Kelly strives to serve her clients with professionalism and individual care. Whether you are dealing with the loss of a loved one or are planning your estate, Ms. Holloway can help you navigate the daunting and at times emotionally taxing legal process.
Retreating to a warmer climate for the winter sounds like an ideal way to spend a few months. To help make this dream a reality, some individuals choose to rent out their second homes when they are not in use. But before you list your second home for rent,there are a few things you should consider.
Benefits of renting out your property
One reason to rent out your second home is to help cover the expenses of owning that second home. In addition, you will not have to fully close it up when you leave because someone may be staying there soon after. Frequent use of the property may also help deter burglars who might otherwise think the property is abandoned. Enlist a property manager to respond to any renters’ needs or check the property during periods of vacancy.
Check local zoning ordinances and deed restrictions
Some communities may prohibit renting out a property. If you are purchasing a second home or have already purchased one, it is important to review your deed and contact the appropriate authorities or homeowner’s association to make sure that you are allowed to rent out your property. If not, you could end up angering your neighbors and becoming involved in a costly lawsuit.
Make sure you are insured
Before you open your second home to renters, check your homeowner’s insurance policy to see if it covers rental of the property. You may have to purchase a new policy or add a rider to your existing policy to provide sufficient insurance coverage, but the additional expense will be well worth the investment. The insurance will act as your first line of payment if a renter is injured on your property or the property sustains damage while being rented.
Determine liability exposure
Because many different renters may stay at your second home, there is an increased risk of lawsuits arising in connection with this type of use. Transferring ownership to a limited liability company (LLC) can be a worthwhile option for creating greater protection from a potential lawsuit. If a renter gets injured on the property, sues the LLC that owns it, and obtains a judgment that exceeds any property insurance limits you have, the renter can only go after the assets owned by the LLC to satisfy any claims, not your personal assets or those of any other owners of the LLC.
However, in some states, a single-member LLC (an LLC in which you are the only member) does not provide enhanced protection from your personal creditors. The reason is that your creditors should be able to seek relief through your LLC to satisfy their claims because there are no other members that will be negatively impacted by the seizure of money and property owned by the LLC.
Before transferring your second home to an LLC, it is important to speak with the holder of any mortgage on the property. In many cases, the transfer of a mortgaged second home to an LLC can cause the due-on-sale clause to be triggered, requiring repayment of the loan in full. Unless you are financially prepared to pay off the mortgage, this may be a substantial and unwelcome financial hardship.
Consider the tax implications of renting out your second home
According to the Internal Revenue Service, if you rent your second home for fifteen days or more a year, the rental income must be reported. In most cases, you will be able to deduct the rental expenses that you have incurred. Because you are using the second home for both rental and personal purposes, you will have to divide your expenses between the rental use and the personal use based on the number of days used for each purpose. Work closely with your tax advisor or preparer to ensure that you accurately report your rental income and expenses and take the appropriate deductions on the right forms. Your tax preparer or advisor can also provide you with tips on proper recordkeeping.
Get your second home ready for occupants
Before your first renter arrives, it is important to go through and remove anything personal that you do not want used, broken, or taken. This may make the space feel a little sterile, but the last thing you want is for a family heirloom to be stolen. You will also want to hire a cleaning crew to come in before and after each group. Not only will this keep the furnishings in good condition, but it may also encourage people to rent with you again. If possible, take pictures prior to new renters arriving in case damage occurs. Doing so will provide proof of the property’s condition before they arrive to compare with the condition after they leave.
We are here to help
While owning a second home can be expensive, it can offer a lifetime of memories for you and your loved ones. We are here to assist you to make sure your second home is properly included in your estate plan and protected for years to come. Give us a call today so we can discuss ways to maximize and protect your second home. We are available for in-person and virtual meetings.
More older workers are remaining in the workplace. In 2016, about 60% of 65-year-olds were receiving Social Security benefits, compared to 92% in 2002. Consumer advocates expect that change to result in a growing number of older people making expensive mistakes, when they enroll in basic Medicare, says the article “Bipartisan bill to prevent costly Medicare mistakes advances in the house” from CNBC.com.
The hope is that the bill will make Medicare a little easier to understand. The congressional measure to help prevent costly enrollment mistakes cleared a House committee as part of a group of bipartisan health-care bills. Next up would be a vote by the full chamber.
