The Truth About Six Common Estate Planning Excuses

It was recently Estate Planning Awareness Week. This concept was developed because estate planning is an often-overlooked element of financial wellness. And it’s one that is quite easy to put off thinking about.

Here at Edwards Group, it’s estate planning awareness week EVERY WEEK, because we see the pain and struggles families go through when effective estate planning has not been done.

Education is foundational to everything we do. The better educated you are, the better you can help develop a plan for your loved ones.

Here are six common reasons people give for not planning:

  1. I’m too young to do estate planning.
  2. All my property is titled in joint tenancy with my spouse, so I don’t need a will.
  3. Estate planning is only for the super-rich.
  4. Estate planning is too complicated and expensive.
  5. Doesn’t the government provide for that?
  6. We did a will after we had our first child.

Let’s dive into each of these a bit more…

1. “I’m too young to do estate planning.”

If you own a house, are married or divorced, and you have children, then you need a will (at the very least).

2. “All my property is titled in joint tenancy with my spouse, so I don’t need a will.”

Joint ownership, or joint tenancy, is a common method of owning assets. Particularly with husbands and wives. It can be a good tool, but it can also cause problems. Read about the pitfalls in our post, “Joint Ownership — Tempting But Risky“.

3. “Estate planning is only for the super-rich.”

The tools we use for planning, especially when it comes to elder law and Life Care Planning, are incredibly beneficial to middle class people who have worked hard all their lives. We encourage people to “Forget About the ‘Estate’ and Just Do Planning“.

4. “Estate planning is too complicated and expensive.”

We work really hard to make the process of planning as easy as possible for you. This starts with offering workshops where you can learn more about our process and even ask an attorney questions. At our Initial Meeting, everything is mapped out for you so you know what to expect and what it will cost. Read more about the cost of an estate plan here.

5. “Doesn’t the government provide for that?”

If you die without a will, the state of Illinois will decide what happens to your house, bank accounts, cars, etc. And I don’t know about you, but that’s the last thing I would want! The state of Illinois doesn’t know you or your family, so they might not make the same decisions you’d make. It really is best to plan ahead. I say it all the time, “Bad estate planning breaks up good families.”

6. “We did our wills right after we had our first child 25 years ago.”

Life changes. FAST. And out-of-date wills are a big threat to families. It’s great that you have a will, but is it still current? We like to look to the 3 L’s of Estate Planning — Life, Law, Learning — to assess whether a will needs to be updated.

There are a lot of reasons people put off planning. But the single greatest threat to an effective estate plan is procrastination. Here’s a blog post I wrote about that very issue a few years back. It involves water bottles nearly filling up our garage.

If you’re ready to get started, give us a call at 217-726-9200 to RSVP for an upcoming workshop or to schedule an Initial Meeting.

save family farm

Over 55 years old? Three things you should know about nursing home care.

You may be a couple decades away from needing nursing home care, but the sooner you can understand and plan for the costs involved, the better.

Here are three truths every senior should know about nursing homes:

 

1. You’ll probably need nursing home care.

The likelihood you’ll need to pay for this type of care is high: 70% of Americans 65 and older will need some form of long-term care, and 35% will spend time in a nursing home.

2. It’s going to be expensive.

The odds that this care will be expensive? 100%.

Nursing homes in Central Illinois cost about $80,000 per year. That’s roughly $6,500 per month! Most people don’t have that type of monthly income during retirement.

3. Without proper planning, you’ll lose your hard-earned life savings.

If you don’t have enough income to cover the cost of care as you age, you will need to use your life savings and other assets to pay for nursing home care. That means your financial legacy, including things like the family farm, could disappear without proper planning.

Thankfully, with proper planning you can prepare, save your legacy, and get the kind of quality care you or your loved one deserves. Here’s one way to do it.

As a response to the challenges of aging in our current time, our firm has developed a process to plan ahead for the last decades of life, when so many people face financial and physical challenges. Life Care Planning looks ahead to the various stages that individuals and families may go through during the aging process, and creates a plan to make navigating that time a little easier and less stressful. Learn more about the 5 Stages of Life Care Planning here. If you’d like to take the first step toward planning, give us a call at 217-726-9200, and we’ll help you schedule your Initial Meeting.

7 Risks of a Simple Will

Creating online legal documents is becoming more and more common. Despite the convenience of creating a Will without the expense and hassle of meeting with an attorney, there are many pitfalls to creating a simple plan online or even with a more traditional attorney who is just “filling in the blanks” of an already created document.

At Edwards Group, unfortunately, we deal with the problems that arise from simple fill-in-the-blank Wills everyday.

