It has been estimated that every year, Americans receive $10 billion less in Social Security benefits, than if they maximized their benefits. Some people leave as much as $300,000 in lifetime benefits on the table, without even knowing it.
This is the result of people not choosing to retire at the right time and also not thinking about things like spousal benefits that might be a good option for them.
It is not a good idea to make Social Security decisions on your own or to rely on government employees to tell you how to get your maximum benefit.
You need to talk to experts when making these decisions.
An elder law attorney can advise you on applying for your Social Security benefits and how to get all the benefits you have earned.
Think about who should be the caregiver for your pets and make sure your choice is willing to serve in that role.
Figure out how much money your pets might need to maintain their lifestyle and set aside that money for them.
Think about everything that needs to be done to properly care for your pets and make sure you have it all written down, so the caregiver will know what to do.
Be sure to visit an estate planning attorney so you can formalize your plans. The attorney will help you decide the best legal instrument to make sure your plans will be carried out. In addition, the attorney will draft those documents so a court will accept them as valid.
Forgetting to update an estate plan when a spouse or child passes away. It might not be the best time for you to change your estate plan, especially given everything you are going through. Not doing so, can result in problems later.
Not reviewing and updating retirement plan and insurance policy beneficiaries for years.
Many people have the mistaken belief that if they have a will, then their estates will not go through probate. That is almost never the case. If your objective is for your estate not to go through probate, see an estate planning attorney to learn how to accomplish that.
People too often assume that once their children reach the age of 18, they will be able to responsibly handle any inherited assets. That may not be the case. You should plan for any minor children to have assistance with assets for longer than that.
An estate planning attorney can advise you on creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances and helps you to avoid some of those mistakes as well.
The stories include such things as a will being written on the bumper of a tractor which had to be removed and submitted to the court, so the will could be administered. That is probably not even the most unusual place wills have been written.
Another story includes a request to freeze the head of the deceased.
Most estate planning mistakes are not quite that strange. They are mundane.
The biggest mistake is just not planning at all.
If you would like to avoid repeating the mistakes people have made in the past, then you can easily do so by contacting an estate planning attorney for advice on creating an estate plan that meets your unique circumstances.
The biggest things people need to know are what is involved with wills and trusts and how they differ.
A will is a formal written document you can use to establish how your property should be distributed after you pass away. Your will is submitted to court after your death and the court appoints someone to make sure what you want done is actually carried out. A will has no effect until after you pass away.
A “living” trust is different. It does take affect before you pass away. Trust documents create a legal entity into which you transfer your assets. After you pass away, the assets are then managed or distributed according to the directions given in the trust document.
A trust does not ordinarily need to be submitted to court. If you have a will, you do not necessarily need a trust. However, if you have a trust you still need a will.
There is a lot more to estate planning, including additional basic information that you should know.
An estate planning can easily get you started on creating an estate plan that meets your unique circumstances.
People who are newly married do not usually want to sit at home and be frugal. They would prefer to have fun with their new spouses, which often means going out for dinner more often and going on more vacations.
Having more fun in retirement is a good thing. However, people need to plan for it. They need to make sure they have enough funds to continue to support themselves in retirement.
The second problem is with estate planning.
In grey marriages, the new spouses often have children and even grandchildren from previous marriages.
It is important to craft estate plans that take care of families from prior marriages, while at the same time making sure the new spouse has adequate means of support.
Working with an estate planning attorney and cooperation between spouses on the needs of their blended family, can avoid some estate problems in later years.
The U.S. has faced powerful hurricanes and raging forest fires this year, with millions of people still trying to pick up the pieces and get back to their normal lives. It will be a long time before they are able to do so.
Preparing for an emergency means you need to do things, such as make sure that you have a supply of non-perishable food and drinking water.
You should also have plans for somewhere to go, in case you need to evacuate.
Most people understand that they need to do those things. What you might not think about is how to prepare financially.
In any emergency, it is possible that you will lose your important financial and estate planning documents. A fire does not care if a document is a will or a three-year-old “to do” list that was never thrown away.
You can prepare to protect your important documents and even have help from FEMA. They offer a kit to prepare for replacing documents.
Among the key challenges for people planning on retirement is the need to save money, learn about Social Security and Medicare and plan on where they want to live.
However, planning for retirement is not quite done until an estate planning attorney is consulted.
Parents need to think about the legal ability of their children to take over for them, when necessary.
For example, the children need to be able to handle the parents' finances and make medical decisions for the parents, if necessary.
Preparing for that goes beyond just making sure a child has the knowledge to do those things. The child also needs the legal authority.
That is where a visit to an estate planning attorney comes in with a general durable power of attorney and a health care power of attorney to give your children the legal authority to handle your finances and make medical decisions.
During the holiday season we like to bring special attention to our “Estates to Plates” food donation campaign. We invite you to help us support our neighbors who depend on donations from food pantries. We run this campaign year round because there is always a need. However, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the need is especially urgent and we are asking for your help to re-stock the shelves!
Any time Monday - Friday, 9 am to 5 pm., you can drop off your non-perishable food donation to our office at 35 Arnold Street, New Bedford. Or, if you are attending one of our free Estate Planning seminars, you can bring your donation with you.
Watch our Facebook page tomorrow... as part of #GIVEBACKTUESDAY, the Surprenant & Beneski Team will be promoting a simple and easy way for everyone to join us in supporting this important cause!!