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10 Helpful Tips For Donating Money to Charity

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Have you recently acquired a substantial amount of wealth? Are you considering donating some of the money to different charities?

Whether you’re looking to donate a large amount of money or simply make a small donation, planning your charitable contributions is important.

If you don’t plan properly, you could end up donating money to an illegitimate charity or another scam, or make a donation that doesn’t end up being tax deductible when the end of the year rolls around.

These two mistakes are all-too-common, which makes planning your charitable gifts even more important.

Below are 10 helpful tips for donating money to charity, so you don’t make any mistakes with your money.

1. Pick a Charity That’s Important to You

Before you can donate your money to a charitable organization, you have to find one.

Think about what’s important to you. What causes really fire you up? If you could change anything in the world, what would it be?

Whether you’re passionate about ending domestic violence, sex trafficking, or world hunger, there’s a charity that will happily accept your monetary donations. After you have made a decision on where you want to focus your donation, it’s time to decide if you’re going to keep your donation local, regional, national, or international.

The great thing here is that it’s completely your call. It is your money, after all. No one can tell you where you have to donate.

2. Verify the Legitimacy of the Charity or Charities You’ve Chosen

When you’re donating money to charity, this is a crucial step.

If you don’t verify that the charity is, in fact, legitimate before you donate, you could end up donating money to an organization that uses more of your money to line their pockets than it does to feed the children. Or worse, you could donate it to a corrupt organization or person whose sole reason for collecting donations is to profit off of them.

Neither of those situations would be your preferred outcome.

If you want to avoid donating to a scam, you can use the following two websites to verify the credentials of your chosen charity:

  1. Give.org
  2. CharityNavigator.org

Both of these organizations vet nonprofits so you don’t have to.

This is a simple step, but when it comes to charitable planning, it’s not one to take lightly. Don’t skip it, or you may end up throwing your money away.

3. Keep an Eye on Their Administrative Expenses

Before donating your money, it’s a good idea to confirm that it’s going to be spent wisely.

Of course, charitable organizations will have administrative expenses just like any other organization, but it’s important to ensure that the money used for these expenses does not outnumber the amount of money that they are using to fund programs. If you pull their reporting and find that their contributions to expenses are far beyond those to their programs, there’s a problem.

Save your money and find a different charity to donate it to. Preferably one that values their programs more.

4. Make Your Money Work

If you donate to the same several charities, your money will go farther than if you donate smaller amounts to many different charities. Why? Many charities have fees they will deduct from your donation, meaning less of your money is going directly to the cause you’re looking to support.

5. Donate Directly to the Charity Itself

In other words, don’t donate money over the phone to a solicitor you don’t know. There’s always a risk that they might not be legitimate and could be taking the money they receive and profiting off of it.

6. Itemize Your Donations

To claim a deduction on your taxes, you need to itemize it. When it comes time to file them, you can use Schedule A on the form 1040 to itemize each of your deductions. Be sure to include your donation on lines 16-19.

7. Donate to Qualified Organizations

If you’re hoping to deduct your donations from your taxes, you’ll need to donate your money to qualified organizations which are determined by the IRS.

If you want to confirm the status of a charity, call the IRS.

8. If You Want to Deduct Your Donations, Donate to Organizations, Not Individuals

No matter how much the individual needs or deserves your contribution, you won’t be able to deduct donations to individuals on your taxes. Keep this in mind if you want to be able to deduct your donations, and donate only to the qualified organizations mentioned in the previous tip.

9. Get a Receipt

Are you looking to make a charitable donation in cash? If you are, and you want to claim it as a deduction on your taxes, you’re going to need to have a receipt to back it up.

Be sure that it includes the date, the amount of the donation, and the name of the charitable organization that received the money. To claim a deduction, you’ll need to donate $250 minimum and then have the qualified organization provide you with a form of acknowledgment.

No matter what amount you donate, don’t forget to ask for a receipt!

10. Deduct Expenses Related to Volunteering

If you’re considering donating to charity, you may also be considering volunteering.

