Leaving an Inheritance to Unprepared Children
December 24, 2011
Most parents (even parents of adult children) want to provide for their children—but not necessarily right away, and maybe not all at once. According to a recent article in Barron’s, “A growing number of parents are shunning the time-honored practice of handing big inheritances to their children when they turn 21. Instead, they’re waiting until the kiddies are in their 30s and 40s.”
The reason for this is that more and more parents are coming to realize that there is a learning curve associated with handling large sums of money, and dropping a large inheritance in your child’s lap may be giving he or she more than they can reasonably handle all at once, essentially setting your child up for failure. “Premature distributions to heirs can have the same effect as the jackpot has on lottery winners… The money becomes a burden, and your child may not fully develop into the adult you hope to raise.”
Luckily, if you don’t want to bequeath a fortune to your children all at once, you have a number of options for ensuring your children are provided for and eventually receive the inheritance you intend for them. As mentioned in the Barron’s article, some of the most popular strategies include passing an inheritance through either a revocable or an irrevocable trust. A trust allows a parent to transfer assets to their children while still retaining control of when and how the assets will be distributed. Of these two options, a revocable trust can provide more flexibility, while an irrevocable trust can provide more asset protection, although both kinds of trusts provide a measure of each. You will want to discuss with your estate planning attorney which option will work best for your family.
With either trust option parents can choose to simply keep the inheritance in trust until the child reaches a certain age, or distribute funds slowly over the course of time, to better acquaint the recipient with the responsibilities of wealth. It is wise to give thought to how you wish to structure your gift to your children, especially if you feel they may be unprepared in their early years to receive your legacy.
Take Advantage of Tax Deductions Before Year’s End
December 23, 2011
As 2011 draws to a close just about everybody has their minds on vacation, travel, and gift-buying, so we just wanted to take a moment to remind all of our readers to take advantage of your tax deductions and allowances before the year is over. These may include sending a check to your favorite charity, giving a generous cash gift to children or grandchildren, or selling securities that have lost money this year.
This isn’t all you can do to wrap up your 2011 tax package. This article in the New York Times explains that the next two years of tax policy are likely to be a bit rocky, and that “beyond the usual recommendations… you should use this year to get your affairs in order for what promises to be an uncertain two years of tax policy.”
If you’re not sure which deductions might apply to you, our office (along with the article mentioned above) has come up with a list of tax breaks to consider:
1. Charitable gifts to most non-profit organizations are tax deductible; and while you can’t deduct any time you spend volunteering, you can deduct any out-of-pocket expenses incurred while volunteering.
2. You can give monetary gifts of up to $13,000 to as many individuals as you would like without incurring the gift tax.
3. The 30% energy tax credits of 2010 expired at the end of last year, but new (albeit lower) credits were passed for 2011. Check the energy star website for information if you made any energy-efficient improvements to your home this year.
4. If you are over 70½ you are currently allowed “to directly donate the required minimum withdrawal from [your] retirement account to charity.” (This is something that may disappear with new tax laws in 2012.)
5. Teachers are allowed to deduct up to $250 spent on classroom expenses.
6. A significant tax loophole set to end this year is one that “allows people whose marginal tax bracket is under 15 percent to pay no capital gains tax when selling securities held for more than a year.”
These are only a few of the tax strategies you may want to consider before the end of the year. For more tax-saving strategies please talk to your financial advisor.
Etiquette to Remember When Visiting Nursing Homes During Holidays
December 10, 2011
Nursing homes during the holiday season tend to see a little more activity than they do during the rest of the year, whether because of families coming to visit loved ones, or local groups or individuals bringing holiday cheer to residents who may not have family living nearby. Taking time to visit with nursing home residents during this time of year can be an immensely rewarding experience for all involved, especially if new or infrequent visitors keep a few simple rules of etiquette in mind:
1. Call the nursing home staff ahead of time to schedule your visit. This not only ensures that you won’t be interrupting any previously scheduled mealtimes or activities, it also gives the residents something to look forward to (and prepare for, if necessary.)
2. Be aware of what to expect. Some will have physical disabilities such as trouble with their hearing, eyesight, or ability to move freely. Some residents may have Alzheimer’s or dementia and may have trouble remembering people or conversations. If you aren’t sure how to respond in certain situations you can ask a member of the nursing staff for advice.
3. Knock before you enter a room. The residents’ rooms are their homes and should be treated as their personal and private space. It is polite to ask permission before entering a room or before handling personal objects on display, but residents will likely welcome queries or questions about photos or personal objects, and this is an excellent way to get a conversation started.
4. Be a good listener. Elderly residents have a lot of history and experience to share, and providing a friendly and attentive ear will be gratifying not only to your elderly friend or relative, but will likely be a fascinating experience for you as well.
5. Be aware of your host’s energy level. Nursing home residents can often tire quickly and 20-30 minutes may be a tiring visit for them. (On the other hand, if you and your host are in the middle of a conversation or game there is no need to rush through to stick to an arbitrary schedule.)
6. Bring photos, cards, or board games with you. Conversation will not always flow easily and freely, and having a back-up plan such as a deck of cards can dispel awkward silences. You may also consider offering to write or read letters for residents who may have trouble with these activities.
7. Don’t promise to visit again unless you truly intend to follow through and can even put it on your calendar right then and there. Nursing home residents may not get many visitors, breaking an appointment can be a heavy disappointment for your friend or relative.
The Gift of an Estate Plan May Be The Perfect Holiday Gift
December 3, 2011
The holiday season is upon us, and as others rush about the malls and the internet looking for gifts, we can recommend a unique, useful and memorable gift that will be perfect for any loved one: An Estate Plan!
Before you roll your eyes at the idea, consider this: An estate plan is something every person needs, whether it’s your single younger nephew, your older sister with her two young children, or your retired, aging parents. Furthermore, although everyone needs an estate plan, many people (wrongly) consider it a luxury, and put off creating one—often until it’s too late.
You may be thinking, No, an estate plan is too personal (too expensive, too morbid) to give as a gift. But , consider this: If you feel an estate plan is too personal a gift, we recommend giving a gift certificate good for the cost of a basic plan, which the recipient can then design and add to according to his or her needs. If you feel an entire estate plan is too expensive, you may want to consider paying for a portion of the plan, or for the first consultation with an attorney, just to get your loved one started. And if it’s morbidity that you’re worried about, perhaps giving a gift certificate for a “Loving Family Legacy Plan” sounds more appealing.
This year, don’t give a gift that will impress for a moment but be forgotten within a week; instead, give the gift that will protect your loved one—and their loved ones!—and will last for years to come. Give the gift of an estate plan.