There’s a companion bill in the Senate, but it’s stuck in the Finance Committee. The House bill, known as the BENES Act, has several goals. One is to eliminate delays between the time that someone signs up and the time that they are covered by Medicare. Another is to offer more outreach and information about Medicare to people, as they get closer to being eligible at 65.
About 62.4 million Americans—most of whom are 65 or older—are enrolled in Medicare. Most people do end up tapping their Social Security benefits before that time, and they are automatically enrolled, but today many more people are delaying their benefits beyond that age. As a result, the expectation is that many more people are going to make expensive mistakes, when they do go to enroll in basic Medicare. That includes Part A, for hospital coverage and Part B, for outpatient care and medical equipment. There are no late-enrollment penalties for Part A but coming late to Part B can lead to a world of trouble.
The penalty for enrolling late to Part B is 10% of the standard premium for each 12-month period that the person should have been enrolled but wasn’t and worse, it can increase each year as the premium adjusts. Sixty-five-year-olds who fit into the exception category—that is, they have group health insurance at work—are allowed to delay enrolling. However, once they leave that group, they face deadlines.
Last year, as many as 764,000 people paid the Part B late-enrollment penalty, which on average pushed their premiums up by 28%. Based on the 2020 standard Part B premium, that would mean an additional $40 per month (although some pay more or less than the standard).
There is also a serious coverage delay for those who sign up during the general enrollment period (that’s January 1 to March 31), if they missed their initial signup window, which means they aren’t covered until July 1. You could sign up on January 2 and not have health coverage until July!
The BENES Act also requires that the Health and Human Services Secretary submit a report on how to most effectively align the early year general enrollment period for Parts A and B with the annual fall open enrollment period, which is for enrollment for different parts of Medicare: Part C Advantage Plans and Part D prescription drug plans.
With a combination of lowered 2020 tax liability, the potential for future tax increases and potentially lower portfolio values, we are in uncharted financial waters. However, all of these factors may make a Roth conversion more attractive than ever, according to the article “Covid-19 and the CARES Act enhance the Roth conversion game” from the Jacksonville Business Journal.
A quick look first at essentials of the traditional and Roth IRAs:
Tradition IRA contributions are tax deductible.
Growth inside the account is tax-deferred,
Qualified distributions are taxed as ordinary income, and
Required minimum distributions must begin at age 72.
Roth IRA contributions are not tax deductible.
Growth inside the account is tax free,
Qualified distributions are tax free, and
There are no required minimum distributions.
Roth IRAs are an essential part of both estate and retirement planning. Converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA lets you decide when you or your beneficiaries pay taxes. Convert all of your IRA to a Roth, and pay the taxes up front, based on the year the conversion is made. If you have a low-income year, and the value of your IRAs is low, that’s the time to do the conversion.
Just be mindful that making this move for a large amount of money could potentially move you into a higher tax bracket. Being strategic and moving a portion of your IRA could make more sense, especially if you expect that you’ll be in a higher tax bracket during retirement, or if you anticipate that your ultimate beneficiary may be in a higher tax bracket within ten years following their inheritance. (As a result of the SECURE Act, inherited IRA accounts must be emptied within ten years after they are received.)
You’ll also need a plan to pay the taxes on that conversion. In a perfect world, those taxes would be paid from funds outside of your retirement accounts. If the only way to pay this tax is by using funds from your IRA, you can have the funds withheld during the conversion. Be sure to run the numbers before doing the conversion. If you pull money from your IRA account to do the conversion, there will be less money to grow long-term for you, and it will be included in your taxable income for the year.
We all like something for nothing, but there are costs to Roth conversions. The five-year rule requires that a Roth needs to exist for five years, before you can take out money tax free. You’ll need to be sure that you have enough cash on hand to live on for five years after the conversion. However, that’s not all. There are a number of different variations on the five-year rule, depending on your situation. If you are under age 59½ and take a distribution of profits before the five years, you will get hit with a 10% penalty without an allowable exception on the amount you converted. An experienced estate planning attorney will be able to help you make a strategically sound decision.
Neglecting to fund trusts is a surprisingly common mistake, and one that can undo the best estate and tax plans. Many people put it on the back burner, then forget about it, says the article “Don’t Overlook Your Trust Funding” from Forbes.
Done properly, trust funding helps avoid probate, provides for you and your family in the event of incapacity and helps save on estate taxes.
Creating a revocable trust gives you control. With a revocable trust, you can make changes to the trust while you are living, including funding. Think of a trust like an empty box—you can put assets in it now, or after you pass. If you transfer assets to the trust now, however, your executor won’t have to do it when you die.
