Planning for Social Security

One of the great mysteries of our 60’s is when to claim your social security benefit. The dilemma is whether to start at the earliest opportunity (62), wait until full retirement age (66) or delay until 70 to receive the maximum benefit. The question is compounded when we are married and have the option to claim a spousal benefit against our spouse’s Social Security.

The timing of potentially four different claims (yours, your spouse’s and each of your spousal benefit claims) can have a significant impact on your ultimate benefit and when those benefits should start.

A new online social security calculator runs the math for each possible scenario. The site is called Open Social Security. It’s free and does not ask for your Social Security number. You’ll input your marital status, gender, birthdate and current estimated Social Security payments at 66. It will report the best strategy to maximize the Social Security benefits you and your spouse will receive over your lifetime(s).

The best way to solve the Social Security dilemma is to do your homework. Taking a look at the math for your situation is the information you need to plot your financial future.

Posted in Beneficiary Designations, Estate Planning |

What Teens Should Know About Alcohol

Minor in Possession  MIP
A minor who attempts to purchase alcohol, consume alcohol or has bodily alcohol content is in violation of state statues and will face both fines and sanctions by the court.

Driving Under the Influence  DUI
The first offense of driving under the influence is punishable by up to six month in jail. Repeated offenders face felony charges, jail sentences of several years are not uncommon. In addition to jail sentences, the courts impose large fines for DUI’s

Other Consequences
In addition to legal penalties, offenders may have their driver’s license suspended for a substantial period of time, insurance companies may cancel your policy or drastically increase rates. A drunk driving charge stays on a person’s driving record for many years. Certain jobs that require driving may no longer be an employment option. The real financial cost of a first offense DUI can total anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000.

Posted in Personal Protection |

How Lady Bird Deeds Work

This deed, with a colorful name, is a very handy tool. A lady bird deed transfers lifetime interest in your property to you making you the life tenant.  The deed names a remainder beneficiary who has a future interest in your property upon your death.

Your remainder beneficiary can include multiple people, trusts, or organizations. You can change your remainder beneficiary at anytime.

As the life tenant, you still have the right to sell, gift, mortgage or otherwise dispose of your property without the consent of your named beneficiary.

A unique benefit of lady bird deeds is the automatic transfer of your property upon death thus avoiding the need for probating the transfer through the court system.  Medicaid Asset Protection is another benefit of using lady bird deeds.  Property transferred with a ladybird deed is not subject to a Medicaid lien on your probate estate.

Why the name lady bird deed?  A law professor simplified the legal name, Enhanced Life Estate Deed, in honor of former U.S. President Lyndon Johnson’s wife, Claudia ‘Lady Bird’ Johnson.

Posted in Estate Planning, Real Estate |

Paying for Nursing Home Care

In order to qualify for Medicaid assistance with the expense of nursing home care you must have exhausted the majority of your assets. Your cash assets cannot exceed $2,000, but your homestead real estate equity is allowed up to $560,000. This discrepancy in allowances means that you can protect a significant portion of your assets with proper planning.
At our office, we use ‘lady bird deeds’ and other legal means to protect you from Medicaid liens or the supervision of the probate court. If you or a family member are facing these issues contact us for an appointment. In this area of the law, pre-planning is critical.

Posted in Estate Planning |

Parent FYI: Teen Rights and Responsibilities

Parents would be well advised to consider the following list of teen rights and responsibilities. Michigan law defines these for teenagers once they turn 18 years of age.

Rights for teens are as follows:

-To vote
-To make a will and power of attorney
-To make their own end-of-life decisions
-To sign a contract in their own name
-To obtain medical treatment without parental consent
-To enlist in the armed forces without parental consent
-To be completely independent from parental control
-To apply for credit in their own name
-To be an organ donor
-To buy a lottery ticket

With these rights come  important responsibilities:

-You will be tried in adult criminal court rather than juvenile court
-Your parents are no longer required to support you
-You may be sued on contracts you sign
-You are eligible for jury duty
-All males must register with the Selective Service

Knowing what’s ahead can help you prepare your children to enjoy the privileges and handle the responsibilities that come with being considered an adult.

