Gentreo Guide: Talking To Your Family About Estate Planning During the Holidays

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The holidays are an excellent time to talk to your family about your wishes and prepare your family for any curveballs life throws at you. We’ve prepared a comprehensive guide to help you navigate important family conversations about estate planning.  

Gentreo makes it easy for you to create a custom, comprehensive estate plan and we give you the tools to coordinate with your family so everyone knows where important information and documents are, and how to access them in an instant.

This practical guide gives you all the tools you need to learn how to discuss your wishes, offers advice on how to prepare your family for an emergency, and provides information about how getting your affairs in order will give everyone peace of mind. With Gentreo, you can work with your family to create the estate plan that’s best for you and your loved ones.

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Gentreo Webinars About Estate Planning Over the Holidays

With the holiday season quickly approaching, now is a great time to talk to your family about estate planning. Everyone needs an estate plan; regardless of your age, stage of life, or how large or modest your assets are.

Get your affairs in order this holiday season, and prepare to talk to your loved ones about estate planning and how they can protect themselves and their loved ones with Gentreo’s FREE fall webinars…

Now you can have more than just politics to talk about around the Thanksgiving table this year! Watch Gentreo’s free estate planning webinar to ensure you and your family have all your affairs in order. Learn what estate planning is and why everyone should do it. Find out what questions you should ask and what documents you need to protect your choices and all that you love. Most importantly, learn how to coordinate your information and documents so that everyone is prepared and knows where to find everything when needed. Hosted by estate planning and eldercare planning experts, Mary Kate D’Souza and Julie Fry, the free webinar below will give you the tools to manage tough conversations and get your affairs in order

The holidays are a perfect time to get your affairs in order. Make sure your family is protected and everyone knows what to do when life happens. Learn what an estate plan is and how to create one based on your life and choices – quickly and affordably. Find out how to store and update important documents and information so everyone knows where to turn. Plus, discover ways to encourage your family members to prepare now and create their own estate plan. Hosted by estate planning attorney Mary Kate D’Souza, this free webinar will give you the opportunity to learn how to create the plan that works for you and how to help those you love.

You don’t have to be a multi-millionaire to leave gifts for your favorite charities in your estate plan. Find out how to use estate planning to leave gifts to your local non-profit, church, or favorite cause. Estate planning helps you protect yourself and everyone you love, make your health care choices clear, name guardians for your children and pets, and ensure everything you worked hard for ends up in the right hands. Hosted by estate planning attorney Mary Kate D’Souza, this free webinar will give you practical steps and tools to make sure your assets go to those organizations and people you love most.

Checklists for Talking with Your Family About Estate Planning

It’s not easy to talk about death and money – they are not typically favorite subjects to discuss. However, life happens: a sudden illness, the passing of a loved one, retirement… Having a plan in place is key to deal with life changing events. That’s where Gentreo’s Estate Planning comes in. We make it easy for you and your family to create a custom, comprehensive Estate Plan.

Get Everyone Together

As uncomfortable as it may be, a family discussion is a must so the right choices will be in place when the unexpected and expected happens. Make sure all family members who would be impacted by decisions are present. Remember, this is about making your wishes known as well as the well-being of your family.

Estate Planning Checklist

Here are some items to consider when talking with your family about Estate Planning:

It is important to get everyone on the same page when it comes to family matters, particularly when it comes to Wills and caring for loved ones. Avoid the stress and heartache later by having a discussion with your family about Estate Planning now! And know that Gentreo is there for you!

Get Prepared Checklist

Before the turkey goes in the oven or you schedule the web conference call, take time to gather information together so you can help prepare your family for life’s unexpected events.

Create documents – Make sure you have your documents prepared:

    • Will
    • Trust and Pour-Over Will
    • Power of Attorney
    • Health Care Proxy (also known as a Power of Attorney for Healthcare and includes things like medical directives, living will and HIPAA release)
    • Pet Power of Attorney
    • Emergency Card

Upload – Upload documents into your Digital Family Vault

Access – Make sure your family knows how to access your information

Share – Invite your chosen loved ones to be members of your Gentreo team and share information with each member based on what specific information you want them to have.

