Benefit of mediation in estate planning

A recent case in Illinois highlights the value of mediation in resolving estate-planning disputes. The case involved a successful family business created by Daniel and Mary O’Brien. The business, valued at $125 million as of 2013, included interests in hotels, a nursing home, a golf course, gas stations, fast-food franchises and warehouses. Most of the business assets were operated through limited partnerships, and the rest were held in revocable trusts, in S corporations or in the founders’ names. The O’Briens had six children (four daughters and two sons) and 15 grandchildren. When the oldest son passed away in 1989, the…..

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Should you leave siblings unequal shares of your estate?

When you’re reviewing your estate plan, it’s important to think about how to divide your estate among your children. While you don’t need to leave siblings equal shares, be aware that inheriting unequal amounts can cause arguments among children after you pass. To avoid disagreements from the get-go, you may want to leave your children equal shares. If that is your goal, remember to consider any property or accounts you hold jointly with each child. Jointly held property or money passes outside of your estate. That means if you have listed a child as a caregiver on a bank account,…..

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Avoiding Medicaid penalty period for a house transfer

Under the laws of most states, when you transfer your house to a child or anyone else, you enter into a Medicaid penalty period, barring your eligibility for Medicaid for a period of time. A way to avoid the penalty period is for the Medicaid applicant to transfer the house to a child considered to be his or her “caretaker.” A caretaker child is defined as a child who lived in the applicant’s house for at least two years before the applicant moved to a nursing home and who cared for the applicant during that time in such a way…..

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Updating estate-planning documents at divorce

The story of a divorcing couple in Arizona demonstrates why you need to update your estate plan at divorce. The couple, who were in their early 40s and had been married for several years, had created a multimillion dollar business together. When they filed for divorce, the process became bitter and full of disagreements about small issues. They were thinking in the moment about the immediate dollars and cents, but didn’t consider what would happen with assets at death. One night the wife had dinner with friends. Sadly, she died in a tragic car accident on her way home. Neither…..

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Guidance on grandparent gifting

Grandparents are regularly generous with grandchildren, sometimes giving significant amounts of money. Often they want to share their resources to leave a legacy. In some cases, their children or grandchildren are dealing with financial hardship. Grandparents might also believe that their kin shouldn’t have to wait for their inheritance. Grandparents commonly provided assistance paying for summer camp, college tuition, weddings or down payments for homes. They should keep the following factors in mind when giving to grandchildren, however, and they should be sure to contact an attorney who can advise them on the tax implications of their kindness. If you’re…..

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Guns and dementia: Dealing with a loved one’s firearms

Having a loved one with dementia can be scary, but add in access to a firearm and things can become especially dangerous. Research shows that 45 percent of all adults aged 65 years or older either own a gun or live in a household with someone who does. For someone with dementia, the risk of suicide increases; firearms are the most common method of suicide among people with dementia. In addition, someone with dementia who has a gun may put family members or caregivers at risk if the person with dementia gets confused about people’s identities, or if they think someone is an…..

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Maximizing Social Security survivor’s benefits

Social Security survivor’s benefits provide a safety net to widows and widowers. But to get the most out of the benefit, you need to know the right time to claim. While you can claim survivor’s benefits as early as age 60, if you claim benefits before your full retirement age, your benefits will be permanently reduced. If you claim benefits at your full retirement age, you will receive 100 percent of your spouse’s benefit or, if your spouse died before collecting benefits, 100 percent of what your spouse’s benefit would have been at full retirement age. Unlike with retirement benefits,…..

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Getting paid as a family caregiver through Medicaid

Caring for an ailing family member is difficult work, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be unpaid work. There are programs available that allow Medicaid recipients to hire family members as caregivers. All 50 states have programs that provide pay to family caregivers. The programs vary by state, but are generally available to Medicaid recipients, although there are also some non-Medicaid programs. Medicaid’s program began as “cash and counseling,” but is now often called “self-directed,” “consumer-directed” or “participant-directed” care. The first step is to apply for Medicaid through a home-based Medicaid program. Medicaid is available only to low-income seniors, and…..

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Understanding Medicare’s hospice benefit

Medicare’s hospice benefit covers any care that is reasonable and necessary for easing the course of a terminal illness. It is one of Medicare’s most comprehensive benefits and can be extremely helpful to both a terminally ill individual and his or her family, but it is little understood and underutilized. Understanding what is offered ahead of time may help Medicare beneficiaries and their families make the difficult decision to choose hospice if the time comes. The focus of hospice is palliative care, which helps people who are terminally ill and their families maintain their quality of life. Palliative care addresses…..

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Estate planning and retirement considerations for late-in-life parents

It is becoming more common for people to be parents at an older age, partly because of changing cultural mores and advances in fertility treatment. Comedian and author Steve Martin had his first child at age 67. Singer Billy Joel, 70, welcomed his third daughter in 2017. Janet Jackson had a child at age 50. But later-in-life parents have some special estate planning and retirement considerations. For older parents, the first consideration is to have an estate plan and to be sure that plan is up to date. One of the most important functions of an estate plan is to…..

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