Posted in Custody, Identity Theft, Personal Protection | Tagged , |

Planning for your elder care

Thinking ahead to your golden years is difficult because there are so many unknowns. Yet failure to give consideration to what’s ahead can result in the loss of assets, poor care and hardship for your spouse or other family members.

You can express your wishes regarding the level of care you’d like, how you’ll pay for it and protect your assets through estate planning. This exercise in self-determination will provide you and your family members peace of mind going forward.

If you are unable, powers of attorney and healthcare directives allow a trusted representative to manage your financial and medical affairs. That person can even apply for the medical benefits provided by the government if needed with these tools.

Both Medicaid and the Veterans Administration benefits have strict income and asset thresholds.  With advanced planning these benefits can be accessed and managed to best preserve your savings.

Everyone’s aging process is unique.  But we all strive to have quality care and the peace of mind that our affairs are in order. An experienced Elder Care attorney recognizes this and can help you tailor an individualized plan to achieve these goals.

Posted in Beneficiary Designations, Estate Planning, Personal Protections |

Making home inspections a contingency

For most of us, buying a home will be our largest investment.  A home inspection can confirm it’s a good one.

A well-trained and qualified home inspector will review the condition of the house structure and all it’s systems. They climb on the roof, poke at the foundation and crawl into attics. In doing so, they can identify any problems the untrained eye might miss.

If you make a home inspection contingent on your purchase of the house, you can work with the seller to resolve problems before finalizing the deal.

To make the home inspection a contingency, include it in your purchase agreement. If the seller is not able to resolve any issues found in a home inspection to your satisfaction, you can back out of the purchase.

Getting a home inspection before finalizing the purchase of your new home is a wise decision. By identifying issues before you buy a new home, unforeseen (and sometimes expensive) problems can be avoided.

Posted in Real Estate | Tagged , , |

Married Couples Dilemma: Who Gets the Kids?

For busy couples raising a family, taking time to considerwho gets the kids’ is the last thing on the to-do list. In fact, 65% of Americans have nothing in writing regarding the care of their children and distribution of assets upon their passing. Simply put, they do not have a will.
If you have minor children, a will is a must. With this document you can name your children’s legal guardian should you pass before they are of legal age. Without a will, a court will make these decisions on your behalf.
No one is planning to die in the near future, which is why the conversation about naming guardians for your children gets put off. Have that conversation and create a will to ensure that your belongings and most treasured possession, your children, are in good hands.

Posted in Estate Planning | Tagged , , |

Estate Plan Documents: Where are they?

Imagine your loved ones not being able to locate the documents you had prepared to administer your estate? A stressful time just became more challenging. One of the most important things about your estate plan and associated documents is remembering where they are.

Keeping Track
There are three important questions to ask yourself. First, where are your documents? Second, have you told your spouse or family members the location of your documents? Finally, do your documents include the important details such as: account numbers, passwords, names and contact information for advisers and financial institutions.

To Be Clear
An important extra step would be to put together a summary of your estate plan and share it with your family. The summary would outline how your estate plans works and note the location of your documents and how to access them. Here you could include a list of the important details needed to access accounts and financials institutions.

Your Estate Plan
We keep a copy of all estate plans and related documents for our clients. In addition we send reminders to review those documents and make necessary changes. We also provide clients with checklist to help them organize their information into one document to share with family members. Call us if you’d like a copy.

Posted in Estate Planning, Uncategorized | Tagged , |

Digital Asset Estate Planning

Did you know you own assets, separate from your real estate and personal property known as “digital assets”? A digital asset is digitally stored content or an online account owned by an individual.
Your digital assets have personal value and in some cases significant financial value (think of bitcoin or a domain name). Like other assets, in the event of death or disability, planning for others to access these assets on your behalf, is critically important. Just as accessing a bank account that is not yours without permission, accessing on-line accounts that are not yours is against the law.
In most cases using a power of attorney paired with a consent document specifically for your digital assets is sufficient to give digital permission to others during your lifetime. Such a consent can also be paired with a will or trust to allow access upon death. Technology changes fast and the legalities of digital assets will continue to evolve, but one thing is certain, the safety of your digital assets can easily be secured by planning ahead.

Posted in Beneficiary Designations, Estate Planning | Tagged |

E-Newsletter Subscription

Get the latest updates from Charles H. Gross, Attorney at Law when you sign up for our enewsletter!

View Published Newsletters.