Here are 7 risks of a simple will that you need to consider:

1. Long, expensive probate. Wills are designed to go through probate. The extra expense, delay, and public exposure that go with a court probate process may be avoided when other estate planning tools are used in connection with a Will. Depending on the unique family circumstances that only you know about, avoiding probate may be a good goal to have. An experienced attorney with a comprehensive approach can help you know if avoiding probate should be a priority for you and your family.

2. Unprotected assets. Many Wills do not have adequate provisions for protecting the inheritance you leave your loved ones. Risks such as future divorces, lawsuits, warring siblings, and future financial struggles of your heirs can be mitigated with proper planning ahead of time. Experienced attorneys who practice comprehensive planning can help identify what risks your family may face.

3. Problem executor. Is the executor you chose in your Will the best person for the job? Circumstances can change. Will the responsibility be a struggle for them because of a busy schedule, lack of attention to detail, or inexperience? Our process helps our clients choose the best person for the job, and then keeps the choices updated.

4. Lack of coordination. Is your simple will coordinated with ALL of your beneficiary designations, joint ownership and account titling? Unless you are very intentional about your financial organization, the way you have set up accounts and insurance policies could undo the wishes stated in your Will. It can also cost your loved ones huge amounts of time and money to sort out.

5. Unexpected change in outcome. Have your life circumstances changed since your Will was drafted? Have you gotten married, divorced, had children or grandchildren since your last will was drawn up? Is your wealth greater or less than it was before? If so, any of these factors can impact how things will play out if your old or simple will has to be used. I have even seen grandchildren not get an inheritance that other grandchildren received because of this very thing.

6. Nothing left. Have you planned for possible nursing home costs? Even if your old will if okay right now, your wishes could be undone if high nursing home costs eat up most or all of your savings prior to your death. There is a lot that an experienced elder law and estate planning attorney can do for this situation.

7. Doesn’t do what you think it will.  Laws change frequently. If there have been changes to the law (or even the tax law) since the drafting of your will, this can cause complications or unintended consequences.

The traditional way of preparing a will is oftentimes ineffective. Sadly, many people don’t find this out until it’s too late — and they’ve literally lost the family farm or fishing cabin. Here at Edwards Group, we don’t just fill in the blanks of a boilerplate document. Our process was designed to overcome the pitfalls of traditional planning.

If you’d like to read more about our unique process and how it protects our clients and their loved ones, click here. If you’re ready to schedule your Initial Meeting and get started with effective, comprehensive planning, give us a call at 217-726-9200.

A Quick Planning Tip to Get Organized

Getting organized is a key part of the estate planning process. Estate planning simply means you have a plan to handle your finances, your care, and your family when you can’t do it anymore — whether that’s because of sickness or passing away.

Everyone wants to be organized, and some do a better job than others. Most of us have a “system” to help keep track of important papers. And you understand your system better than anyone else! But if you are seriously ill or dead and gone, will others be able to find what they need?

I have a friend whose mother recently passed away unexpectedly. Sadly, like many people, her mother didn’t have a very good system or plan in place. My friend has had a heck of a time tracking things down. One day, out of frustration, my friend posted this to Facebook:

“Reminder-
No matter how old you are – no matter how healthy you think you are –
Put all of your death documents in at least one file folder.
A firebox would be great, but-
FILE FOLDER.”

Ask yourself — if you were gone today, WHO would be trying to track down all of your financial information, and how would they go about doing it? Have you made it hard for them or easy for them?

Planning tip: make sure you have a complete list of all your accounts, property, and everything else you own. This will make it so much easier on your family later. And obviously, putting all these things in a single file folder could be a big help to your loved ones left behind.

Without a complete list (grab this document off our website to give you an idea of what should be on the list), it will mean extra stress for your family at a time when they are already very stressed. A lack of organization can also create extra court expenses and delays. It could also mean that lost accounts may get turned over to the state.

Laura Peffley, our Senior Asset Coordinator, spends 40 hours a week helping people sort out asset information, doing a complete asset report, and then helping them follow up on planning changes!

If you’d like a guide to help organize things and make sure everything fits with your wishes within an effective plan, then give us a call at 217-726-9200. We’d be happy to make an initial appointment for you. Click here to read about what to expect at that initial appointment.

The Myth of a “Simple” Will

“I just want a simple will.”

We hear this a lot. The people who say it generally assume they have a “regular” family with straightforward assets. They don’t want to pay a lot for elaborate documents they don’t understand. They just want a last will and testament. We get that!

In reality, “simple” wills often backfire and cost families more money and stress in the long run.

