Albert Einstein famously said that an intellectual solves problems, while a genius avoids them. Here is an example of how you should employ this mindset when you put your estate plan in place.
The first step in the estate planning process is learning. What do you need to learn? I suggest this as your starting point: You need to discover how to stay in control of your stuff while you are able to be in control, as well as how to be sure that that your wishes will be carried out when incapacity or the grim reaper catch up with you. Sorry to rub it in, but at least one of those things is going to happen to you. Odds are that both of them will.
They say that the only certainties in life are death and taxes. When your life comes to an end, your loved ones can be left facing both certainties at the same time. The good news is that to some extent, we can postpone both, and we can avoid (notice I did not say evade) taxes almost entirely.
You can devise your estate plan without lawyers or accountants. All you need is a credit card, a computer, a printer and access to the internet. Armed with those four things, you can create one or more documents that may — or may not — accomplish what you expect.
The first steps in your estate planning journey are learning 1) how to stay in control of your stuff while you are able to be in control and 2) how to make sure your wishes are carried out when incapacity or the grim reaper catch up with you. Sorry to rub it in, but there is a 100% probability that at least one of these things is going to happen to you and a 70% probability that both of them will.
Estate planning involves protecting what is important and then passing it on to our loved ones and future generations. Many concepts central to Hawaiian culture are applicable to estate planning. Starting with the concept of ‘ohana, all the way through lokahi, estate planning and the culture of our islands can interweave to form a rich tapestry of aloha.
Charities depend on gifts from people like us to do their good works. That’s why they are not shy about asking us for money. Here are some ideas about maximizing your charitable gifts.
A trust is created when a person transfers “stuff” to a trustee with the understanding that the trustee will manage it for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries. “Stuff” includes any kind of property you can own: real property, such as land and buildings (including timeshares) and personal property, such as bank accounts, stocks and bonds, and personal effects.
A Provider Order regarding Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) says what measures should be used to keep you alive in a medical emergency. It is different from an Advance Directive in that it will be followed by emergency personnel, provided that they are aware of its existence. If you don’t have a POLST, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are required to do whatever they can to restore and stabilize your heartbeat and breathing and take you to an appropriate facility for treatment.
How do you stay in control of your stuff while you are able and assure that your wishes will be carried out when incapacity or the grim reaper catch up with you? Sorry to rub it in, but at least one of these possibilities is going to happen to you and odds are that both of them will.
Remember the classic Abbott and Costello comedy routine, “Who’s on First?” The longer they banter, the more their frustration grows due to their seeming lack of understanding of the game they are discussing — and hilarity ensues.
Similarly, the language of estate planning can give rise to problems for the uninitiated, but the problems that arise may not be funny at all.
After spending a lifetime of earning, saving and investing — and paying income and capital gains taxes all the way along — you may wonder why our government feels entitled to tax the value of what’s left when you die. However, the IRS and the State of Hawai‘i both want a piece of your estate.
Only about 25 percent of family businesses survive for 15 years or more, and only about 25 percent of the “survivors” will survive the transition to the next generation. There are many contributing factors.
Making gifts to your loved ones during your lifetime will enable you to see how your beneficiaries handle newfound wealth. This could be a great way to “test drive” your estate plan and determine how well it works while you are still able to make adjustments. If one beneficiary turns out to be a poor steward of your wealth, you can always direct assets to other beneficiaries upon your death.
Winning the game of life — and death — depends on having an effective plan in place before the inevitable happens. If you do not have an advance healthcare directive, your loved ones may find themselves blindsided and sidelined at the precise moment you need them to step in and make medical decisions for you.
Problems with your estate plan may not become apparent until it is too late to fix them. Here are some common pitfalls:
• Failing to plan for large expenses, such as long-term care. • Failing to update your estate plan, including beneficiary designations on bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts and insurance policies. • Failing to take steps to avoid family strife. • Putting your kids on the title to your stuff during your lifetime.
Only about 25 percent of family businesses survive 15 years or more. Only about 25 percent of those will survive the transition to the founders’ descendants. Many factors contribute to these statistics. Here are two critical factors.
A trust is created when a person transfers “stuff” to a trustee who will manage the stuff for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries. “Stuff” includes real property — such as land and buildings — and personal property — such as bank accounts, stocks and bonds, and personal effects. The person who transfers the stuff to the trustee is called the trustmaker.
You may be tempted to treat a caregiver as a “private contractor” in order to avoid the humbug of tax withholding and buying the right insurance policies. You would do so at your peril. The IRS and the state will take the position that the caregiver is an employee, that you are an employer and that all of the legal obligations that attach to those labels apply to your situation.
When I was in elementary school in the 1960s, my family’s set of encyclopedias claimed that I could expect to live to the ripe old age of 70. That seemed incredibly old to me. Fast-forward to 2020, and the current consensus is that I will live into my 80s, barring a catastrophic illness or an accident.
If you want to, you can devise your own estate plan without the benefit of lawyers or other trained advisors. All you need is a credit card, a computer, a printer, and access to the Internet. With those tools, you can come up with a set of documents that may or may not accomplish your goal. The problem is that you will never know.
Nobody likes to pay taxes, but most of us like to take baths. Unless the bath is the kind where money flows out of your pocket and down the drain. If you feel like paying taxes is a lot like seeing your money go down the drain, you will be glad to know about an exciting estate planning opportunity that can help make the IRS take a bath after your death instead of your loved ones.