While your time is not tax-deductible, any expenses you incur as a result of volunteering are. See tip #9 and always get a receipt.

Some Closing Words on Donating Money to Charity

Donating money to charity is a great way to relieve yourself of extra funds while also doing something that will benefit a good cause.

To donate the smart way and ensure that your charitable gifts are, in fact, tax-deductible, just take these tips into account before making your next donation.

If you’d like some assistance with your charitable planning efforts, don’t hesitate to contact Rhodes Law Firm today.

Our team will work with you to ensure that we answer each of your questions and can provide you with the help you need.

Around the Web: That fortune will be lost if you don’t add cryptocurrency assets to estate plan

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Cryptocurrency values are rising and so is the wealth of its investors. Adding cryptocurrencies to an estate plan is important to keeping a fortune in order, especially in the event of an unexpected death. However, accessing a deceased relative’s cryptocurrency is a daunting task and is not as simple as gaining access to your relative’s safety deposit box filled with their financial information. Keeping family in the loop of your assets and an updated list of all account information, is essential in protecting assets during an unexpected emergency.

With the popularity of cryptocurrency, safer ways to back up and secure financial assets should be available soon. In the meantime, make sure you are taking proper steps to protect your financial investments, and to ensure your heirs are left with the wealth you have created.

Read the full article here or contact us today to learn how to help add your cryptocurrencies to an estate plan.

3 Ways to Protect Your Business Assets

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If you own a business, you’re probably very concerned about protecting your assets. Most businesses fail in the first five years. Asset protection is key to ensure that your company lives on for future generations.

To keep your business assets and the business itself intact, you have to do three key things.

1. Recognize the Dangers

“Asset protection” is pretty vague, so let’s get more concrete. When you think about your business, think about the ways in which your assets are vulnerable.

For example, if you own a physical storefront, you’ll need to protect it from burglars and vandals. If you’ve invented an innovative product, you may risk losing the rights to it from copycats and patent trolls. You can also have employee disputes, familial ownership disputes, and a host of other things that can damage or leach away the value of your business assets.

Once you’ve identified all the risks to your assets, you can move forward.

2. Get Insured

For any business, no matter what line of work you’re in, business insurance is a must. Business insurance will cover your losses that result from a wide variety of things, such as property damage, legal liability, theft, and employee-related dangers.

In many places, having liability insurance, at the bare minimum, is a requirement for business owners. Check your local laws to ensure compliance.

Signing up for worker’s compensation insurance would also be a sound decision. The last thing you want is to have all your profits and assets taken from you because you’re wrapped up in an arduous and expensive legal battle.

3. Hire a Lawyer To Protect Your Business Assets

Like insurance, a good lawyer can guard you against a lot of different hazards. A lawyer can represent you in legal disputes with customers or employees. He or she can also oversee the trademarking and patenting of various aspects of your operations.

When you wish to pass on your business assets to members of your family or someone else, a lawyer can ensure your assets transfer successfully through estate planning.

A good estate planner can draw up an iron-clad will so that your assets go to the people you want them to go to once you die. There won’t have to be any legal quibbling between your trustees or heirs

A lawyer may seem like a costly expense, but in the long run, having a lawyer will save you a lot of time and money.

Need a Lawyer?

Hopefully, this article has given you a few ideas on how to protect your business assets. If you haven’t yet begun to think about the ways that your assets might be vulnerable, don’t worry. You’ve got time.

However, if you’re someone looking to protect their assets once they’ve passed, contact us to oversee your estate planning. We have the expertise to make sure your assets fall into the right hands.