Every family has unique circumstances that can cause challenges and heartaches. And “simple” wills can’t effectively deal with these challenges.

An effective will and estate plan is really for the loved ones you leave behind. It’s your final gift to them — and it can go smoothly via effective planning ahead of time, or it can be a huge mess that tears families apart. We see it all the time.

Bad estate plans destroy good families.

The bottom line — the cost of a “simple” will is more than most people realize. We see it when we help families deal with the aftermath of an ineffective plan their loved one left behind.

Our process for creating an effective plan is thorough. We use your expertise about your own family to help anticipate future problems. We then use our expertise to address those problems using the tools in our legal toolbox.

We get to know your family, if that’s what you’d like, so when the time comes, they will already be familiar with our team and our office. We help our clients plan for the unexpected, so when the unexpected happens, things can still go smoothly for their loved ones.

It’s hard to put a price on that kind of peace of mind.

But that doesn’t mean we charge you exorbitant hourly fees. The pricing structure at our firm is fairly unique. When David Edwards started the firm in 2008, he wanted everything to be designed around helping clients plan better and have more peace of mind. This included how he decided to charge fees. So, clients who work with us can be assured there are no surprises when it comes to that.

We charge flat fees that are agreed upon ahead of time. Read more about that here.

We are passionate about the fact that every family deserves an effective estate plan that can make one of life’s hardest transitions a little easier.

We believe that family legacy is important and that everything you’ve worked so hard for should be protected and passed down to the next generation as you wish.

If the desire for a “simple” will doesn’t quite sit right with you, or the fear of an expensive and complicated plan is keeping you from taking the first step in protecting your family, we encourage you to attend an upcoming workshop. Our “Getting Started With Wills & Trust” workshop is an easy first step to take if you’ve been putting off planning.

Give us a call at 217-726-9200 to RSVP for the workshop. Your path to peace of mind starts here.

 

Top 10 Scariest Estate Planning and Elder Law Topics

 

Top 10 Scariest Estate Planning and Elder Law Topics

10. The Invisible Assets – A big part of asset protection is making sure you have updated beneficiary designations. This is often overlooked and can have truly hair-raising consequences. Read more here.
9. The Illinois Chainsaw Massacre: Who Will Survive and What Will Be Left of Them? – Dave says it a lot, “Bad estate planning breaks up good families.” Our firm sees it all the time, and it is devastating. The good news? There are steps you can take to Avoid an Estate Battle After You’re Gone.
8. The Bad Seed – Helpers who take advantage of the situation or just don’t do their job are one of the scariest threats to a plan. Read about 7 Types of Helpers You Need to Watch Out For here.
7. The Curse of the Old Will – Do you remember the last time your will was updated? Or even where it is located? If not, you could be in for some real nightmares. Read the 7 Risks of an Old Will here.
6. Farm on a Haunted Hill – Losing the family farm is a true horror story for many, but it doesn’t have to be.
5. The Loved Ones – Watching your loved ones spend every dime they’ve worked so hard for on the exorbitant costs of nursing care can you make you feel like you’re living a nightmare. But, there are ways to Avoid Nursing Home Poverty.
4. Misery – Estate planning is fraught with dangers that can trip you up. Read about 6 Estate Planning Pitfalls to Avoid here.
3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers – When a stroke or dementia alters the way you have to live, a good plan can make sure your wishes will still be carried out. Read about why Every Estate Plan Needs a Good Helper here.
2. The Maddest Story Ever Told – Trying to qualify for Medicaid on your own could drive you crazy. It is a complex and bureaucratic process that is very difficult to accurately carry out without expertise. Help from an experienced elder law attorney will save time, money, resources and stress – as well as increasing your odds of approval.
1. A Nightmare on Probate Street – For many people, probate makes them feel like they’re watching their favorite horror movie. Probate costs time, money and stress (like many other estate planning problems), but there are things that can be done to make it easier or to avoid it altogether. Read more here.
As always, please feel free to call our office at 217-726-9200 or email Tarina@EdwardsGroupLLC.com if you have questions, need assistance or are wondering what your best next step should be. The greatest threat to an effective estate plan is NOT DOING ANYTHING. Avoid the horror stories above by taking action. Our FREE monthly workshops are a great, no-pressure way to get started.

 

 

7 Questions to Ask Before the Age of 70

People are living longer than ever these days, and while that is a good thing, it definitely presents challenges. Regardless of you or your loved one’s stage in life, good planning requires that you ask good questions. And asking good questions can sometimes be uncomfortable, unpleasant or overwhelming. We have come up with 7 questions that need to be asked by the time someone turns 70. If you address these 7 things, it will make aging easier on you and your family.

