Will Contests May Be Rare, but They Do Happen – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

In an ideal world, wills and estate plans are created when people are of sound mind and body, just as the familiar legal phrase describes. The best way to avoid a will contest is to have a well-written will, prepared by a qualified estate planning attorney who can help avoid legal contest. However, there are times when this is not the case, says The Huntsville Item in the article Legal Corner: Will contests while rare are messy.”

A will is contested, when the person challenging the will believes that it does not represent the true intent of the testator to pass the estate to the people he wanted.

A will must be written in the correct form and executed according to the law in order to be valid. This is why it is necessary to work with an estate planning attorney to create a will. A person may try to do it on their own, typing it out, downloading a form or copying a form, but because the law is very strict about the form and execution, many of these do-it-yourself wills end up being deemed invalid by the courts.

When the will is not valid, the laws of intestacy are applied to the person’s estate. This is rarely in accordance with the person’s wishes, but at this point, it’s too late.

To make a will, the person must have “testamentary capacity.” That means that he or she knows what they are doing, what their estate includes and who the recipients of the estate will be. They also must not have been subject to undue influence. That means that the person making the will is so controlled and dominated by another person, that they were not able to make the will that they wanted.

When the sad day comes that a loved one passes, the family grieves. Each member will deal with the loss in their own way. For some people, the intense level of emotions can bring about conflicts. Sometimes these are the result of old battles that were never resolved. Sibling rivalry that’s been simmering for decades can emerge.

One of the goals of a properly prepared will, is to prevent any family fights after a loved one has passed.

Studies have found that the struggle over mom’s necklace or dad’s watch are not about the material items themselves, but over the symbolic meaning of those items. When families fight over inheritances, it’s rarely because of the actual item or even the money.

As the family’s older member, you want to do anything you can to avoid fracturing the family after you’ve gone.

Unless you take the steps to create a will and a strong estate plan, your loved ones could be entrenched in a long inheritance conflict that lasts years and consumes more resources than anyone can spare.  However, with careful planning, you can avoid inheritance conflicts. After all, estate planning is more for those you love than for you.

Rely on the skill and knowledge of an experienced estate planning attorney and leave your family intact.

Reference: The Huntsville Item (May 26, 2019) “Legal Corner: Will contests while rare are messy”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys 

Financial Scams Targeting Seniors: How To Protect Yourself – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

It’s scary to think about. A time in life when people have the most assets under their care, is also the time that aging begins to take its toll on their bodies and their cognitive abilities. The legions of individuals actively preying on seniors to take advantage of them seems to be growing exponentially. What can you do?

Marketplace offers tips on how to best protect yourself and loved ones from scammers in its article “Concerned about financial scams? Here’s your guide.”

Stay in touch with family members, especially if they have lost loved ones to death or divorce. Isolation makes seniors vulnerable to scammers.

Try not to be judgmental and be empathetic if someone reveals that they have been scammed. Seniors who have been scammed are embarrassed and fearful.

Talk about the scams that you have heard about with loved ones. They may not know about the scams, and this may give them better awareness when the call comes.

If anyone in the family calls with an urgent request for money—often about a grandchild who is in trouble overseas or a fee for a prize that needs to be claimed immediately—pause and tell them that you need time to consider it.

Don’t send or wire money to anyone you don’t know. Gift cards from retailers, Google Play, iTunes or Amazon gift cards are often used by scammers to set up fraudulent transactions.

Once one scammer has nailed down contact information for a victim, they are more likely to be contacted by other scammers. If a loved one is getting calls at all hours of the day, they may be on a list of scam prospects. Consider changing the number, even though that is a hassle. The same goes for email addresses.

You can prevent scams by talking with people you trust about your financial goals. Talk with an estate planning attorney about creating an advance medical directive and medical power of attorney, then do the same for finances. A power of attorney for your finances allow someone who you know and trust to make financial decisions for you, if you become incapacitated, by illness or injury.