Around the Web: 7 Common Estate Planning Disasters and How to Avoid Them

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Keeping your finances in order is essential to managing your possessions in the event of an unplanned emergency. Make sure you protect your assets and your family during a time of crisis with a properly executed estate plan. Here are a few common ways to avoid an estate planning disaster.
1. Plan Ahead for Disability or Incapacitation. Appointing a person to manage health care and business affairs during a temporary or permanent situation is essential. Without proper documentation, state and local laws will make important decisions for you.
2. Get a Professional to Write Important Documents. Writing your estate planning on your own can often lead to an invalid will. Leave this important step to a professional attorney.
3. Re-examine Your Estate Plan. Changes in laws and family structure can invalidate prior planning. Review your estate plan after a major life event or every five to seven years to avoid an outdated will.
4. Be Honest with Your Estate Planner. A professional estate planner is able to make suggestions to minimize taxes, increase the value of your estate, and to avoid family conflict. These propositions are not possible without disclosing complete information.

For more ways to avoid an estate planning disaster read the full article or contact us today!

Asset Protection Strategies: Can You Protect a Trust from Creditors?

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So you’ve worked all your life to create a legacy. Did you know that all your hard work can disappear?

This can happen if you’re sued or upon death, even when you’ve created a trust to shield your assets. Yes, that’s right. Even when you plan ahead your assets could be seized.

Trusts can be great tools for creditor protection, but only if you do it the right way. If you are here it means that you want to protect your assets, but want to make sure you’re doing it right.

Now the question is, are trusts protected from creditors?

Creditor Protection: Where to Start?

Before we get into if trusts are protected from creditors, we’ve to start with the basics. What is a trust? How do they work?

trust is an arrangement where the settlor or trust maker transfers the ownership of their assets, to be managed by a trustee, for the benefit of a person or group of people, also known as beneficiaries. The 2 most common types of trusts are revocable living trust and irrevocable trust.

revocable living trust is a trust that’s created while you’re alive. The purpose of this legal document is to provide the instructions on how your assets will be handled when you pass away. It’s different to a will because it can prevent the court from controlling your assets, and avoid probate upon death.

Also in a revocable trust, the settlor keeps the control of the assets. While an irrevocable trust, the trust maker loses the ownership of the assets. Another thing that makes it different is that it can’t be amended or revoked.

How Do Trusts Work?

Many people get wills to establish how their assets will be handled when they pass away. But, a lawyer might recommend a trust instead. They might suggest a revocable trust or an irrevocable trust.

You might be asking yourself, how do these work? A revocable trust can be established tying it up with your will. Many lawyers advise their clients to do this because it saves their family members court proceedings.

This process is known as probate. If there’s a will, it will have to go through the court probate process to confirm the distribution of the assets. This process can take from 6 months to a year and can cost your survivors from 3 to 5 percent of the assets.

Also, this type of trust helps in case you’re incapacitated, because if this happens your trustee will handle your assets in accordance with your trust provisions. This means that the court won’t assign an administrator, and your wishes will be followed.

In a revocable trust, you keep the ownership, and control over your assets. This is different in an irrevocable trust because the court won’t consider you the owner of the assets. It’s like this because you will lose all control and ownership of the property included in the trust.

Are Trusts Protected from Creditors?

You might be asking yourself, will a trust protect my assets? The answer is yes, but not all trusts are created equal. Not all types of trusts can protect your assets from creditors.

The only type of trust that can protect your property is an irrevocable trust. Once you put your assets in this trust, you aren’t the owner or control these assets anymore. Therefore, you can’t modify how they’re distributed.

Since you aren’t the owner of the assets, when there’s a judgment from a creditor against you, they won’t be able to seize the property that’s included in the trust.

Why Should You Establish a Trust?

There are many reasons why you should create a trust, but the most important is to protect your assets. If you want to do this is because you want to be prepared for when or if the worse happens.

In the event that lawsuits against you or even death occur, a trust can protect your assets from creditors and people who want to take advantage of the situation.

If your assets are in a trust, the courts and creditors can’t seize those assets. Yet, they could go against the assets that aren’t in the trust. This only applies to irrevocable trusts.

It only applies to this type of trust, because it creates a separate legal entity with control and ownership over those assets. The court and creditors could still seize your property, but only the assets that aren’t in the trust.

Many people think that having a will guarantees that their wishes will be followed when distributing their assets. Yet, even if there’s a will there are complications that can happen.

