These Four Childfree Prospect Tips Will Grow Your Business – And They’re Not What You Think

Child-free individuals and couples often face choices, decisions, and questions, which you are uniquely qualified to address.  Like many allied financial professionals, you may focus on helping clients pass the maximum amount of wealth to their beloved children.

Along with buying a house and doing better than your parents, handing down your accumulated wealth to your children is a long-held tradition that many consider the cornerstone of the American dream.  But what about those individuals who do not have direct descendants?

For a myriad of reasons, childfree individuals and couples are a steadily growing percentage of those seeking planning and financial services today.  You may assume that counseling and guiding childfree clients has less opportunity or is more difficult than working with clients who are parents.  If so, you’re not alone.

However, in actuality, childfree clients are not so different than your parenting clients.  And, the fact that most professionals think they’re different creates your opportunity.  The opportunity is to market directly to your ideal childfree client, make her feel important, and communicate that you are uniquely qualified to empower her.

Four Key Takeaways
Childfree individuals and couples are often left out of marketing conversations and made to feel as if they’re second best.  By ignoring them and focusing solely on parent clients, marketing messages send notice that something is wrong with being childfree.

To grow your business, keep in mind:

1.      Being childfree is not second best.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with not having children and it’s none of your business why a client doesn’t have children.  Don’t ask.

2.      Childfree clients may have had children who have predeceased them.  Be sensitive to that fact.

3.      Childfree clients likely have someone they love and would like to benefit, such as grandchildren, nieces, nephews, siblings, friends, partners, and pets.

4.      Childfree clients have many of the same goals and fears that your parent clients have.  Those goals and fears may or may not have the same emphasis and priority and, thus, create your opportunity to distinguish yourself through counseling and service.

Dealing with childfree clients is more about positioning than substance.  Unless your client cares about no one and doesn’t want to stay in control of his or her finances, health care, and life, she needs an estate plan, financial plan, insurances, and tax advice just as parent clients do.

What You Need to Know:
Childfree clients may need all of the services their parenting counterparts need and when you acknowledge them as valuable, worthwhile, and important, you, your planning team, and your clients all win.

Actions to Consider:
1.      Add a marketing message, speaking directly to childfree prospects.

2.      Don’t assume that your childfree client isn’t interested in planning traditionally sought by parent clients, such as educational   planning, educational trusts, 529 plans, life insurance, and beneficiary trusts.

3.      Show your client how you, along with your allied professional team, can help to ensure that she can:

o   Create and build her ideal business
o   Create, equalize, or liquidize an estate
o   Avoid running out of money, even if she gets sick
o   Get the health care she needs
o   Appoint trusted helpers, empowered to make good decisions
o   Reduce the risk of audit
o   Minimize or eliminate assets lost to taxation and lawsuits
o   Fund the buy-sell agreement for her business
o   Gift to charities she believes in
o   Protect her assets both during her lifetime and after they pass to beneficiaries
o   Care for those whom she loves
o   Live with peace of mind, while raving about you and your team to her friends and family

There is no shortage of insurance, financial, tax, charitable, asset protection, disability, long-term care, pet, and estate planning for childfree clients.  Your business will grow when you pull your team together and let childfree individuals and couples know that they are important to you, while showing how you can empower them with smart planning.

Commonly Asked Medicaid Questions

Q:Once I qualify for Medicaid, will the quality of care I receive be sub-standard?

A:No. It is illegal for a facility to discriminate against someone receiving Medicaid benefits. By law, Medicaid patients are to receive the same level of care as private-pay residents.

Q:Is a married couple always required to spend down all of their assets before qualifying for Medicaid?

A:No. In fact, where there is a spouse who remains outside of the nursing home, that spouse is entitled to retain $113,600. Additionally that spouse may also keep the monthly income up to a maximum of $2,841, for their additional support. Also, in some cases it is possible for the at-home spouse to retain additional assets if it can be shown that they need it for their support. Although there are income and asset criteria a couple must meet before one of them qualifies for benefits, federal and state laws were written to protect individuals from becoming impoverished if their spouse needs nursing home care.

