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How to Set Up a Special Needs Trust: A Guide for Parents

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Blog, News

A special needs trust means that you can have valuable peace of mind that your child will be taken care of after you’re gone. It’s not an easy thing to think about, we know, but it is vital.

We would like to reassure you that setting this up now is a proactive, positive step. It is undeniably an emotional task to undertake, but you may find that it actually eases your concerns about your child’s future.

Setting up a special needs trust is a wonderful way to look after the wellbeing and happiness of your child in the future. Don’t be like the 6 out of 10 Americans who lack a will or estate planning. Read on for how to set up a special needs trust that can support your loved one in the future.

What is a Special Needs Trust?

A special needs trust (or supplemental trust) is a specific type of estate planning. It gives your child with special needs adequate financial provision for the rest of their life. It is particularly important for children who claim government aid or may do so in the future.

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and access to Medicaid are needs-based support. If someone owns or has access to assets of $2000 or more, they would become ineligible to receive that support. So if your child were to inherit your property or money upon your death, he or she could lose eligibility.

If you set funds aside with a special needs trust, they can keep their needs-based government support. This means they can maintain access to healthcare via Medicaid — often a significant concern.

Plus they can use the trust money for any extras that they need. This might include:

  • Dental or vision care,
  • Equipment such as wheelchairs, computers, cellphones
  • Additional care or therapies
  • Vacations
  • Furniture and furnishings
  • Recreational and fun activities

The goal of the trust is to enhance the life of the beneficiary, so that will guide how they use the money.

However, they cannot use the trust money for housing or food because that would also make them ineligible for the government programs.

How To Set Up a Special Needs Trust?

Setting up a special needs trust can be a complicated matter, so it is worth seeking professional advice. Specific wording is required to comply with ever-changing government regulations in this area.

If written incorrectly, your provisions could make your child ineligible for other vital financial aid that he or she needs (or might need in the future). So it is important to have this done by a qualified and experienced attorney.

Choosing Your Trustee(s)

A vital part of the process of creating a special needs trust is deciding who should be a trustee. This is the person (or people) who will administer the trust on behalf of your child. It is not the same as someone being the guardian of your child; it relates solely to the administration of the trust.

They play a key role in terms of the financial decisions that affect your child. So you want to choose someone whose judgment you trust. Your trustee’s role is to spend money to enhance your child’s life, whilst also making the trust funds last as long as they can.

It’s important that the trustees keep up to date on SSI and Medicaid law changes, to maintain eligibility. They also need to maintain records and file taxes on behalf of the trust and may need to invest trust funds as well.

Whilst you probably want a family member or friend who your child knows to be a trustee, it’s also worth considering a co-trustee from your law firm. That way you can be confident that your child’s eligibility for government aid is maintained and all legal aspects are taken care of.

Helping the Trustee to Help Your Child

The trustee(s) will work with your child’s guardian in your absence to make the best decisions for your child. You can set up the trust to come into effect after you pass, or you can set it up to operate now. In that case, you would be the current trustee and would name your successor trustee(s) to manage it when you’re gone.

Often people write a letter on behalf of the beneficiary of the trust (your child) to help future trustees understand their needs and preferences. This is especially important if your child is unable to communicate this clearly themselves.

This letter would include their personal, educational and medical history, their living situation, social life, religious beliefs and any other factors that you want the trustee to know. Understanding these factors will help the trustee to make decisions in your child’s best interests.

Interesting Financial Aspects

The trustee cannot give money directly to your child from the trust, but they can purchase items on behalf of your child using trust funds. So if your child needs new hearing aids, the trustee can buy these for them using money from the trust.

Another interesting fact about special needs trusts that you may not know is that anyone can contribute. Trusts are usually set up by parents for children, but actually, other family members or friends can contribute. Indeed, anybody may contribute.

Anything Else I Need to Know?

There are many interesting aspects to this area of the law, making it imperative to get proper advice. For example, did you know that when your child turns 18, you lose the natural right to be their guardian?