Note that if you don’t put assets in the trust while you are living, those assets will go through the probate process. While the executor will have the authority to transfer assets, they’ll have to get court approval. That takes time and costs money. It is best to do it while you are living.
A trust helps if you become incapacitated. You may be managing the trust while you are living, but what happens if you die or become too sick to manage your own affairs? If the trust is funded and a successor trustee has been named, the successor trustee will be able to manage your assets and take care of you and your family. If the successor trustee has control of an empty, unfunded trust, a conservatorship may need to be appointed by the court to oversee assets.
There’s a tax benefit to trusts. For married people, trusts are often created that contain provisions for estate tax savings that defer estate taxes until the death of the second spouse. Income is provided to the surviving spouse and access to the principal during their lifetime. The children are usually the ultimate beneficiaries. However, the trust won’t work if it’s empty.
Depending on where you live, a trust may benefit you with regard to state estate taxes. Putting money in the trust takes it out of your taxable estate. You’ll need to work with an estate planning attorney to ensure that the assets are properly structured. For instance, if your assets are owned jointly with your spouse, they will not pass into a trust at your death and won’t be outside of your taxable estate.
Move the right assets to the right trust. It’s very important that any assets you transfer to the trust are aligned with your estate plan. Taxable brokerage accounts, bank accounts and real estate are usually transferred into a trust. Some tangible assets may be transferred into the trust, as well as any stocks from a family business or interests in a limited liability company. Your estate planning attorney, financial advisor and insurance broker should be consulted to avoid making expensive mistakes.
You’ve worked hard to accumulate assets and protecting them with a trust is a good idea. Just don’t forget the final step of funding the trust.
The nature of the probate process varies from state to state, and even varies from county to county. However, the nature of the process is the same. A court has to validate a will to ensure that it meets the legal requirements of the state before assets can be distributed, explains the article “Probate workarounds can save heirs time, money” from the Baker City Herald. A typical will in some states can take nine to twelve months, and court shutdowns related to COVID-19 means that the wait could be longer. Probate is also expensive.
When does probate make sense? When a person dies with a lot of debt, probate can be helpful by limiting the amount of time creditors have to make their claims against the estate. If there’s not enough to pay everyone, the probate court makes the decision about how much each creditor gets. Without probate, creditors may surface long after assets have been distributed, and depending upon the amount owed, may sue heirs or the executor.
The court supervision provided by probate can be helpful, if there are any concerns about the instructions in the will not being carried out. However, the will and the details of the estate become public, which is bad not just for privacy reasons. If there are any greedy or litigation-happy family members, they’ll be able to see how assets were distributed. All assets, debts and costs paid by the estate are disclosed, and the court approves each distribution. This much oversight can be protective in some situations.
What’s the alternative? Some states have simplified probate for smaller estates, which can reduce the time and cost of probate. However, it varies by state. In Delaware, it is estates worth no more than $30,000, but in Seattle, small means estates valued at $275,000 or less.
These limits don’t include assets that go directly to heirs, like accounts with beneficiaries or jointly owned assets. Most retirement funds and life insurance policies have named beneficiaries. The same is often true for bank and investment accounts. Just remember not to name your estate as a beneficiary, which defeats the purpose of having a beneficiary.
Are there any other ways to avoid probate? Here’s where trusts come in. Trusts are legal documents that allow you to place your assets into ownership by the trust. A living trust takes effect while you are still alive, and you can be a trustee. Once created, property needs to be transferred into the trust, which requires managing details: changing titles and deeds and account names. This type of trust is revocable, which means you can change it any time. As a trustee, you have complete control over the property. A successor trustee is named to take over, if you die or become incapacitated.
An estate planning attorney will know other legal strategies to avoid probate for part or all of your estate.
What happens when estate planning doesn’t go according to plan? A last will and testament is a legally binding contract that determines who will get a person’s assets. However, according to the article “Can you prevent someone from challenging your will?” in the Augusta Free Press, it is possible for someone to bring a legal challenge.
Most will contests are centered around five key reasons:
The deceased had a more recent will.
The will was not signed voluntarily.
The deceased was incapacitated, when she signed the will.
The will was not signed in front of the right number of witnesses.
The will was signed under some kind of duress or mental impairment.
What is the best way to lessen the chances of someone challenging your will? Take certain steps when the will is created, including:
Be sure your will is created by an estate planning attorney. Just writing your wishes on a piece of paper and signing and dating the paper is not the way to go. Certain qualifications must be met, which they vary by state. In some states, one witness is enough for a will to be properly executed. In others, there must be two and they can’t be beneficiaries.
