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How to Prepare Financially for 2017

Goals are helpful but everyone always complains about how hard New Year’s resolutions are to keep.  So what can you do to make the New Year financially successful and ensure that goals you set in January don’t end up on the back burner by February?  Here are some of my thoughts about money and personal organization that can bring a lot of success to your financial life in 2017:

New Year Challenge: During the first month of the year, sit down with your spouse and start the discussion by announcing that you are dead, at least on paper. Then begin asking him or her the following thought-provoking questions and see how many of them they can answer without any prompting from you. This little exercise will reveal just how organized you are financially (oh, and how well you can communicate about such things).

  1. How much life insurance do I have on my life?
  2. Where is the policy?
  3. Who is the agent to call and report my death?
  4. How much debt do I have?
  5. Will you have to sell the house or refinance the mortgage, and how do you find out which you will need to do?
  6. Do I have any savings or safety deposit boxes?
  7. What investments do I have?
  8. Do I have a will or trust?
  9. How long will it take to clear assets and take ownership of the trust
  10. Who is the executor of my estate?
  11. Do I have a burial plot paid for?
  12. Does anyone owe me money, and how can you find out?
  13. Where do I keep my tax returns and who prepares them?
  14. Does Social Security pay a death benefit to you upon my death?
  15. How much will Social Security pay you when I die, and why/when?
  16. What attorney should you use and what will be his/her average costs to settle the estate?
  17. Where will the funeral be held and what will it cost?

Now you may be thinking that some of these questions most couples would know the answer to, together. But you might be surprised by how many spouses stay completely out of the finances and let the other partner handle everything. When their spouse dies, they have no idea what to do or what problems they may have to handle.  Asking these questions gets you both thinking and gives you a chance to review exactly what each partner knows or doesn’t know and what needs to be done to get on top of things financially so BOTH people are taking responsibility for the financial success of the marriage.

I urge yo to take this challenge in the New Year as a catalyst for getting completely and totally organized financially. For more ideas on financial organization, contact me at peter@moneymastery.com. The Money Mastery Master Planner organizational system I use personally and with my clients will totally change your life and help make 2017 the best year ever!

Organizing Your Finances Enables the Creation of Additional Wealth

It is so important to know the 10 financial principles that can change your life is so many wonderful ways. That’s why I have been spending time covering each of the Money Mastery Principles, which build upon each other and all work together in harmony. As you apply each principle on top of the next, you will get in better and better control financially. That’s what today’s post will cover, Principle 8, and the importance of organizing all the principles to work together.

Organizing Your Finances Enables the Creation of Additional Wealth. Disorganization breeds procrastination which leads to lost opportunities. Organizing your finances means knowing where important documents are, having an estate plan for your loved ones, and knowing how to protect your assets from over-taxation, litigation, and theft.  


It can be hard to know where to store important documents, but we must try.  When I see someone who is not organized, it makes me sad for them.  They have no idea how expensive it is to them by not being organized.  I know from personal experience, when I try to get organized, as soon as I get started I realize how long it will take and sometimes feel defeated before I get anything done.

Consider this statistic, only 1 out of 7 families has a simple will.  It is a well known fact we will all die.  No one has gotten out of this life alive.  Why don’t we get organized before we die so we don’t leave a financial mess for our family members? It’s largely because of this feeling of being overwhelmed with difficult decisions about what to do with certain things, and we give up before we have even begun.

In my 45 years of experience, I have helped many people get organized and it has made a world of difference to them to get that nagging feeling of not knowing what will happen to their money or belongings when they die off their mind and come to a place of peace, hope and prosperity. I have done this by first having them get their spending and debt under control. Once
these things are working well together, people find they are acquiring a little bit of a surplus and before long, they have money and assets they need to manage and organize so that Uncle Sam, inflation, and mismanagement doesn’t eat away everything they have worked so hard to put together.

So that’s when we get the wills and living trusts put together and name a guardian for their children.  I have watched while a family was mourning the loss of their father, they knew that he had provided enough money to pay for their college, and take care of Mom and all because he had stopped being frozen by what he perceived would be hard to do, and got organized, before it was too late.