Medicaid planning is like tax planning in that legislation has provided legal exceptions to the general rules that, with good advice from a knowledgeable professional, can save Medicaid applicants and their families thousands of dollars.

Q:Is it true that under current Medicaid laws, a parent cannot make financial gifts to their children once they have entered the nursing home?

A: No. In fact, a proper gifting program is a great Medicaid planning technique. At the time an applicant applies for Medicaid, the state will “look back” 5 years to see if any gifts have been made. Any financial gifts or transfers for less than fair market value during the five year look back may cause a delay in an applicant’s eligibility. A proper gifting program requires calculating the penalties prior to making gifts and designing a way to privately pay during the penalty period.

Q:Is $13,000 per year the maximum an individual can give away if they are going to apply for Medicaid?

A: No. The $13,000 per year gift people ask about when discussing Medicaid Planning is a tax law figure and not relevant with respect to Medicaid’s specific asset transfer rules. The maximum monetary figure Medicaid applicants need to concern themselves with is the “penalty divisor.” The penalty divisor is the state

assessed average cost for nursing home care by which the state assesses Medicaid penalties. The penalty divisor is $5,700 in Mississippi.

Q:A Medicaid applicant’s house is considered “exempt” under Medicaid laws. Can an applicant give their house away without incurring penalties?

A:Sometimes. Any assets which are given away (personal property or real property) are considered gifts. Usually, if an applicant gives their house away, the state will assess a penalty based on the fair market value of the house at the time it was transferred. However, there are some exceptions to this rule that a qualified elder law attorney can explain.

Q:Once my spouse is approved for Medicaid, can I gift my assets away?

A:No. In Mississippi, however, any gifts made by the community spouse would incur penalty which may result in the termination of Medicaid benefits for their spouse.There are a number of steps a Medicaid applicant can take to preserve their assets, ranging from gifting strategies, personal care contracts, private annuities, raising the Community Spouse Resource Allowance, etc… What you need to remember is that the laws are constantly changing and the planning your neighbor did for their mother six months ago may not be proper for your mother tomorrow. Consult a knowledgeable elder law attorney for advice.

For more information on Medicaid Planning, click here.

Should Facebook Play Into Estate Planning For Mississippi Residents?

Estate planning lawyers in Mississippi have always had to keep up with the times, and this is just as true in Mississippi as it is anywhere else.  Oftentimes these changes include things like new legislation, but there are other factors that need to be considered, such as differing lifestyles and advancing technologies.  Have you ever stopped to wonder what happens to your Facebook when you die?

It’s a question that even the legal world is starting to address.  Of course, Facebook is only one of the social networks out there, and it’s likely that more will emerge, with some taking over the spotlight.  For now, Facebook is certainly one of the most talked about, as Facebook has reached a billion users.  As of November of 2012, Twitter had 500 million, Google+ had 400 million, Skype had 280, and LinkedIn had 175 million.  And this represents only a fraction of the social networks that are out there.

New York, Oklahoma, and Nebraska were some of the first states to start taking a look at how estate planning attorneys might assist clients in designating personal representatives to take over their social media accounts should the original owner become deceased or incapacitated.  Some people are referring to this as an “online executor,” and it’s even being suggested to officially name this person in the will or trust.

What About Facebook?

While it still remains to be seen how things will play out, especially as newer technologies become part of the Mississippi estate planning landscape, Facebook (as well as many other social media networks) already does have a system in place for dealing with the death of a user.

When someone passes away, Facebook allows another person to notify them.  They will need to be able to supply the individual’s full name (used on the account), email address used to create the account, and the URL of the deceased’s profile.  This is done through a form.  In addition, the person must report their relationship with the deceased.