The will must state the names of the intended beneficiaries. If you want someone specific to be excluded, you’ll have to state their name and that you want them to be excluded. A will should also name a guardian, if your children are minors. It should also contain the name of an alternate executor, in case the primary executor predeceases you or cannot serve.
What about video wills? First, make a proper paper will. If you feel the need to be creative, make a video. In many states, a video will is not considered to be valid. A video can also become confusing, especially if what you say in the paper will is not exactly the same as what’s in the video. Discrepancies can lead to will contests.
Don’t count on those free templates. Downloading a form from a website seems like a simple solution, but some of the templates online are not up to date. They also might not reflect the laws in your state. If you own property, or your estate is complex, a downloaded form could create confusion and lead to family battles.
Tell your executor where your will is kept. If no one can find your will, people you may have wanted to exclude from your estate will have a better chance of succeeding in a will challenge. You should also tell your executor about any trusts, insurance policies and any assets that are not listed in the will.
Don’t expect that everything will go as you planned. Prepare for things to go sideways, to protect your loved ones. It is costly, time-consuming and stressful to bring an estate challenge, but the same is true on the receiving end. If you want your beneficiaries to receive the assets you intend for them, a good estate planning attorney is the right way to go.
In most instances, providing financially for children ends a year or two after college. However, for the family with a special needs family member, the financial assistance does not end. It’s also likely that the child will live with their parents well into the parent’s retirement. The family will need more money during retirement to provide for their child’s needs, including therapies, transportation and hobbies.
The family may choose to have the child live in a group home setting, but those costs are substantially higher, depending on the home and the level of care required.
Parents are often more focused on planning to care for their disabled family member and overlook their own retirement planning. It is important to do both.
Social Security planning is a bigger factor for the family with a special needs family member. If parents decide to collect their Social Security benefits, they need to map out what different scenarios could mean, including delaying when to take benefits and spend down assets.
If the disability of a child with special needs began before age 22, the child may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance, generally half of the last surviving parent’s Social Security payment in retirement (in addition to what the parent receives). When that parent dies, the amount increases to three-quarters of the parent’s benefits. This must be calculated in terms of income now for the child while the parents are living and after the parents pass.
It’s critical for the parents of an individual with special needs to do a careful budget analysis of their own retirement income and what they will need to care for their child. Once they understand these numbers, they can figure out what assets and income streams will make the most sense. A professional financial advisor can be very helpful for this process.
The family may need to set up a special needs trust (SNT), which is best done with an experienced estate planning elder law attorney. Life insurance may be purchased to fund a child’s lifetime needs and be placed in the SNT.
The family will also need to address tax planning. Traditional 401(k) plans and IRA accounts are not taxed until withdrawals are taken. There have been a number of changes to the law in recent months, not the least of which is the CARES Act, which allows withdrawals to be made from retirement accounts with no extra penalties.
One of the reasons people uses trusts in their estate planning, is that the person named as a trustee has a legal duty to put the trust’s interests first, rather than their own interests. This is called a “fiduciary duty,” and it becomes very important when planning for the future of your assets and family. It’s an enforceable legal obligation says the article “Fiduciary Duties in Trusts and Estate Planning” from yahoo! finance.
A trustee is the person appointed to be in charge of a trust. There are many different kinds of trusts, created to own assets, including money, life insurance policies and homes. The person named as trustee in the trust document makes decisions about the trust assets to benefit the beneficiary’s best interests.
Trusts created while a person is living are known, appropriately enough, as living trusts. There are people who choose to be their own trustees and manage their trusts for as long as they are able. Married couples may be co-trustees on their trusts. The trust documents should be prepared, so that upon the death of one spouse, the surviving spouse becomes the trustee and manages the account.
The person creating the trust should also name a successor trustee. This is the person who will manage the trust when the trustee or the co-trustees are no longer competent to manage the trust. That might be because they have died or because they have become incapacitated due to an injury or illness.
The fiduciary duties of a trustee are to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries. These are some guidelines:
The assets a trustee manages do not belong to them, and the trustee must not mix personal assets with assets in the trust.
A trustee may not use the trust’s assets for their benefit.
The trustee must not favor one beneficiary over the other.
The trustee must follow the directions in the trust document.
The trustee must keep accurate records, file tax returns and report to beneficiaries, as directed in the trust.
