If something unexpected happens to you and you haven't planned for everyone you love and everything you have, the State of California has a default plan for you.
Sound scary? Well, it can be. Those you love would have to deal with the red tape and bureaucracy of government procedures and regulations.
We at Sky Unlimited Legal Advisory help you understand the legal and financial consequences of not having a comprehensive Estate Plan to protect your loved ones ... and more.
Before meeting, we'll ask you to complete a Family Wealth Worksheet, which will help you understand what you own and what needs to be decided for the well-being and care of your loved ones and cherished belongings. We'll meet for a Family Wealth Planning Session™, where we spend some time together reviewing this document. You'll learn about our Planning for Life process and we will both decide if it makes sense to work together to design an estate plan that will best suit the needs of your family.
The foundation of your estate plan will often include a revocable living trust, which when done properly and maintained over time, should help your family to avoid the cost and delay of probate and minimize or eliminate estate taxes.
At Sky Unlimited Legal Advisory, we do not offer a "one size fits all" estate plan. We form a working relationship with our clients. We educate you, take the time to get to know you and your family. We will discuss your concerns, your goals, and will gladly and patiently answer all of your questions. Our goal is to create an estate plan that is exactly right for you.
Our services include a no-charge three-year review to ensure that as your lives change, so will your estate plan to safeguard your assets for maximum protection.
The strategies that are appropriate for protecting your assets are different for every family. Check out our proven process that gives you peace of mind...
Don’t put off making plans until you are unable to assert your wishes. Including health care documents in your estate plan can ensure your decisions are always your choice, even if you cannot speak for yourself.
Health care documents that clearly state your wishes should be included in your comprehensive estate plan. Here are three documents you need to include in your estate plan to ensure your wishes are respected:
Health Care Directive
This document allows you to name a health care agent. This will be the individual who you grant the authority to make certain decisions on your behalf. A health care agent may also be called a health care surrogate or a personal representative.
In your directive, you can include specific instructions on the health care measures you desire if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. These are life and death decisions; make sure your agent is someone you trust. Work closely with an estate-planning lawyer to ensure your directive provides clear guidelines for your agent to follow.
While some are advocating we prepare to be quarantined, potentially for months, others are saying the virus is nothing more than a common cold. The World Health Organization takes a more middle-of-the-road approach, advising we take precautions without becoming alarmed.
We’re going to take a similar middle-of-the-road approach, and empower you to make informed decisions for you and your family. Here are some resources to stay up to date on the virus and to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy.
For your reference, here’s a link where you can track infection and death rates over time as you can see, the numbers are increasing daily. Most of the people who die from coronavirus are over the age of 60, and people who have chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes have a 5–10% higher chance of dying from it. So if you have parents who may need information on how to boost their immunity, it would be good to share this article with them.
This video shares that, as of January 30, 2020, approximately 8,000 people had been infected with the Coronavirus, and 214 had died. The video indicates that symptoms are similar to a bad respiratory cold, with fever and cough, and that the only treatment is fever-reducing medication. Taking precautions now to up your intake of immunity-boosting supplements, the same way you might if there was a cold circulating in your community, would be a great idea.
A friend of mine shared some resources they’d compiled to help shore up their immunity, and I’ve included them in the list below. This is not medical advice, neither my friend nor I are doctors, just health conscious individuals. Consult your doctor before taking any supplements at all. These are just the things I am considering for my family, and I’m sharing with you so you can make the call for yours.
Also killed in the tragic accident was his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven other passengers, who were friends and colleagues of Kobe and his family. The exact cause of the crash remains under investigation.
The 41-year-old former Los Angeles Laker was flying to Mamba Sports Academy, a youth sports center Kobe founded in Thousand Oaks, where his daughter Gianna was set to play in a basketball tournament. Fortunately, none of Kobe’s other family members were on the flight, and he’s survived by his wife Vanessa and three other daughters: Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.
Kobe’s sudden death at such a young age has led to a huge outpouring of grief from fans across the world. Whenever someone so beloved dies so young, it highlights just how critical it is for every adult—but especially those with young children—to create an estate plan to ensure their loved ones are properly protected and provided for when they die or in the event of their incapacity.
While it’s too early to know the exact details of Kobe’s estate plan (and he may have planning vehicles in place to keep the public from ever knowing the full details), we can still learn from the issues his family and estate are likely to face in the aftermath of his death. We cover these issues in hopes that it will inspire you to remember that life is not guaranteed, death can come at any moment, and your loved ones are counting on you to do the right thing for them now.