At this point, Facebook will ask what should be done with the profile.  Some families prefer to take the entire thing down.  Others choose the option of “memorializing” the page.  When this happens, Facebook allows only those who were already confirmed as friends to see and post on the page.  Many friends do this as a way to leave memories or express condolences to those left behind.  If the account has been memorialized, it is removed from the general search function.

Another common option is for people to create their own pages in memory of a friend or family member.  This can even be done in conjunction with the memorializing of the original page.  The benefit is that this allows those who were not confirmed friends on the original account to leave messages, post photos, etc.

So, do you need to get a Mississippi will lawyer involved when it comes to your Facebook account?  The answer to that is “maybe.”  If your account is part of your business strategy, for example, you might find it to be even more imperative.  Even for those who just use Facebook and other social media for personal communication, naming an online executor is something to consider.

Our Mississippi wills, trusts and probate law firm can help you get started in creating a digital asset protection plan that best meets your personal or business needs.  We have offices in Clinton, Flowood, Hattiesburg, and Southaven Mississippi, and also serve the cities of Madison, Ridgeland, Pearl, Brandon, and Jackson, Mississippi.  For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation, please give our office a call at (601) 925-9797.

Estate Planning and Divorce in Hinds, Rankin or Madison County

When a divorce—also called a dissolution of marriage—is imminent, meeting with an estate planning attorney in Hinds, Rankin or Madison County is likely not at the top of anyone’s list of things to do.  But, it very well should be.  Keep in mind that divorces can take a fairly long time (months or even years) to complete.  It makes sense to consider what would become of your assets, or even your physical self, if you should become incapacitated or die before the divorce has been finalized.

If you do not take steps to change your estate plan in light of an impending divorce, then your soon-to-be ex may still be entitled to everything that was agreed upon when it was originally drawn up (or as the courts deem appropriate if no estate plan is in place).  This means that if he or she has your medical power of attorney, all of your medical decisions will be in the hands of someone who may not have your best interests in mind.  Likewise, if you are incapacitated and your spouse has power over your finances, it’s possible that you will not be happy with the outcome.

Another concern comes up if you and your spouse are co-trustees on various trusts or other accounts.  Again, if you become incapacitated, the spouse could access and use all kinds of property that you would not want him or her to have access to.  This becomes a real worry when you realize that this person could actually buy or sell property or even take out loans without your consent.

And, if you have inherited or stand to inherit from your parents, another potential problem arises.  Should you pass away before the divorce is final, your inheritance may legally pass directly to the person you were in the process of trying to get out of your life.  Even if you have assets that would be passed directly to your minor children, without a proper estate plan in place, the courts will likely put your ex in charge of any money or other property that you leave them.

In order to protect your interests during a divorce, it makes good sense to talk with your estate planning attorney.  A qualified will attorney in Hinds, Rankin or Madison County can offer advice on where you may be vulnerable.  You may need to work with him or her quickly in order to revoke the appropriate documents, and keep in mind that you might need to contact various institutions personally to ensure they are aware of the revocation.

Once a divorce has become final, there will probably be some accounts and situations in which ex-spouses are no longer beneficiaries, but there are others where you will need to make deliberate changes.  An estate planning attorney who is familiar with the laws specific to Mississippi is the best option for ensuring that you are protecting yourself both during and after a dissolution of marriage.

Estate Planning for Single Parents in Clinton

Single parents tend to work hard for their children, so it’s no wonder that those in Clinton want to protect the children they would leave behind should the adult be killed or become incapacitated.  Every day it falls to the single parent to provide just about everything for his or her children, and with 13 million single parent households in the US, there are a whole lot of folks doing their best to provide everything their children need today.  Working with a Mississippi guardianship lawyer is the right step to make sure they are also provided for in the future.

As a single parent, your estate plan may look different from that of a married parent.  In those cases, there are laws in place to ensure that both property and custody have a means of passing to the surviving spouse.  In your case, however, the courts would determine your next of kin and disperse your property, as well as appoint a guardian, based on Mississippi state laws.  While it’s great that there are laws like this to rely on when a single parent dies with no will in place, it’s not necessarily such a wonderful thing if the person/people named are not those you would have chosen yourself.

