Posts by Dave McCarthy, CPA, CSEP:
Life is full of enjoyable experiences. Spending time with family and friends, hiking through the woods, spending the afternoon on the lake, immersing yourself in a hobby – these are the moments we live for. What if you could give yourself the opportunity to make those moments more enjoyable? Would you take that opportunity?
Every time you avoid the conversation about estate planning you miss out on a chance to make this period of your life even more enjoyable – for you, and for your loved ones. Once you have made your plans with regard to what you want to happen after your death, those thoughts are no longer in the back of your mind. They are decided and you can truly enjoy the moment with your friends and family.
Three Things Everybody Should Know About Estate Planning
- Estate planning is for everybody. Estate planning isn’t just dependent on your assets; it’s about identifying what you want to happen after you pass away. Who do you want to take care of your children, for example, and do you want that person to be financially responsible for them as well – they don’t necessarily have to be the same people. When you take control of your estate planning, you are effectively helping to ease the burden that is already felt by your loved ones. Not only will you have already made the difficult decisions, but you can do so in a way that provides additional benefits for your heirs while securing your legacy.
- If you have an IRA, don’t forget to name your contingent beneficiary. It’s common to have an IRA through your employer, but oftentimes naming the IRA’s contingent beneficiary is forgotten. Usually it’s your spouse, but if your spouse has already passed away, you need to make sure to name a new contingent beneficiary. This is just one simple way to plan ahead, but it’s frequently overlooked.
- Probate Court isn’t always a bad thing. You hear people say things like: “You want to avoid probate at all costs.” But that’s not necessarily the case. For example, imagine that you’ve made plans to have all your assets go directly to your three children – avoiding the probate process altogether. When it comes time to pay for your funeral, you would hope that your three children would split the cost three ways without much ado. But, without Probate Court to mediate the situation, one child could decide that they don’t want to pay their portion, which would leave the other two children with the bill. When you bring probate into the equation, you help ensure that there is enough money available to cover these necessary funeral expenses.
Find Time To Enjoy More
It doesn’t matter if you have a lot of assets to pass on or very few, estate planning is one of the best things you can do for yourself and for those you love. The sooner you start planning yours, the sooner you can get back to enjoying the moments that truly make life worth living.
Learn more about the importance of estate planning. Listen to “The Grim Reaper Is Coming … And He Wants Your Money” podcast on Unsuitable on Rea Radio at www.reacpa.com/podcast or on iTunes or SoundCloud.
The value of our existence is measured by an infinite collection of meaningful moments that have shaped our lives and the lives of those around us. Perhaps our most precious moments occur when we positively impact the lives of our loved ones. We are all capable of initiating these moments and, sometimes, a simple conversation is all that is needed to provide insurmountable relief – now and for years to come.
Find out what else you can do now to improve your personal and financial well-being.
Even if they have never expressed their concern about the realities of aging before, it is almost certain that your parents are worried about their own mortality. Because this topic doesn’t typically find its way into casual conversation, it is your responsibility to broach the subject. Your parents will be grateful you did.
Here are five things you can do now to actively protect your loved one’s assets:
1. Overcome Your Discomfort
The first conversation about your loved ones’ finances is probably the most uncomfortable one, but it’s also the most important. It’s uncomfortable to talk to our parents about their death. Mom and Dad don’t find it thrilling either because they don’t want to be a burden. But as awkward as it is to discuss, you may eventually be shouldered with responsibility of managing the affairs your parents leave behind.
2. Set Up A Power Of Attorney
In order for you to assume this important role, you must be named as your parents’ power of attorney. This step gives you legal authority to pay their bills, maintain their residence, complete tax returns and review their financial investments.
If your power of attorney was established more than two years ago, verify that it was issued properly by today’s standards. Even though powers of attorney never expire, some have reported having problems with establishments that have updated their forms. The new forms no longer identify powers of attorney that were named several years ago.
Your parents can name multiple powers of attorney. But to avoid possible disputes, make sure that you and your siblings have your own, clearly defined responsibilities. Also, if your parents have decided to name a power of attorney, and it’s not you, make a point to respect their decision – even if you don’t agree with it. As long as a plan is in place, you and your family are on the right track.
3. Understand Your Responsibilities
Being a power of attorney is a big responsibility. Not only are you empowered to make tough decisions, your actions are now able to be scrutinized by everybody from the IRS to other family members. To avoid problems, carefully track how much money is coming in and going out and maintain thorough records. And call in the professionals if you feel like you’re in over your head.
4. Send In The Team
In the past, did your parents work with a team of professionals to manage their finances, legal affairs or anything else? If so, make it a priority to talk to them before moving any money or assets around. You will need to know if your parents set up a will, trusts, or anything else over the course of their lives. This team will not only be able to compile the information you need, they can answer your technical questions, which will make the entire process go smoother.
5. Compile An Inventory
To manage anything well you must have a clear picture of what it is you are managing. To that end, make it a point to compile a complete inventory of your parent’s assets and liabilities to create a clearer plan of action.
Do you know how the value of real property is determined?
Read: How Do You Value Property For An Estate In Ohio to learn more.
6. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
Once you understand your responsibilities, simplify everything. For example, if your parents have seven or eight open bank accounts throughout the county or state, consolidate them into one – and don’t stop there. From assets to investments, consolidating these affairs will make your job easier and less confusing as you try to track expenses.
It’s not easy to manage your loved ones finances, but with the right approach, plan and team of advisors, you can do it – and do it well. Once you get your ducks in a row, you can focus on other, more important things – like making every moment with your loved ones count.
By: David K. McCarthy, CPA, CSEP (Medina office)
This article was originally published in The Rea Report, a Rea & Associates print publication, Winter 2015. If you don’t already receive The Rea Report, our quarterly print newsletter, in your mailbox, click here and start your subscription today!
Now that most of you have either filed your 2013 tax return or at least gathered your tax information and sent it off to your CPA, I know what you’re thinking. Phew! I’m done with my taxes for yet another year! But guess what? No, you aren’t!
Now is the time to start planning for next year. The sooner you plan ahead and strategize for next year’s tax season, the better off you may be. Not happy with the amount of taxes that you had to pay this past year? Not happy that you seem to work harder and harder only to pay more in taxes and get further behind? Start planning now for future tax seasons!
Tax Planning For the Future
Here are a few things you can start working on now to help create a better tax experience for yourself next year:
- Develop an investment strategy. Most people don’t understand the affect this can have on your tax return. You can control when and how to take gains from your investments. You should work on developing a long-term investment strategy with your investment advisor.
- Create a plan to sell property. Are you considering selling property sometime in the future? Did you know that there are ways to minimize taxes that need to be paid on the sale of property? This isn’t done by calling your financial advisor and letting them know you just sold some property. Get them involved now and discuss that you plan to sell some property in three to five years. Your financial advisor can help you structure the property sale and ultimately help you control the tax effect.
- Establish a business plan. If you’re thinking about starting a new business, work with your financial advisor now to determine what tax savings you may be able to realize. Depending on the type of entity there could be significant tax savings down the road.
Tax Planning Help
While there’s no single quick fix to solving all of your business and tax woes, planning now will certainly help you when tax season rolls around next year – and the year after that and so on. If you need help with your tax planning, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio tax planning professionals can help you develop a tax strategy that best suits you for years to come.
Author: Dave McCarthy, CPA, CSEP (Medina office)