That means you wouldn’t be able to make healthcare or life decisions on their behalf after they turn 18!

You can avoid this startling situation by getting guardianship in place via the probate court. A qualified attorney such as ourselves can help you with this – ideally at least 6 months before your child’s 18th birthday.

We would be delighted to speak with you about getting your child safely set up for the future with a special needs trust. Please contact us at (706) 724-0405 for a confidential discussion.

Alternatively, we have several excellent workshops available online that you might find helpful. We invite you to watch them here.

Around the Web: How Miles & Points Can Help You Be With Loved Ones During Emergencies

Ashley Drummond

When you’re grieving the unexpected loss of a loved one, expensive last-minute airfare costs
should be the last thing on your mind. But for many, this can mean having to decide between
financial strain and being near loved ones during a difficult time.

Million Mile Secrets has put together some useful tips and guidelines so you can be better
prepared should a difficult situation arise. These tips, such as taking advantage of bereavement
fares from certain airlines, accruing miles and points with credit cards, and booking last-minute
deals, can save you time and money during a difficult time.

Unfortunately, most major airlines no longer offer bereavement fares. Delta and Alaska Airlines
are the only two airlines that offer discounted ticket prices – usually around 10% – for those
who are traveling due to the loss of an immediate family member. To get this rate, you must
call the airline to book your flight. Each airline has its own limitations as to who is considered an
immediate family member, so make sure to check their website for a list before you reserve
your trip.

Another great way to save yourself money and unnecessary stress is by taking advantage of
your credit card travel rewards. These are points or miles that can accrue each time you use
your credit card, which you can cash in for plane tickets, rental cars, hotel stays, and more.
Having some rewards saved up can help get you on a flight without you having to dip into your
hard-earned savings. There are a lot of credit cards and reward options out there, so it’s best to
do some research to decide which one best suites your needs.

Read the full travel guide here.

6 Types of Trust Documents You May Want to Include in Your Estate Plan

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There are many types of trusts out there.  Here are 6 basic types of trust documents that may be used for your estate plan.

Don’t worry. There’s no need to feel intimidated by the estate planning task.

Even if you have zero legal background or know-how when it comes to estate planning, we’ve got your back with this simple guide to each basic type of trust document you can choose from.

The Basics of Trusts

If you’re looking to create an estate plan, get started now as you can create a trust while you are alive and it will survive your death.

You can make up a trust in your will to be formed upon your death.

Basically, a trust is a right in property that is held in a “fiduciary” relationship by one party to benefit another.

For those who may be very new to any legalese here’s a quick breakdown of two important terms to familiarize yourself with before embarking on the task of estate planning:

1. Trustee- An individual or member of a board who is given control or administration powers over a property in a trust. They are legally obliged to administer that property solely for the purposes it was specified for.

2. Beneficiary- The person who benefits from the trust.

6 Types of Trust Documents for Your Estate Plan

While there are several types of trust documents, the two main categories are irrevocable and revocable.

From there, you can delve into more specified types of trust documents as listed below.

1. Gifting Trust (Irrevocable)

Often, these trusts are created to benefit family members, though sometimes unrelated parties may also be listed as beneficiaries.

Simply, a gift in trust, is a separate legal entity created to hold and receive gifts of property. This is another great method for reducing the taxable estate of the person giving the gift, (the donor).

Both the “gift,” and any future value of that property, is excluded from the donor’s taxable estate.

Gifts are given to a trust instead of straight to an individual so that the assets can be protected and distributed evenly as desired to beneficiaries, so they are saved from taxation, and to enable better financial planning.

Having a gifting trust created can speed up annual exclusion gifts to diminish a taxable estate faster.

2. Living Trust (Revocable)

In a living trust, your property is put into a trust during your life to benefit you and then transferred to your chosen beneficiaries upon your death.

The individual in charge of ensuring that transfer of assets is completed correctly is called a successor trustee.

