Kathryn T. Joseph & Associates, Inc.

Cleveland Estate Planning Blog

Is it time to write your will?

There are a lot of reasons that people put off writing their wills. Maybe they've simply never thought about -- or maybe they don't want to think about dying.

Whatever the reason, around 60 percent of American adults are currently without wills. However, those numbers change a bit when you look closer at certain demographics. Around 58 percent of people between the ages of 53 and 71 have a will, while 81 percent of people aged 72 or older have theirs.

Protect your future by hiring an elder law attorney

Why bother hiring an elder law attorney?

This is the kind of question we hear a lot now that the internet is right at everyone's fingertips. With all those do-it-yourself legal sites available, it may seem unnecessary to actually hire an attorney to handle your will, financial power of attorney documents and medical directives -- but it's not.

Learning from your parents' estate planning mistakes

A man came in to talk to me last week, and he said that his own parents had made some serious estate planning mistakes. Now in his 40s with children of his own, he wanted to avoid those errors.

I asked him what had happened, and he grinned, looking slightly embarrassed, and told me that he had wasted their money.

Steps to take after someone dies

Family comes together when a loved one passes away. You're all there for each other emotionally. You offer support and help one another get through a difficult time. Even when it's expected, that doesn't necessarily mean it's easier. You need that support system.

At the same time that you deal with the emotional side of things, though, you also want to think about the realistic side. What steps do you need to take? What obligations do you have?

You may be surprised to find out you are a beneficiary

A will is not the only way to divide assets. You may also obtain those assets if you're a beneficiary listed on a financial account. For instance, perhaps your parents took out a life insurance policy and listed you as the beneficiary, meaning that the policy pays out to you when they pass away.

Typically, this happens outside of the will. The money never really enters the estate. It just goes directly to you, and it doesn't need to be listed in the will.

Tips for setting up an advance directive

The unfortunate reality is that life could take a turn that makes it impossible for you to communicate your medical wishes to your family or healthcare professionals. You could suffer a stroke or get in a car accident, for instance. You still want the doctors to know what type of care to provide, and you can use an advance directive to give them instructions.

As you can imagine, this is a very important document, and it's crucial to know how to use it properly. Here are a few tips:

  • Always make sure that your documents are in writing so there can be no dispute about what you wanted.
  • Take the original copies and put them somewhere safe and secure.
  • Make copies of the document and then give them out to those who need them. This could include your doctor or someone you pick to be your health care agent, if needed.
  • As you hand out these copies, make a list of exactly who got one.
  • Put a note in your wallet saying that you created an advance directive and telling the person reading the card who has it. This can help them track it down in an emergency.
  • Tell other family members what you want and alert them to the existence of the documents. Tell them where to find the paperwork and who you picked as your agent.
  • Whenever you travel, bring a copy of your advance directive along with you, just in case you end up in an unfamiliar hospital.

A pending divorce does not cut your ex out of your estate plan

I was working with a client recently who had just gotten divorced. He wanted to update his estate plan to make sure that all of his ex-wife's rights to his estate had actually been terminated. Naturally, if he passed away, he did not want to leave her his money and physical property. He wanted it to go to his children.

We talked about how divorce can often terminate some of these rights automatically, though not all of them, and how that meant it was important to comb through the plan, just as he was doing. But it also got me thinking. What if he had passed away before his divorce got finalized?

Why is in-home care so costly?

The draw of in-home care, for elderly people who need assistance, is fairly clear: Staying in the house gives them comfort and stability that they just do not get if they move into an assisted living center. People often have no desire to leave the house, especially if they have spent decades living there.

However, the cost is very high. Some estimates put it at about $19 per hour. That may not be much for an hour or two of assistance a day, but people often need care around the clock. That can run it all the way up to around $170,000 annually. Suddenly, it moves beyond affordable for many people.

Transfer-on-death designation and survivorship affidavits

When someone passes away, the way that their assets move on to their heirs and beneficiaries is very important. It is crucial to plan for this in advance, something that people often put off because they feel like they have plenty of time.

It's never too early to start planning. Just think about how it will impact your family if you pass away with no plan in place, and this importance becomes clear.

A trust gives you more privacy than a will

I recently worked with a client who was very concerned about the lack of privacy with a will. After all, these documents are public record. After you pass away, anyone can technically look at a copy of that will.

This client had more assets than many people realized. They felt that their finances should be private, and they didn't really want that information getting out. Some people don't worry about that at all, but it is very important to others. Just knowing that the will is public makes them feel like people can see into different aspects of their life that they don't think should be out in the open.

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Kathryn T. Joseph & Associates, Inc.
Executive Commons West
29425 Chagrin Blvd.
Suite 305
Cleveland, OH 44122

Toll Free: 888-335-6650
Phone: 216-245-0504
Fax: 216-765-8817
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