Funeral Planning: Not a Festive Thought, But A Kind One

Funeral planning as part of your estate plan provides clear, final wishes, names a person to execute them and helps your family cope at a difficult time.

No one wants to do funeral planning, but leaving instructions for your funeral and burial wishes relieves loved ones of the burden of making decisions and hoping they are following your wishes. In addition, says the article “Important to provide instructions for preferred funeral, burial wishes” from The Leader, it also prevents arguments between relatives and friends who have their own opinions about what they think you may have wanted.

What often happens is that people make their funeral plan and final wishes part of their estate plan.  In some states, burial wishes are found in a will.  However, this often presents a problem as the will is usually not looked at until after the funeral. If your loved ones don’t know where your will is, then they certainly won’t know what your wishes were for the funeral.  Without clear written directions, spiritual practices or cultural traditions that are important to you, may not be followed.

An estate planning attorney can help you create a document that outlines your wishes and will have suggestions for how to discuss this with your family and where it should be located.  In Texas, much like in New York as referenced in the article, there is a form that allows you to name an agent who will be in charge of your remains.  In Texas it is called the Appointment for Disposition of Remains.  You can give your instructions to that person in the document which takes the mystery and a lot of the difficulty out of the process.

In Texas, if you don’t name a person to control the disposition of remains, there is an order of priority for decision makers, including spouses, a child, a parent and so on.  If you wouldn’t want those individuals making these decisions, an Appointment for Disposition of Remains is essential.

For funeral planning, one option is to go to the funeral home and arrange to pay for the funeral and go to the cemetery and purchase a plot. In Texas, a pre-need, pre-paid irrevocable burial plan may also be excluded from Medicaid for long-term care purposes.  See here for more on that topic.  https://www.galliganmanning.com/elder-law-questions/

Some people wish to donate their organs, which can be done on a driver’s license or in another statement. This should also be authorized on you Medical Power of Attorney so that your agent has the authority to do so.  Donating your body for medical research or education will require researching medical schools or other institutions and may require an application and other paperwork that confirms your intent to donate your body. When you pass, your family member or whoever is in charge will need to contact the organization and arrange for transport of your remains.

A comprehensive estate plan does more than distribute assets at death. It also includes what a person’s wishes are for their funeral and burial wishes. Think of it as a gift to loved ones.

Reference: The Leader (December 7, 2019) “Important to provide instructions for preferred funeral, burial wishes”

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The Blended Family and Issues with Finances and Estate Planning

Blended families present unique issues in finances and estate planning, but an open conversation about money, your goals and your estate plan can help.

The blended family is a family dynamic that is increasingly common, which can make addressing financial issues much more of a challenge. In a blended family, one or both spouses have at least one child from a previous marriage or relationship, and together they create what’s known as a new combined family.

CNBC’s recent article, “4 ways to help blended families navigate finances,” reports that a staggering 63% of women who remarry come into blended families, with 50% of those involving stepchildren who live with the new couple, according to the National Center for Family & Marriage Research.

The issues in a blended family can be demanding, so couples often delay having the “money talk.” This is an important piece of the family financial puzzle. We’ll look at some of the ways you can work on that puzzle, and see our website for more https://www.galliganmanning.com/estate-planning-life-stages/estate-planning-for-blended-families/:

  1. Get expert advice from your Estate Planning Attorney. Talk to an estate planning attorney about the specifics of your blended family situation.  It is important that both spouses discuss how their separate and joint money will be used, both while they are alive and after they pass away.  This includes whether the spouses want to leave their assets for the children from their prior relationships.  It is also important to discuss the role the children will have in your estate plans so that you can avoid disputes between them.
  2. Create a plan for merging relationship and money. Understanding the role money plays in combining two families is critical to the success of a healthy blended household. A basic step may be to draft a detailed plan of how the couple is going to care for one another in their marriage and in their family, in addition to how they will care for one another’s children. Try to determine the ways in which money plays a role in coming together. The more you can communicate and the more that you can exhibit a united front, even from a financial perspective, the stronger a couple will be.  This may include considering either a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement detailing how your assets will come together in the combined family.
  3. Collect documentation and monitor your money. It’s good to understand the work involved with the preparation and paperwork after divorce and remarriage. You’ll have a divorce decree or a domestic partner agreement, as well as instructions on child support and alimony. You also need to keep track of all the different financial accounts.
  4. Discuss your financial issues regularly. Ask about the financial obligations to the ex-spouses. Make sure both spouses understand if there’s child support and/or alimony, as well as responsibility for paying for housing or their utility bills.

Although these issues may be demanding, they can be successfully navigated with frank, open discussion and the advice of trusted advisers.  If you are in a blended family, please contact our office for a consultation on how these issues may be addressed in your estate plan.

Reference: CNBC (November 23, 2019) “4 ways to help blended families navigate finances”

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When Should I Consider Long Term Care Insurance?

Many people haven’t adequately planned for long term care costs. Consider long term care insurance early as a way to cover those costs.

You can bet that you won’t need long term care in your lifetime, but you’ll probably lose that bet: about 70% of seniors 65 and older require long term care at some point. That could be just a few months with a home health aide or it could mean a year (or more) of nursing home care. You can’t know for sure. However, without long term care insurance, you run the risk that you’ll be forced to cover a very large expense on your own.

The Motley Fool’s recent article, “75% of Older Americans Risk This Major Expense in the Future,” says many older workers are going into retirement without long term care coverage in place. In a recent Nationwide survey, 75% of future retirees aged 50 and over said they that don’t have long term care insurance. If that’s you, you should begin considering it, because the older you get, the more difficult it becomes to qualify, and the more expensive it becomes.

If you do not purchase long term are insurance, but need to pay for long term care, there are other options, such as government benefits like Medicaid.  I’ll focus on insurance in this article, but see here for more information about long term care and how to pay for it.  https://www.galliganmanning.com/long-term-care-whats-it-all-about/

Long term care insurance can be costly, which is why many people don’t buy it. However, the odds are that your policy won’t be anywhere near as expensive as the actual price for the care you could end up needing. That’s why it’s important to look at your options for long term care insurance. The ideal time to apply is in your mid-50s. At that age, you’re more likely to be approved along with some discounts on your premiums. If you wait too long, you’ll risk being denied or seeing premiums that are prohibitively expensive.

Note that not all policies are the same. Therefore, you should look at what items are outside of your premium costs. This may include things such as the maximum daily benefit the policy permits or the maximum time frame covered by your policy. It should really be two years at a minimum. There are policies written that have a waiting period for having your benefits kick in and others that either don’t have one or have shorter time frames. Compare your options and see what makes the most sense.

You don’t necessarily need the most expensive long term care policy available. If you’ve saved a good amount for retirement, you’ll have the option of tapping your IRA or 401(k) to cover the cost of your care. The same is true if you own a home worth a lot of money, because you can sell it or borrow against it.

It’s important to remember to explore your options for long term care insurance, before that window of opportunity shuts because of age or health problems. Failing to secure a policy could leave you to cover what could be a devastatingly expensive bill.

Reference: Motley Fool (September 23, 2019) “75% of Older Americans Risk This Major Expense in the Future”

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