One great benefit of a living trust is that it avoids probate, unlike simply having a will (that does require probate before assets are distributed). This can mean your beneficiaries receive their allotted assets more quickly.

A living trust may also save you money in the long run as your assets will not require time and expense that comes with going through probate. However, when you have your living will created, it does require a bit more than a will.

You must complete separate paperwork for a living trust, as opposed to a will, to transfer stocks, bonds, certificates, and bank accounts to the trust.

Sometimes considered a tax-bypass trust, a living trust is excellent for spouses who want to leave money to their spouse, but limit the amount of federal estate tax their spouse pays when the trust maker dies.

However, when that surviving spouse dies as well, the remaining assets above and over the exempt limit can be taxable to the couple’s children.

This can potentially lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes laid upon the children as that tax rate can reach as high as 55 percent. Luckily, a tax by-pass trust will prevent this and protect the children from taxation.

3. Asset Protection Trust (Irrevocable)

The main purpose of an asset protection trust is to ensure your possessions and assets are safe from any future creditor attack. It has all the benefits of a Living Trust, but it has the added protection of the assets from creditors INCLUDING long term care expenses.  If set up properly, the creator of the trust can qualify for long term care government benefits.  To gain protection, there has to be some sort of limitation to access to the assets, which differs for each situation.  This trust also needs to be set up several years before the government benefits could apply, so pre-planning is necessary.

Asset protection trusts are usually set up in such a way so that they are irrevocable for a specified number of years, thus inhibiting the trust maker from being a beneficiary.

When the irrevocable number of years pass, the trust maker receives any undistributed assets back if there is no current risk of creditor attack.

4. Charitable Trust (Irrevocable)

charitable trust ensures benefits to a specific charity or to the general public. Charitable trusts are helpful when tax time rolls around, as they often lower what you could pay for gift or estate taxes.

You can even do a charitable remainder trust. This can be funded during your lifetime and is useful for financial planning and the receipt of certain benefits to the trust maker.

5. A Life Insurance Trust (Irrevocable)

This type of trust is non-amenable and is created for those who are both the beneficiary and owner of one or several life insurance policies.

This basically means when the individual who is insured passes away, the trustee invests the insurance funds and administers the trust to beneficiaries.

If your trust owns insurance for a married individual, the non-insured spouse and any children are typically your beneficiaries.

You may also create the trust in a “second-to-die” method where children become beneficiaries only upon the death of both spouses.

The Life insurance trust is unusually used so that the life insurance proceeds are outside of an individual’s estate for estate tax purposes.

6. Special Needs Trust (Irrevocable)

If you have a loved one with special needs, you probably know that might qualify for certain governmental benefits or assistance.

Creating a trust with this loved one as a beneficiary is potentially tricky if you wish to include them as a beneficiary without hurting the benefits or assistance they receive from the government.

If this is your wish, then create a special needs trust. This is completely legal under the Social Security rules if the beneficiary cannot control the amount or frequency of the trust distributions.

This type of trust is especially useful for parents or guardians of a special needs child to ensure their child continues to receive all needed help and benefits if the parents or guardians pass away.

Start Your Estate Plan Today

Now that you have a basic understanding of the various types of trust documents you can create in your estate planning, get started today by finding an experienced attorney.

Become even more educated on estate planning and will creation by watching our free mini-workshops online.

Around the Web: Turn Your Estate Plan into a Legacy


So, you’ve established an estate plan. You may think you’re all set – that you have everything settled and prepared and you don’t have to worry about it anymore – but you would be wrong. According to this article by Forbes, a recent study shows that traditional estate planning will result in a 70% chance that your wealth will be lost by the second generation. If this reality concerns you, you should consider turning your estate plan into a legacy plan.

Legacy planning involves working with a team of advisors who will help propel you towards your goal of leaving a legacy behind for multiple generations. Unlike estate plans, legacy planning is more of a proactive process. While having a traditional estate plan is a good start, it should merely be used as the framework through which your legacy can evolve. Your legacy plan should be one that grows and progresses in sync with your life. Read more about the benefits of creating a legacy plan here.

