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Around the Web: Estate Planning for Pets: How to Protect Your Furry Friends

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They’re man’s best friend, so it’s only fitting that we make sure our pets are taken care of in the event of our passing. This article helps clarify the important steps in creating a Pet Trust for your furry friends. While it may be difficult to think about, there are a few common considerations to keep in mind when trying to create a plan. 

  • Any special care requirements (medications, health concerns, behavioral concerns)
  • Where you would like your pets to live (do you want them to remain at your home or go live with a friend or family member or sanctuary?)
  • What financial resources will you provide to ensure adequate care?

Each situation, and each pet, is different. It is important to think about who you will feel most comfortable taking care of your beloved animals, as well as how much money you can leave to help provide for their care. It is also vital to choose a trustee to manage the finances for your pets. 

This is just one small part of comprehensive estate planning. If you would like to learn more about creating a Pet Trust to ensure your family pet is taken care of, contact Rhodes Law Firm today. 

Around the Web: Know the difference between Living Trusts and Family Trusts

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Putting your assets in a trust is the best way to protect them, but with so many different types of trusts it can be difficult to determine which is best for your situation. Trusts shield your assets from probate court and can reduce estate and gift taxes. They also allow you to apply conditions to your assets in regards to how they are distributed after your passing. 

What exactly are the differences between a family trust and living trust? This article helps break down the pros and cons of both. 

Key differences between Family and Living Trusts

  • Living trusts allow a grantor to decide how assets are handled before and after death. 
  • Family trusts are intended to live beyond the grantor’s life, enabling it to distribute assets based on designated milestones.
  • A Living Trust can distribute assets to anyone named a beneficiary when the grantor dies. This can include family, alma maters, charities, pets, and more. Family trusts are intended only to benefit the family members of the grantor.

If you have more questions about the different types of trusts and which is right for you, contact Rhodes Law Firm today to learn more!

A Guide to Guardianship for Adults With Disabilities

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guardianship for adults with disabilitiesA child with disabilities deserves just as many privileges as any other child. However, not every individual can become independent as they age into adulthood. They may have mental or physical disabilities that need ongoing support.

Guardianship for adults with disabilities is an option you should consider when your child turns 18. Not only does it give you more responsibility for them, but it also helps to protect them in the long run.

Here’s everything you need to know about legal guardianship and how to apply for guardianship.

What Does Legal Guardianship for Adults with Disabilities Include?

A legal guardian is anyone who has been granted full legal and physical custody of another person. For a parent, it means taking full responsibility for your child regardless of their age.

Without it, they would be treated as an independent adult once they’re 18 years old. If your child can’t make fully informed decisions on their own, they may make some questionable legal and financial decisions.

As a legal guardian, you can make all decisions regarding your child’s assets and healthcare. Legal guardianship is assigned by a court and can only be revoked if a guardian fails to meet their duty or someone petitions to remove them.

It’s important not to confuse legal guardianship with power of attorney. The latter is a legal document that grants a specific person the ability to act on another person’s behalf.

For example, you have the option to get power of attorney over a family member’s financial affairs. You may pursue this after they’ve suffered a debilitating injury, such as a stroke. You can also direct someone else to make medical decisions for you or act for you in specific situations like real estate.

Meanwhile, legal guardianship often entails a more comprehensive level of authority.

When to Apply for Guardianship for your Special Needs Child

Deciding to apply for special needs guardianship is never an easy thing, but it’s best to make the decision up to 6 months before your child turns 18.

You may need to apply for guardianship for adults with intellectual disabilities if your son or daughter has a tendency to wander off. There’s nothing illegal or concerning about an adult going for a walk on their own. If you have guardianship, the police have a responsibility to go looking for them to make sure they’re safe.

Legal guardianship can also speed up legal and medical proceedings. You make decisions regarding their health and finances, avoiding credit checks and the like. That also means your dependent won’t have to worry about their credit score when purchasing a vehicle or a house.

You should not apply for legal guardianship if you want your child to maintain some level of dependence and they have proven themselves capable. Instead, power of attorney may be enough to protect your child’s assets while letting them have more control of their lives.

