It’s never too soon to make plans

May 8, 2013 

Unfortunately, I meet a lot of people who don’t know what they don’t know until it’s too late.

Last week I met with a woman whose husband died suddenly and unexpectedly, and he didn’t have a will. Their home was in his name only, so the court divided the property into thirds. She received one third of the home, and their two children each received a third. Fortunately, the children were willing to sign their shares over to their mother, but that’s not always the way it goes.

Another problem I see frequently involves beneficiary designations. People believe that their will directs where all of their money goes. This is not so. All retirement accounts, annuities and life insurance policies pay benefits directly to the named beneficiaries. These beneficiary designations override the will. You can even add a Pay on Death form to bank accounts, and a Transfer on Death form to non-retirement investment accounts. This way, none of these transfers goes through probate, and the money goes directly to the intended beneficiary.

I see a lot of caregiver families that are working through the question of whether to move mom or dad into an assisted living facility or nursing home. When I ask whether one of their parents ever served in the military, most times I learn that the father served during a war. I refer these people to the local Veteran’s Affairs service center to see if they will qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits, which can help pay for care in a facility. The adult children had never heard that their parents may receive any VA benefits, and assumed they would not as they did not retire from the military.

And, in some cases, the recent economic downturn has driven people to do things they would not ordinarily do. I recently met with a man who has had five different full-time jobs in the past two years due to layoffs and underemployment. He is getting back to the income level he had before the first layoff, but it has been tough. He was asking me whether he should take a loan from his current 401k to pay for needed home repairs. We looked at all of his options, and since he has had his Roth IRA for over five years, and is over 59, I suggested he take the money from that account instead. Because it is a Roth account, he will not owe any tax on the distribution.

The purpose of this article is to get you to think through your current situation, the financial decisions you are making and your estate plan to ensure everything is as it should be. To learn more about basic estate planning, order the free consumer guide, “Who’s Really Going to Get Your Money When You Die,” by visiting www.whogetsyourmoney.com.

Sherri Goss is vice president of Rosenberg Financial Group, Inc., with offices in Warner Robins. Contact her at 922-8100 or sherri@rfmoney.com.

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