Contact Rhodes Law Firm today to discuss your planning options.

5 Ways to Incorporate Charitable Giving Into Your Estate Plan

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Ask yourself this question: “How much is enough?”

You take care of your family, build a home, somehow amass a small (or large) stack of assets. What do you do with them when you die?

For many families, sharing their time, talents and resources with others is a way of life. If your children are adults and successful on their own, do you plan to provide adequate support for your children and continue giving to your causes?

An emotional connection to a charity that has touched your life in a meaningful way, loyalty to a school that guided on the path to success, or simply a worthy organization are all excellent reasons to give.

Passing on your assets after death requires some advance planning. You don’t need to be a multimillionaire to make an impact. You have many choices to give within your estate plan. Some options for charitable giving have favorable tax advantages now and in the future.

Read on to learn more.

Make the Most of Your Legacy

Although death is something no one wants to think about, failure to put your estate in order can cause unnecessary costs. Preserve the maximum value of your estate by making a charitable gift at death through a will or trust.

This reduces the amount of the taxable estate, and thus any estate taxes that your children need to worry about.

Preplanning also reduces unnecessary drama and squabbles, the expenses of probate and uncertainty. If you own a business, estate planning affects not just your family, but the families of all of your employees and customers.

Use Life Insurance or a Charitable Gift Annuity

Integrated into your estate plan, a structured life insurance policy can equalize benefits to your heirs, pay for funeral or other expenses so that your estate assets pass as you see fit, or offer tax benefits in the present.

A Charitable Gift Annuity is a lump sum gift to a charity, with the gift being used to purchase an annuity. The annuity pays the donor a percentage of the gift during the donor’s lifetime and the charity gets the remainder after the donor’s death.

This way the donor has an income stream while living and a charitable gift is made after death.

An experienced estate planner can guide you on the proper way to designate insurance beneficiaries or structure an annuity to meet your needs.

Designate an Outright Gift

You can make charities your heirs. You can bequest a certain amount, designate a percentage of your estate or name a contingent beneficiary. You can update your will throughout your life whenever your family needs, priorities, and wishes change.

If you have no will to specify your instructions, state laws dictate where your property passes. In most cases, this would be first to a surviving spouse, then to your children, and then any other family in accordance with state law.

If you don’t leave a will and don’t have any living relatives, your estate could belong to the state.

Create a Charitable Remainder Trust

A charitable remainder trust allows you to give to the trust and get a partial tax deduction. You or someone you name have an income stream for up to 20 years or for the life of one or more non-charitable beneficiaries. At the close of the trust, one or more of your named charities receive the remainder of the donated assets.

A charitable remainder trust is an irrevocable transfer of cash or property. It is required to distribute a portion of income or principal. At the end of the specified lifetime, the remaining assets must be distributed to the designated beneficiaries.

Use a Community Foundation for Your Charitable Giving

A community foundation allows you to set up your own charitable fund, giving any amount you want, to almost anyone you want, for whatever time period you want. Community foundations are usually geographically bound and allow big and small donors to structure their gifts for maximum impact and tax benefits.

A gift to a community foundation fulfills certain tax objectives. You get a charitable income tax deduction in the year you make the gift AND your gross estate is reduced for estate planning purposes. In addition, you can eliminate capital gains taxes when you give appreciated property.

Create Your Own Family Foundation

Form your own foundation to support a charitable mission during life or at death. For certain families or purposes, a community foundation can be too confining. A private family foundation is a vehicle for assets while you are living and endures as long as your family needs it to.

Family members can participate in charitable grantmaking and governance. There are no specific legal requirements for private family foundations. A family foundation is simply a type of private foundation governed by IRS guidelines.

The IRS estimates that 50% of private foundations are family foundations.

Family foundation assets are public and the setup and maintenance can be complex. However, for high net worth individuals, the benefits may be worth the trouble.