Without planning, if you have minor children and both you andEstateOrganization your spouse pass away at the same time, your resident state will take over and direct all the affairs of the children.  And your assets and money will follow the guardians that the court appoints, during the court proceedings.  Along with foster parents chosen for you, all debts become due and payable upon death.  Add all the court costs and attorney’s fees and your family will pay out an additional $30,00 or more to get things settled.

Do the smart thing. For about $495 and 60 minutes you can avoid all this expense and give yourself peace of mind by setting up a living trust and funding it, then distribute copies to all family members who are involved for their records.  Go to www.easylegalplanning.com and get your financial affairs organized.  Then review documents once a year and make necessary changes.  Contact me with questions (801) 244-5756, or peter@moneymastery.com.

 

 

4 Horrible Ways to Avoid Probate

I have been helping my clients get organized financially for over 45 years.  I have seen many successes and some disasters. One of the worst disasters is to not take action against having your estate probated in court.  Probate, which is where the court must “prove” or settle your estate for you since you did not take any action to settle it for yourself before your death, is an expensive process. It’s better to avoid but some people, in an effort to get out of probate and not wanting to take the time and trouble to set up a will or trust, try to do estate planning themselves and end up hurting the ones they love.  

I love the following 2009 article by Jack Helgesen about the four bad ways to avoid probate in the state of Utah. Although it is specific to this state, the ideas Helgesen conveys about the wrong way to go about avoiding probate can be applied across almost all states. 

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Bad way # 1: Put your kids on the deed.  Marie’s heard she could avoid probate by putting her four children on the deed to her home. The deed cost her a fortune. Five years later, Marie’s daughter Terry filed bankruptcy after an accident. Her creditors discovered Marie’s deed and the court ordered a sale of Marie’s home to pay Terry’s debts. To save the home, Marie’s other children jointly signed a new mortgage to pay Terry’s creditors. The IRS discovered the deed and mortgage and denied Marie the tax IRS Rulesdeductions for the mortgage interest. The IRS also required a gift tax return for the value of the house. When she sold the house to pay the mortgage, Marie lost the once-in-a-lifetime tax exemption
for most of the house. She and her children paid over $30,000 in capital gains tax caused by the deed.

Bad way # 2: Sign an unrecorded deed for your property. Some Utahns think they can avoid the problems above by signing a deed but not recording it in the county records. This is risky. A deed which is recorded years after its signing can cause title problems. Living in a property for years after you deed it to another can suggest the deed is invalid, and may open the deed to an attack by creditors or other heirs. If the deed is accepted, large taxes may result from a transfer on the signature date.  Sometimes, the deeds are not found or are discarded by heirs who do not like the result. In other cases, they are forgotten and contradict estate plans created after the deed.   

 Bad way # 3:  Give away your property just before death.  Death-bed transfers of property are common. Two weeks before his Cemeterydeath, Robert signed deeds transferring his rental property and farm land to his children. He died not knowing his deeds had cost his family more than $100,000 in capital gains taxes on all of Robert’s gain on the property. If Robert had let the property pass through his will or trust – just two weeks later –  his heirs would have had no tax. 

 Bad way # 4.  Make one of your heirs the co-owner of your bank or brokerage account.  Thousands of Utah citizens have done this without realizing the heir will be treated as the sole legal owner of the account after the original owner dies. This creates the risks and problems described above. Don’t do it.  

 If you want to avoid probate, create a living trust, which satisfies Utah law.  (Published October 1, 2009, © 2009 UtahElderLaw.com)

Wills and Trusts Reviewed

Many people believe that wills are only for the aging, and trusts are only for the wealthy. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Whether you are a young couple with minor children, an individual with some personal property you would like taken care of at your death, or an elderly person trying to get your estate in order, wills and trusts are an important part of anyone’s personal financial organization and planning.

There are many resources I can recommend to receive good information regarding the establishment of will and/or trusts.  Following is information from the sites I like the best, including www.nolo.com and  www.easylegalplanning.com.  In addition, pricing through these organizations is extremely competitive, especially when compared to an attorney you meet with one-on-one.

Here’s a run down of what is recommended through these and other Internet sites:

Who Needs a Living Trust?

