Estate sales come at a time when families are at a crossroads resulting from one of the dreaded three D’s: death, divorce, and downsizing. For many, the task of organizing items acquired over a lifetime can be overwhelming, especially when coupled with having to determine each item’s value. It’s a task that can take novices not weeks but months, which is why many people enlist the help of professional estate sale planners.
Selecting a reputable estate sales professional is important. These are your possessions, and many of them are valuable.
When finding an estate sales person, ask your family, friends, and business professionals for recommendations. Your estate planning attorney may have some very good references.
Next, look into their business histories and customer reviews at the Better Business Bureau’s website, and conduct a search online to see what type of articles or reviews of their services have been posted.
You should then choose a few and interview these professionals in person before deciding on the company you want to engage. Ask them about their credentials, certifications, and education in the area of estate sales. Also, make sure that they are insured and bonded.
Ask for the names of three or four references. Contact them to find out about their experiences working with the company and whether or not they would hire them again.
Before signing the contract, make sure you understand it, and consider asking your attorney to review it for you. Just so there are no surprises, you’ll want to find out the following from the estate sales business you plan to use:
Does the company charge a flat fee or commission?
What is their commission and are there additional fees?
What services are included?
What do you need to prepare for the sale?
Is there an extra charge to clean before and after the sale?
How much time will they need to get the estate ready for the sale?
How are sales recorded?
Can the family attend?
How are discounts or negotiations handled?
What do they do with stuff that doesn’t sell?
Ask these questions well in advance so you’re totally prepared when the time comes to have an estate sale.
With Thanksgiving and the winter holidays coming up, there are at least two prime opportunities to get families all under one roof and talking. Estate planning should be part of that conversation. No, it probably won't be comfortable, but estate planning rarely is.
"We have clients, and there are certain individuals, that keep things closer to the vest, have a lot of pride and aren't as open with their family in sharing their wishes, estate information and investment/asset information," says Margaret Paddock, Twin Cities market leader for U.S. Bank's The Private Client Reserve. "It's an uncomfortable situation to be in, but it's also uncomfortable for the child who has to somewhat push themselves into the parent role. It can ruin a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner pretty quickly." Paddock knows this all too well. Some 15 years ago, she watched her 53-year-old mother struggle with early onset dementia. She would get lost driving to familiar places and forget to bathe or wash her clothes. Then she lost her job as a result and was even scammed out of her life savings by a caller who'd told her she won the Mexican lottery and only had to wire $30,000 to pay off the taxes on her "winnings." By the time Paddock and her family thought to address estate planning, she says it was far too late and – thanks to an early misdiagnosis – her mother was not able to make many of those estate planning decisions for herself.
In "Estate Planning Over Thanksgiving? Time to Talk Turkey,"thestreet.com says that holiday estate planning is wise because with families all over the country or around the world, the holidays are a family's best bet at addressing important issues with everyone in the same room. If Mom and Dad are serious about having a discussion with their family about their estate planning intentions, they need to tell the family it's going to happen when everyone is there—it can't be sprung on folks after they give thanks.
If families or cultures are averse to raising such topics around the holidays, there should be an annual meeting to let family members know where an estate plan stands.
When combing through assets, remember that no item is too small for discussion, especially during the holidays. It is a natural time for emotions to run high, but it is a great time to discuss items of seemingly insignificant value that may take on added significance for each potential heir.
These discussions are going to make some people uncomfortable. But even though you can't compel family members to participate against their will, you can learn valuable information about those family members through their reactions. For example, if a family member skips these meetings because of the emotional toll, he or she likely isn't the right person to take on power of attorney or to serve as executor of the will. In fact, the first meeting might be a great time to address that discomfort and consider bringing in an estate planning attorney to make recommendations. Some estate planning attorney may be willing to serve in such roles.
Although there isn't really a consensus on whether the holidays are the best time to set an estate plan in motion, it is an opportunity to address concerns and answer questions about the future. As the family grows and changes, these meetings can help with discussions and answer questions like why the parents want a child's name added to their bank account to help ward off fraud, the elements of one's life and finances that should be discussed if they become incapacitated, as well as the provisions being made for your family's future.
Guardians are supposed to look after and protect the interests of their wards. Unfortunately, it has become all too common for guardians to take advantage of their wealthy elder wards.
The purpose of court appointed guardians is a simple and noble one. When a person is not competent to handle his or her own affairs, then a court can appoint a guardian to act on the person's behalf. The guardian is supposed to act selflessly and in the best interests of the ward.
Court appointed guardians with no family relationship to the elderly wards too often act in their own interests and deplete the wealth of the wards.