How Do You Want to Be Remembered?

Taking care of your family is the usual first priority for estate planning. After that, people want to think about the things that are important in their lives. Dedicating a portion of your remaining wealth to charitable giving is one of the ways to continue what is important to you, even after death.

Whether dedicated to researching a medical cure for a rare disease or to helping the homeless or your local teachers, you can leave a legacy of generosity. You can make a bequest, designate a beneficiary or enter into more complex plans.

An attorney and qualified estate planner can ensure that your intentions are satisfied. Contact us today to make an appointment.

Around the Web: Aretha Franklin had no will or trust at the time of her death, report says


Losing a loved one is always painful, but it’s something for which we all must prepare. One thing everyone could do to make their own passing a little less difficult on their family is to have a properly planned estate.
When the beloved Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin passed away last week, she did not have a last will or a trust set up to assist her loved ones. Now, her finances and assets will become public in Oakland County Probate Court, according to this article by CNN.
Her attorney Don Wilson says he was after her for a number of years to do a trust but she never got around to it, leaving her family to pick up the pieces.
“It would have expedited things and kept them out of probate and kept things private,” he told CNN.
Wilson’s biggest concern is that things will become heated within the family, as this typically becomes the case when there is no estate plan.
“I just hope (Franklin’s estate) doesn’t end up getting so hotly contested,” Wilson said. “Any time they don’t leave a trust or a will, there always ends up being a fight.”
By creating an estate plan, you can help shield your family from unnecessary difficulties during an already difficult time. If you’re ready to make a plan for your estate, give us a call today. We can guide you through the entire process and give you and your family peace of mind.

Charitable Planning: What Is It and Why Is it Important?

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Blog, News

Charitable giving amounted to $410.02 billion in 2017 and has steadily increased over the last 40 years. A 2018 study showed charitable giving increased by 4.1% in 2017.

More people are looking for ways to donate, and are seeing great benefits when they do.

Charitable planning is a way to support charities and non-profits that are near and dear to you while receiving tax. You can contribute annually, or periodically over a lifetime.

Take a few minutes to learn how to develop your charitable planning strategies.

Choose a charity

You may donate to a public charity–501c (3)–or a private foundation. If you have an organization in mind already, you should find out about its tax-exempt status.

If it’s a non-profit organization, it will likely be tax-exempt. If it’s a private foundation it might be subject to charitable trust taxation.

There are a few charity types you can donate to and your deductions may differ by the type of organization. Human rights, animals, education, and the environment are just a few types of charities out there.

If you’re unsure of what charity you’d like to give to, there are a few websites available to help you find and research a reputable and deserving organization.

What You Can Donate

You can donate time and things you don’t use anymore.

You might want to consider charitable planning within your estate planning. What items that are usually subject to estate tax could receive further deductions.


When you donate appreciated stock, receive a tax incentive and avoid capital gains tax. You’d pay capital gains tax on the stock if you sold it and donated the proceeds.

You can donate shares or the entire stock holding.

Mutual fund shares

If you’ve held the mutual fund for less than a year, you would be able to deduct your original investment amount. Any appreciated value can’t be deducted.

For mutual funds held for longer than a year, you might be able to deduct the full market value from your income taxes.

Short-term mutual finds have a cap of 50% deduction on your adjusted gross income, while long-term mutual funds have a cap of 30%.

However, you can carry any amount that you couldn’t for the current year to the next year for up to five years.

Life Insurance

If you’d like to donate your life insurance to charity, you do it in one of two ways. You can make the receiving organization the beneficiary. It will receive the insurance payout after your death.

You wouldn’t receive a tax deduction for the donation, however, since the contribution wouldn’t happen until after you die.

The second way to donate is to make the charity the policyholder when you’re alive. You could receive up to 50% of your adjusted gross income on the value of your donation and any cash donations to give the charity can be deducted to pay the policy premiums.