Living trusts have a distinct advantage over wills when it comes to avoiding probate. Probate, the process of court-supervised asset distribution at a person’s death, often involves a significant amount of time as well as attorney and court fees, as reported by Nolo. But the assets that are put in a trust are not subject to probate and go directly to beneficiaries. Additionally, although probate court proceedings are public records, trusts are private documents which leave the details of a person’s private life, their beneficiaries, and the assets they have confidential. And according to AARP, a living trust can substitute as a power of attorney if the owner of the trust becomes unable to manage financial affairs through illnessLegalAgreements or disability. Because of all these advantages, anyone can benefit from having a living trust.

Be aware, however, that there are significantly more legal expenses in creating a living trust than a will. And contrary to what some people believe, a living trust doesn’t provide any protection from paying property taxes.  A drawback of living trusts is that they can be difficult to modify, states Nolo. While a trust can be created without a lawyer, one that is drawn up by a lawyer can cost more than a thousand dollars. Even with a trust, it’s a good idea for an individual to write up a standard will to use as a back up.

Who Can Benefit from a Will?

Because trusts are more expensive to put in place, some people opt to create a simple will, which designates what the person wants done with their property at death. It gives some direction to the family and the court in terms of asset distribution, however, a will does have to be probated in court, or “proved” and this can take time and money. Couples with minor children should always have at the very least, a will in place that dictates who will become legal guardian of their children should they both pass away at the same time.  Many couples assume that if they were both to die  that family would be able to take over the care of their children automatically. Instead, children of deceased parents become wards of the state until legal issues with family can be sorted out in court. Parents’ personal wishes mean nothing after death without a will in place. Therefore, if you are a parent of minor children, do not wait another day, get at least a will in place immediately. Later you can work on creating a trust that will be private and not require probate, but for now make sure you at least have a will in place to protect your minor children!

How Are Living Trusts Administered?

“Owners of living trusts often name themselves and their spouses as trustees so they can maintain full control over the trust and change assets and beneficiaries as needed,” notes AARP. The AARP further states that children are often named as successor trustees. Living trusts can specify exactly how and when assets are passed on to beneficiaries upon the owner’s death. Owners of living trusts have the flexibility to dissolve them anytime for any reason.

According to LegalZoom, because the trust doesn’t have to be probated, the successor trustee can begin making distributions shortly after a person’s death, and the contents of the trust, as well as the directions for distribution, do not need to become public knowledge. In addition, the appointed trustee pays any bills incurred by the trust. Financial assets such as stocks, bonds and checking accounts must be transferred to the trust fund accordingly. Trusts can also be worded so the successor trustee can take over managing the fund if the owner of the living trust becomes incapacitated.

To decide whether or not a living trust is necessary, an individual should consider his age, his assets and his marital status, notes Nolo.

Annual Reviews: Why You Can Benefit from Them

The new year is a good time to get your entire life in order, including your financial life. Most people don’t think too much about ordering their finances, but believe it or not, financial organization is a key to prosperity and building wealth on ANY income.

To get your finances in order, consider doing an Annual Review of all your finances. This review should include at least the following tasks. As you become more adept at good money management, you may want to add additional review items, but for now, use the following list as a guide to conducting the annual review:

  • Review your Spending Plan for the last 12 months to be sure you have been able to live with your spending categories and the way you have spent within those categories; adjust categories and spending amounts for each of them as needed.
  • Review your savings as it relates to the 60/20/20 Rule.  Over the last year have you been ablePay yourself first to save at least 1 percent of your monthly income and allocate that savings appropriately between retirement savings, emergency savings, and emotional savings? What do you need to do to better save within each of these categories?
  • Review your debt load. How has it decreased over the last year? Run new Get Out of Debt Reports if needed and revise your debt payoff schedule if you need to further accelerate debt payoff. If you have become better at controlling your spending using the Spending Plan and tracking according to that plan then perhaps it’s time to apply a larger accelerator payment to your debt. Is there an asset you can sell to accelerate down debt? Do you need to let go of a collection you could sell and apply the proceeds to debt?
  • How well have you kept up on learning the rules of the financial games you are playing over the past year? Do you need to increase the number of articles and books you read to help you stay on top of your finances?
  • Review your Retirement Plan. Are you still on track with retirement? Do you need to revise savings amounts, consider additional ways to increase cash flow, or change the way you are savings for retirement?
  • Review all financial paperwork including wording for wills, trusts, powers of attorney, deeds, titles, etc. Make sure trusts, deeds, titles, and so forth are worded properly; if you have experienced any life changes in the last year including marriage, divorce, births, deaths, etc., make EstateOrganizationsure your legal documents are all worded to reflect these changes.
  • Review personal papers. Go through your medical, insurance, and personal property information to be sure it is complete and accurate.
  • Be sure assets are titled properly.
  • Finally, review your tax documentation in preparation for meeting with a CPA for tax preparation. Remember, your accountant does not take care of your taxes, you do!