This problem is mostly avoidable through estate planning. Part of a good estate plan is planning for end of life issues and getting a general durable power of attorney and a health care power of attorney. With those two documents, you can appoint someone you know and trust to look after your financial and medical affairs in case you are ever not competent to do so. Doing that can often make the appointment of a guardian unnecessary.
Even if a guardian is necessary, a court will likely appoint the person you have already designated as trustworthy whenever possible.
Are you (or a loved one) age 65 or older and living at home? If yes, then you probably share the sentiment of Dorothy when she famously declared “There’s no place like home” in the classic film The Wizard of Oz. This is especially true as we age.
Anything you can do to continue performing as many of the “activities of daily living” (e.g., eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, and transferring) in your own home will be money well-spent toward maintaining your independence.
Aging in Place A survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures found that 90 percent of people over the age of 65 would prefer to remain right where they are – home. This desire is called “Aging in Place” which the Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.”
To age in place, you will need to plan for an aging “you” and make modifications to your present home today so you can remain there tomorrow. First, however, let’s consider the challenges.
Common Challenges Aging is not for sissies. With each passing birthday each of us experiences diminished functioning on multiple levels, some more subtle than others. These levels include getting around, using our hands, thinking/remembering and our five senses (i.e., sight, sound, smell, taste and touch). When you add all of these functions together, it is only logical that the CDC identifies “falling” as the leading cause of injuries to seniors. In fact, one out of three seniors experience a fall each year. Consequently, anything that can be done to reduce the risk of falling is a big plus when it comes to remaining in your home.
Common Solutions Fortunately, there is a lot that can be done to make your home more senior-friendly. Starting with the basics, eliminate any throw rugs and any clutter on the floor. Be sure to tighten up buckled carpet or remove it completely. While you are at it, improve the lighting everywhere. You cannot step around what you cannot see.
For those in a wheelchair, or who use a walker or a cane, ramps will be needed to permit access. Other structural changes may be required.
Remember: you want to ensure access and safety at the same time. One of the most hazardous, yet important places to make accessible and safe is the bathroom. With potentially slick floors and sharp-edged countertops, bathroom falls can be fatal.
Consider installing bathroom grab bars, railings, a walk-in shower, a hand-held shower head, and maybe even a walk-in tub.
New Technology Have you ever heard of “smart homes”? The future is now as homes are being developed to “interact” with the senior living there. From monitoring health status and cognitive functioning to whether there is enough of your favorite food in the refrigerator, the latest developments could permit you to live independently much longer … and provide your loved ones with greater peace of mind regarding your safety.
A Win-Win With the high costs of assisted living, intermediate and skilled nursing care, helping seniors age in place benefits everyone. Nevertheless, both planning and action are the twin keys to making that happen. For more information on this and other elder law and estate planning subjects, contact Idaho Estate Planning and schedule a consultation. Remember, good planning is no accident.
I’m a “brat”, and my dad was a “lifer”. I grew up in the Air Force. For most of you being called a brat would be an insult. For those of us raised in the military it is a term of endearment and even respect. Growing up “on base” is a very unique experience, one that I treasure. While some experiences are exactly the same as growing up in any small town there are plenty that only come to those who live on a military installation.
We moved to Mt. Home Air Force Base the summer before my sophomore year of high school. In Idaho I could get my driver’s license at 14 so I spent that summer taking driver’s education. Shortly into the school year I had some friends who wanted to come over to the house after school. I was happy to drive them as it was good practice. They had not been on base before and were fascinated by the process of going through the gate, as well as driving by the rows of identical houses and complexes. I showed them the Commissary, Base Exchange, the Youth Center and of course they were amazed by the planes.
Suddenly everything stopped. I pulled the car over and turned it off which stopped the music that was coming from the car’s radio. There were puzzled looks on my friend’s faces and they asked what was up. I told them to be quiet and listen. Echoing over the base was the sound of “The Star Spangled Banner”. They looked around they realized every car had pulled over. Everyone, whether they were on the sidewalk, in their yard, even kids on the playground had stopped what they were doing and were looking to where the sound came from. Those in uniform were saluting; the rest had a hand over their heart. When the music ceased everyone carried on with their activities.
Of course an explanation was in order, as my friends had no idea what was going on. I told them that every morning and evening the sound of reveille and then retreat signaled the start and end of the day. There was a flag on the base that raised and lowered to the music. If we could see the flag we faced it, if we couldn’t see the flag we looked in the direction from which the music came paying respect to our flag and country.