Gather – Collect all important documents and information:

    • Medical information – your doctors’ information, medications, allergies, medical conditions, medical directives, and wishes
    • Insurance information – medical insurance as well as home, auto, liability, pet and long term care
    • Contacts – your emergency contact information (be sure to share your emergency card with everyone), list of relevant business and personal contacts and how to reach each of them
    • Digital assets and passwords – be sure to store this in your Gentreo Digital Family Vault and only share it with those you trust
man carving thanksgiving turkey while family looks on

Preparing to Talk About Estate Planning During the Holidays

The holiday season is nearly here. It’s all about sharing a special time with the ones you love. And, since everyone is together, it’s the perfect time to talk about Estate Planning. Being prepared for this talk is critical so your loved ones know exactly what to expect when the unexpected happens.

While Wills and Trusts may not be typical subjects that would come up during a holiday dinner, take advantage of the family get-together to discuss your Estate Plan. Pick a time and a calm environment where everyone can gather for the discussion.

Questions to Ask:

Don’t go in the cold, prepare yourself before the family meeting. Consider these questions:

  • How do you want to divide your estate?
  • Who should get what?
  • Who do you want to be your Will’s Personal Representative or Trustee of your Trust?
  • If you are incapacitated, who do you want to make your healthcare and legal decisions?
  • Who will care for your minor children if you and your spouse pass or are seriously ill?
  • What about your pets? If you die or cannot care for them, who will?
  • Do you want to gift some of your assets to your favorite charity or organization?
  • Who gets the family heirlooms?
  • Should you create a Trust – taking certain assets and property out of your estate?
  • Where will you store your legal and insurance documents so that everyone can find them?

The answers to these questions should help you draft your Estate Plan, choosing beneficiaries and putting certain family members you trust in charge of making critical decisions in a crisis.

Timing is Everything

While sitting at the dining room table with family on Thanksgiving, it’s probably not best to ask your mom or dad to pass the turkey then ask, “By the way, who are you leaving the house to when you pass?” Or, if you are a mom or dad, you really shouldn’t ask your adult son or daughter, “Hey, would you like to inherit our China dinnerware when we’re gone?” while slicing the pumpkin pie.

Mention you have an important family matter to discuss and get everyone on board to sit down for a serious talk. This should be done when everyone is relaxed and focused, and not while watching football on TV. Decide on a place and time, and after everyone is settled, get the discussion rolling.

Spelling it Out

During the family meeting, explain your decisions and wishes and why you made them to your loved ones. If they have concerns, opinions, or questions, listen to them. Perhaps they have ideas you may not have thought about – an “Aha” moment.

Preparing Your Estate Plan

Don’t put off preparing your Estate Plan. Take advantage of this holiday season to get everything in order and share your wishes with your family. After all, you want the best for them. And you don’t want to cause heartache when a life changing event happens.

An Estate Plan will put everyone at ease knowing that your wishes will be carried out and your loved ones will have your instructions when life happens. Don’t let the state and the court system make decisions for you – without an Estate Plan in place, they will.

people slicing pumpkin pie on a thanksgiving table

Parents and Children: How to Approach Estate Planning Conversations

Thanksgiving is a favorite family holiday. It’s the time of year everyone from near and far gathers for a feast and to catch up on things. Thanksgiving is also a good time to broach a subject that is typically avoided – Estate Planning.

If you’re a parent, now is the time to talk to your adult sons and daughters and other relatives about who you would like to leave your assets to and who should take charge in the time of a crisis. If you’re a son or daughter and your parents don’t have a Will, bring up how important it is for them to have legal documents stating their final wishes. Take it from there, and get into a serious, honest discussion.

