Why You Need a Secondary Beneficiary – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

A secondary beneficiary, sometimes called a contingent beneficiary, is a person or entity entitled to receive assets from an estate or trust after the estate owner’s death, if the primary beneficiary is unable or unwilling to accept the assets. Secondary beneficiaries can be relatives or other people, but they can also be trusts, charities or other organizations, as explained in the recent article titled “What You Need to Know About Secondary or Contingent Beneficiaries” from Yahoo life.

An estate planning lawyer can help you decide whether you need a secondary beneficiary for your estate plan or for any trusts you create. Chances are, you do.

Beneficiaries are commonly named in wills and trust documents. They are also used in life insurance policies and in retirement accounts. After the account owner dies, the assets are distributed to beneficiaries as described in the legal documents.

The primary beneficiary is a person or entity with the first claim to assets. However, there are times when the primary beneficiary does not accept the assets, can’t be located, or has predeceased the estate owner.

A secondary beneficiary will receive the assets in this situation. They are also referred to as the “remainderman.”

In many cases, more than one contingent beneficiary is named. Multiple secondary beneficiaries might be entitled to receive a certain percentage of the value of the entire estate. More than one secondary beneficiary may also be directed to receive a portion of an individual asset, such as a family home.

Estate planning attorneys may even name an additional set of beneficiaries, usually referred to as tertiary beneficiaries. They receive assets if the secondary beneficiaries are not available or unwilling to accept the assets. In some cases, estate planning attorneys name a remote contingent beneficiary who will only become involved if all of the primary, secondary and other beneficiaries can’t or won’t accept assets.

For example, a person may specify their spouse as the primary beneficiary and children as secondary beneficiaries. A more remote relative, like a cousin, might be named as a tertiary beneficiary, while a charity could be named as a remote contingent beneficiary.

Almost any asset can be bequeathed by naming beneficiaries. This includes assets like real estate (in some states), IRAs and other retirement accounts, life insurance proceeds, annuities, securities, cash and other assets. Secondary and other types of beneficiaries can also be designated to receive personal property including vehicles, jewelry and family heirlooms.

Naming a secondary beneficiary ensures that your wishes as expressed in your will are going to be carried out even if the primary beneficiary cannot or does not wish to accept the inheritance. Lacking a secondary beneficiary, the estate assets will have to go through the probate process. Depending on the state’s laws, having a secondary beneficiary avoids having the estate distribution governed by intestate succession. Assets could go to someone who you don’t want to inherit them!

Talk with your estate planning attorney about naming secondary, tertiary and remote beneficiaries.

Contact us to review your estate plan with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys.

Reference: Yahoo life (Jan. 4, 2023) “What You Need to Know About Secondary or Contingent Beneficiaries”

 

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What Is Needed in Estate Plan Besides a Will? Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Having a will is especially important if you have young children, says Fed Week’s recent article entitled “Estate Planning Doesn’t Stop with Making a Will.”  In your will, you can nominate guardians, who would raise your children in the event neither you nor your spouse is able to do so.

When designating a guardian, try to be practical.

Remember, your closest relatives—like your brother and his wife—may not necessarily be the best choice.

And keep in mind that you’re acting in the best interests of your children.

Be sure to obtain the consent of your guardians before nominating them in your will.

Also make sure there’s sufficient life insurance in place, so the guardians can comfortably afford to raise your children.

Your estate planning isn’t complete at this point. Here are some of the other components to consider:

  • Placing assets in trust will help your heirs avoid the hassle and expense of probate.
  • Power of Attorney. This lets a person you name act on your behalf. A “durable” power will remain in effect, even if you become incompetent.
  • Life insurance, retirement accounts and payable-on-death bank accounts will pass to the people you designate on beneficiary forms and won’t pass through probate.
  • Health care proxy. This authorizes a designated agent to make medical decisions for you, if you can’t make them yourself.
  • Living will. This document says whether you want life-sustaining efforts at life’s end.

Be sure to review all of these documents every few years to make certain they’re up to date and reflect your current wishes.  Contact us to review your estate plan with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys.

Reference: Fed Week (Dec. 28, 2022) “Estate Planning Doesn’t Stop with Making a Will”

 

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Is Estate Planning and Writing Will the Same Thing? – Annapolis and Towson Planning

An estate plan is a broader plan for your assets that may apply during your life as well as after your death. A will states where your assets will pass after you die, who will be the guardian of your minor children and other directions. A will is often part of an estate plan, but an estate plan covers much more.

Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Yahoo’s recent article entitled “How Is Estate Planning Different From Will Planning?” says that if you’re thinking about writing your will or creating an estate plan, it can be a good idea to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney.

A will is a legal document that describes the way you want your assets transferred after your death. It can also state your wishes when it comes to how your minor children will be cared after your death. Wills also nominate an executor who’s in charge of carrying out the actions in your will.

Without a will, your heirs may spend significant time, money and energy trying to determine how to divide up your assets through the probate court. When you die intestate, the succession laws where you reside determine how your property is divided.

Estate planning is much broader and more complex than writing a will.  A will is a single tool, and an estate plan involves multiple tools, such as powers of attorney, advance directives and trusts.

Estate planning may include thinking through topics even beyond legal documents, like deciding who has the power to make healthcare decisions on your behalf while you’re alive, in addition to deciding how your assets will be distributed after your death.

Therefore, wills are part of an estate plan. However, an estate plan is more than just a will.

A will is just a first step when it comes to creating an estate plan. To leave your family in the best position after your death, create a comprehensive estate plan, so your assets can end up where you want them.

Contact us to review your estate plan with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys.

Reference: Yahoo (Oct. 20, 2022) “How Is Estate Planning Different From Will Planning?”

 

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Some Expenses are Paid by Estate and Some by Beneficiary – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Settling an estate can be complex and time-consuming—it all depends on how much “estate planning” was done. According to a recent article from Yahoo Finance titled “What Expenses Are Paid by the Estate vs. Beneficiary?” the executor is the person who creates an inventory of assets, determines which expenses need to be paid and distributes the remainder of the estate to the deceased’s beneficiaries. How does the executor know which monies are paid by the estate and which by the beneficiaries?

First, let’s establish what kind of expenses an estate pays. The main expenses of an estate include:

Outstanding debts. The executor has to notify creditors of the decedent’s death and the creditors then may make a claim against the estate. Because a person dies doesn’t mean their debts disappear—they become the debts of the estate.

Taxes. There are many different taxes to be paid when a person dies, including estate, inheritance and income tax. The federal estate tax is not an issue, unless the estate value exceeds the exemption limit of $12.92 million for 2023. Not all states have inheritance taxes, so check with a local estate planning attorney to learn if the beneficiaries will need to pay this tax. If the decedent has an outstanding property tax bill for real estate property, the estate will need to pay it to avoid a lien being placed on the property.

Fees. There are court fees to file documents including a will to start the probate process, to serve notice to creditors or record transfer of property with the local register of deeds. The executor is also entitled to collect a fee for their services.

Maintaining real estate property. If the estate includes real estate, it is likely there will be expenses for maintenance and upkeep until the property is either distributed to heirs or sold. There may also be costs involved in transporting property to heirs.

Final expenses. Unless the person has pre-paid for all of their funeral, burial, cremation, or internment costs, these are considered part of estate expenses. They are often paid out of the death benefit associated with the deceased person’s life insurance policy.

What expenses does the estate pay?

The estate pays outstanding debts, including credit cards, medical bills, or liens.

  • Appraisals needed to establish values of estate assets;
  • Repairs or maintenance for real estate
  • Fees paid to professionals associated with settling the estate, including executor, estate planning attorney, accountant, or real estate agent;
  • Taxes, including income tax, estate tax and property tax; and
  • Fees to obtain copies of death certificates.

The executor must keep detailed records of any expenses paid out of estate assets. The executor is the only person entitled by law to see the decedent’s financial records. However, beneficiaries have the right to review financial estate account records.

What does the beneficiary pay?

This depends on how the estate was structured and if any special provisions are included in the person’s will or trust. Generally, expect to pay:

  • Final expenses not covered by the estate;
  • Personal travel expenses;
  • Legal expenses, if you decide to contest the will; and
  • Property maintenance or transportation costs not covered by the estate.

Some of the expenses are deductible, and the executor must use IRS Form 1041 on any estate earning more than $600 in income or which has a nonresident alien as a beneficiary.

An estate planning attorney is needed to create a comprehensive estate plan addressing these and other issues in advance. If little or no planning was done before the decedent’s death, an estate planning attorney will also be an important resource in navigating through the estate’s settlement.  Contact us to review your estate plan with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys.

