You may have heard of a Special Needs Trust, but do you fully understand what it is or how it can be beneficial? Over the years, we’ve had the privilege of working with multiple families of special needs individuals to establish this type of trust. Let’s cover a few of the most common questions we are asked:
1. What is a Special Needs Trust? A Special Needs Trust is a legal tool established specifically to benefit someone with physical and/or mental disabilities. These trusts are used to provide financial support for the individual with the disability.
2. What are the benefits of a Special Needs Trust? By using a Special Needs Trust for a disabled individual, a family member or friend can establish a fund that will be used to provide comfort care items to a disabled person, without jeopardizing that individual’s eligibility for government assistance. Without a Special Needs Trust, substantial financial gifts made to a disabled person, even those provided for in a trust established for their benefit, could disqualify them from receiving government benefits for which they would otherwise be eligible.
3. Can the beneficiary (the disabled individual) access the funds in the Special Needs Trust? No, a Trustee is appointed when the trust is established who is solely responsible for buying services and products for the individual, like vacations, home furniture and supplies, medical and dental expenses, educational expenses, vehicles, personal care attendants, etc. If the disabled individual were to have direct access to the funds in the Special Needs Trust, he/she could be disqualified from government benefits.
4. Who can set up a Special Needs Trust? Anyone may establish a “third party” Special Needs Trust for the benefit of a physically and/or mentally disabled person. You need not be a relative of the individual. A “first party” Special Needs Trust or a “payback trust” is established by a disabled individual or a conservator on their behalf and holds assets that belong to the disabled person, who must have special needs and be
If you have been fortunate enough to acquire a substantial amount of wealth during your lifetime, you might be inclined to look for ways to share that wealth with those individuals you love, as well as reduce your potential estate tax.
Only you can decide whether your loved ones are responsible enough to manage a monetary gift at this time, but if you would like to see them enjoy some of the fruits of your labor while you are alive, here are a few things you should consider before making a financial gift:
1. Under current law, you may gift up to $15,000 (the annual exclusion amount) to any person in a year without having to file a gift tax return or pay gift taxes to the IRS. If you gift over this amount to any one person during the year, then something called your lifetime exemption comes into play. The current lifetime exemption amount is $11.4 million, but will increase to $11.58 million in 2020. Therefore, if a person makes a gift over $15,000 to an individual in a year, they use up a portion of their lifetime exemption, which they document with the IRS by filing a gift tax return, even if there is no gift tax due. If an individual gifts more than $15,000 to an individual in a year and has used up their lifetime exclusion amount then, that person will face a hefty 40% tax on the amount of the gift valued over $15,000.
2. If you are married, you and your spouse may each gift up to $15,000 to the same person in the same year, without gift tax consequences. The gift recipient does not need to be related to you.
3. What if you want to make a financial gift to your spouse? You are in luck! Gifts to spouses are generally unlimited and require no gift or estate tax payment. An exception to this rule: If your spouse is not a U.S. citizen, you are limited on the amount that you can gift tax free.
Family gatherings, holidays and special events are perfect opportunities to check in on your aging loved one’s health and well-being. If you suspect your loved one may be struggling with their mental health, here are a few signs you can watch for at your next visit:
1. Confusion, or increased problems with decision-making.
2. Loss of weight and decrease (or abnormal increase) in appetite.
3. New complaints of fatigue or insomnia.
4. Difficulty managing finances or calculating numbers.
5. A noticeable change in personal hygiene, appearance, or home maintenance.
6. Memory loss, especially short-term memory issues.
7. Depression symptoms lasting more than a few weeks.
8. A change in social habits; withdrawal from events and people they normally enjoy.
The last of the children have moved away from home. You’re officially an empty nester! If you’re like many parents, adjusting to this new found freedom and income will take some time. Here are some great tips to keep in mind as you plan for your future:
1. Schedule an appointment with a reputable financial planner or accountant to review your retirement plan and make any necessary adjustments to your savings and investment plan to accommodate the lifestyle you want to have in your post-retirement age. For example, you may want to lower your household budget because you no longer have expenses related to raising children, but possibly increase your personal spending because you would like to travel.