How to Qualify

More often than not, if a special needs individual needs more support, a family member takes on legal guardianship. According to National Core Indicators, over 80% of legal guardians are family members.

However, you don’t need to be a family member to qualify. In some cases, a public guardian or public administrator takes on the responsibility.

An interested person petitions the court for legal guardianship. That petition should include why they’re the best choice to be the guardian and a doctor’s certification of a person’s level of functioning.

The judge will decide if there are any better alternatives and if the proposed guardian is fit for the role.

Different Models

Taking on legal guardianship of your aging child means controlling various parts of their life. It’s important to know the different models available that offer different levels of responsibility.

Legal proceedings to determine guardianship follow an LRE model. The courts should try to place individuals in the Least Restrictive environment possible. That way, they aren’t stripping them of their rights without good reason.

Supported Decision-Making allows people with disabilities to keep the right to make certain decisions. Instead of a legal guardian who makes their decisions, the person with disabilities has a group of supporters. These supporters can be friends, family, and even a lawyer.

Alternatively, the court may decide that a power of attorney or a financial representative is sufficient. In those cases, an individual can still function independently outside of any financial matters.

Starting the Legal Steps

To apply for guardianship over your child, you must first file a petition with a local court. Hire an attorney to help draft your petition, and the court will appoint another one to represent your child. Your State and County Office of Development Disabilities should be able to send you packets to help with the legal process.

Get a report from your family physician regarding your child’s capabilities. This can include any kind of developmental therapist they regularly visit.

In addition, it helps to have a vision statement written out. Your child will let you know what they want out of life, and it’ll be your responsibility to help them reach their goals.

It’s also important to prepare for the potentiality of your death. Guardianship cannot be passed on through a will. You can recommend a future legal guardian for consideration, though.

Guardianship Made Simple

Legal guardianship gets a bad wrap for a number of reasons, giving off the illusion that it is taking away a person’s right and individuality.

However, guardianship for adults with disabilities may be necessary for protecting your child and ensuring their safety. There are also different levels of guardianship that are ultimately decided by the court.

Interested in learning more about your options? Contact Rhodes Law Firm, PC, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Around the Web: Keep an eye on these estate plan legislation proposals

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If passed into law, your estate plan strategies could very well be affected by any of the three legislative proposals recently introduced. These proposals, introduced by the House Democrats, would significantly affect some of the more commonly used wealth transfer strategies. This article focuses on the three proposals to watch and how they can alter your strategies if passed into law. 

 

  • Reduction in the federal estate tax exemption – Essentially the current exemption would be cut in half. You may want to consider completing large gifts before year-end if this proposal becomes law.
  • Alterations to grantor trust rules – Currently, irrevocable trusts may be created as grantor trusts for income tax purposes, which can be very advantageous in certain situations such as gifting. If the new proposal becomes law, trusts that are treated as grantor trusts for income tax purposes would be included in the grantor’s estate for estate tax purposes, also requiring the grantor to recognize gain on assets sold to this type of trust. If you are planning to create intentionally defective grantor trusts, you may want to complete these transactions as soon as possible.
  • Limits on available discounts for nonbusiness assets – The proposed legislation would essentially eliminate discounts on passive assets. These assets are ones not used in actively conducting business. This would reduce the number of discounts available to transfers of closely held family entities, such as limited liabilities and partnerships which hold passive assets. If you are planning gifts of closely held businesses which hold passive assets, go ahead and plan to complete this soon. 

 

If you need assistance with your estate plan per these new proposed laws, Rhodes Law Firm is happy to assist. Contact us today!

A Complete Guide to Long-Term Care Planning and Living Trusts

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The U.S. population is aging at a rapid rate. Within the next decade, around 20 percent of the U.S. population will be over 65. This is one of the first times that older Americans made up such a large portion of the population.

As we get older, it’s more important than ever to start long-term care planning. Even though retirees need long-term care and estate planning in retirement, very few have this plan. Do you have a plan in place for your loved ones, or do your parents have one in place?

Why is this so important? A lack of planning can really impact your finances and put family caregivers in an uncomfortable situation.

Keep reading to learn more about long-term care as we take a look at living trusts.