For example, it’s quite common for grandparents to be given custody of a child upon the parent’s death.  In many families, that would be the perfect choice.  In others, however, a better choice could be made.  Perhaps there has been a falling out between family members, or it’s possible that the grandparents are either too old or just otherwise not in the right place in their lives to be starting over raising children.

Clearly, appointing a guardian for your child or children is one of the most pressing issues for which to see an estate planning attorney in Clinton.  It’s not the only one, though.  This lawyer can also help you to create a financial plan which can help support your child even if you aren’t there.  You might be advised to look into a life insurance policy or to participate in a Mississippi college savings plan.  Likely, an guardianship lawyer in Clinton will also help you to create a trust or trusts which can not only protect some of the money from being heavily taxed, but also give you some say over how the money is to be used and by whom.

An estate planning attorney will also help you to make sure that everything is in order.  He or she will ask you about bank accounts, insurance policies, retirement accounts, and even military service, as all of these can possibly be directed to the care of your child or children.  Every family, no matter what the marital status is, is unique.  With the help of a Clinton estate planning lawyer, you can put together a plan that works for your specific situation.

Clinton Lawyer Explains How To Tackle Estate Planning When You Live in Two States

Being able to split your time between two or more places you love is a much-desired retirement dream for many people.  A great example are those folks referred to as “snowbirds” who live farther north in the US during the summer and then head back to the warmer southern states for the winter.  That allows folks to enjoy our gorgeous Mississippi spring and fall, and relatively mild winter, while escaping our punishing summer humidity.

Many people living this lifestyle completely overlook the fact that it can have a major impact on what happens to their assets when they die.  If you were to pass away in Mississippi, the laws governing your estate may be totally different than those in New York, Vermont, or whatever cooler state you’ve chosen for the hot season.

Some Laws Differ from State to State

Basically, you need to make a decision about which state is your true legal residence.  This may be affected by the amount of time you spend in each or some other factor.  If you’re in a situation where you truly can choose, then you really want to work with a Hinds County estate planning lawyer to figure out which state’s laws are going to be the most advantageous to you and your estate.  There are all kinds of factors which can influence this decision, such as the property laws of each, your marital status, and even tax rates.  For example, Florida has been known for not having estate taxes at all.  This is great, but it does have other taxes that could come into play.

When you pass away, your estate can end up going through probate in both states.  This can be time consuming and expensive, and you may be able to avoid it by working with a Hinds County lawyer to set up some trusts and other protections.  There are some documents, however, that you might want to consider creating in both states where you reside.  For example, it may be helpful to have medical and financial powers of attorney drawn up in both Mississippi and the other state in order to avoid problems and delays should they be needed.

What Do You Do When You Live In Two States?

Even if you “live” in both states, you can only officially reside in one.  You are considered a visitor in the other state.  A Mississippi attorney will be able to help get you up to speed on the laws of our state and can help you compare them to similar laws in the other state where you reside.  Just as you’ve chosen to live in two states for the advantages to your life, there are also advantages to what happens after!

 

Trust Lawyer in Jackson MS on How Much Financial Information You Should Share With Your Family

$5 Million Gift Exemption – Use it or Lose it!

As everyone knows, the election is finally over! After almost $6 Billion in combined advertising in House, Senate, and the Presidential races by the candidates, the parties, and independent groups, little has actually changed in Washington.
President Obama has been reelected. The electoral vote was 332 to 206.  The popular vote was 50% for President Obama and 48% for Governor Romney.  The Democrats have a slightly larger majority in the Senate.  The Republicans have a slightly smaller majority in the House.  Given this current climate of continued divided government, we have no clear view of where things may be headed concerning the estate tax and taxes, except that what we do know is that the estate tax laws on the books today are scheduled to “sunset” in 6 short weeks on December 31.  Without congressional intervention, federal estate and gift taxes stand to increase dramatically on January 1, 2013, affecting everyone who dies with an estate valued over $1 million.

