Advanced Estate Planning

Friday, December 30, 2016

Ryan Statute The First Sign Of Foundation’s Move

Exciting things are happening in Round Rock. Baseball great Nolan Ryan is moving the headquarters of his foundation here, which is going to be a great boon for our community, and a wonderful example of the good work that can be done through a family foundation.

Moving to Round Rock

Last month Nolan Ryan and his son Reece Ryan unveiled a statute of the famed pitcher outside of Dell Diamond, the home of the Texas Rangers’ AAA affiliate the Round Rock Express. The baseball team is just one of many businesses the Ryan family has developed in the area, and many Ryan family members live here, so it makes sense that they would move the foundation’s headquarters here from Ryan’s hometown of Alvin.

Community development is actually one of the foundation’s focus areas, which also concentrates on supporting youth and education.
Read more . . .

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Estate Planning for Asset Protection

What are some simple steps to take to protect my assets?

In protecting your assets, the same rule applies as in investing, gambling, and even budgeting: aim to keep your winnings. It is also important to start thinking about estate planning early in your life, come up with as simple a plan as possible, and not to attempt to hide your assets from your creditors (including ex-spouses). After all, there is no up-side to ending up in jail.

The following steps give you the best opportunity to protect your estate from potentially large losses. Most people think about asset protection when they are feeling flush; you should also take the time to consider the topic when you are going through difficult, and perhaps costly, times.

Read more . . .

Friday, April 1, 2016

Living Wills and DNRs from an Estate Planning Perspective

What is the difference between a living will and a DNR?

For most of us, it is uncomfortable to think about our own death. But, as people are living longer and medical technologies are becoming more advanced, it has become more likely that you will end up in a position where you are alive but unable to tell others what you want or to make decisions for yourself. There are a number of documents that can protect you in this type of situation. Two that are usually confused are the Read more . . .

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Implementing a Digital Component to an Estate Plan

What do I need to know about ‘digital estate planning,’ particularly with regard to my intellectual property and online assets? 

In today’s modern times, estate planning encompasses more than the family jewels and heirloom China. With the concept of “digital assets” expanding rapidly, clients and estate planners alike should be intimately aware of the pitfalls awaiting anyone failing to take this property component into account. 

Discussed below are several facets of digital estate planning, ranging from simple password management to transferring high-value online assets. If you have additional questions about preparing for the future, please do not hesitate to contact the Winters Law Firm as soon as possible! 

Password and portfolio management

In the olden days, an executor could simply access the contents of one’s financial portfolio by opening the file cabinet drawer and withdrawing the appropriate file folder. Today, however, it is increasingly common for all financial information to be stored digitally – and many folks forgo the option of even receiving a paper statement. 

Accordingly, a comprehensive estate plan should include a password manager detailing the login information accompanying all savings, checking, investment, and retirement accounts. The information should be continually updated as passwords change, and should be stored with all other estate planning documents to make it accessible for the executor. 

Online assets

Many people make a living online, including bloggers, writers, photographers, and developers. From an intellectual property perspective, the contents of a valuable blog or digital portfolio can be extremely important to safeguard, and should be provided for in an estate plan accordingly. Likewise, planners should ensure that personally valuable family mementos stored digitally are properly addressed either outside the estate plan or within the personal property section of a will or trust. 

Social media

A social media presence is virtually unavoidable in today’s world. However, social media profiles should be taken down as soon as practicable following the death of the account holder – if out of nothing more than respect for the family. Of course, many may choose to leave condolences or final messages for the deceased’s family, but a comprehensive estate plan should include login information and instructions for the deactivation and/or removal of an account when necessary. Otherwise, it can be very difficult for an executor to handle this issue – resulting in the perpetual presence of the profile, which can be very difficult for survivors. 

If you would like to add a digital component to your estate plan, or would like to speak to a knowledgeable estate planning

attorney, please contact the Winters Firm, serving clients in Porter County and Valparaiso, Indiana, today at (219)307-4373. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Basics of Pre-Planning for Long-Term Care

What are the best strategies to consider in anticipation of needing long-term skilled nursing care?

Based on current data, the average annual cost for a stay in a nursing home in Indiana is a staggering $60,000 per year. For many middle-class Americans, this amount – particularly if both spouses need care – is enough to deplete a sizable nest egg in just a few short years, leaving nothing for future generations. As such, it is vital to consider the advantages of long-term care planning long before the need arises, and an elder law attorney can help you best understand your options. 

One foundational principle to understand from the outset is that Medicare does not cover long-term care past 120 days. In other words, a patient needing skilled nursing care longer than four months will need to self-pay. As explained above, paying $5,000 or more per month for a nursing home residency can quickly deplete one’s entire life savings in just a few short years, leaving many to ponder if an alternative option may be better. 

Medicaid Planning

As opposed to Medicare, the Medicaid program does offer full-time benefits for those needing long-term care in a nursing home. However, the program is need-based, and is only available to those who can show a true financial need for long-term care benefits. 