For more information on how to conduct a thorough and effective Annual Review, contact the experts at Money Mastery:  (801) 292-1099.

 

The Lowdown on Wills and Trusts

A will is a basic legal document that allows you to choose how your property will be distributed after your death. A will also gives parents of minor children the chance to choose who will be guardian for their children. A will must be “probated” or proved in court to be valid. This means that property must be identified and appraised, debt and taxes must be settled, and attorney and court fees paid, all from the deceased person’s estate.

Probate can eat as much as 15 percent of an estate’s assets. A living trust, on the other hand, is a legal entity that owns and manages your property before and after your death, as well as defining h
ow assets, and the income earned by the trust, will be distributed after your death. If you should become incapacitated, the trust is in place to manage your financial affairs, usually by a successor trustee. A Cemeteryrevocable living trust is not subject to probate, and therefore, the trust will remain private.

 

Is a Trust Right for You? 

Because there are many different types of trusts, determining the answer can be a bit complex. Organizing your finances as taught by Money Mastery Principle 8 and consulting with a financial coach (this is not a financial adviser) will help you discover what is most beneficial for you and your family.

The idea of a trust has a history dating back to the early 1500’s where wealthy English landowners found it advantageous to convey the legal title of their land to third parties, while still maintaining ownership. Because they were no longer the “real” land owners, they could not be hounded by creditors and may have avoided problems with feudal lords. While such social class systems no longer exist and wealth is held in many forms other than land (i.e., stocks, bonds, bank accounts), the idea of placing property in third party hands for the benefit of another still survives today in the form of our modern-day trusts.

Are trusts just for the wealthy? Trusts are becoming a more popular estate planning tool that virtually anyone can take advantage of. There are no legal minimum amount of assets required to set up a trust. AssetsHowever, you will want to assess the number of assets you need to justify the cost of creating one and maintaining it. Even though a trust does not have to be probated at death, unlike a will it requires separate tax filing and other maintenance costs. 

What can a trust do for me? A trust is for anyone who wants to take care of his family before and after death. It allows you to control how your assets will be managed while you are alive and how they will be distributed after your death. For example, you may want your children to receive a certain sum of money on their 21st birthday. A trust will allow that money to be distributed at that time, even if you are still alive. You can name yourself as the trustee of the trust and personally control all of your assets.

What kind of trust should I set up? There are several different types of trusts, including the most commonly used — a revocable living trust — to life insurance trusts and privacy trusts, to irrevocable trusts. Meet with an experienced estate planning attorney to help determine which is right for you.

Who will be involved in the trust? Family trusts usually name the husband and wife as trustees. When one spouse dies, the other continues running the trust as co-trustee. When both die, a successor18284 trustee, who could be a son or daughter or other family member, will act as trustee. In the case of childless widows and widowers, a bank trustee can be named to manage the affairs of the trust. It is also wise to name a second successor trustee in case the first declines to serve. Upon your death and the death of your spouse, the successor trustee will either liquefy the estate and close out the trust or will continue to manage it for your family and heirs. The trust should be set up to compensate successor trustees for their service.

How are assets handled in the trust? One of the biggest mistakes people make with a trust is not putting all of their assets in the name of the trust. This is called “funding” the trust. Even when an asset is in the trust, it can still be sold, rented, or even given away. When you die, assets you wish to have distributed to beneficiaries pass directly to them, without requiring them to pay capital gains tax.