2. Examine your estate planning documents, old will and powers of attorney and make sure they still reflect what you want to happen if you can’t act on your own behalf. A few things you should consider: (a) Do any of your children have legal or marital concerns that might put their inheritance at risk? (b) Are any of your beneficiaries receiving government benefits, whose eligibility might be jeopardized by an inheritance from you? (c) Do you still want the same people acting as your health care or business powers of attorney? (d) If you plan to become a “snowbird” and travel out of state for extended stays, do you know if your current estate planning documents will be honored in your secondary state of residence? (e) Has your net worth increased significantly since you signed your will or trust? (f) Do you still want the same people named in your original will or trust as beneficiaries? (g) Have any deaths or births occurred within the family that would require an amendment to your will or trust? (h) Have you acquired any titled assets since you did your original estate plan (real estate, minerals, investments, vehicles, business interests, etc.)?
Q: My parents are in their early 70s and have done no estate planning. My mother has wanted to do planning for the last several years but my father refuses to discuss the subject. They own their home as joint tenants, and they have a couple of bank accounts, retirement accounts, and some life insurance, as well as their vehicles. Can my mother do her own estate planning, even if my father still refuses to cooperate?
A: Yes, your mother can and should do her estate planning. While she may be limited with what she can do since your father is unwilling to cooperate, she can do some important basic planning. Without your father’s consent and cooperation, she may not be able to utilize the most advantageous tax saving options, but she will be able to get some very important legal safeguards in place for herself. At the very least, some basic documents that she should immediately request include a health care power of attorney, a financial power of attorney, a living will (if she wants to dictate how her end of life treatment will be handled), and, if possible, a simple will or trust.
With a Health Care Power of Attorney, your mother will be able to appoint a person, or a group of individuals whom she trusts, to make immediate health care decisions on her behalf if she becomes incapable of making decisions for herself. Without this important document, in an emergency, the physician or hospital may require additional paperwork and permissions prior to treatment. This document becomes especially important if the emergency occurs outside your parents’ local area and your mother’s regular physician is not present. The time that it takes to gain additional permissions and paperwork could drastically impact your mother’s care in an emergency.
What is the best way to revoke or change your existing Last Will and Testament? As with many things in law, it depends on your individual circumstance. Some common reasons you may wish to revoke or change your Last Will and Testament include:
• You, a fiduciary, or a beneficiary has changed their name;
• You are recently divorced;
• You wish to add, delete or change beneficiaries;
• You have sold, transferred or gifted away assets previously included in your Will;
• You have acquired new assets you wish to leave to a specific beneficiary;
• Your financial status has changed and your estate could now benefit from more sophisticated tax planning;
• You have married or remarried;
• Your family has grown, either by birth or adoption;
• One of your named beneficiaries is now receiving government assistance for a disability and an inheritance from you may disqualify them from such program;
• Your spouse or another named beneficiary under your will has died;
• Your beneficiary’s life is unstable (financially irresponsible, drug or alcohol abuse, credit problems, rocky marriage, etc.) and you now wish to include some type of limitation or protection for their inheritance.
In Kansas, you can revoke your existing Last Will and Testament in one of three ways: 1) Revoke your original Last Will and Testament in writing; 2) Destroy your original Last Will and Testament and all copies; or 3) Execute a new Last Will and Testament that includes a provision stating that it replaces all previous Wills and Codicils signed by you. In practicality, you also can sell or gift away all of your assets during your lifetime or set up all of your assets to transfer by way of beneficiary designations at the time of your death and nullify the effects of your written Will.
A word of caution however: NEVER, EVER destroy your original Last Will and Testament before you have
In the State of Kansas, a guardianship or conservatorship is an attempt by the state to provide help and protection for a person when that person is incapable of acting in his or her own best interest. A guardianship refers to the need for assistance with physical health, safety or welfare. A conservatorship refers to the need for assistance with managing a person’s estate or business affairs. A guardianship or conservatorship is not necessarily intended to be forever. The State’s objective is to restore the person to complete decision-making capacity and to close the guardianship as quickly as possible, according to the Kansas Guardianship Program.
In order to gain the legal right to assist the person in need of care, a guardianship and/or conservatorship must be filed and the Court becomes involved. The Court subsequently appoints a Guardian and/or Conservator over the person and/or their estate/property. When discussing guardianships and conservatorships, we generally are referring to one of two types of individuals in need: adults or minors.
An individual over the age of 18 is considered a legal adult. Adults are assumed to be capable of making their own health and financial decisions unless a court determines otherwise. If a mental or physical condition renders an adult incapable of making sound decisions and acting in his or her own best interest, the court may appoint someone to make decisions on that person’s behalf. A guardian is appointed to make decisions relating to the individual and a conservator is appointed to make decisions relating to the individual’s finances. In Kansas, adult individuals are only deemed in need of a guardian if they are impaired AND there are no appropriate alternatives for meeting essential needs.