There are different powers of attorney:

General: A designated person can control parts of your financial life. When you return to normal functioning, the power of attorney ends.

Durable: This power of attorney remains in effect, if you become incapacitated.

Springing: This power of attorney is triggered by a life event, like the onset of dementia, an accident or disease, makes you mentally diminished or incapacitated. Certain states do not permit this type of power of attorney, so check with your estate planning attorney.

Reference: Marketplace (May 16, 2019) “Concerned about financial scams? Here’s your guide”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys 

Even a Late Start toward Retirement is Better than None at All – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

There are also people who wait until they become senior citizens to begin planning for retirement. That’s a little on the late side, but the important thing, says the article “Retirement Planning: Start now to help Social Security, Medicare” from Martinsville Bulletin, is to get started. That’s better than doing nothing.

It’s easier if you start earlier. Let’s consider the high school student who diligently puts away 10% of a $7.25 per hour gross minimum wage earning for a year on an average 20-hour work week. That’s $750 into a retirement plan after one year. If that student never went to college, never learned a trade, got a raise or a promotion, they would still have $34,600 in personal savings in 46 years. It’s not a lot, as retirement savings go, but it’s better than nothing.

If the same high school student put those savings into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), more would have been saved. The more time your money has to grow through compounding, the more money you’ll have.

Saving a little money every month could make a big difference later on. This year, the average monthly Social Security benefit rounds out at about $1,460 per person, calculated by combining a worker’s highest paid years in the workplace. That’s not enough for retirement. The answer? Start saving early.

It is not as easy to build a nest egg in a few years, but it’s possible.

Many people don’t wake up to the reality of retirement, until they reach age 62. There’s still time to plan. They can put money into IRA accounts, and at age 62 they can save as much as $7,000. Those IRA contributions count as tax deductions.

Roth IRAs are a little more flexible, but there are no tax deductions with contributions. On the plus side, when money is withdrawn, you’re not paying taxes on the withdrawals.

Another important planning point for seniors: if you’ve had health issues, it’s a good idea to keep working to maintain your employee health insurance. The healthier you are, the lower your health insurance costs will be during retirement. However, health costs do tend to increase with age, so that has to be factored into your retirement planning.

For people who take a lot of medication to control chronic conditions, they’ll need to look into health insurance outside of the workplace. That usually means Medicare. Most seniors are eligible for free Medicare hospital insurance, which is Part A of a four-part option, if they have worked and paid Medicare taxes.

Part A helps pay for inpatient care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility after a hospital stay, some home health care and hospice care. Part B helps to pay for doctors and a variety of other services. Part C allows HMO, PPO and other health care organizations to offer health insurance plans for Medicare beneficiaries. Part D provides prescription drug benefits through private insurance companies.

The Social Security Administration advises people to apply for Medicare three months before they celebrate their 65th birthday, regardless of whether they plan to start receiving retirement benefits right away.

Whether you’re 26 or 56, you need to plan for retirement. You also need to have an estate plan, and that means making the time to meet with an experienced estate planning professional to discuss your life and your retirement plans. You’ll need their guidance to create a will and other documents.

Advance planning will always be better than waiting until the last minute, for retirement and estate planning.

Reference: Martinsville Bulletin (May 17, 2019) “Retirement Planning: Start now to help Social Security, Medicare”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys 

What You Need to Know about Trusts for Estate Planning – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

There are many different kinds of trusts used to accomplish a wide variety of purposes in creating an estate plan. Some are created by the operation of a will, and they are known as testamentary trusts—meaning that they came to be via the last will and testament. That’s just the start of a thorough look at trusts offered in the article “ON THE MONEY: A look at different types of trusts” from the Aiken Standard.

Another way to view trusts is in two categories: revocable or irrevocable. As the names imply, the revocable trust can be changed, and the irrevocable trust usually cannot be changed.