The Complexities of Long Term Care

There is more to a long-term care plan than budgeting. You need to include information like the type of care you want, who should provide that care, permission for family members, and how to finance these costs.

Your basic estate planning starts with getting a will that deals with your property and also states the important decisions on the care of minor children (if needed). An estate plan also includes directives on advanced health care, so you can let your doctor and loved ones know what medical steps you are okay with and what you don’t want to happen in a life-threatening medical scenario.

If you have these things in place, you are off to a good start. But, let’s go a step further with the living trust.

What Is a Living Trust?

A living trust (also called a revocable living trust) is a legal document that permits the property owner to transfer their ownership of assets to a trust, which is a legal entity that contains real estate and other holdings. This document places all your assets like real estate, bank accounts, investments, personal property, and vehicles into your trust during your lifetime. You can then say where you want these items to go upon your death. It is called revocable because you can change or cancel anytime during your lifetime.

For example, a parent can take a house that they own and transfer the ownership into the trust. You can name yourself the trustee (and your spouse a co-trustee), and then you remain in complete control of these assets. Then the ownership of the home can transfer to the child when the parent dies or has a disability.

The living trust also names the trustee, which is the person that will administer the assets outlined in the trust. You can even take it a step further and name the beneficiary. This is the person that should receive the benefits when the grantor dies.

 

For example, the spouse is named as the grantor, and the child is named as the beneficiary. If you have everything spelled out, your beneficiaries will receive your assets without any court involvement.

Advantages of a Living Trust

So, why should you get a living trust? There are several reasons you should consider a living trust to benefit your loved ones.

Avoid Probate

One of the biggest reasons to have a living trust is to avoid probate, which is a court-supervised process that reviews the deceased individual’s estate and affairs. Probate does tie up loose ends, but the process can be time-consuming and costly for all involved parties.

This is why people turn to an estate planning attorney to draft a living trust to spare their heirs any court hassles.

Provides Flexibility

A person’s personal and financial situations can change. This is why it’s pretty common for grantors to change the trust and change assets. You can even change the beneficiaries listed anytime during your lifetime.

Maintain Your Privacy

 

Because court records are public, probate can uncover unpaid balances, debts, and other details people may want to keep private. Anyone can look up these records and get this information. Because a living trust helps avoid probate, this information can remain private.

Addresses Minors Or Dependents

Grantors can also tailor the terms of the trust to make sure that loved ones get what they need. For example, if adult children have issues managing money or have an illness, the grantor can place conditions on the sale or use of assets within the trust. The grantor can also address dependent or minor children that have a disability by appointing a guardian to look after them.

Other Things to Consider

There are other legal decisions that you need to consider, and there are limitations on what a living trust can do. Before you determine your best course of action, you should consult an attorney specializing in estate planning. Here are things you need to address in your long-term planning.

Protecting Your Assets from Nursing Homes

A revocable trust does not protect your assets from offering nursing home costs. You’ll need to consider these potential costs as you age and need more care. You should work on your financial calculations to make sure you are set with your estate strategy if you need additional funding to cover this care, so most people look to long-term care insurance.

Avoiding Estate Taxes

You can really save on estate taxes. As long as you have these assets, they are considered part of your estate, which means the IRS collects the taxes.

 

Saving on Legal Costs

You will need to hire an estate attorney to help you gather and set up the living trust. This means there is an expense upfront, but it is a worthwhile investment from a long-term perspective.

Making Hard Decisions

You will still need to decide and discuss which beneficiaries will receive which assets and property. This topic can be extremely uncomfortable. You may even have to spend time together with your family to put together the paperwork and document your assets in detail.

Help for Estate Planning

A living trust may not be for everyone, but it can certainly help you if you have a lot of assets. It can be beneficial if you own property in multiple states or if you have extended family that can make more things complicated.

It’s not just about how much property or money you have either. This trust can give you the assurance that you can distribute your assets to your wishes. You also know that the process will be painless and smooth for your family.

Looking for more advice? Contact Rhodes Law Firm today. We are here to help make estate planning as easy as possible, so you don’t have to worry about putting strain on your family.

 

Around the Web: Being an Executor can be an Arduous Task

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When a loved one passes away, you may be left wondering where to even begin with settling their estate. The thought alone can be overwhelming.  This Kiplinger article offers a great starting point for executors of estates. 