A minor who needs a guardian means a person under 18 years of age who otherwise meets the definition
Thinking of getting remarried? Whether you are divorced or widowed, there’s quite a few things you should consider, in addition to whether you and your new love are ready for marriage. Couples with children from previous relationships should be especially mindful of how to provide a future that is fair for both a surviving spouse and the children, should one spouse die. Here are just a few of the things couples planning a second or subsequent marriage should consider:
Tax consequences. Depending on the planning done with your prior spouse, certain tax advantages may be lost once you remarry, such as portability of a deceased spouse’s unused exemption. You should visit with your accountant prior to your remarriage to fully understand any tax implications your new marriage will have on your tax situation.
Update your beneficiaries. How unfortunate would it be if an ex-spouse received some of your assets because you failed to update a beneficiary designation on your retirement or life insurance account? It is not sufficient to just declare your distribution plans in your will or trust. You must update your beneficiary designations to match your new estate plan. Your estate planning attorney can assist you with this step if you need help.
Have a solid estate plan, IN WRITING. We cannot stress this enough. Put your wishes in a formal, written will or trust. If you have children, a simple will likely will not be sufficient, so look at creating a trust to address all the various needs of your blended family. Include a distribution list of personal items such as jewelry, photos, heirloom dishes and keepsakes. Without a written directive, your family heirlooms may not be passed along to your next generation, even if that was your verbal request. This is a great time to talk with your children about what items they consider emotionally important to them. Having a written plan, such as a prenuptial agreement, is one of the best ways to begin a secondary marriage. A prenuptial agreement will specify what is “yours”, “mine”, and “ours” and what will happen to the distribution of those items upon divorce or death. Because this agreement transpires BEFORE the marriage, much of the stress
Q: My grandfather has very few assets except his residence in Kansas. He would like his house to go to my mother upon his death. Is there any way the property can transfer to my mother without a probate?
A: One of the easiest ways to accomplish this would be for your grandfather to execute a transfer on death deed to your mother. The transfer on death deed will transfer ownership of the property at your grandfather’s death, without probate, to your mother or any other person he names on the deed.
How does the transfer on death deed work in Kansas? The property owner (the “Grantor”) executes a specific deed that names a successor beneficiary as the recipient of the property at the Grantor’s death. The deed is then signed before a notary and recorded with the Register of Deeds in the county where the property is located.
The Grantor remains the legal owner while living. In addition, he may revoke the deed at any time prior to death by executing and recording a formal revocation or new deed with the county Register of Deeds. At the Grantor’s death, the person named as the beneficiary on the deed becomes the new property owner as soon as the Grantor’s death certificate is filed against the property.
Advantages/Disadvantages of transfer on death deed:
1. The property will pass to the named person after Grantor’s death without an expensive and lengthy probate.
2. The Grantor retains ownership and control of the property so long as he/she is living.
3. The property passes to the new owner immediately after the Grantor’s death. No delay occurs in the transfer of ownership; only the recording of the Grantor’s certified death certificate with the county Register of Deeds is required.
4. A transfer on death deed also can be used to transfer mineral interests.
5. A transfer on death deed provides future flexibility and the ability to revoke or change beneficiaries.
Dementia is the term commonly used to describe a person’s decline in memory and other cognitive abilities that interferes with daily life. This decline is not a normal part of aging. Alzheimer’s, a brain disease that results in the loss of brain cells and function, is the most common cause of dementia.
How can Alzheimer’s impact your legal future? If your cognitive ability decreases below a specific threshold set by the State, you no longer will be allowed to make legal decisions for yourself. If you have not executed Powers of Attorney while still mentally competent, the State will step in and decide who will make business and medical decisions on your behalf. The State will similarly decide how your estate will be divided upon your death, if you have not previously signed a valid will or trust. Predictably, the decisions made by the State may not be the decisions you would have made for yourself.
Because Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, it’s important to detect impairment issues as early as possible and get your business, medical and legal affairs in order. While Alzheimer’s currently has no cure, early treatment may slow memory loss and increase your chances of longer independence. Here are 10 warning signs from the National Institute on Aging indicating when a person may need a medical evaluation:
1. Difficulty remembering.
Forgetting important dates or events, repeatedly asking for the same information, and relying on family members or reminder notes to handle daily tasks are clues that cognitive changes are occurring.
2. Difficulty in planning and solving problems.
Struggling to track monthly bills, follow a familiar recipe, solve simple math problems, or taking longer than usual to complete these familiar tasks can be another indicator of problems.
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