How do I Transfer Real Estate into my Trust?

How do I Transfer Real Estate into my Trust?

Have you ever solved a Rubik’s Cube?

Of course not. They are scientifically impossible. Just a way to keep kids quiet on long road trips.

But you’ve definitely seen a Rubik’s Cube at some point. And although the concept seems simple enough—get the same colors on the same side of the cube—all the moving parts and three-dimensional reactions make your brain hurt.

Estate planning sometimes seems like a Rubik’s Cube.

You have all of these lengthy legal documents with strange words that do all sorts of different things that an attorney explained to you once but which you have now mostly forgotten.

Take trusts, for instance. You generally get a trust to avoid probate. But by itself, a trust is just some paper. It may be fancy paper—and it’s likely expensive paper—but it’s still just some paper. And paper alone usually does not avoid probate.

Funding Your Trust With Real Property

Real property (which I will use interchangeably with “real estate”) is often the most valuable type of asset a client owns. That makes it all the more important for those assets to avoid probate.

How do you do that? By funding your trust.

What's on Your Estate Planning “Bucket List”

What's on Your Estate Planning “Bucket List”

Everybody knows what a “bucket list” is, right?

It’s a list (duh) of things you want to do before you die (i.e. “kick the bucket”). I won’t get into the weeds about the concept, so if you want to learn more about bucket lists and also ugly-cry through two boxes of Kleenex, watch the 2007 film The Bucket List with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.

But back to the blog.

Just as you and Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson have a bucket list for life, you should also have a bucket list for estate planning. Ask yourself: What do I need to do to arrange my affairs before I die?

Estate planning is about more than just legal documents. A good plan means accounting for your assets and providing the information, documents, and knowledge necessary to ensure a smooth transfer of those assets to the people you want to have them.

To help you create your own estate planning bucket list, here are 10 tips you can use to organize your estate before you die:

1. Get a Will or Trust.

Of course the first item on the bucket list is to create an actual estate plan. I’m an estate planning attorney writing on an estate planning blog. What did you expect?

Formal estate planning documents such as a Last Will and Testament or a Living Trust are crucial to make the administration of your estate as easy as possible. Without them, your estate could be tied up in messy probate — in some cases for years.

Medicare vs. Medicaid

Medicare vs. Medicaid

I am a lawyer, not a healthcare professional.

I mean, I did alright in chemistry, but I also don’t know my own blood type. So I am usually not the best person to ask about health-related issues. Nevertheless, I get the same question about once a week:

“What’s the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?”

Healthcare is confusing even under ordinary circumstances. But navigating federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid can feel overwhelming. Surprisingly, though, estate planning and other legal techniques can help with the process. (I will discuss some of those techniques in a forthcoming article.)

For now, however, let’s answer the question posed above and begin with a brief rundown of the differences between these two programs.

What is Medicare?

Medicare is a health insurance program administered by the federal government through the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). It primarily serves people over 65, regardless of income, but it is also available to younger individuals with certain disabilities or illnesses.

What is a Nomination of Guardian?

What is a Nomination of Guardian?

You are going to live forever.

You can eat whatever you want and drink whatever you want and run for as long as you want forever. Because you are invincible and nothing bad will ever happen to you.

Did you buy that? No?

Unfortunately, people don’t stay young and healthy forever. We don’t like to think of a time in the future when we will no longer be able to take care of ourselves, but it is incredibly important that you do so. Ask yourself:

  • If you become incapacitated, who will have the legal authority to take care of you?

  • If a parent or other loved one becomes incapacitated, who will be able to assist them with managing their assets or healthcare?

  • If you die before your children reach adulthood, who will have custody over them or be able to take care of their inheritance until they come of age?

You may not know the answers to these questions, and that’s fine. That is probably why you are reading an article on an estate planning website. (Either that or you are very bored.)

Whenever we ask questions about capacity or managing someone’s financial or medical care, we enter the realm of guardianships and conservatorships. Two big legal words with two big legal explanations. So, let’s dive in and learn more about these concepts.

What is a Guardianship?

A guardianship is a court-supervised process whereby the judge appoints a guardian to manage the personal care of a ward (i.e. someone who is physically or legally unable to manage their medical care). Similarly, a conservatorship is a court-supervised process whereby the judge appoints a conservator (similar to a guardian) to manage the assets of a ward (i.e. someone who is physically or legally unable to manage their assets).

7 Mistakes to Avoid When Naming Beneficiaries

7 Mistakes to Avoid When Naming Beneficiaries

“Probate” is a dirty word to most people.

Sure, sometimes it can be helpful. But you generally want to avoid it.

Think of it like the raw broccoli that for some reason is included on every party platter everywhere, but without the dip. No dip, just raw broccoli. Avoid. It.

One of the ways to avoid probate is by naming beneficiaries on your financial accounts and contractual policies.

In estate planning, a beneficiary is a person or entity who receives part of your estate after your death. You can name a beneficiary through your estate planning documents OR through a contract such as a life insurance policy, IRA, or agreement with your bank.

If you designate a beneficiary on an account or policy, then the assets or proceeds of that account or policy will pass directly to the named beneficiary, probate-free, after your death.

Sounds cool, right?

Right. It is very cool.

However, sometimes beneficiary designations can have unintended (and undesirable) consequences. Here are some mistakes to avoid when naming beneficiaries:

1. Not naming a beneficiary

This one seems obvious, but it’s worth mentioning because it is so easy to avoid.