It didn’t matter what we were doing. If we were playing baseball the umpire would stand up and hold the game while the players removed their caps and placed them over their heart. No matter what was going on in our busy life we stopped and paid respect to the flag.
You might have guessed I have a very soft spot for our national anthem. I will admit, I like it performed simply and correctly in such a manner that others can sing along. I always sing along, and yes, I know all the words, not just the “land of the free and the home of the brave” part. It is an honor to sing the national anthem, one I do not pass up when given the opportunity. I know the first verse the best, I’m a little rough on the 2nd and 3rd but I love the 4th verse because it reminds me of the good men and women I have known who honorably served their country.
O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand Between their loved homes and the war's desolation. Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: "In God is our trust." And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Today is a special Veterans Day for me. I now have two of them in my family, my dad and my oldest son. My boy recently finished his time with the Air Force and is officially a veteran. I am very proud of him and his honorable service. I want to thank my son and my father as well as all the vets out there for all you have done for me, my country, my family; for our liberty, our honor, and our peace.
God Bless Us All & God Bless the United States of America
Knowing what the most common estate planning mistakes are is a great first step, but it does not do any good unless you also know how to avoid them.
The old saying that knowledge is power is only a half truth in many cases. You do not just need to know a fact. You also need to know how to use that fact to derive power.
This is the case in estate planning.
For example, you might know that it is desirable to avoid probate, but that is of little use unless you also know how to create an estate plan that will keep an estate out of probate. For the same reason it is important to not only know what common estate planning mistakes are but also to know how to avoid them.
Updating Beneficiary Designations – People often fail to update the beneficiaries of their retirement accounts and life insurance policies, which leads to the wrong people getting the assets. Avoiding this mistake is as simple as filling out a form.
Communicating With Heirs – When your heirs do not know what to expect from your estate plan, it can lead to hurt feelings and anger. This can be avoided by telling people what to expect.
Creating Your Own Will – If you create your own will, you are likely to make mistakes in it. To avoid this problem, seek the assistance of an estate planning attorney.
Failing to Account for the Estate Tax – If you do not plan for the estate tax, then your estate might face a hefty bill that could have been avoided.
Fortunately, these potential miscues can be avoided by contacting a qualified estate planning attorney to guide you. At Idaho Estate Planning we are the experts you need to know and trust. Work with us and we'll put together a plan that works for you and your loved ones. Remember, good planning is no accident.
"Cheryl Gneiting was worried when she got a text warning her that her debit card was “limited” and she needed to call right away to fix the issue.
The Idaho woman uses her card every day.
“That’s the way I do things — with my card,” she said."
Cheryl's story is related in the Idaho Statesman article by Dale Dixon. Cheryl is not alone in being taken advantage of by cell phone scammers. These criminals take advantage of our fear that we will not have access to our accounts. They pretend to be representatives from the bank, cellular service providers, auto and home loan companies, and even law enforcement.
In the article by Dale Dixon Cheryl's story continues:
As instructed in the text, she called the “office” at 801-889-XXXX and got an official-sounding recording telling her that her card was locked and she couldn’t use it. The recording then prompted her through a series of commands.
She entered her card number, then the three-digit security code from the back of the card, then her home address. When she was told to enter her PIN, she balked.
“I thought ‘Why would they ask me for my PIN? The bank has that,’” she said.
Feeling duped, she hung up and immediately called her bank.
The bank representative stopped Gneiting’s debit card and went through all of her recent transactions to make sure she’d made them. The representative said no fraudulent transactions had been attempted but the bank would issue Gneiting a new card.
“They hadn’t gotten access to my account; we got it stopped in time,” Gneiting said.
These types of scams happen to people of all ages but the elderly seem to be a favorite target. If you or someone you love feels you may have been the target of one of these scams report it immediately. If you receive a text regarding an account DO NOT RESPOND TO THE TEXT! Instead, call the institution directly with a number you know is correct. If there really is a problem with your account they will be able to help you. More likely though, you will find they did not reach out to you by text using a number you're unfamiliar with.
Dale Dixon is the president of the Idaho Better Business Bureau. You can read more scam alerts by Dale here. As Dale says "Bottom line: Don't react or respond to a text from an unfamiliar number. Good advice Dale.
Estate planning is about more than money. It’s also about handling the emotional aspects of leaving an estate to one’s heirs. In fact, family disputes often arise over the emotional aspects of “fairly” dividing up the physical mementos of loved ones.
