December 29, 2020
Protecting Your Love Ones, Your Legacy, and Your Assets In the New Year Ahead
At the beginning of the New Year, many of us reflect back on the past year, set new goals, and consider our personal and professional objectives. Also with a fresh year ahead, we find there’s no better time to revisit your thoughts and feelings about the legacy you’d like to leave your loved ones and the importance of estate planning and who will be your beneficiaries.
Situations change. Laws change. Your wishes change. If you have a vulnerable beneficiary, especially children, you will want to pay close attention as to how you provide for them after you are gone.
Sometimes we just don’t understand the process or want to have things perfect and this can lead to procrastination. While you are alive, you can ensure the needs of your child are met, but when you are gone, it’s critical to have a plan in place to provide for those you love and protect your assets and your legacy you’ve worked hard to build. By discussing your objectives with a team of trusted professionals—that often includes an estate planning attorney, financial advisor and tax planner—you can craft the best solution, even if your first estate plan is less than perfect.
SPECIAL NEEDS CONSIDERATIONS
- Does your child receive public benefits such as Medi-Cal/Medicaid, SSI (Supplemental Security Income from Social Security), SSDI (Social Security Disability Income Benefits), HUD/Section 8 Housing? Is he or she likely to need specialized and some type of extra support in the future? In order to ensure this needed support continues, you must shelter any and all inheritances into a special needs trust.
- Did your child become disabled prior to age twenty-six? If so, you can consider establishing an ABLE account, where you can choose to gift funds into it each year. This type of account ensures your loved one has a savings plan for large purchases and/or will have necessary funds to carry him or her over until your estate is settled. ABLE accounts can be used to pay rent and food with zero penalty to public benefits.
There are many strategies that can be put in place to assist both adult and minor children and many of them begin with the creation of a special needs trust. This can be done as a standalone trust, and be fully funded (or modestly) prior to your passing, or it can be accomplished as part of your trust document. Everyone’s situation is unique and your estate planning attorney can assist you in creating the best plan for you and your family to help ensure public benefits are kept intact. Failure to properly implement a plan, may result in a Medi-Cal/Medicaid payback. In other words, the State of California may be able to claim your hard-earned money as reimbursement toward funding spent on your child. Unfortunately, as independent trustees, we regularly see this to be the case. If you already have set up an estate plan to accommodate your child, we strongly recommend you review it every few years with your professional team, as changes may be needed.
- Do you worry that your child will be unable to handle his or her inheritance, possibly due to overspending or undue influence of others?
- Does your child have a substance abuse disease or mental health disorder?
At Hitchman Fiduciaries, we commonly see children who are unable to manage their finances but that do not qualify for public benefits. As a parent, please know this is not a result of your parenting. Some individuals are simply wired with challenges, many of which go undiagnosed or are diagnosed but without an effective cure. An 85 year-old woman came to Hitchman Fiduciaries recently, as she was facing her mortality and her son would need assistance when she was gone. She was so embarrassed to admit this, believing in her heart that her son’s lack of abilities was her fault. Most likely, he is on the autism spectrum and when he was young, resources would have been virtually non-existent 60 years ago, other than institutional living. This mother has protected her son all these years but she still believed she should have done “something.” Fortunately, she realized there are solutions for him to be cared for after her passing. Please don’t let embarrassment keep you from finding solutions, as you will find peace knowing that you have properly cared for your child. Find a referred or trusted, estate planning attorney who understands these issues and who will help you craft a plan to address the financial and personal needs. If you believe a family member will not be able to administer a plan, select an independent trustee who will be objective, but caring and compassionate as you navigate this difficult season of life.
Our experienced and compassionate team of fiduciaries as just a phone call away and are here to support you in any of the important steps of the administration of an estate plan. Reach out to us at 949-200-9712 and firstname.lastname@example.org, as we look forward to helping make this journey easier for you and those you love.
Author: Lee Ann Hitchman, CLPF/MBA and Licensed Professional Fiduciary