A testamentary trust is a revocable trust, since it may be changed during the life of the grantor. However, upon the death of the grantor, it becomes irrevocable.

In most instances, a revocable trust is managed for the benefit of the grantor, although the grantor also retains important rights over the trust during her or his lifetime. The rights of the grantor include the ability to instruct the trustee to distribute any of the assets in the trust to someone, the right to make changes to the trust and the right to terminate the trust at any time.

If the grantor becomes incapacitated, however, and cannot manage her or his finances, then the provisions in the trust document usually give the trustee the power to make discretionary distributions of income and principal to the grantor and, depending upon how the trust is created, to the grantor’s family.

Note that distributions from a living trust to a beneficiary other than the grantor, may be subject to gift taxes. Those are paid by the grantor. In 2019, the annual gift tax exclusion is $15,000. Therefore, if the distribution is under that level, no gift taxes need to be filed or paid.

When the grantor dies, the trust property is distributed to beneficiaries, as directed by the trust agreement.

Irrevocable trusts are established by a grantor and cannot be amended without the approval of the trustee and the beneficiaries of the trust. The major reason for creating such a trust in the past was to create estate and income tax advantages. However, the increase in the federal estate tax exemption means that a single individual’s estate won’t have to pay taxes, if the value of their assets is less than $11.4 million ($22.8 million for a married couple).

Once an irrevocable trust is established and assets are placed in it, those assets are not part of the grantor’s taxable estate, and trust earnings are not reported as income to the grantor.

The downside of an irrevocable trust is that the transfer of assets into the trust may be subject to gift taxes, if the amount that is transferred is greater than $15,000 multiplied by the number of trust beneficiaries. However, depending upon the size of the grantor’s estate, larger amounts may be transferred into an irrevocable trust without any gift tax liability to the grantor, if the synchronization between gift taxes and estate taxes is properly done. This is a complex strategy that requires an experienced trust and estate attorney.

Trusts are also used to address charitable giving and generating current income. These trusts are known as Charitable Remainder Trusts and are irrevocable in nature. There is a current beneficiary who is either the donor or another named individual and a remainder beneficiary, which is a qualified charitable organization. The trust document provides that the named beneficiary receives an income stream from the income produced by the trust assets, and when the grantor dies, the remaining assets of the trust pass to the charity.

Speak with your estate planning attorney about how trusts might be a valuable part of your estate plan. If your estate plan has not been reviewed since the new tax law was passed, there may be certain opportunities that you are missing.

Reference: Aiken Standard (May 17, 2019) “ON THE MONEY: A look at different types of trusts”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys 

Selling a Parent’s Home after They Pass – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Family members who are overtaken with grief are often unable to move forward and make decisions. If a house was not being well maintained while the parent was ill or aging, it might fall into further disrepair. When siblings have emotional attachments to the family home, says the article “With proper planning, selling a parent’s house can be a relatively painless process,” from The Washington Post, things can get even more complicated.

The difficulty of selling a parent’s home after their passing, depends to a large degree on what kind of advance planning has taken place. Much also depends on the heir’s ability to ask for help and working with the right professionals in handling the sale of the home and managing the estate. The earlier the process begins, the better.

Parents can take steps while they are still living to ward off unnecessary complications. It may be a difficult conversation but having it will make the process easier and allow the family time to focus on their emotions, rather than the sale of property. Here are a few pointers:

Make sure your parents have a will. Many Americans do not. A survey from Caring.com found that only 42% of American adults had a will and other estate planning documents.

Be prepared to spend some money. Before a home is sold, there may be costs associated with maintaining the property and fixing any overdue repairs. Save all receipts and estimates.

Secure the property immediately. That may mean having the locks changed as soon as possible. Once an heir (or someone who believes they are or should be an heir) moves in, getting them out adds another layer of complications.

Get real about the value of the property. Have a real estate agent run a competitive market analysis on the property and consider an appraisal from a licensed appraisal. Avoid any accusations of impropriety—don’t hire a friend or family member. This needs to be all business.