Reference: Yahoo finance (Dec. 29, 2022) “What Expenses Are Paid by the Estate vs. Beneficiary?”

 

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

How Does a Trust Work? Sims & Campbell Estate Planning

You’ve worked hard to accumulate financial assets. You’ll need them to support your retirement. However, what if you also want to pass them on to loved ones? Trusts are used to pass assets to the next generation and have many benefits, says a recent article titled “Passing assets through a trust—What to know” from the Daily Bulldog- Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning.

“Funded” trusts don’t go through probate, which can be time-consuming, costly, and public. Your last will and testament become a public document when it is filed in the courthouse. Anyone can see it, from people wanting to sell your home to thieves looking for victims. Trust documents are not public, so no one outside of the grantor and the trustee knows what is in the trust and when distributions will be made. A trust also gives you the ability to be very specific about who will inherit assets in the trust, and when.

An estate planning attorney will help establish trusts, ensuring they are compliant with state law. There are three key questions to address during the trust creation process.

Who will serve as a trustee? There are several key roles in trusts. The person who creates the trust is the grantor of the trust. They name the trustee—the person or company charged with managing the trust’s assets and carrying out the instructions in the trust. You might choose a loved one. However, if they don’t have the knowledge or experience to manage the responsibilities, you could also name a corporate fiduciary, such as a bank or trust company. These entities charge for their services and usually require a minimum.

When will distributions be made? As the grantor, you get to decide when assets will be distributed and the amount of the distribution. You might want to keep the assets in the trust until the beneficiary reaches legal age. You could also structure the trust to make distributions at specific ages, i.e., at 30, 35 and 40. The trust could even hold the assets for the lifetime of the beneficiary and only distribute earned income. A large part of this decision has to do with how responsible you feel the beneficiaries will be with their inheritance.

What is the purpose of the trust? The grantor also gets to decide how trust assets should be used. The trust could designate broad categories, such as health, education, maintenance and support. The trust can be structured so the beneficiary needs to ask the trustee for a certain amount of assets. Other options are to structure the trust to provide mandatory income, once or twice a year, or tie distributions to incentives, such as finishing a college degree or purchasing a first home.

An estate planning attorney will explain the different types of trusts, and which one is best for your unique situation. There are many different types of trusts. You’ll want to be sure to choose the right one to protect yourself and your loved ones.  Contact us to review your estate plan with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys.

Reference: Daily Bulldog (Dec. 24, 202) “Passing assets through a trust—What to know”

 

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Should Each Child Get Equal Inheritance? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Every estate planning attorney has conversations with their clients about how adult children should inherit. While most people assume siblings should all inherit equally, in many situations, equal is not always appropriate. There are many situations where an equal inheritance might be unfair, says a recent article, “How Should Your Children Inherit? 4 Scenarios Where ‘Equal’ Is Not Appropriate,” from Kiplinger.

The Caretaker Child Lives With the Parent. When one of the children lives with the parent and has taken on most, if not all, of the responsibilities, it may be fair to treat the child differently than siblings who are not involved with the parent’s care. Taking care of paying bills, coordinating health care appointments, driving the parent to appointments and being involved with end-of-life care is a lot of responsibility. It may be fair to leave this child the family home or leave the home to a trust for the child for their lifetime. The parent may wish to leave the caretaking child a larger portion of the inheritance to recognize the additional help they provided.

A Special Needs Child. If the parent has been the primary caregiver for a special needs child, the estate plan must take this into consideration to ensure the child will be properly cared for after the parents die or are unable to care for the child. Depending on what government benefits the child receives, this usually means the parents need to have a Special Needs Trust or Supplemental Needs Trust created. Most government benefits are means-tested. To remain eligible, recipients may not have more than a certain amount of personal assets. The Special Needs or Supplemental Needs trust could receive more or less than an equal amount of the estate the child would have inherited.

In this scenario, siblings are generally understanding. The siblings often know they will be the ones caring for the family member with special needs when the parents can no longer provide care and welcome the help of an elder law estate planning attorney to plan for their sibling’s future.