If you do not name a beneficiary (or take other steps to avoid probate), you are virtually ensuring that your estate will be probated. And although probate is not the worst thing in the world, it is costly and time consuming. It is also usually avoidable.

Even if you believe all your accounts and policies have named beneficiaries, double check. Triple check. Check once a year. Do everything you can to make sure you don’t make the silly mistake of forgetting to name a beneficiary.

However, designating beneficiaries is not always as easy as it sounds…

Estate Planning for Young Professionals

Estate Planning for Young Professionals

If you are a young professional, estate planning is probably not even on your radar.

And why on earth should you have to think about it?

You’re young.

You don’t have many assets.

You’re single (and your grandma keeps reminding you about it).

Your family knows what you want.

You have other things to worry about.

You’re going to live forever.

However, estate planning is just as important (if not more important) for single young professionals as for older, wealthier, married-ier individuals.

But how do you create an estate plan? Where should you start? It’s a big question. Lucky for you, we have already done the heavy lifting. Here are 4 quick estate planning tips for young professionals:

1. Get a Durable Power of Attorney

In short, a Durable Power of Attorney is an estate planning document that gives someone (your “Attorney-in-Fact”) the ability to act for you in certain financial and/or medical situations.

“Why is this useful?” you may be yell-asking at your computer screen. And that’s a great question.

How much can you save for retirement in 2019?

How much can you save for retirement in 2019?

You remember that part of How The Grinch Stole Christmas (the Jim Carrey version, of course, because it’s the best one) where — spoiler alert — the Grinch realizes the true meaning of Christmas and his heart grows three sizes?

That basically happened in real life a few months ago, except instead of the Grinch it’s the IRS and instead of “Christmas” it’s “retirement savings.” (The heart-growing thing doesn’t really enter into it. Also Christmas was over a month ago. This was a bad analogy.)

Starting in the 2019 tax year (for filing in 2020), you can contribute even more money toward retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401(k). It’s a Christmas miracle!

Changes to IRA and 401(k) Contribution Limits

Below is a brief summary of the new inflation-adjusted numbers for retirement account contributions; see IRS Notice 2018-83 for more technical guidance.

401(k)s. In 2019, the annual contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal Thrift Savings Plan, is $19,000. That is up from $18,500 in 2018.

Our Most Popular Estate Planning Blog Posts of 2018

Our Most Popular Estate Planning Blog Posts of 2018

The end of the year is always a great time to reflect on life and to commit yourself to improvement in the year to come. (And to create some awesome estate planning New Year’s resolutions!)

We recently wrote about the importance of using this time to review your estate plan. But estate planning is a big and often complicated topic. To help you think about estate planning and the issues you may face in the future, here are our posts from 2018 that readers found the most useful:

1. What is the Difference Between a Will and a Trust?

Wills and Trusts are two of the most common (and most well-known) estate planning documents. But what are the differences between them? What are their relative advantages and disadvantages? In our most popular post of the year, we explain the differences (and similarities) between a last will and testament and a living trust.

2. 4 Tips to Identify Undue Influence

In Oklahoma, undue influence consists of taking an unfair advantage of another's weakness of mind or body or the use of authority to procure an unfair advantage over someone. This post explains how undue influence can occur in estate planning and how you can identify and avoid it.

11 Estate Planning New Year's Resolutions

11 Estate Planning New Year's Resolutions

There’s nothing quite like the new year to make you think of fresh possibilities and new beginnings.

There’s also nothing quite like way too much turkey, wine, and football over the holidays to make you realize that you should maybe consider some lifestyle changes.

You have probably already started on your list of new year’s resolutions for 2019: read more, get a gym membership (and actually use it this time), spend more time with family, etc. And those are great resolutions. “New year, new me” and all that jazz.

But there is one more goal you should add to your list: organize your estate plan.

While most resolutions are about helping your self, an estate plan is about helping your loved ones. To make it easier for you to set your affairs in order, we created this handy list of 11 Estate Planning Resolutions for 2019:

1. Execute a Trust and/or a Will

You, like a majority of Americans, may not have a living trust or a last will and testament. You may not even know what those documents are. Which one is better? Which one is right for you? What are the differences between a will and a trust?

Both a trust and a will control what happens to your estate — your property, your “stuff” — after your death. However, there is one huge difference between the two: a trust avoids probate, while a will does not.

Yes, even if you have a will, your estate must still go through probate after your death.

Remember that there are two main sides to estate planning: (1) What happens to your “stuff” when you die and (2) who takes care of your self when you become incapacitated. You can solve the first part of that equation in 2019 by creating a trust or a will.

Get Our FREE 2018 Estate Planning Checklist

Get Our FREE 2018 Estate Planning Checklist

Prepare yourself to be shocked: 2018 is almost over.

If you’re like me, you’re looking forward to a few weeks of Christmas carols, football, family, bowl games, presents, and (best of all) football.

This is also a great time to look back on the year that was:

Perhaps you started a new job or got a raise; maybe you made an addition (by birth or marriage) or subtraction (by death or divorce) to the family; or maybe you purchased a house, received a windfall inheritance, or started a new business.

Life can change a lot in a year.

But do those life changes mean you need to make changes to your estate plan?

To help you answer that question, we have put together a 10-question checklist to review your estate plan.