If you are divorced, there are a number of options for receiving Social Security benefits based on a former spouse’s earnings record. This is true, even if your former spouse remarries. The amount of benefits you receive won’t have an impact on the benefits to which your ex-spouse and his or her current spouse are entitled.
You can claim benefits on a former spouse’s record as long as you satisfy certain criteria. First, the marriage must have lasted 10 years or longer. You must also be unmarried at the time you claim Social Security benefits and be 62 or older. Another criterion is that the benefits based on your own employment record must be less than the benefits you’d receive based on your ex-spouse’s work record. Last, your former spouse must be entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.
You can apply for benefits on your former spouse’s record, even if he or she hasn’t retired, provided you divorced at least two years before applying. If you file as a divorced spouse after your full retirement age, your benefit will be equal to half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement amount or disability benefit.
The same rules apply for a deceased former spouse.
You should know that, if you’re receiving a divorced spouse’s benefits, the general rule is that the divorced spouse’s benefits will cease if you remarry.
There are numerous ways to pass your property at death. A woman with three grown daughters faced a problem about passing down the family home. She wanted to leave a home to a child who has taken care of and is closest to her. However, she also wanted to be sure that, if something happened to this youngest daughter, the house would go to her two other daughters and not the close daughter’s adult children.
One way is to rely on a last will and testament. The will would state that she leaves the house to the youngest daughter, under terms of a testamentary trust inside the will. The executor would probate the will and the trust would be established at death. The trust terms would permit the daughter to use, enjoy, and live in the house during her lifetime, as the beneficiary of the testamentary trust.
The two older daughters would be named as the secondary beneficiaries of the trust. When the younger daughter dies, the trust distributes the house to the older daughters. The trust would also provide what would happen to the property if the older daughters are deceased.
The plan will need to be prepared by a qualified estate planning attorney. This is not a terrible process, if the will is professionally written and properly executed, includes an executor and a trustee and clear instructions about her wishes.
However, there are other options, which can also be used in conjunction. One is an enhanced life estate deed and another is a living trust. The enhanced life estate deed specifies that the woman is retaining a life estate, that is, the right to use, enjoy and occupy her home, for the rest of her life. The document specifies that when she dies, the home goes to her youngest daughter. The owner would also want to specify that she has the right to change her mind at any time.
This approach avoids probate. However, there is a downside. If the youngest daughter dies before the mother, then the mother will need to take legal action to cancel the deed and issue a new one to the two older daughters. If the daughter outlives her mother, once she inherits the house, there will be no way to have it transferred to the other sisters in the future (unless the daughter choses to do so) and presumably the property will go to the grandchildren after all. Clients who try to construct their own estate plans often fall into this trap, they try to rely on beneficiary designations for everything and can’t address contingencies.
A living trust provides the detailed control allowed in a will, but the trust, which must be properly created and funded, avoids going to probate. The trust would let the mother live in the home, and when she dies, the title to the house stays in trust with her youngest daughter, who is able to live in the house. However, she never becomes the owner of the house. The trust would continue to own the house. The trust would specify that when the daughter dies, the house goes to the two older daughters. She may also use the enhanced life estate deed, and have it name the trust as beneficiary at her death to ensure it goes to the right beneficiaries.
Many people laugh when they hear about estate planning for pets. They think of outrageous stories of a dog or cat being left millions in a trust. But have you ever considered what would happen to your pets if you were not around to take care of them?
It’s easy to assume that someone will step in to care for your pets after you pass away, but the reality is, unless you have made arrangements ahead of time, your pet could be released onto the streets, dropped off at the shelter, neglected, or euthanized. In the best of circumstances, your pets might not get the special care they need if you have not left behind instructions regarding their special food, medications, and other details that would help someone care for your pet the way you would have.
The simplest way to make sure your pet will be cared for after you’re gone is to talk to one or two people to get their commitment to either take your pet into their home or find a good home for your pet. You can then include a short paragraph in your Will or living trust stating who should get custody of your pet. You can even leave the person who agrees to take your pet a small sum of money as a token of your appreciation.
If you are unable to find a person to agree to take your pet, there are organizations dedicated to the care of pets in exchange for a monetary gift to the institution. These organizations usually require that you make arrangements for the pet’s care during your lifetime. Your estate planning attorney should be able to give you more information regarding the organizations that offer these services.
Pet trusts are becoming more and more popular as a vehicle for providing the funds to care for pets after an owner’s death. If you want to leave money for the care of your pets after you are gone, a pet trust will make sure that the funds are spent on your pet and not used for other purposes.
You also need to consider what happens if you are alive, but unable to care for your pet due to a disability or incapacity. That’s why you should include provisions in your power of attorney allowing your agent to make arrangements for the care of your pet when you’re unable to do so, yourself. Your power of attorney should also allow your agent to expend funds for the care of your pets.
In any event, you should compile a set of instructions for your pet’s caretaker to follow. If your pet needs to be fed a certain type of food at precise times of day, prefers a special toy, has a specific bedtime or needs to be walked three times a day in a specific park near your home, you can include all this information in the instructions.
Many of us consider our pets as are part of our families. As such they need to be included in our estate plan, along with everything else we treasure.