Articles Tagged with estate planning

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What is estate planning, really? I know that most lawyers focus on reducing taxes, or the creation of documents, but when you get down to it, what you’re really doing when you make an estate plan is giving everything away, right?

So, to me, understanding the practice of generosity and what gets in the way of being generous are central to effective estate planning, and who better to explore that territory than my guest for episode 3 of Life/Death/Law: Myoshin Kelley, an eloquent teacher on the key Buddhist teachings on the wisdom of opening the heart. Myoshin is a Senior Instructor with the Tergar Community, which supports the worldwide vision of Tibetan master meditation teacher and author Mingyur Rinpoche, www.tergar.org, and it is an honor to have her on the podcast.

If you’ve ever been curious about the practice of generosity or the value of it, or found yourself wanting to be generous but somehow holding yourself back, and wondered what was getting in your way, please listen.

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black-29972_150On December 22, 2017, President Trump signed a bill that makes huge changes to the American tax system—including the estate and gift tax. As of 2018, individuals can give away up to $11.2 million free of estate and gift tax, and couples can combine that to give away up to $22.4 million! These exemptions are indexed to inflation and scheduled to revert back to 2017 levels in 2026 (unless Congress extends them or makes them permanent at that point).

This sounds like big news, but, to tell the truth, there’s no benefit to most of us. Less than 1% of Americans were subject to the estate tax under the old law–now even fewer of them are. The Joint Committee on Taxation now estimates that there will be only 1800 taxable estates (in the ENTIRE COUNTRY) in 2018, compared to 5,000 under the previous law, and 52,000 in 2000, when the exemption was $675,000.

So, what does that mean for most of us? It means that estate planning isn’t really about minimizing the estate or gift tax any longer. (And it hasn’t been since 2012 for those with $5 million or less.) But that doesn’t mean you don’t need an estate plan.

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loneliness-2308923_640-300x200A few months ago, the New York Times published an article entitled, “Single? No Children? No Will? Big Mistake.” I’ve been meaning to write about it ever since. The author writes, “Certain people never reach one of those obvious points in their lives to write one. If you are unmarried in middle age, do not have children and have never had a devastating disease or brush with death, making plans for what happens to your stuff if you’re not around may not feel pressing.”

The author is so right. I have met many people who somehow feel that, because they don’t have children, they don’t need an estate plan. But here’s the thing — people without children may have even MORE need to make a plan that those with kids.

For one thing, all of us, at some point, are going to get sick or otherwise incapacitated, and need someone to act on our behalf — to pay bills, maintain our homes, or make medical decisions. Estate planning is not just about transferring assets when you die, it is also about planning for incapacity. And everyone needs to do that.

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old-peoples-home-63614_150I recently read a Huffington post article about the need for women to plan their estates as if they were single. And that got me thinking about how, despite our best efforts to plan, life just has a way of constantly changing.  Children grow up, we get old, and even families slip away, or change over time.

I work with families to craft estate plans all of the time, and it’s hard enough to get them to focus on the inevitability of death. Let alone the possibility that one of them is likely to survive the other, and live alone in old age. But from now on, I will try and do a better job to get that idea on the table, too.

Statistics tell us that it’s likely to be the woman who survives.  According to a U.S. Census report, 80% of women will survive their husbands.  And it’s pretty common knowledge that close to half of marriages ultimately fail.

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FamilysGuideCoverThumbI am very excited to announce that my first book, The Family’s Guide to Wills and Estate Planning, has gotten a new cover, a new title, and a new life as an e-book available for free at my website to anyone who would like it. For the last ten years, it’s been available for sale from Nolo and Amazon, and now I can offer it to my clients and their friends at no cost, thanks to my book designer, digital type, and the internet.

This book is an introduction to all the basic concepts that anyone considering an estate plan needs to know. Unlike books written for the super wealthy, The Family’s Guide to Wills and Estate Planning is easy to read and focuses on the actual problems of people like you. Here’s a guide to estate planning that won’t intimidate you or make you feel guilty, but will help you plan confidently for your family’s future.

You can download it for free on the site. Please do!

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QuestionmanIf the answer to that question is, “N0!” you are in good company. A recent survey by Caring.com of 1,000 adults found that less than half of the adults surveyed (45.8%) knew where their parents’ documents were.

When asked if they even knew whether or not their parents had an estate plan in place, only about half (55.4%) said that they did.

When asked if they knew the contents of their parents’ estate plans, only 42% said that they knew what was in those plans.

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shutterstock_156185702Who knew?! I honestly had no idea that there was such a thing as National Estate Planning Awareness Week, but, in fact there is, and it’s the third week in October, established by House Resolution 1499 in 2008.

When I worked in the US Senate, I was particularly thrilled by National Ice Cream Day (the third Sunday in July) and when I worked in the California State Legislature there was one day when bikers from all over California rode around the capital to protest helmet laws (I’m not sure if that was an official day or not). But this, while not nearly as thrilling as either of those days, is still a good excuse to remind folks about the importance of having a plan in place and keeping it current.

The American Bar Association cites statistics that estimate 55% of Americans don’t have an estate plan. I’ve seen other estimates that over 120 million Americans don’t have an estate plan in place. Either way, that’s a lot of people.