Besides the fact that a trust will help avoid the long probate process. These can prevent debts not being paid off, certain heirs receiving more than you intended them to receive, money designated for charities of being distributed elsewhere, among other possible issues.

Cost-Effective Creditor Protection

Another option you may consider to be prepared in the event of death is a testamentary trust. This trust is programmed to be created upon death and will include your life insurance policy proceeds, or all the assets of your estate.

Some people prefer this type of trust because it will protect your assets after death, without all the costs involved in the maintenance of a trust. But, it will also allow the distribution of your assets without them going through the probate process, or causing any financial hardship on your loved ones.

Wrapping It Up

You shouldn’t have to continuously worry about your assets being seized, or end up in the wrong hands. If you’re in the process of writing your will or are looking for ways to protect your assets now you know that trusts are protected from creditors.

Remember that you’ll get creditor protection only if you leave your property in an irrevocable trust, or a testamentary trust if your purpose is protection upon death. Make sure to consider these types of trusts when you decide to secure your family’s financial future.

Are you planning on getting a trust to protect your assets? We can help!

Contact us for more information about our services.

Around The Web: Thinking the unthinkable: Businesses require estate planning

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Estate planning is not just for older people or people who have already retired. Once someone owns a business, it is crucial to start creating an estate plan. The reason for this is to make sure that in the event of incapacity or death, your loved ones and your business are safe and secure.

As soon as you have something to give away, it’s time to do an estate plan. You could be twenty, thirty or forty years old. The estate plan will map what the business owner wants to happen with the business and all assets when he or she dies.

Before scheduling an estate plan meeting, there are a few important things to ask yourself according to this article. Who do you want to handle the business affairs? Who will take over the business? Will it be your family? Your children? A key employee? You may also choose to leave the business to one child and leave other assets to your other children. Having an idea about who you want to leave things to and what those things may be will help make the estate planning process simpler.

The business could easily be put into jeopardy if a business owner does not have estate documents in place. Some businesses do not survive to the next generation because of a lack of planning. It is very important for business owners, no matter how old, to have estate plans in place. Estate planning helps a business survive.

To learn more about estate planning, contact us today!

Everything You Need to Know About Estate Planning for Special Needs Children

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Everything You Need to Know About Estate Planning for Special Needs Children

Estate planning is an important step every family must take. Unfortunately, 64% of Americans have not made a will. If you’re one of them, you need to think about estate planning and get started on your plan now.

This is especially true if you have a special needs child. This adds other factors to consider when making your estate plan.

Here’s what you need to know about special needs planning.

How to Start Your Special Needs Planning

Here are the steps you need to take to complete your plan.

  1. Get Organized.

You’ll need to collect information about your financials, the names of medical providers, Your child’s medical history, and any legal documents such as power of attorney or health care directives.

  1. Draft a Will

You need to plan for how your special needs child is cared for should you die or become incapacitated. It is important you make sure your child is cared for in the best way possible.

This means naming a legal guardian for your child. Otherwise, it will be up to a judge to appoint someone.

  1. Create a Letter of Intent

This is not a legal document, but it provides you with the opportunity to give detailed instructions to the guardian about how to care for your special needs child.

After all, nobody knows better than you what your child likes and what they need.

  1. Develop a Special Needs Trust

special needs trust ensures your child will still qualify for government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid.

The trust puts the guardian in control of managing the fund and taking over duties such as filing taxes. If money is given directly to the child, it will reduce or eliminate government benefits.

The trust can also supplement the government aid to provide additional income for the care of your special needs child. However, establishing the trust is complicated and the rules for setting up the trust can vary from state to state.

  1. Review and Update Your Plan

Once you’ve made the plan, you still need to review it periodically and update the plan should circumstances change. Also, tax laws can change and require you to update your plan accordingly.

Updating your plan can include changing documents or rethinking how you approached the planning. This will often require the assistance of an attorney who specializes in estate planning and who understands special needs planning.

Make Your Estate Plan

Setting up your estate plan can be challenging. Special needs planning adds complexity to the process.