Making the charity the policyholder is irrevocable, so you should be sure you won’t want to change your mind later.

Real Estate

Donating real estate can lend benefits to all parties involved. A needy family might get a home or the charity might get a new location. You can donate land (developed and undeveloped) and structures.

When you gift real estate, you avoid capital gains tax and receive immediate tax incentives up to 50% of your adjusted gross income. You can also carry any remaining deductions for five years.


When donating artwork, there are a few things to consider.

You should consider the type of organization, the type of property the artwork is (capital gain property or ordinary income property), will the artwork be used in the manner in which it’s gifted, and has it been properly appraised.


Donor-advised funds allow you to donate to a public charity and get an immediate tax deduction. These types of funds can be used like a charitable savings account, where you open a donor-advised fund account and deposit money then recommend grants to charities.

Highly appreciated stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. The full market value of the appreciated stock or mutual fund shares is deducted but you avoid tax on the appreciated gain.

Tax-free from your IRA. When you donate to a non-profit from your IRA, the donation is untaxed.

You can establish a public charitable trust to donate. Charitable trust tax deductions may be spread over five years. The initial donation amount can’t be deducted dollar for dollar.


The federal government offers tax incentives to encourage giving to charity. Not only does it benefit the charitable organizations but it benefits the donors as well.

Income Tax

Make the most of your taxable income with charitable planning. You may designate an allotted amount of your taxable income to go to the charity or foundation of your choice.

This can reduce the amount of income tax you will pay during tax season.

Estate Tax

Items you donate to non-profit organizations aren’t considered taxable and are excluded from estate tax.

You can donate as much or a little as you want to charity, so if you wanted to donate your entire estate, you’d pay no estate tax.

Passive Income

Through a charitable remainder trust or a charitable remainder unitrust, you can earn a residual income via charitable planning.

With charitable remainder annuity trusts, you’d receive a fixed annuity amount every year. You can’t make additional contributions to these types of trusts.

Charitable remainder unitrusts pay the donor a fixed percentage based on the balance of the trust assets which are revalued every year. You can make additional contributions to this type of trust.

At the end of the designated lifetime or term, any trust assets that are left go to a charitable remainder beneficiary.

It Feels Good to Give

Studies show that people who are generous are happier and live longer. Not to mention the satisfaction of knowing you’re doing good for someone or something else.

The studies also show that it doesn’t matter the amount you’ve given, the intention and the act produce the same result.

Get Help With Charitable Planning

Planning future donations can be tricky, especially when you’re new to charitable giving.

Visit our blog to learn more about estate planning and charitable planning.

9 Will and Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid

Mass Media

If you’re making dinner or helping your kids do math homework, the last thing you want to think about is mortality.

Unfortunately, you’re not alone – 64% of Americans don’t have a will, and 27% said there was no urgent need for them to get one.

But will and estate planning are vital to ensuring that your assets and estate are handled properly after your death. To help you make sense of it, here are nine estate planning mistakes to avoid.

1. Not Having a Plan

On the top of the list? Not having any estate plan at all.

As you can guess, this is a pretty common problem. Most people don’t think they have enough assets to make a will or estate planning worth the trouble.

This is a huge mistake. If you don’t have a will or any form of estate planning, the courts will decide how to transfer your assets to a living beneficiary, a process called probate.

This can be a long process, especially if there are any complications in your estate (hint: there usually are). It’s also an expensive process, with court fees, personal representative fees, attorney fees, accounting fees, appraisal and valuation fees, bond fees, and more.

2. A DIY Estate Plan or Will

But before you get ahead of yourself, a DIY estate plan or will isn’t any better than having no will at all.

Sure, there are plenty of websites that will give you DIY forms, and some of those forms may be correct. But unless you know how to fill them out and file them correctly, or even what forms you need, they won’t be sufficient as a will, power of attorney, or other vital documents.

Which means your assets wind up back in probate, and you’re in just as much of a mess as you would have been with no plan at all.