The good news is that the federal estate tax took a vacation in 2010. The bad news is that it spent the whole year lifting weights and taking steroids. The estate tax is coming back in 2011, as big and bad as it has been in a long time. Now is the time to review your estate plan and make changes that could drastically affect how much of your estate goes to your loved ones, and how much goes to the IRS.
You were named as successor Trustee of a trust created by a family member or friend, and that person just died. What now? Before you rush in, think about what awaits. Until you sign on the dotted line, the fact that you have been named as a trustee does not obligate you to accept that position. Decide carefully, because once you accept the job, you accept all that goes with it. It is a position of great honor, and it involves great responsibility.
You may have heard the old joke, “where there’s a will … I want to be in it.” That may be true, but is estate planning really all about “who gets my stuff?” Who gets your stuff is important, but when you sift through the reasons for doing estate planning, you may find that identifying who gets your stuff takes a distant back seat to far more important considerations.
The attorney’s ad tells you that you can get a “comprehensive estate plan” for $800. Does that sound too good to be true? It may be. Before you rush in, here are some questions to ask. If you get positive answers to every question, then maybe you have a real bargain on your hands.
If nothing else, recent events have brought us face-to-face with mortality. Although none of us knows when death will overtake us or a loved one, we know that someday it is going to do exactly that. We can deny the inevitable, or we can prepare for it. By preparing for death, we can make that transition much easier on ourselves and our loved ones.
Estate planning is the process of protecting that which is important and then passing those important things on to our loved ones and future generations. Many concepts that are central to Hawaiian culture are particularly applicable to estate planning. Starting with the concept of ‘ohana (a very inclusive notion of family), all the way through lokahi (a sense of unity — especially appropriate at the passing of a loved one), estate planning and the culture of our islands interweave to form a rich tapestry of aloha.
Protecting personal privacy is generally a good thing, but can also have unexpected results. Consider the plight of a 90-year-old lady (“Nancy”) who was the life of her weekly exercise classes. Nancy was very well known for youthful outlook and zest for life.
So when Nancy missed class one day, her friends tried to contact her. All they were able to learn was that she had been moved to a nursing home.
The people of Hawai‘i are generous with public charities. On the other hand, most of us do not have money to burn. Here are some good ideas about choosing where and how to give…
The people of Hawai‘i are generous with public charities. On the other hand, most of us do not have money to burn. The following are some good ideas about choosing where and how to give.
A POLST is a special document in which you say what measures should be used to keep you alive. The acronym stands for — Provider Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment. It’s different from an Advance Directive in that it will be followed by emergency personnel before you reach the hospital, provided that they are aware of its existence.
Unless you keep up with critical changes, your estate plan will become ineffective and maybe even become harmful to you and your ‘ohana. What kinds of changes are we talking about?
Receiving an inheritance is like winning the lottery. What could possibly be wrong with that? Callie Rogers, age 16, won $3.1 million in a British lottery. By the age of 22 she was broke, living with her mother, and working three cleaning jobs. William Post won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania Lottery in 1988…
We have a right to say “enough is enough” when it comes to medical care, including the use of respirators and tube feeding. We also have the right to name who will speak for us when we cannot speak for ourselves. Having a clear and comprehensive advance health care directive is only way to be sure that your wishes will be known and carried out.
Is estate planning really all about “who gets my stuff”? Your assets may be important, but when you sift through the reasons for doing estate planning, you may find that identifying who gets your stuff takes a distant back seat to far more important considerations.
When hiring a caregiver, you may be tempted to try to make the process as simple as possible by treating the caregiver as a “private contractor.” You tell the person “I will pay you so much an hour, and you deal with the IRS and the State when it comes time to pay taxes.” After all, taking on the responsibilities of withholding taxes (and then paying the taxing authorities), buying Workers’ Compensation insurance, paying Social Security and Medicare tax, and all the rest, can be a real pain. However, the IRS and the State will take the position that the caregiver is an “employee,” that you are an “employer,” and that all the legal obligations that attach to those labels are applicable to your situation.
There are three estate planning documents that every competent adult living in the State of Hawai‘i should have. Of course, “competency” can be an elusive quality, but once a Hawai‘i resident has turned 18, the law of our State presumes that person to be competent.
Class reunions are poignant reminders of change. With each passing year, our classmates grow a little grayer, perhaps a little balder, and maybe a little more expansive at the midsection. Good thing we are not like our classmates, right? Actually, we are. Father Time is catching up with all of us. That sobering fact should inspire us to reflect each year on our estate plans and whether they still do what we want them to do.
Many people ask to have their ashes spread at places that hold treasured memories for them, and Disney theme parks are not the exclusive venue for these requests.More often than you realize, human ashes are scattered covertly at sports stadiums, concert halls and golf courses.
Secret Money for Veterans by Scott A. Makuakane, Counselor at Law, Est8Planning Counsel LLLC from the Oct-Nov 2016 issue of Generations Magazine, Hawai‘i’s Resource for Life
Vacation With Your Important Papers by Scott A. Makuakane, Counselor at Law, Est8Planning Counsel LLLC from the August-September 2016 issue of Generations Magazine, Hawai‘i’s Resource for Life
Endowment Gift Keeps on Giving by Scott A. Makuakane, Counselor at Law, Est8Planning Counsel LLLC from the June-May 2016 issue of Generations Magazine, Hawai‘i’s Resource for Life