As much as this seems like a daunting process, working with a skilled and experienced lawyer can make a big difference.

They will know all the things you need to think about and what legal requirements exist in your state. That way you can be confident you’ve taken care of everything and your special needs child will be cared for in accordance with your wishes.

We’re here to help. As experienced estate planners, we can help you set up your estate plan.

Contact us today and we’ll get your estate planning started.

Around the Web: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Planning Your Estate

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When someone passes away, it’s often difficult for their loved ones to take on the responsibilities of their estate while also grieving the loss of someone close to them. To make that difficult time easier on your loved ones, it’s best to be prepared and have a well-planned estate.

This article highlights 5 key estate planning questions everyone should ask themselves when they begin this process.

  1. Why haven’t I created a will? If you have any assets you want to leave behind or want to specify who will raise your children if you should die, you should create a will.
  2. Do I have enough life insurance? Would your spouse be able to afford your mortgage and other bills if you unexpectedly passed away? Life insurance helps provide necessary financial protection for your family in the event of your death.
  3. What do I want to do with my home? Deciding now what to do with your home can ease things down the road with your survivors. Options on what you can do with it vary depending on whether you’ve paid it off or not.
  4. Will anyone know how to find my key documents? Create a designated space for these documents and make sure that someone knows where to find them.
  5. Who will care for your pets? Make sure your beloved pets are cared for after you pass by leaving instructions.

Want to learn more about starting the estate planning process? Contact us today!

How an Estate Lawyer Can Save Your Family

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How an Estate Lawyer Can Save Your Family

Nearly 90% of families who have to deal with an estate end up in conflict over the will, no matter how soundly it’s written. The last thing you want to spend your grieving days doing is fighting with the people you love. Hiring an estate lawyer can put everything into the hands of a neutral party and leave your family to support each other.

Estate lawyers have seen every kind of conflict between family members. They’ll be able to help your family navigate the next steps and arbitrate any conflicts with the estate.

If you fear your family will end up in conflict after a loved one dies or if you’ve recently seen conflict bubbling after the death of a loved one, you need help. Here are 8 ways an estate lawyer will ensure your family avoids permanent damage to your relationship.

1. Navigating Personal Property

One of the most common conflicts between family members is over personal property. Your lawyer can generate a property list or personal property memorandum that is included with the will.

The list, once signed and dated, becomes a legal document defining who gets what. When you’re generating the list, make sure you add sufficient details for each item that is being dispersed.

2. Keeping Plans Updated

If you hire your estate lawyer soon enough, they can make changes to the plans as conflict arises. If there is a divorce, there might need to be major changes made to the estate.

If beneficiaries pass away, their inheritances will go to the next legal heir unless otherwise noted. If this person is not the preferable heir for the owner of the estate, they should change plans as soon as possible.

Should power of attorney, whether medical or financial, be still in the hands of someone who is no longer in the family, this needs to be changed. Failure to update the estate plan will lead to bizarre or unwanted results. Former spouses should be disinherited as soon as possible.

3. Special Assets

Your estate lawyer can organize a meeting to talk about any special assets the family has. If there is a disabled child or someone who is in special care, this needs to be accounted for.

For family businesses, every detail should be worked out as specifically as possible. Make changes as early as you can so as to keep other plans from being interrupted. If there’s a family vacation home, you don’t want to have to make last minute changes to your plans once the home comes under dispute.

4. Manage Any Prenuptial Agreement

If the owner of the estate has been married a number of times, multiple people could come forward to claim an inheritance. This is a common occurrence but can be easily avoided by an estate lawyer.

Make sure that a prenuptial or post nuptial agreement is struck to maintain who is owed what and at what time. This can decrease the chance of conflict following a death. Children who are not from the marriage could make a claim and a nuptial agreement could make it clear one way or the other if they’re owed.

5. Make Gifts And Loans Clear

If someone received a gift from a loved one, members of the family could claim that it was a loan and want payment from the recipient. Parents sometimes help children who are in dire financial straits.