Parents can be stymied over how to treat their children fairly. In addition to choices about how to fairly distribute their property, parents must decide who will inherit the responsibility for divvying up their possessions, who will handle the money, and who will pull the plug. Sometimes, parents become so overwhelmed by these emotionally-charged decisions, they can become paralyzed and not make any decision. Then, the unexpected happens, and the court must decide for them.
We Encourage Proactivity
We strongly encourage parents and their children to hold a family meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss these specific issues. You might find it valuable to ask a trusted individual to act as facilitator. You may feel reluctant to discuss issues related to death but please remember how important they are. After all, these are issues that, as parents you can only resolve while you’re still alive.
Avoid Post-Death Litigation
It is critical to put all the issues on the table; this can help prevent disputes that lead to litigation after your death. Some studies indicate that if such a family discussion is not held, the surviving children are five times more likely to have a dispute over the estate.
Among the most important issues that you and your family need to discuss include sharing values, life lessons, distributing physical possessions, fulfilling final wishes, and money.
They May Not Be Able To Work It Out Alone
Don’t assume that your kids will work everything out while at the same time dealing with the stress of grief for a lost parent. That can be a formula for disaster, and is the kind of thinking that indirectly enables lawyers to share in the inheritance. If nothing is done, sibling relationships can be altered forever, and usually not for the better.
When it is all said and done, it's the family you're planning for in the first place. Therefore, in order to plan properly, first you need to understand your family. Proper planning ought to include discussing these issues with your family and then making the final decisions. Communication is key. We've said it before, proper planning starts with a thorough understanding of your needs, goals, dreams and aspirations. It takes into account your Values not just your Valuables. Let's work together to implement an estate plan that works for you. Remember, good planning is no accident.
The legalese: To state it accurately, a trust is a legal relationship in which one party holds property that was entrusted to him for the benefit of another. (Of course, it might not come as a surprise to you that there are better ways to explain things than using the legalese.)
The better explanation: A trust works like a bucket. Someone puts property into the bucket. That someone is often called the “trustor” or “grantor,” but many of our documents use the term “Trustmaker.” A second person (or institution) manages what’s in the bucket. In most documents, that manager is referred to as the “trustee.” The third person’s job is the one we all would like to have. This role is to receive some benefit from the property in the trust. This person is known as the “beneficiary.”
The tricky thing about trusts is that one person can play more than one role at the same time. Similarly, more than one person can play the same role. For example, a married couple can be the Trustmakers and also serve as the trustees. In most living trusts, the same person or persons serve all three roles. For example, a married couple can be the Trustmakers and also serve as the trustees. They put the property into the trust for their benefit and appoint themselves as managers.
Trusts Come in Different Models
Once we understand that the trust works like a bucket, we still need to understand the different types of trusts. Should your trust be revocable or irrevocable? Living or testamentary? Like cars, trusts come in different makes and models. Just as a father of six may select a minivan for his family rather than the two-seat sports car of his dreams, the Trustmaker must choose the model that suits his needs.
A Trusted Variety
First, you will need to choose between a revocable or irrevocable trust. This refers to the ability of the Trustmaker to undo the trust. A revocable trust can be undone, that is, revoked. An irrevocable trust cannot be undone, and generally, the Trustmaker cannot change the terms of the trust once it’s established.
Another choice is between living trusts and testamentary trusts. Living trusts, also known as intervivos trusts, are established during the lifetime of the Trustmaker. Testamentary trusts are established after the death of the Trustmaker. A testamentary trust is often created at the end of the probate process according to the instructions in the deceased person’s last will and testament. Having been described in the last testament it is called a testamentary trust.
Some Taxation Terms
Accountants will often ask whether a trust is simple or complex. This question isn’t asking how easy the trust is to understand or administer. It’s basically asking about distribution of the trust income. Simple trusts mandate payment of the trust’s income to the beneficiaries, while complex trusts do not mandate such payment.
Since we’re talking about taxation of trusts, we need to consider the term “grantor trust.” With this type of trust, the income the trust earns is taxed to the Trustmaker. Almost all revocable living trusts are grantor trusts, but some irrevocable trusts can be grantor trusts, as well, if the trust contains certain provisions.
If a trust is not a grantor trust, then the trust itself is considered a separate taxpayer, and is responsible for paying the taxes on its income. In other words, if it isn’t a grantor trust, the bucket must pay the taxes from the assets in the bucket.
The Most Common Combination
The most common type of trust used in estate planning is the revocable living trusts that are taxed as grantor trusts. These are trusts established during the Trustmaker’s lifetime, which he can undo if he so chooses. Irrevocable trusts are more commonly used when we are trying to help a family protect assets, especially in the realm of elder law.