An Adult Child With Problems. It’s usually not a good idea to leave an equal portion of an inheritance to an adult child who suffers from mental illness, substance abuse, is going through a divorce or has a life-long history of making bad choices. Putting the money into a trust with a non-family member serving as a trustee and strict directions for when and how much money may be distributed may be a better option. In some cases, disinheriting a child is the unpleasant but only realistic alternative.

Wealth Disparities Among the Siblings. When one child has been financially successful and another struggles, it’s fair to bequeath different amounts. However, wealth can change over a lifetime, so review the estate plan and the wealth distribution on a regular basis.

How To Decide What Will Work For Your Family? Every family is different, and every family has different dynamics. Have open and honest discussions with your estate planning attorney, so they can help you plan for your family’s situation. If possible, the same frank discussion should take place with adult children, so no one is taken by surprise at a time when they will be grieving a loss.

Contact us to review your estate plan with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys.

Reference: Kiplinger (Dec. 18, 2022) “How Should Your Children Inherit? 4 Scenarios Where ‘Equal’ Is Not Appropriate”

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

The Basics of Estate Planning – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

No matter how BIG or small your net worth is, estate planning is a process that ensures your assets are handed down the way you want after you die.

Forbes’ recent article entitled “Estate Planning Basics” explains that everybody has an estate.

An estate is nothing more or less than the sum total of your assets and possessions of value. This includes:

  • Your car
  • Your home
  • Financial accounts
  • Investments; and
  • Personal property.

Estate planning is the process of deciding which people or organizations are to get your possessions or assets after you’ve died.

It’s also how you leave directions for managing your care and assets if you are incapacitated and unable to make financial or medical decisions. That is done with powers of attorney, a healthcare directive and a living will.

Your estate plan details who gets your assets. It also designates who can make critical healthcare and financial decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. If you have minor children, your estate plan also lets you designate their legal guardians, in case you die before they reach 18. It also allows you to name adults to safeguard their financial interests.

Your estate plan directs assets to specific entities or people in a legally binding manner. If you want your daughter to have your coin collection or your favorite animal rescue organization to get $500, it’s all mapped out in your estate plan.

You can also create a trust to safeguard a minor child’s assets until they reach a certain age. You can also keep assets out of probate. That way, your beneficiaries can easily access things like your home or bank accounts.

All estate plans should include documents that cover three main areas: asset transfer, medical needs and financial decisions. Ask an experienced estate planning attorney to help you create your estate plan.

Reference: Forbes (Nov. 16, 2022) “Estate Planning Basics”

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

What Documents are Needed in an Emergency? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Most people don’t have any idea where to start when it comes to their emergency documents.  This often keeps them from going anywhere near their estate planning. This is a big mistake, says a recent article, “3 tasks your family needs to complete to ease any anxiety over unexpected emergencies,” from MarketWatch.

Estate planning is not just about wealthy people putting assets into trusts to avoid paying taxes. Estate planning includes preparing for life as well as death. This includes a parent preparing for surgery, for instance, who needs to have the right documents in place so family members can make emergency medical or financial decisions on their behalf. Estate planning also means being prepared for the unexpected.

Power of Attorney. Everyone over age 18 should have a POA, so a trusted person can take over their financial decisions. The POA can be as specific or broad as desired and must follow the laws of the person’s state of residence.

Medical Directives. This includes a Medical Power of Attorney, HIPAA authorization and a Living Will. The Medical POA allows you to appoint an agent to make health care decisions on your behalf. A HIPAA authorization allows someone else to gain access to medical records—you need this so your agent can talk with all medical and health insurance personnel. A living will is used to convey your wishes concerning end of life care. It’s a serious document, and many people prefer to avoid it, which is a mistake.

All of these documents are part of an estate plan. They answer the hard questions in advance, rather than putting family members in the terrible situation of having to guess what a loved one wanted.

An estate plan includes a will, and it might also include a trust. The will covers the distribution of property upon death, names an executor to be in charge of the estate and, if there are minor children, is used to name a guardian who will raise them.

A list of important information is not required by law. However, it should be created when you are working on your estate plan. This includes the important contacts from doctors to CPAs and financial advisors. Even more helpful would be to include a complete health profile with dates of previous surgeries, current medications with dosage information and pharmacy information.

Don’t overlook information about your digital life. Names of financial institutions, account numbers, usernames and passwords are all needed if your agent needs to access funds. Do not place any of this information in your will, as you’ll be handing the keys to the vault to thieves. Create a separate document with this information and tell your agent where to find the information if they need it.