Designate a contact person, usually the executor, to keep the heirs updated on how the sale of the house is progressing.

The biggest roadblock to selling the family house is often the emotional attachment of the children. It’s hard to clean out a family home, with all of the mementos, large and small. The longer the process takes, the harder it is.

This is not the time for any major renovations. There may be some cosmetic repairs that will make the house more marketable, but substantial improvements won’t impact the sale price. Remove all family belongings and show the house either empty or with professional staging to show its possibilities. Clean carpets, paint, if needed and have the landscaping cleaned up.

Keep tax consequences in mind. Depending on where the property is, where the heirs live and how much money is being inherited, there can be estate, inheritance and income taxes.  It is usually best to sell an inherited property, as soon as the rights to it are received. When a property is inherited at death, the property value is “stepped up” to fair market value at the time of the owner’s death. That means that you can sell a property that was purchased in 1970 but not pay taxes on the value gained over those years.

Talk with an experienced estate planning attorney about what will happen when the home needs to be sold. It may be better for parents to create a revocable trust in advance, which will direct the sale, allow a child to continue living in the home for a certain period of time, or instruct the one child who loves the home so much to buy it from the trust. Trusts are typically easier to administer after parents pass away and can be very helpful in preventing family fights.

Reference: The Washington Post (May 16, 2019) “With proper planning, selling a parent’s house can be a relatively painless process”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys 

Power of Attorney: Why You’re Never Too Young – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

When that time comes, having a power of attorney is a critical document to have. The power of attorney is among a handful of estate planning documents that help with decision making, when a person is too ill, injured or lacks the mental capacity to make their own decisions. The article, “Why you’re never too young for a power of attorney” from Lancaster Online, explains what these documents are, and what purpose they serve.

There are three basic power of attorney documents: financial, limited and health care.

You’re never too young or too old to have a power of attorney (POA). If you don’t, a guardian must be appointed in a court proceeding, and they will make decisions for you. If the guardian who is appointed does not know you or your family, they may make decisions that you would not have wanted. Anyone over the age of 18 should have a power of attorney.

It’s never too early, but it could be too late. If you become incapacitated, you cannot sign a POA. Then your family is faced with needing to pursue a guardianship and will not have the ability to make decisions on your behalf, until that’s in place.

You’ll want to name someone you trust implicitly and who is also going to be available to make decisions when time is an issue.

For a medical or healthcare power of attorney, it is a great help if the person lives nearby and knows you well. For a financial power of attorney, the person may not need to live nearby, but they must be trustworthy and financially competent.

Always have back-up agents, so if your primary agent is unavailable or declines to serve, you have someone who can step in on your behalf.

You should also work with an estate planning attorney to create the power of attorney you need. You may want to assign select powers to a POA, like managing certain bank accounts but not the sale of your home, for instance. An estate planning attorney will be able to tailor the POA to your exact needs. They will also make sure to create a document that gives proper powers to the people you select. You want to ensure that you don’t create a POA that gives someone the ability to exploit you.

Any of the POAs you have created should be updated on a fairly regular basis. Over time, laws change, or your personal situation may change. Review the documents at least annually to be sure that the people you have selected are still the people you want taking care of matters for you.

Most important of all, don’t wait to have a POA created. It’s an essential part of your estate plan, along with your last will and testament.

Reference: Lancaster Online (May 15, 2019) “Why you’re never too young for a power of attorney”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys 

What Can I Do When My Aging Parent Refuses to Give Up Control? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

It’s a common problem for families when a parent in charge of finances develops cognitive impairment and needs help managing the family trust and his own spending. It can be financially dangerous with a stubborn parent.

Forbes’ recent article asks, “What Can You Do When A Stubborn Aging Parent Refuses To Give Up Control?” The article explains what it took one family to get an aging parent out of the position as trustee and to permit the successor, the adult daughter, to take over.