Other children could claim that the parent should have received repayment. They can claim that the child who received the supposed loan is no longer eligible for a share of the estate.

Parents need to make clear what is a gift and what is a loan as they age. If they want their children to have a good relationship, their clarity can step in front of any conflict even after they’re gone.

Your lawyer will know to get this in writing and keep a record of any statements.

6. Keep Trusts Funded

An estate lawyer will be well experienced in managing trusts. After the death of the person who maintained a trust, it might be unclear who is responsible next. This trust could sit in limbo or be left to someone who doesn’t want to maintain it.

Taxes will be taken on the trust and need to be filed by someone. If the person who is tasked with doing that is disinterested, it could cause headaches for the whole family.

7. Resolve Joint Ownership

Sometimes parents will make their children the joint owner of assets as they age. This is a problematic method of passing along assets and can produce negative results.

If the co-owner of an asset no longer has interest in it or doesn’t want the liabilities, they could be tasked with a burden.

An estate lawyer knows better. They’ll make sure any assets are put into a trust. If a co-owner claims bankruptcy or gets into legal trouble, the asset could also be thrown into conflict.

8. Manage Funeral Details

An estate lawyer will make sure that details are laid out immediately following death. Emotions can be high at that moment and having a clear plan is the best way to avoid conflicts.

Spouses from previous marriages might claim ownership over the funeral details or of determining where the deceased will be buried. This will cause distress for families and cause mountains of conflict at a stressful time. Hiring a lawyer in advance will ensure you can avoid these problems.

Hire an Estate Lawyer for Peace Of Mind

Most people think they’ll be level-headed when death occurs. Sadly we’re never as composed as we wish we were in those moments. Hiring a lawyer in advance will ensure that much of the financial path ahead is already laid out.

If you’re ready to hire a strong and sympathetic lawyer for your estate, contact us for more information on how to find one.

The Envelope Please . . .

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This is about the moment when the 55-year-old, visibly healthy-looking bread winner of the family collapsed at work and was hauled off by the EMS to the emergency room and appeared to be in a coma.

It looked grim. The guy had been hit by a massive stroke. The family naturally gets into a tizzy about what will happen next are in a panic. The people are work wondered what would come of them and the business.

But there was this “envelope” that he had told his chief assistant, his wife and his oldest son about. They grabbed the “envelope”. It had his living will and advanced directives in there. There was a sheet of paper containing all his account numbers for every kind of retirement and bank account, C.D., life insurance and disability insurance information and his agent’s cell phone number. All his personal user names and passwords for every credit card account and even the information to be able to access his social media accounts like F.B., LinkedIn and Twitter. His attorney information was in there too, but the family knew who that was because every two years they all sat together for an hour to make sure was known about the plan in place. The attorney had set up everything right. The main people at work knew that they were going to stick with the company because they had all agreed to a succession plan that rewarded them for sticking with the family while the disposition of the business was decided. Everybody would still get paid this Friday, just like normal. You see, this person was prepared for the unexpected and wanted all his teammates and family to be fine and move forward if something happened to him.

Now they all felt worried and concerned about their boss, father, brother and husband, but there was no wondering what would happen. They could just sit by his side as the doctors worked their hardest to produce a miracle for the patient.

As miracles would have it, three weeks later the lucky man was back at work and they had not missed a beat. They had not applied to work at other places and every teammate seemed more loyal than ever having survived the scare. But they also admired their boss for taking such good care of them.

This is what we all should have prepared for ourselves. A personal note. My best friend had his super-healthy 82 years old dad die several years ago. This is how well-prepared his dad was. It was smooth. Also, the tax savings due to the professional handling by his estate tax and financial plan was amazing.

Not like my dad, who died suddenly at age 53 without a will. Or, my mom who died having exhausted all her life’s wealth on long-term care. I love them both, that was not what they intended to do. My mom and dad were loving, dedicated parents and they were heroes to me. They were as smart as anybody and lived a life of great intentions. But, it happened the way it happened.

I am proud to be prepared because of what I learned.

Jeff Annis