Reference: MarketWatch (Nov. 19, 2022) “3 tasks your family needs to complete to ease any anxiety over unexpected emergencies”

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

Should You Agree to Being a Guardian? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Yes, it is an honor to be asked to be the guardian of someone’s children. However, you’ll want to understand the full responsibilities involved before agreeing to this life-changing role. A recent article from Kiplinger, “3 Key Things to Consider Before Agreeing to Be A Guardian in a Trust,” explains.

For parents, this is one of the most emotional decisions they have to make. Assuming a family member will step in is not a plan for your children. Naming a guardian in your will needs to be carefully and realistically thought out.

For instance, people often first think of their own parents. However, grandparents may not be able to care for a child for one or two decades. If the grandparent’s own future plan includes downsizing to a smaller home or moving to a 55+ community, they may not have the room for children. In a 55+ community, they may also not be permitted to have minor children as permanent residents.

What about siblings? A trusted aunt or uncle might be able to be a guardian. However, do they have children of their own, and will they be able to manage caring for your children as well as their own? You’ll also have to be comfortable with their parenting styles and values.

Other candidates may be a close friend of the family, who does not have children of their own. An “honorary” aunt or uncle who is willing to embark on raising your children might be a good choice.  However, it requires careful thought and discussion.

Financial Considerations. What resources will be available to raise the children to adulthood? Do the parents have life insurance to pay for their needs, and if so, how much? Are there other assets available for the children? Will you be in charge of managing assets and children, or will someone else be in charge of finances? You’ll need to be very clear about the money.

Legal Arrangements. Is there a family trust? If so, who is the successor trustee of the trust? What are the terms of the trust? Most revocable trusts include language stating they must be used for the “health, education, maintenance, and support of beneficiaries.” However, sometimes there are conditions for use of the funds, or some funds are only available for milestones, like graduating college or getting married.

Lifestyle Choices. You’ll want to have a complete understanding of how the parents want their children to be raised. Do they want the children to remain in their current house, and has an estate plan been made to allow this to happen? Will the children stay in their current schools, religious institutions or stay in the neighborhood?

In frank terms, simply loving someone else’s children is not enough to take on the responsibility of being their guardian. Financial resources need to be discussed and lifestyle choices must be clarified. At the end of the discussion, all parties need to be completely satisfied and comfortable. This kind of preparedness provides tremendous peace of mind.

Reference: Kiplinger (Nov. 17, 2022) “3 Key Things to Consider Before Agreeing to Be A Guardian in a Trust”

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Some Assets Better Left Outside of Will – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

A will is a document of last resort to transfer assets. There are many ways to transfer assets that would preempt the terms of a will. AARP’s recent article entitled “The Legal Limits of Your Will” provides a list of some major assets that often fall outside a will’s scope, along with tips for getting them to the people or organizations you want.

Retirement accounts. Those named as beneficiaries will get those assets, no matter what the will says. That’s because a beneficiary designation already informed the plan administrator how to handle the asset after your death. There’s no need for probate court involvement.

Life insurance policies. A life insurance policy’s beneficiary listing, not the will, determines who gets the proceeds. However, some states automatically revoke the beneficiary designation of an ex-spouse on a life insurance policy.

Bank accounts. If an account is titled as transfer on death (TOD), payable on death (POD) or joint tenancy with right of survivorship (JTWROS), those designations generally override the will. The account’s signature card would show if any of these designations applies. Ask the bank to look up your card if you aren’t sure. For individual accounts titled TOD or POD, the beneficiary can go to the bank with a death certificate (or death certificates) and proof of identity to transfer or collect the funds. JTWROS accounts become the property of the surviving account holder, who will need to show the bank a death certificate for the other account holder.

Real estate. If two spouses own a home jointly with right of survivorship or as tenants by the entirety, the property automatically is transferred to the remaining spouse without a court’s involvement. Real estate can also be transferred outside a will in certain states through a TOD deed, in which you name the beneficiary on the property.

Trusts. Any asset in a trust isn’t governed by a will. Therefore, trusts are another tool for distributing assets outside of probate court. However, after a trust is created, you must retitle accounts, change beneficiaries, or take other measures so that each asset you want to put into the trust will actually end up there.

Reference: AARP (September 29, 2022) “The Legal Limits of Your Will”

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