The family saw signs of dementia and a family member’s financial abuse.

The trust provided that the parent could be removed as trustee, if two physicians declared him to be incapacitated for handling his own finances. In that case, a judge’s decision wasn’t required. The doctors verified that the elderly parent was incapacitated to safely handle his money. However, all this takes time.

A parent’s failure to listen to reason and their stubborn refusal to resign as trustee when asked, can cost his children dearly. In that situation, a family may have to engage an attorney to resolve the problem.

Remember that even if your aging parents are fine, there’s no time like the present to ask them to review their estate planning documents with you. Look at the terms that define what happens in the event of “incapacity.” Be sure that all of you understand what would happen, if impaired parents are unwilling to give up financial control and you have to institute the proscribed process to remove control from them.

Those who are named in a trust as the “successor trustee,” must know what that means and how much responsibility is involved. The family needs to recognize that financial elder abuse is a huge problem in our country, and family members are frequently the abusers. If you see abuse, and your elderly parent can’t resist the pressure to give money to any dishonest person, an elder law attorney will be able to give you worthwhile advice on the best approach, as well as the law.

Lastly, in the event your aging parent never created an estate plan, work with an experienced estate planning attorney and ask your parent to get going for the family’s sake. You don’t want to live through the situation described above, with no legal means to stop an impaired parent from financial ruin.

Reference: Forbes (May 7, 2019) “What Can You Do When A Stubborn Aging Parent Refuses To Give Up Control?”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Why Have Charitable Gifts From IRAs Increased Dramatically? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs) from IRAs, also known as IRA charitable rollover gifts, increased by 73.8% from 2017 to 2018, and 92% of nonprofit organizations surveyed by FreeWill reported increases in QCD giving.

ThinkAdvisor’s recent article, “Charitable Gifts From IRAs Shot Up by 74% in 2018,” says the 7% of nonprofits that reported a decrease were primarily small charities that received few QCD donations in both years.

FreeWill noted that QCDs are open to anyone 70½ and older with a traditional IRA. However, 401(k)s aren’t eligible for QCDs. Distributions from IRAs can satisfy the IRS’s minimum distribution requirement (RMD). These gifts can be made annually, up to a maximum of $100,000 per year. There is also no minimum.

FreeWill’s research looked at about 120 nonprofits with total revenue ranging from $1 million to $1 billion. The research showed that QCD gifts are getting larger: 52% of charities that responded said the average gift had increased since 2017. Only 12% said the average had decreased, and 30% reported no change.

About 50% of respondents said demographics were responsible for the sharp growth in giving via QCDs, while 27% said it was changes in the tax law. The tax law changes mean that for many donors older than 70, QCDs may be their only way to get a meaningful tax benefit from charitable contributions, since they can no longer itemize deductions and don’t have the charitable deduction.

In addition to the tax incentives, demographic shifts are dramatically altering charitable giving in our country. Americans between 70 and 80 are the fastest growing age bracket. Their numbers will continue to grow over the next 10 years.

The nonprofits in the study said there were several obstacles that keep donors from making QCD contributions. About 80% of respondents said their biggest challenge when processing these gifts, was a lack of information shared by IRA custodians.

The survey’s respondents reported a second challenge to QCDs reaching them: many donors are not aware that the option exists or are confused by the process of making contributions. Planned giving officers reported that up to 75% of all questions in estate planning sessions with donors were about QCDs. The third big challenge comes from confusion within nonprofits, about which department is responsible for QCDs from IRA rollovers. Nearly a quarter of respondents said the responsibility devolved on a combination of departments.

Reference: ThinkAdvisor (May 6, 2019) “Charitable Gifts From IRAs Shot Up by 74% in 2018”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

End of Life Planning to Care for Loved Ones During Grief – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

It’s definitely an uncomfortable thing to do. However, making funeral arrangements for yourself eliminates a lot of stress and anxiety for the family members, who are left to guess what you may have wanted. This, says the Leesville Daily Leader in the article Planning for the end of your life lets you make the decisions.