Kobe’s sports and business empire
Between his salary and endorsements during his 20-year career with the L.A. Lakers, Kobe earned an estimated $680 million. And that’s not counting the money he made from his numerous business ventures, licensing rights for his likeness, and extensive venture capital investments following his retirement from the NBA. That said, by all estimates, his estate has the potential to be the most valuable of any modern athlete.
Given his business acumen and length of time in the spotlight, it’s highly unlikely Kobe died without at least some planning in place to protect his assets and his family. But even if Kobe did have a plan, when someone so young, wealthy, and successful passes away this unexpectedly in such a terrible accident, his family and estate will almost certainly face some potential threats and complications.
Indeed, the changes ushered in by the SECURE Act have dramatic implications for both your retirement and estate planning strategies—and not all of them are positive. While the law includes a number of taxpayer-friendly measures to boost your ability to save for retirement, it also contains provisions that could have disastrous effects on planning strategies families have used for years to protect and pass on assets contained in retirement accounts.
Given this, if you hold assets in a retirement account you need to review your financial plan and estate plan as soon as possible. To help you with this process, here we’ll cover three of the SECURE Act’s biggest changes and how they stand to affect your retirement account both during your lifetime and after your death. Next week, we’ll look more deeply into a couple of additional strategies you may want to consider.
1. Increased age for Required Minimum Distributions (RMD)
Prior to the SECURE Act, the law required you to start making withdrawals from your retirement account at age 70 ½. But for people who haven’t reached 70 ½ by the end of 2019, the SECURE Act pushes back the RMD start date until age 72.
2. Repeal of the maximum age for IRA contributions
Under previous law, those who continued working could not contribute to a traditional IRA once they reached 70 ½. Starting in 2020, the SECURE Act removed that cap, so you can continue making contributions to your IRA for as long as you and/or your spouse are still working.
These two changes are positive because with our increased life spans people are now staying in the workforce longer than ever before, and the new rules allow you to continue contributing to your retirement accounts and accumulating tax-free growth for as long as possible.
However, to offset the tax revenue lost due to these beneficial changes, as you’ll see below, the SECURE Act also includes some less-favorable changes to the distribution requirements for retirement accounts after your death.
But one major change that you might not have noticed is the way the law altered the potential tax consequences of divorce.
Unlike child support, alimony payments have long been tax-deductible for the ex-spouse making the payments and taxed as income for the recipient. And alimony payments were an above-the-line deduction, meaning that the payor did not need to itemize in order to benefit from the tax advantage.
Because the spouse making payments was typically in a higher tax bracket than the recipient, shifting the income to the recipient’s lower tax bracket could result in significant overall tax savings. Indeed, this tax savings was often an important factor when negotiating divorce settlements, and it often led to larger alimony payments.
However, the TCJA repealed the alimony deduction and totally reversed the tax obligation: For divorce or separation agreements executed on or after January 1st, 2019, alimony payments are no longer tax deductible for the paying spouse, and alimony is no longer considered taxable income for the recipient.
Divorce or separation agreements executed before January 1, 2019 are grandfathered in under the law, meaning alimony will remain tax-deductible for the paying spouse and taxed to the recipient. That said, pre-2019, divorce agreements can be modified to apply the new rules to future alimony payments, provided the modification expressly states that the TCJA new tax treatment should apply.
Yet many of us put more effort into planning for our vacations than we do to prepare for a time when we may no longer earn an income.
Whether you’ve put off planning for retirement altogether or failed to create a truly comprehensive plan, you’re putting yourself at risk for a future of poverty, penny pinching, and dependence. The stakes could hardly be higher.
When preparing for your final years, it’s not enough to simply hope for the best. You should treat retirement planning as if your life depended on it—because it does. To this end, even well thought-out plans can contain fatal flaws you might not be aware of until it’s too late.
Have you committed any of the following three deadly sins of retirement planning?
1. Not having an actual plan
Even if you’ve been diligent about saving for retirement, without a detailed, goal-oriented plan, you’ll have no clear idea whether your savings strategies are working adequately or not. And such plans aren’t just about calculating a retirement savings number, funding your 401(k), and then setting things on auto-pilot.
Once you know how much you’ll need for retirement, you have to plan for exactly how you’ll accumulate that money and monitor your success. The plan should include clear-cut methods for increasing income, reducing spending, maximizing tax savings, and managing investments when and where needed.
What’s more, you should regularly review and update your asset allocation, investment performance, and savings goals to ensure you’re still on track to hit your target figure. With each new decade of your life (at least), you should adjust your savings strategies to match the specific needs of your new income level and age. The plan should also take into consideration unforeseen contingencies, such as downturns in the economy, health emergencies, layoffs, and inflation.