3. Not Understanding How Assets Pass On

Pop quiz: all of your assets pass through your will, right?


Because most people hold most of their wealth in life insurance policies or retirement funds, most assets cannot pass through a will.

Real estate, on the other hand, can pass through wills, which is good news because the house is the most valuable thing most people own outside of a retirement fund.

If you don’t know anything about how your assets pass on, guess what? Your assets will land back in probate court after your death.

4. Not Handling or Reviewing Paperwork

On a related note, failure to properly handle or review the relevant estate planning paperwork is another huge issue that most people encounter.

Let’s say you named your sister as the beneficiary of your life insurance and retirement while you were single. That’s all fine and good.

Now let’s say that you got married. You changed your will and assumed everything would be fine.

Here’s the problem: if you didn’t change beneficiary designations on your life insurance and retirement, your sister will receive most of your estate, not your spouse.

5. Not Planning for Disability

In much the same way that people don’t like to think about their mortality, they also don’t like to think about the possibility of future disability.

That’s a big problem for estate planning.

If you don’t have anything like a living trust set up in the event that you are unable to make decisions for yourself, major decisions like managing your finances, raising your children, or healthcare decisions on your behalf are left out of your control.

6. Not Funding Your Trust

And speaking of trusts, not funding your trust is another estate planning sin that many people are guilty of.

It’s a good first step to have a trust. But a trust is like a suitcase. If you don’t put anything in it, you’re passing an empty suitcase to your beneficiaries and leaving the rest up to chance.

In other words, trusts are only as good as what you do with them. If you do nothing, well, they aren’t going to do you very much good.

7. Planning Your Estate Around Specific Assets

There’s been a lot of talk about assets going on here, which means you may be tempted to try estate planning based on certain specific assets.

Unless there is an unusually compelling reason for a specific asset to go to a specific person, resist the temptation.

For example, let’s say you have three children, and you want them to share your assets equally. One receives half your home, another is added as the beneficiary of your life insurance, and the third is added as a signer on your bank account.

That’s all fine assuming that nothing changes between now and when you die. But if you, say, sold the house or let the life insurance lapse, whatever child was supposed to receive those assets will get nothing.

8. Beneficiary Designations and Joint Accounts

On that note, let’s talk about beneficiary designations and joint accounts.

Beneficiary designations are useful, especially when it comes to life insurance and retirement funds.

The problem is that some beneficiary designations can override your will. Remember, your will doesn’t control retirement accounts or jointly owned accounts, which means that you may be leaving a sticky situation behind for your beneficiaries to sort out.

9. Keeping Secrets from Your Estate Planner

Finally, the greatest mistake in estate planning: even if you do everything else right, keeping secrets from your estate planner can throw off your best-laid plans.

Keeping secrets from your estate planner, or only providing them with vague or incomplete details regarding your finances and family, is like lying to your lawyer. You can do it for the sake of your dignity, but you’re the one who will be hurt in the long run.

The whole point of an estate planner is to provide you with an appropriate strategy to protect your family after your death. It’s difficult for them to do that if they don’t have an accurate picture of your situation.

Making Sense of Will and Estate Planning

With all of this in mind, one of the best things you can do in terms of your will and estate planning is to have a professional on your side.

Rhodes Law Firm PC offers estate planning in Augusta and Aiken, whatever your needs may be.

If you need more resources to help you get started, check out the resource center. If you need to speak with a lawyer, or would like a  consultation, use the contact page to get in touch.

Lights, Camera, Action: Rhodes Makes Appearance on TV Program


Our very own attorney, Daniel Rhodes, made a special guest appearance on the program LawCall recently to help answer questions about protecting your assets, trusts, and more. If you didn’t get a chance to tune in to this episode, you can see some clips of the episode here.

LawCall is a weekly program that features local attorneys offering advice and answering questions from callers. The show airs live every Sunday night at 11:30.

10 Helpful Tips For Donating Money to Charity

Mass Media

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.