How Parents Should Approach Estate Planning Conversations

Parents, don’t forget, it’s your estate, and it’s totally your decision how it is going to be divided among your children after you pass. Some topics you need to flush out are:

  • Will – Tell your adult children and relatives how you are planning to split up your assets and who gets what and why. Choose a Personal Representative to oversee the Will.
  • Trust – Select assets to be taken out of your estate and set them aside in a Trust and appoint someone as the Trustee.
  • Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy – Ask your adult children who would be comfortable making legal and healthcare decisions if you cannot. Discuss long-term care and financial options. 
  • Guardian for children – If you have minor children, who would be best to serve as their guardian if you and your spouse die or are incapacitated?

How Adult Children Should Approach Estate Planning Conversations

Discussing a Will and Estate Planning is a touchy subject for your parents. A few things to keep in mind:

  • Be clear that they are in control when deciding their wishes
  • Don’t push them into decisions – listen to them and discuss each subject as it is brought up
  • Let them know you have their best interests in mind
  • Explain that without an Estate Plan, the state can step in to make decisions and your parents could cause more conflict by failing to plan

A Thanksgiving Estate Planning discussion is a good first step toward getting everyone on the same page in creating a plan now, to avoid family strife later. Everyone will be truly thankful that there is a plan in place to protect health choices, loved ones and assets.

Estate Planning When You Have Adult Children or Minor Children

Whether your children are still in elementary school or grown up leading their own lives, you care about their wellbeing. Children – youngsters or adults – should be part of your Estate Plan.

Planning for Your Adult Children

You want to make things easy for your sons and daughters in the time of a crisis. That’s why you should have an Estate Plan – a set of legal documents that dictates your wishes. 

A Will is a must. It allows you to spell out how your estate will be divided among the beneficiaries and inheritors you choose. You can appoint anyone you choose as the Personal Representative, including your legal-aged child.

An adult son or daughter can serve as your Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy if you cannot make your own legal and medical decisions, respectively. A Living Will works in tandem with the Health Care Proxy where you state your medical and end-of-life medical care wishes if you become incapacitated. 

A Trust can be set up where you can place your home or assets of your choosing. If you wish, you can name your legal-age child as a Trustee to oversee it. These assets can be given to your children upon your death. By having a Trust, it’s possible that probate and estate taxes can often be avoided. 

Without these legal documents in place, your children will be helpless in a life changing event, such as a death or illness. Quick decisions are often needed in a crisis and with emotions running high, arguments about what to do can result among family members. 

Having an Estate Plan in place will give guidance to your children and assure that your wishes are carried out. It will also keep the state from stepping in to make decisions if something happens to you and you don’t have a legal Estate Plan.

Planning for Your Minor Children

Although children of any age can inherit assets such as property or investment accounts, they cannot own them until they reach a legal adult age. Should you and your spouse pass simultaneously, or if you are a single parent and you die while your child is still a minor, assets would go to a custodian you name in your Will. This custodian would hold and manage the assets until the child becomes a legal adult.

You could also form a Trust for your minor son or daughter where it would hold monies or properties until they become adults. A Trustee you appoint would manage this Trust. You can have separate Trusts for each child, or one for all of them.

You should also name a guardian in your Will, who would take care and custody of your child, if you should die. If you do not name a guardian and you pass away or you cannot make decisions, the state would appoint a guardian for them.

Give your children – and you – peace of mind by having an Estate Plan. Make sure your wishes are carried out when it comes to the protection and welfare of your children.

elderly couple sitting on a couch holding each other and smiling

When Visiting Elderly Parents This Thanksgiving, Take Time for THANKS

As we gather together to give thanks this Thanksgiving, don’t miss the opportunity to check in on elderly loved ones. While phone calls throughout the year are important, seeing mom and dad in person can be the best way to assess physical and mental health issues. 