Failing to plan, as they say, is planning to fail.
In fact, earning big money is often even more possible when in your “growing up” years because most people are a lot more willing (and able) to take risks before they get bogged down with the “realities” of life.
While the old adage of “a penny saved is a penny earned” is applicable when you are talking about slowly growing a nest egg, incremental saving is usually an impractical route to millionaire status.
Many self-made millionaires in their 30s maintain that working smart and working hard can bring you from just making ends meet to a 7-figure income in as little as a decade. Focusing on these steps at any age can set you on the path to riches quickly.
Expand Your Earnings
Think big. Working a typical 9-5 schedule likely won’t make you a millionaire. Find ways to boost your income. Get creative and consider ways to make money on the side, start to create passive income streams, and start a business.
Many self-made millionaires have several streams of earned income, “passive” income and investment income. Multiple income streams can get you on the fast track to 7-figure status.
Invest Your Money
Saving is important, but it won’t launch you into millionaire status by your 40s. Elon Musk, famed tech billionaire, invested all his proceeds from his sale of Zip2 (which was the basis for PayPal). Instead of spending the money or putting it in savings, Musk, then just in his late-20s, invested every penny back into his next business ventures and even had to borrow money to pay his rent.
Musk’s strategy of investing rather than spending is tried and tested. Grant Cardone, another self-made millionaire, recalls he was still driving a Toyota Camry when he made his first million because he was putting everything he made back into his businesses.
An agent is someone you designate to handle your estate after you’ve gone or who can make decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself. Here are the kinds of agents everyone needs:
An executor is the person you designate to carry out your wishes for distributing your assets as listed in your last will and testament. You can choose a family member, a trusted friend or even a professional to fill this role.
If you and your spouse die before your children reach adulthood, a guardian is the person you designate to take care of your minor children as well as handle their finances. Sometimes people decide to split the roles – one guardian to raise the children and another to handle the finances. Choosing a guardian (as well as a backup in case your first choice cannot serve) ensures your kids are taken care of by the people you know, love and trust, no matter what. One of the best ways to protect your children is to have a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan®. Without it, your children are at risk of being taken into the care of strangers if the people you've named as permanent guardians don't live nearby or if your legal documents cannot be located.
The Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA) completely overhauled the tax code, and if you’ve yet to take full advantage of the benefits offered by the new tax law, now is the time to do so.
To qualify for some TCJA’ tax benefits, you’ll need to act by December 31, so don’t wait to get started. The following 4 tips could save your family big money on your 2019 tax bill. That said, there may be other strategic opportunities for savings, so contact your Personal Family Lawyer® to be certain you haven’t missed any.
1. Rethink itemization
Under the new tax law, itemizing your deductions might no longer make sense. That’s because the TCJA increased the standard deduction up to $12,200 for individuals and $24,400 for married couples filing jointly. So, if you're filing a joint return, you need more than $24,400 in itemized deductions to make itemization worth it.
The law also places new limits on itemized deductions, including a $10,000 cap on property taxes, and the elimination of state and local income-tax deductions.
Given these changes, taking the standard deduction might be the best option, but other factors, such as your health expenses and charitable giving, could affect your decision, so consult with us and/or your CPA to make sure.
2. Maximize contributions to retirement accounts
By maximizing your contributions to tax-deferred retirement accounts like IRAs and 401(ks), you can not only save for retirement, but also reduce your taxable income for 2019.
While Daniel shared these processes in the context of the impending death of a parent, the reality is that your parents are heading toward death, even if there is no official diagnosis. And starting these processes when mortality isn’t immediately on the table is even better.
1. Help them make a timeline of their life
Create a timeline of all the big events in their life, starting with birth and their earliest memories up to the present. This is a great way to get to know them even better while you still can. Recalling their life through these stories can help them harvest the gifts, relive the good times, and identify any areas that still feel unresolved.
There are apps for creating timelines, but it’s easily done with pen and paper. Create the timeline by writing “birth” on the far left of the page, and draw a horizontal line going towards “death” on the far right. Experiences are placed on the line chronologically in the order they occurred. Positive experiences are depicted as vertical lines going up from the horizontal line, and difficult experiences as lines going down. Write short descriptions to correspond with each experience.
One way to help prompt memories is to ask questions about different people, places, and things from their past: romantic relationships, jobs, and places they lived. Going through old photos, letters, and music can also trigger meaningful memories.
When documenting their life events, positive experiences can simply be recalled and enjoyed. For the negative ones, you can ask them what they learned from the experience and write that lesson in the description. In this way, you can find beauty and meaning in all of it.