What documents are usually needed with a trust? You will still need a will, and a pour-over will (includes within the trust any property not specifically named in the trust at the time of your death). It is also wise to prepare a living will indicating your wishes in case of incapacitation, and a power of attorney, giving someone the legal right to manage your financial affairs upon your incapacitation.

For more information on trusts, contact me (801) 292-1099, ext. 1.

Asset Protection: Why It’s More Important than Ever for Your Personal and Business Finances

“Own nothing, but control everything,” said John D. Rockefeller, the 20th century’s wealthiest American and widely considered the world’s richest man.

Because he was so rich (and everybody knew it), he understood the importance of taking his assets out of his own name and placing them in a protected plan that let him maintain control over them — this to safeguard himself from legal wranglings with those who might seek a chunk of his fortune.

But asset protection is not just for the super-wealthy anymore. With today’s “litigation explosion” virtually anybody with decent home equity, retirement funds, real estate holdings, and/or a business couldSalesperson be at risk of being sued. Why? Because it’s become harder for lawyers to make money off the big guns such as banks, corporations, and insurance companies.

For example, it used to be that insurance companies would routinely settle a serious accident case at about six times the cost of the actual damages. But due to the massive increase in lawsuits, today those companies are not apt to settle at all, fighting every claim in court and making it difficult for attorneys to get any money out of them. To make up for those financial losses, lawyers are now going after a new set of “deep pockets” — “average” consumers with real estate, businesses, or retirement savings that can be tapped.

According to Robert J. Mintz, a California-based asset protection attorney,

As long as a lawyer can find a potential defendant with even modest assets, he will attempt to make a case using clever liability theories. There are nearly 1 million aggressive, motivated lawyers in the U.S. and not enough “good” cases to go around, so if you’ve got something to lose, attorneys will be looking for you. Remember, in today’s litigious society, people are named as defendants in lawsuits not due to their degree of fault, but due to their ability to pay.

 

Fight Back by Removing the Incentive to Sue

First of all, understand that you can’t count on property, business, or malpractice insurance to go to battle for you and completely win the war. Insurance serves its purpose, but it will only cover so much and then attorneys will go after your personal assets. If you have real estate or own a business, you are a prime candidate for a lawsuit, and no matter how much insurance you carry, it will never be enough.

EstateOrganizationSecond, set a goal to successfully discourage lawsuits by determining the best way to hold your assets in a protected manner. Meet with a competent estate planning attorney to do this. Remember, all an attorney has to do to name you in a lawsuit is show your ability to pay. Following is a basic list of asset protection methods that can help increase your defense against litigation.

1. Ownership by spouse: this requires that you create a Family Limited Partnership (FLP) or a Limited Liability Company (LLC). Assets are placed in the FLP or LLC and owned by your spouse. If you are a business owner, for example, and are named in a lawsuit, no one can claim your personal property since it’s in the name of your spouse.

2. Ownership by children: you can gift your assets to your children to take them out of your name. Bear in mind that there will be gift-tax to pay.

3. Set up an Equity Reduction Plan (ERP) to protect real estate or business assets. A trust is formed and a contract developed on the assets in an LLC or FLP held in the trust. The contract is supported by aLegalAgreements lien or mortgage and the mortgage “equity” is then gifted or “sold” to the trust. Equity can then be borrowed against for business purposes. If you are sued, the ERP is superior to the claim on you.

4. Set up a basic LLC if you are a new start-up. While corporations are usually considered the best way to provide liabilityprotection, the “corporate veil” can be pierced by the legal system. An LLC can provide the most flexibility with outstanding asset protection for new start-ups.

5. Explore the world of trusts. Such things as Privacy Trusts can conceal ownership of bank and brokerage accounts, personal residence, rental properties, etc. To provide complete privacy and asset protection, set up an FLP or LLC and put into a Privacy Trust.

These are only a few of the options available for asset protection. Be sure to consult with your attorney to set up a plan suited to your particular circumstance.

To learn more about organizing finances to protect against litigation and taxes, call me directly:  (888) 292-1099, ext. 1.