Give thanks this year by assessing how your mom and dad’s needs are being met:

  • T – Their health – Have there been any noticeable health changes since you last saw them? Are they taking their prescriptions and are those medications up-to-date? Be sure to ask them about recent doctor visits and make sure they are routinely visiting health care professionals.
  • H – Home – Perform a basic home assessment to see if their home is still meeting their needs. Pay special attention to the bathroom, kitchen, and entryways.
  • A – Appearance – Have there been any physical changes that you weren’t aware of that should be discussed with their doctor? Has their mobility changed or have there been any drastic weight changes?
  • N – Nutrition – Are they eating regularly? Is there food in the cabinets or refrigerator and is it fresh? 
  • K – Knowledge – Do you know where important papers (such as wills, medical directives, and insurance papers) are kept? Do you know who to contact in an emergency if you can’t reach your parents? Do you know how bills are paid and if they are managing their finances?
  • S – Skills – Assess your parents’ mental and physical skills to see if they need additional help or if you need to make changes. Are dad’s reaction times good enough to keep him safe on the road? Is it time to consider bringing in someone to help with the cleaning or laundry?

Talk to your friends and family while you are all together and approach caregiving and planning as a team effort. Make sure you discuss their wishes with them, like medical choices, if there are any specific gifts they would like to leave family or friends, or who would take care of pets in an emergency. Review what documents they created and be sure to update any documents if their decisions have changed. Most importantly, be sure that everyone knows where documents and information are stored and how to get to that information. If you don’t have time to discuss changes between the big meal and the game, schedule a meeting online or on the phone to discuss your parents’ care and what changes need to be made. 

Caring for your parents doesn’t just happen on holidays. Use the holidays to not only give thanks for all your blessings, but to see how you can help make sure your parents’ needs are being met and everyone knows the plan.

man in yellow shirt and woman in white shirt with laptop and grand daughter looking over their shoulders

Gifting, Trusts, and Estate Planning

The holidays are a great time to review your choices for donations through your estate plan. Setting up a Trust or gifting to your favorite charity, non-profit, or family member can be a valuable part of your Estate Plan. Your Last Will and Testament gives you the power to give anything you want to anyone, while a Trust can set aside property or other assets for persons or charities of your choice.

What is Gifting in Estate Planning?

This is when you donate money, a business, or property to a family member, a non-profit organization, or a charity. In your estate plan, “gifting” is also known as an endowment, planned giving, or legacy gift. 

  • Endowment – This an investment in perpetuity and its use is specified by the donor or by the institution as they see fit.
  • Planned Giving – This allows the donor to support a charity with a larger gift than one from regular income. It involves donating property, life insurance, cash, or annuities – typically assets that appreciate in value.
  • Legacy Gift – This is a planned future gift providing a permanent, unlimited support to a charity using part or all of a donor’s estate. A legacy gift typically reflects the donor’s values and allows your memory to live on.

Gifting Through a Trust

In some cases, planned giving can provide an income stream to the donors or the charity through a specific Trust. This type of donation can be done during the donor’s lifetime or at death. These two tax-exempt, irrevocable Trusts provide tax benefits.

  • Charitable Remainder Trust – This provides continuous income to the donor and or beneficiaries. The charity receives what remains in the trust upon the death of the donor.
  • Charitable Lead Trust – As opposed to the remainder trust, this option allows the charity to receive continuous financial support and, when the donor passes, the beneficiaries receive the remaining balance.

Gifting to Family Members

You can reduce your estate taxes by gifting assets – property or money – to family members during your lifetime. Not only is this a future tax saving vehicle, but you can also enjoy the fact that your children or grandchildren are reaping the benefits now while you are alive. 

  • Set up a Trust – You can set up a Trust that will hold property and other assets that will transfer to beneficiaries upon your passing.  
  • 529 College Plan – Individuals can contribute up to $75,000 annually to your child’s or grandchild’s college fund.
  • Gifting property or business – You can transfer property or hand down your business to a loved one.
  • Pay college tuition or medical expenses – If you pay these fees directly to the providers, it will be exempt from the gift tax. 

Gifting and Taxes

The federal lifetime gift tax exemption is $11.58 million for individuals and $22.36 million for couples. The annual gift tax exclusion is $15,000 for individuals and $30,000 for couples. If any gift to a single person in a year exceeds those amounts, both your lifetime gift tax exemption and the estate tax exemption will be reduced when you pass.

Include Gifting in Your Estate Plan

Spell out your gifting intentions in your Estate Plan. It will reduce your estate taxes, while helping your loved ones or favorite charities.

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