The first stage of the process includes finding the last will and testament, canceling the deceased’s credit cards, and procuring death certificates. Getting a hold of the original is important as it is needed to begin the probate process. You may also want to safeguard any valuables or property in these first few days following a death. In the next stages, you should consider hiring legal representation and getting all necessary signatures for legal documents. 

The final stages include administering the estate, paying beneficiaries, and – finally – closing the estate. Probate is a lengthy process and can take months or even years to complete. It is a tough process, but our team at Rhodes Law Firm can help! Give us a call today if you need assistance. 

Around the Web: Is your Estate Plan up to date?

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When was the last time you went through your estate plan and made any necessary changes? Likely, it has been a while, laws have changed, and some elements need revisiting and adjusting. This Kiplinger article provides a checklist to guide you through the process of reevaluating your estate plan. 

There are just a few key things to keep in mind when you update your plan:

  • Where you live – have you moved to a new state? Laws can differ from state to state, so take this into consideration when looking over your plan.
  • Significant changes – whether you’re having a new baby or getting a divorce, reassess your plan accordingly.  
  • Changes in laws – your estate plan could be affected by changes to state or federal laws that may include exemption limitations, probate, gift tax, etc. Review your plan if any laws have changed that could affect your estate.
  • Power of attorney – who have you chosen to act on your behalf should you become incapacitated? Make sure this information is up to date and still accurate. 

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Give the team at Rhodes Law Firm a call to review your plan today.

Around the Web: Preparing for Estate Tax Changes

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Estate planning can be overwhelming for anyone, but for high net-worth folks it is important to regularly update your estate plans to ensure your strategy is still appropriate. 

Since we are in a new presidential administration, it’s wise to review your existing plan soon due to proposed new law changes. This article by the South Florida Business Journal offers insight on the proposed changes to the federal gift, estate, and generation-skipping transfer tax exemptions and how it may affect estate planning.

Essentially, if the estate tax is reduced in the near future, a much greater number of people would now be subject to estate tax. Therefore, according to the article, individuals and families will need to consider whether gifting in the remainder of 2021 makes sense in their situation.

Whether you need information on the benefits of spousal planning or you are weighing your options regarding holding assets until death, our team at Rhodes Law Firm is here to help guide you through the many legislation changes to come. 

Contact Rhodes Law Firm today to see what is best for you. 

10 Mistakes to Avoid in Second Marriages

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A second marriage after a painful first can feel like a blessing, but statistics show a staggering 67% of second marriages end in divorce. We’re all in search of our “happily ever after,” but the divorce rate shows second marriages can be a minefield. If you’re thinking about tying the knot again, you have to prepare.

Nobody goes into a marriage thinking it will have an end date. How do you and your new partner build a stable, lifelong commitment? It helps to avoid common mistakes.

What are those common second marriage mistakes, and how do you avoid them? If you’re thinking about getting married again, make sure to read on.

1. Not Working Out Your Past

Our life experience piles up as we grow older, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Living through romantic relationships, both good and bad, leads to a maturity you can’t manufacture.

That said, a divorce is a traumatic life event that requires time and effort to process. There are also toxic relationship patterns you must examine and unravel. You may feel bliss during the initial phase of your first post-divorce relationship.

Be careful, as this initial bliss masks any lingering pain from your first marriage. You and your partner’s toxic traits will reveal themselves in time. To avoid this, make sure you do the psychological work to explore and process your first marriage.

2. Lack of Honesty

Aside from abusive marriages, each partner shares blame for a divorce. Though it’s not always a 50/50 split, it’s far easier for either partner to blame the other. Human beings don’t like implicating themselves.

Before you jump into a second marriage, you and your partner must be honest with yourselves and each other. How did you both contribute to the dissolution of your first marriage or previous romantic relationships? Failure to get honest will only lead to repeated relationship patterns.

3. No Resolution of Ongoing Ex Conflict

A divorce doesn’t mean you’re free from your ex-partner for life, especially if you have children together. Divorce is a legal proceeding, but that doesn’t mean your relationship ends. Conflicts can linger with an ex long after the finalized divorce.

