way—name that person as your “power of attorney.” Then they can help if you need help, but they don’t “own” your asset and you stay in control.
Other Things Women Should Consider in Their Estate Planning?
A Will alone is not enough, because a Will only deals with things after you are gone. You should also have a Financial Power of Attorney, Medical Directives to allow someone to carry out your medical wishes if you are incapacitated, and a HIPAA Authorization to allow your loved ones to talk to doctors, nurses and other medical professionals about your health needs.
If your life or finances are a bit more complicated, you should consider a trust. A trust is like a bucket where you consolidate most of your assets. If you need something, you take it out of the bucket. If you get something new, you put it in the bucket. You make your own rules as far as what happens to the assets in the bucket after you are gone. Trusts are great planning instruments in the following circumstances: (1) you have specific objectives for your beneficiaries (for example, hold little Johnny’s inheritance until he turns 40 years hold); (2) you want central control of your property and money (your “successor trustee” takes control of the bucket after you’re gone and follows your rules); (3) in a second marriage situation, you want to give your surviving spouse access to certain assets, but control where those assets go after your spouse is gone; (4) if you have a beneficiary in a bad marriage, or who has creditors, he or she may not be able to deal with an inheritance—a trust allows it to be held back until the beneficiary’s life gets better; and (5) if you have a beneficiary with a disability or other special needs, a direct inheritance will disqualify him or her from receiving governmental benefits like SSI or Medicaid. Special trust planning is necessary in this situation to ensure you are not harming the beneficiary more than helping.
How Often Should Your Will Be Updated?
The law changes. Your family changes, your money changes and your health changes. Your estate planning attorney should keep you up-to-date on the legal side as the law changes. But if you have a change in family (birth or death), finances (new job, inheritance), or health, you should reassess your plan.
Interview: Glenn Matecun.
Glenn R. Matecun is a Michigan estate planning and elder law attorney, helping families plan for life, resolve conflict, deal with loss, protect assets and preserve a lasting legacy. He has been an attorney for over 30 years and practices throughout the state of Michigan.
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