A little discomfort now can make ALL the difference later. One of the keys to this exercise is not taking an emotional approach. We naturally think of ourselves as 15 years younger than we really are. That means when we turn 70, we actually still feel like we’re 55! That’s a big difference. One way to combat this is to look at the cold, hard facts about aging:

  • People reaching the age of 65 will live, on average, 19.2 more years. That’s 84, if you don’t want to do the math.
  • 36% of people aged 65+ reported some sort of disability in 2012. (That’s 1 out of every 3 people.) Limitations in daily living activities because of chronic conditions will only increase with age.
  • Statistics vary, but it is generally thought that 70-80% of people who reach 65 will need some sort of care during the rest of their life!
  • 1 in 3 older women are widows. And according to the Wall Street Journal, 86% of widows live in poverty. Almost half of women 75+ live alone.
  • And according to David Laibson, who specializes in behavioral finance at Harvard University, about half the 80-year-old population is not in a position to make important financial decisions due to rates of dementia and other kinds of cognitive impairment. This means it’s important to make these decisions sooner rather than later.

So, what are the questions we want you to think about and ask yourself?

  1. Who’s in charge here? Every plan for aging needs a good helper. (Think Power of Attorney, executor or trustee.)
  2. Do you have the correct powers in place? If you have a Power of Attorney, does it have the correct provisions to allow the most flexible planning options as you age?
  3. Is your estate plan up to date? Lives constantly change, which means your estate plan needs to be tweaked to match the circumstances.
  4. What care will be needed… and when? This is a great question, without a concrete answer, but it’s important to be realistic and anticipate the possibilities.
  5. Have you explored ALL the asset protection options? Even before care is needed, there are some important steps that can be taken to help pay for care when it is eventually needed.
  6. Are you maximizing available benefits now? If care is needed now, are you sure that you are accessing all available help, like VA and Medicaid?
  7. The best way to answer Question #6 is by answering Question #7: Have you gotten the advice of an experienced elder law attorney? Experienced elder law attorneys deal with these issues everyday, which means they are always up on the latest laws, benefits and local care options.

One final encouragement from Dave on this topic, “It is far easier to have a plan pre-70 and tweak it here and there as the situation changes, rather than having to make all the big decisions during a crisis or once decision-making impairment has begun.” Addressing all 7 of these questions is something that all of our plans do. If answering these questions feels overwhelming, don’t stress! We guide our clients through the decision-making process everyday. And when the time comes to start implementing the plan, we work as a support for your family, making sure that things go as smoothly as possible. Give us a call at 217-726-9200 if you have questions, or check out one of our upcoming workshops.

Don’t Get Stuck With a Stupid Tax

Have you ever heard the phrase, “stupid tax”? I hate paying a stupid tax, because it’s always something that could have been avoided.

A few years ago my wife and I went with my parents to see an Illini basketball game in Champaign. After eating at the Ribeye on Neil Street (good food!), I ran through the snow to get the car. As I approached the car I had a sinking feeling.

I had forgotten the tickets. 

Thankfully, the box office was able to reissue forgotten season tickets, but I had to pay a stupid tax of $5 for every ticket being replaced!

We all get stuck paying a stupid tax every now and then. A few dollars isn’t bad as far as a stupid tax is concerned, but when it comes to estate planning, mistakes can be very costly. One of my primary goals is to help you and your family avoid paying any stupid taxes by thoroughly thinking through things and planning ahead.

Recently, a younger high profile celebrity died without thinking through what would happen to his estate if he suddenly passed away. His estate ended up paying a $12 million stupid tax. While most people won’t make that big of a mistake when it comes to planning, we see people all the time who did not properly plan, and therefore, end up owing a stupid tax. And the most frustrating part? It could have been avoided.

If you’re not sure whether your estate will be slapped with a stupid tax, we encourage you to give us a call at 217-726-9200 or attend an upcoming workshop on estate planning. Wills & Trusts: How to Get Started is a great way to learn more about effective planning.

david edwards estate planning elder law

Stop Thief! 10 Things That Can Steal From Your Estate

If you’ve ever been robbed like I have, you know that awful feeling of violation and loss of control. More than the material things that are stolen, the loss of peace of mind and sense of security can have lasting effects.

When I had just started practicing law, I came home one night and saw muddy footprints on the carpet. I thought, “When did I track in mud?” Then it hit me — someone had broken a window and robbed my apartment! They didn’t get much; I didn’t have much for them to take. When it comes to your estate, there is a lot at risk.