There are three fiduciary duties when it comes to a trust: loyalty, care and full disclosure. The trustee(s) must act in the best interest of the trust and its beneficiaries. This is a high standard and why the decision on who to name as a trustee is so important.
The terms of every trust vary, depending on the type of trust and the needs of the estate plan. The trustee needs to be familiar with the trust and its directions, so they can perform correctly.
An estate planning attorney is needed to draft trusts, so they reflect the wishes of the person and their goals. Using a downloaded form or even a standard legal form is a big risk for families.
If there’s someone you believe is more deserving or needs more of your help, that may mean someone else in your life may receive little or nothing from you when you die. However, be careful—disinheriting an heir is not as simple as leaving them out of your will, explains the article “How to Disinherit an Heir” from smart asset.
Disinheriting an heir means you’ve prevented them from receiving a portion of your estate, when you die. A local estate planning lawyer will know what your state requires, and every state’s laws are different.
One way is by leaving the person out completely. However, this could also leave your will up for interpretation, as there may be questions raised about your intent. A challenge could be raised that you didn’t mean to leave them out—and that could create stress, expenses and family fights.
You may also disinherit a person, by stating in your will that you do not wish to leave anything to this specific person. You might even provide information about why you are doing this, so your intent is clear. There could still be challenges, even with your providing reasons for cutting the person out of your will.
Disinheriting someone can be a tricky thing to do. It requires professional help. Working with an experienced estate planning attorney who has experience in will contests, may be your best choice for an estate planning attorney.
There are instances where relatives known and unknown to you are entitled to make a claim on your estate. An experienced estate planning attorney may suggest a search for relatives to ensure that no surprises come out of the woodwork, after your passing.
There are some relatives who cannot be disinherited, even in a legally binding last will and testament. In many states, you may not disinherit your spouse or children. Most states protect spouses from being disinherited, and in some states, children are legally entitled to a certain amount of your property. However, in most states, you may disinherit parents, if they outlive you.
There are many reasons you may want to disinherit someone. You may have been estranged from a child or a cousin for many years, or you may believe they have enough financial resources and want someone else to receive an inheritance from you.
Many high-profile individuals have declared that their children will not receive an inheritance, preferring to give their assets to charitable foundations or organizations working for causes they support.
Whatever your reasons for disinheriting someone, make sure you go about it with professional help to ensure that your wishes are followed after you die.
It is frustrating when a bank or other financial institution declines a Power of Attorney. It might be that the form is too old, the bank wants their own form to be used, or there seems to be a question about the validity of the form. A recent article titled “What to know if your bank refuses your power of attorney” from The Mercury discusses the best way to prevent this situation, and if it occurs, how to fix it.
The most important thing to know is just downloading a form from the internet and hoping it works is always a bad idea. There are detailed rules and requirements about notices and acknowledgments and other requirements. Specific language is required. It is different from state to state. It’s not a big deal if the person who is giving the power of attorney is alive, well and mentally competent to get another POA created, but if they are physically or legally unable to sign a document, this becomes a problem.
There have been many laws and court cases that defined the specific language that must be used, how the document must be witnessed before it can be executed, etc. In one case in Pennsylvania, a state employee was given a power of attorney to sign by her husband. She was incapacitated at the time after a car accident and a stroke. He used the POA to change her retirement options and then filed for divorce.
At issue was whether she could present evidence that the POA was void when she signed it, invalidating her estranged husband’s option and his filing for her benefits.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that a third party (the bank) could not rely on a void power of attorney submitted by an agent, even when the institution did not know that it was void at the time it was accepted. For banks, this was a clear sign that any POAs had to be vetted very carefully to avoid liability. There was a subsequent fix to the law that provided immunity to a bank or anyone who accepts a POA in good faith and without actual knowledge that it may be invalid. However, it includes the ability for a bank or other institution or person to request an agent’s certification or get an affidavit to ensure that the agent is acting with proper authority.
It may be better to have both a POA from a person and one that uses the bank or financial institution’s own form. It’s not required by law, but the person from the bank may be far more comfortable accepting both forms, because they know one has been through their legal department and won’t create a problem for the bank or for them as an employee.
There are occasions when it is necessary to fight the bank or financial institution’s decision. This is especially the case, if the person is incapacitated and your POA is valid.
If there is any doubt about whether the POA would be accepted by the bank, now is the time to check and review the language and formatting with your estate planning or elder law attorney to be sure that the form is valid and will be acceptable.