Many of our clients think that only the super-rich need to worry about estate and gift taxes.  But they should think again. There has been no indication from Congress or the White House on whether, or what type, of final tax exemption number may replace the $1 Million exemption, if any, except for the usual chest thumping and saber rattling.

A Little Background

In December 2010, Congress passed a set of laws known as TRA 2010. These laws extended the Bush tax cuts until midnight on December 31, 2012.

Under TRA 2010, individuals with estates under $5.12 million are not subject to federal gift or estate tax. However, if Congress allows TRA 2010 to expire, estates larger than $1 million will become taxable at the beginning of 2013.

What Can You Do?

 

Outright Gift

One option is to gift a portion of your estate.  Between now and December 31 2012, an individual can gift up to $5.12 million (and a couple can gift up to $10.24 million) completely gift-tax free.  These gifts can be made directly to loved ones, like children, or gifted into trusts for the benefit of these individuals to protect the gifts from divorce and creditors.  This strategy is straightforward and works well if your clients are comfortable giving away a significant portion of their assets during their lifetime. But many clients are not willing to simply give away millions just to reduce their tax bill.

Spousal Lifetime Access Trust

Another way to preserve an estate is to lock in the current estate tax exclusion using a well-planned trust. Here’s an overview of how this strategy works:

  • Clients put their money into a trust for their spouse or partner, removing those assets from their estate.
  • The Client’s spouse or partner can act as trustee, making distributions to him- or herself, subject to certain restrictions.
  •  The trust assets are available for the client’s spouse or partner to use and enjoy, but they are not included as part of his or her estate either.
  •  Clients have the option to name their children or others as trust beneficiaries, as well.

For wealthy married clients, or those in a long-term relationship, the spouses or partners can even set up trusts for each other. Certain rules must be followed so that those trusts avoid the “reciprocal trust doctrine.”  A qualified estate planning attorney can explain how this is done. Using this strategy, your clients an shelter a total of $10.24 million, together with all the future growth on those funds, from estate taxes.

Timing is Everything

The clock is ticking. No one knows what Congress will do between now and the end of this year. One thing is certain: Clients have until December 31 to complete the planning and gifting necessary to benefit from what the law currently allows. It can take several weeks for an experienced estate planning attorney to complete the work involved in establishing a trust and transferring all the necessary assets, so clients should not delay talking to their attorney to choose a course of action.

How to Leave a Legacy

In the estate planning process you will probably cover the basics of estate planning: naming an executor, stating your final wishes and identifying beneficiaries to receive your estate. For some people, though, a basic estate plan is not enough. What if you want to leave more? Through legacy planning you can leave a financial heritage and a sense of who you are to your family and to your community.

Family Trusts

Trusts are an excellent way to leave a financial legacy for your loved ones. You can do so through individual lifetime trusts or even family trusts. Long term Trusts can provide financial stability for those close to you throughout their life. With a Generation Skipping or Dynasty Trust, you may even be able to help your grandchildren or great-grandchildren pay for college.

Personal Documents

Legacy planning also focuses on leaving behind a piece of yourself for your family to remember and for future generations to know. There are many ways to do this. You can create write a letter to each loved one to be read after your death. You can also write a memoir with remembrances and life lessons to provide your current family and descendants with a sense of who you really were. You can also write a family history with the help of genealogy research. Learning about your family’s past can help you and your loved ones better understand and appreciate your current life.

Charitable Trusts

Do you have a favorite charitable cause that you donate funds to each year? With a Charitable Trust, you can help others for years after you are gone. Such a Trust is a great way to help a cause close to your heart.

You can also save money when you use a Charitable Trust. These Trusts provide a tax deduction for the year they are funded. They also lower your taxable estate, which helps your family with lower or avoid estate taxes upon your death.