Generally speaking, a Medicaid applicant may only have a small amount of income and assets – not including the family home if the applicant’s spouse is still in residence. Accordingly, pre-planning for long-term care (i.e., Medicaid eligibility) requires the disposal of assets to reach the maximum threshold. Under Medicaid guidelines, below-market transfers of property will trigger a penalty period if the transfer occurred within five years of the date of application. Likewise, any transfers of property made during this five-year “look back” period will result in a penalty congruent with the value of the transfer – and the amount of months the applicant could have paid for with the funds. 

Use of irrevocable trusts is also a way to protect assets from Medicaid regulation, as any property transferred to trust is considered to be no longer “owned” by the trust creator, and therefore is not counted as an asset for Medicaid purposes. Of course, careful drafting of an irrevocable trust is an essential component to the long-term care planning process, and we encourage you to contact a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible. 

If you are considering long-term care costs and would like to discuss your options, please contact the Valparaiso and Porter County elder law attorneys at the Winters Law Firm by calling (219)307-4373 today. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Importance of Health Care Powers of Attorney

How can I ensure that I stay at home until I die?

One of the most common questions we get from our clients when we are putting together health care power of attorney documents is whether the document will allow their designee to put them into a nursing home against their wishes, because, “I want to live at home until I die.” In typical lawyer fashion, we answer, “It depends.”

Health care power of attorney powers do not kick in automatically, so you need not worry about being “put into the old folks home” the minute you sign the document. The powers you are giving your designee are “springing,” which means they spring into effect only when needed - when you are unable to make decisions for yourself. 

This means you cannot be put into a nursing home if you do not want to be so long as you are able to adequately care for yourself or arrange for someone else to care for you in your home. 

If, at some point in time, you can no longer physically take care of yourself and are mentally unable to make arrangements for someone else to care for you, the health care power of attorney then springs into effect. The person you designated then has full authority to direct your care, which includes the power to put you into a nursing home or other facility.

There are certain things you can do to help you maintain your independence as long as possible. 
• First and foremost, you should think long and hard about who you are granting health care decision-making rights to. The right person for the job is someone who is going to respect your wishes. Do not pick someone you do not trust absolutely because the nursing home decision is just one of many decisions they could be making on your behalf. 
• Talk with the person you have chosen to be your health care decision maker while you are still able to do so! They cannot follow your wishes if they do not know what they are. This can be a difficult conversation to have since nobody likes to think about being too sick or injured to take care of themselves, but it is critical to make time to have it. 
• If carefully drafted, and sufficiently funded, a living trust can protect you from unwanted admission to a nursing home even after you are no longer able to care for yourself or make decisions about your own care. With a trust in place, you can designate a trustee that will arrange and pay for your care out of trust assets in the exact manner you specify. So long as there are sufficient assets in the trust to pay for the care you require, you need not worry that you will be taken out of your home.

The knowledgeable attorneys at the Winters Law Firm have extensive experience with estate planning utilizing wills, trusts and various other tools that can help you carry out your wishes for the future. Call us today at (219)307-4373 to schedule a consultation. We are based in Valparaiso, Indiana, and serve clients throughout Northwest Indiana.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Using an A/B or ‘Bypass Trust’ to Avoid Double Estate Taxation

My spouse and I maintain assets approaching the federal estate tax threshold. Should we look into transferring our assets to trust? 

Currently, the federal government may impose an estate tax on transferred assets of $5.43 million per individual, or $10.86 million per couple, with a top taxation rate of 40 percent. For higher net-worth couples, a 40 percent tax rate on their hard-earned wealth is simply unthinkable – and fortunately, there are strategies available to avoid this type of tax burden for both the surviving spouse and the ultimate beneficiaries. 

An experienced estate planning attorney, such as Gerald Winters, can help you best meet your financial goals.  One option  many couples have chosen when dealing with this situation is creating a bypass trust.  These trusts, also known as A/B trusts, will address the death of each spouse individually, obviously beginning with the death of the first spouse. Assuming the trust is properly funded, the death of the first spouse will trigger a division of assets into one of two sub-trusts. Sub-trust A will be held for the benefit of the surviving spouse, and is accessible to him or her as needed for the duration of his or her life. Sub-trust B will hold assets in an amount, which does not exceed the federal or state tax threshold, and will remain in trust for the benefit of named beneficiaries, other than the surviving spouse. This way, when the surviving spouse passes away, the contents of Sub-trust B will bypass his or her gross estate for the benefit of the couple’s children or next-of-kin and escape any valuation for estate tax purposes. 

Executing an A/B or bypass trust has additional benefits aside from estate tax savings. Probably one of the biggest benefits of an A/B trust is the ability to skip the probate process upon the death of the second spouse, which will save a significant amount of time and unnecessary expenses. In addition, managing trust assets through the use of a trustee helps to maintain family privacy – particularly upon the distribution of real estate and other titled assets. 

If you are interested in a bypass Trust, or have any other estate related questions, contact trusted Porter and Valparaiso County estate planning attorney Gerald Winters at the Winters Law Firm by calling at (219)307-4373 today. 

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