Here are some of the things to consider:

  • Do you want to be buried or cremated?
  • Do you want a funeral or a memorial service?
  • What music do you want played?
  • Do you want flowers, or would you prefer donations to a charity?
  • Do you want people to speak or prefer that only a religious leader speak?
  • What clothing do you want to be buried in?
  • Have you purchased a plot? A gravestone?
  • Who should be notified about your death?
  • Do you want an obituary published in the newspaper?

There are also estate matters that need to be attended to before you pass. Do you have a will, power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, or a living will? Make sure that your family members or your executor know where these documents can be found.

If you do not have an estate plan in place, now is the time to meet with an estate planning attorney and have a plan created.

Your family will also need to be able to access information about your accounts: investment accounts, credit cards, utility bills, Social Security, pension, retirement funds and other assets and property. A list of the professionals, including your estate planning attorney, CPA and financial advisor, along with the names of your healthcare providers, will be needed.

If you are a veteran, you’ll need to have a copy of your DD-214 in your documents or let family members know where this is located. They will need it, or the funeral home will need it, when applying for burial benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Cemetery Administration.

If you wish to be buried in a national cemetery, you’ll need VA Form 40-10007, Application for Pre-Need Determination of Eligibility for Burial in a VA National Cemetery. This must be completed and sent to the National Cemetery Scheduling Office. Include a copy of the DD-214 with the application.

Your family may find discussing these details difficult, but when the time comes, they will appreciate the care that you took, one last time, to take care of them.

Reference: Leesville Daily Leader (May 1, 2019) “Planning for the end of your life”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

For Immediate Release

Contact: Jane Frankel Sims

410-828-7775

Contact: Frank Campbell

410-263-1667

Sims & Campbell Estates and Trusts

Frankel Sims Law and Holden & Campbell
Merge to Form Sims & Campbell

Firm will offer comprehensive Trusts & Estates services through offices in Towson and Annapolis

TOWSON, Md. (April 26,2019)  Frankel Sims Law and Holden & Campbell have jointly announced the merger of their firms to create a boutique Trusts & Estates law firm providing comprehensive services in the fields of Estate Planning, Estate Administration, Trust Administration and Charitable Giving. The combined firm will be named Sims & Campbell and have offices in Towson, Md. and Annapolis, Md.  Jane Frankel Sims and Frank Campbell will lead and hold equal ownership stakes in the firm.

Sims & Campbell will have 9 attorneys and 15 legal professionals that handle every facet of estate and wealth transfer planning, including wills, revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, estate and gift tax advice, and charitable giving strategies.  The firm will focus solely on Trusts & Estates but will serve a wide range of clients, from young families with modest resources to ultra-high net worth individuals.  This allows clients to remain with the firm as their level of wealth and the complexity of related estate and tax implications change over time. 

“By joining forces, we have expanded our footprint to conveniently serve clients in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia” said Jane Frankel Sims.  We are seeing some of the greatest wealth transfer in our country’s history, and we want to continue to be on the leading edge of helping our clients maintain and enhance their family’s wealth.  In addition, we aim to serve our clients for years to come, and the new firm structure will allow Sims & Campbell to thrive even after Frank and I have retired.”    

“Jane and I have always admired each other’s firms and recognized the need to provide even greater depth and breadth of focused expertise to help families amass and protect their wealth from generation to generation,” said Frank Campbell.  “Now we have even greater capabilities to make a real difference for our clients.” 

The Sims & Campbell Towson office is located at 500 York Road, on the corner of York Road and Pennsylvania Avenue in the heart of Towson.  The Annapolis office is currently located at 716 Melvin Avenue, and is moving to 181 Truman Parkway in August, 2019.  For more information, visit www.simscampbell.law.