As estate planning attorneys, we can’t protect your home, but we will work to protect your wealth and your legacy — protect it from thieves who could steal it.

What Is Robbery?

Robbery is when something of value is taken. When talking about estate planning, you can be robbed of money, but also so much more. You can be robbed of peace of mind, relationships, or even memories. There is a lot at stake if you don’t plan ahead.

Ten Thieves That Can Rob Your Estate

When creating a plan, it’s important to keep in mind these ten things that can do real damage to your plan:

  1. The IRS — Will your heirs pay unnecessary taxes? Well qualified estate planning attorneys should make sure your assets are set up to avoid issues like double taxation.
  2. Lack of organization — If you don’t have a plan for your wealth, you can’t control what happens to it.
  3. A spouse’s remarriage — If your spouse marries again, what will happen to your children’s inheritance? If your spouse has more children, will your wealth be divided among them as well?
  4. Your kids not being ready for wealth — If you were to die tomorrow, would your children be able to manage their newfound wealth? A thorough plan includes how much your kids get and when.
  5. Your kid’s divorce later in life — Estate planning attorneys make sure your wealth goes where you want it to go, regardless of the marital status of your children.
  6. A lack of training and communication with your family about your plan — I knew of a woman in her 70’s who lived by herself. Her husband had passed away a few years earlier. She had a daughter and two sons. One day she fell, broke her hip and had a mild stroke. She could no longer care for herself. The daughter who lived in town began to help her out. This daughter was never very good with money, but the family thought it made sense to grant her the Power of Attorney because the other kids lived out of town. As the daughter continued to care for her mom, many items from the house disappeared. Her brothers thought she was taking the stuff, but she adamantly denied it. Unfortunately, after the mother’s death, the siblings never spoke again. Read more about good helpers here.
  7. A lack of professional guidance you can trust — A very blessed man had been married 30 years to the love of his life. She was never considered a “stepmother” but a truly loving mom to his children. He completed a “do-it-yourself” estate plan. When he passed away, the family found his plan vague, confusing and lacking detail. His wife remembered him saying, “You’ll never want for anything.” His kids remembered hearing, “You will be treated fairly.” As the plan unfolded, both his wife and his kids thought the other side was being greedy and not honoring his wishes. On the brink of court, after two years and lot of legal fees, they compromised and settled the dispute. Sadly, the stepmom and the step kids never spoke again.
  8. Future lawsuits or liability — If you own a business, is your liability insulated from the business’ liability? Have you heard about The Case of the $54 Million Pair of Pants? What happens if your beneficiaries are ever sued? Estate planning attorneys can provide answers and solutions for these types of issues.
  9. Nursing home costs — The skyrocketing costs of aging in America necessitate your plan include provisions for long-term care for you and/or your spouse.
  10. Outdated legal documentsEffective estate planning attorneys help you keep your plan current so it can do what you intend for it to when the time comes.

What Would You Do If You Knew a Thief Was Coming?

When my old apartment was robbed, I didn’t expect it. It just came out of the blue. I have a friend who was in a different situation a while back. She lived in a great neighborhood. It was always very safe and quiet. But there was a time when houses started getting burglarized. Week after week, it was someone else. Would her house be next? She couldn’t know for sure, but she took steps to protect herself by installing a security system.

Nobody likes to think about it, but Benjamin Franklin told us only death and taxes are certain in this life. You know the time will come eventually. What estate planning “security system” do you have in place? If something isn’t right with your plan, would you even know it? Effective estate planning attorneys create and review existing plans to protect all you’ve worked so hard for. Give us a call at 217-726-9200 to schedule an Initial Meeting and get started planning.

give your house to your kids

(Video) Beware of What Happens When You Give Your House to Your Kids

When faced with the shocking costs of long-term care or a nursing home, many people have to scramble to figure out a way to pay the enormous fees. Realistically, the $6000+ a month it costs for a nursing home in Central Illinois is a big financial burden for most people. Many are left with Medicaid as the only possible way to get the care they need as they age. In fact, it is estimated that 70% of nursing home residents rely on Medicaid to pay their nursing home bill.

Without planning, the most common way to qualify for Medicaid is to “spend down” most of your assets.

So, in order to try and protect assets (like the family home), some people consider transferring their house or other assets to their kids. This can work for Medicaid, if done at least 5 years ahead of when care is needed, but there are risks involved.

The unintended consequences from this approach can create big problems. Learn more about the risks by downloading our guide, “12 Reasons Not to Give Your Property or Your Money to Your Kids Right Now,” or watch the following video where Attorney David Edwards explains a little more about the risks involved in giving money or property away to your children.