These conflicts with your ex-partner will sap the time and energy you should devote to your current partner. Ongoing ex-partner fights can lead to resentment and alienation that lead to second marriage failure.

4. No Planning

Any marriage, no matter the number, is about love. Two people come together with the belief that they’ll be with one another until death. The hard truth is that a marriage is also a legal contract. Too many people don’t consider financial planning part of a healthy marriage, but they should.

Financial and estate planning before a second marriage will help resolve future conflicts before they begin.

5. Forgetting About the Kids

If you and your new partner both have kids, stepchildren will become part of your life. You’ll inevitably have to blend families, but too many second marriages start without adequate planning for the children. Your kids are resilient, but they’ll have feelings about your divorce separate from yours.

You get to choose your next partner, but your kids don’t get to choose their step-parent. The same is true of your stepchildren. Communication is vital when attempting to build a new stable family. Make sure you empower your biological children by validating their feelings and spending enough one-on-one time to help them through the transition.

6. Becoming Engulfed by Your Children

Divorce carries a lot of guilt with it, and you may try to assuage your guilt by giving in to your kids. Parents who allow their children to call the shots in any new relationship or marriage will cause that marriage to fail.

The other partner will feel ignored by you and bullied by your children. If your new partner doesn’t feel as though they’re equal, resentment builds, and discord grows.

7. Getting Married Too Soon

Rebound relationships are a phenomenon, and they can be healthy. When you go through a painful divorce, it’s hard to remember bliss and joy. Rebound relationships also allow you to dip your toes back in the deep sea of romantic relationships.

A rebound can help you recover from your previous relationship, but the intoxicating sexual desire and fun may not be an intimate connection. There’s no reason you should be in a hurry to get remarried, and if you feel the pull, it’s best to slow down.

Marrying again before you’ve experienced any relationship tests with your partner will only lead to more heartbreak and pain down the road.

8. Inability to Show Vulnerability

After you’ve felt the heartbreak of a dissolving first marriage, it might be hard for you to show enough vulnerability in your second marriage to make it work. We guard ourselves against the things that hurt us the most, but our defense mechanisms end up hurting us the most in the end.

Vulnerability is the foundation for any successful intimate partnership. Taking the risk to present yourself as a whole person to your new partner is the only way a second marriage will last.

9. Unrealistic Expectations

What happens after the ceremony, the reception, and the honeymoon? Married life isn’t an endless party and tropical vacation. You should already know this from your first marriage, but it’s far too easy to believe a new relationship will never experience any hardships.

Don’t delude yourself. Any marriage will experience ups and downs and don’t feel disappointed when they happen.

10. Inability to Forgive Yourself and Your Partner

We all enter into relationships with flaws, and these are the characteristics that make us human. Expecting your partner to act how you want them to (perfect) at all times is a common second marriage mistake.

Your partner isn’t perfect, and neither are you. While you shouldn’t accept or condone the hurts caused by your partner, the ability to forgive and forge ahead is necessary.

Second Marriages Can Work

Second marriages can be a new beginning for your love life but make no mistake, the complications they present can make them even harder than your first.

Make sure you’re ready before you exchange vows for a second time, and work hard to avoid these common second marriage mistakes to ensure a healthy and vibrant partnership.

Are you getting married for a second time? Avoid the common pitfalls through estate financial planning with help from Rhodes Law Firm. Contact us today for a consultation.

Around the Web: Consider the Importance of Prenuptial Estate Planning

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Many folks may not consider the importance of prenuptial estate planning, but it can be detrimental to your future partner if something happens to you before you’re married. This Watertown Public Opinion article offers some insight on why it is important to consider drafting up a will before and after you are married.

In the article, the author shares the story of a successful personal friend getting engaged and not making the time to draft up a will before getting married, and was later diagnosed with cancer. He passed away before they were married and his fiancé could not inherit his assets as he wished.

If you are engaged to someone and planning to spend the rest of your life with this person, you may want to ensure they are taken care of if something should happen to you. Legally, they would have no right to your assets before you are married. You may think that it can wait until you are married, but unexpected illnesses and accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. 

Contact Rhodes Law Firm today for assistance with your prenuptial estate planning needs.