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28 Apr

Life Insurance and Estate Planning: Protecting Your Beneficiaries’ Interests

Family Portrait At ChristmasOne misconception people have about life insurance is that naming beneficiaries is all you have to do to ensure the benefits of life insurance will be available for a surviving spouse, children, or other intended beneficiary. Life insurance is an important estate planning tool, but without certain protections in place, there’s no guarantee that your spouse or children will receive the benefit of your purchase of life insurance. Consider the following examples:

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26 Apr
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31 Mar

Do It Now: Name a Guardian for Your Minor Child(ren)

Children Holding Hands on School PlaygroundWe know it’s hard. Thinking about someone else raising your children stops us all in our tracks. It feels crushing and too horrific to consider. But you must. If you don’t, a stranger will determine who raises your children if something happens to you – your child’s guardian could be a relative you despise or even a stranger you’ve never met.

No one will ever be you or parent exactly like you, but there is someone who could muddle through and provide for your children’s general welfare, education, and medical needs. Parents with minor children need to name someone to raise them (a guardian) in the event both parents should die before the child becomes an adult. While the likelihood of that actually happening is slim, the consequences of not naming a guardian are more than intense.

If no guardian is named in your will, a judge – a stranger who does not know you, your child, or your relatives and friends – will decide who will raise your child. Anyone can ask to be considered, and the judge will select the person she deems most appropriate. Families tend to fight over children, especially if there’s money involved – and worse – no one may be willing to take your child; if that happens, the judge will place your child in foster care. On the other hand, if you name a guardian, the judge will likely support your choice.

How to Choose a Guardian

Your child’s guardian can be a relative or friend. Here are factors our clients have considered when selecting guardians (and backup guardians).

  • How well the child and potential guardian know and enjoy each other
  • Parenting style, moral values, educational level, health practices, religious/spiritual beliefs
  • Location – if the guardian lives far away, your child would have to move from a familiar school, friends, and neighborhood
  • The child’s age and the age and health of the guardian-candidates:
    • Grandparents may have the time, and they may or may not have the energy to keep up with a toddler or teenager.
    • An older guardian may become ill and/or even die before the child is grown, so there would be a double loss.
    • A younger guardian, especially a sibling, may be concentrating on finishing college or starting a career.
  • Emotional preparedness:
    • Someone who is single or who doesn’t want children may resent having to care for your children.
    • Someone with a houseful of their own children may or may not want more around.

WARNING: Serving as guardian and raising your child is a big deal; don’t spring such a responsibility on anyone. Ask your top candidates if they would be willing to serve, and name at least one alternate in case the first choice becomes unable to serve.

Who’s in Charge of the Money

Raising your child should not be a financial burden for the guardian, and a candidate’s lack of finances should not be the deciding factor. You will need to provide enough money (from assets and/or life insurance) to provide for your child. Some parents also earmark funds to help the guardian buy a larger car or add onto their existing home, so there’s plenty of room for extra children.

Factors to consider:

  • Naming a separate person to handle this money can be a good idea. That person would be a guardian of the estate or a trustee, but not guardian of the children.
  • However, having the same person raise the child and handle the money can make things simpler because the guardian would not have to ask someone else for money.
  • But the best person to raise the child may not be the best person to handle the money and it may be tempting for them to use this money for their own purposes.

Compromise Will Likely be Necessary

Naming a guardian is a difficult decision for most parents. Keep in mind that this person will probably not raise your child because odds are that at least one parent will survive until the child is grown. By naming a guardian, however, you are being responsible and planning ahead for an unlikely, yet possible, situation. It’s important to realize that no one besides you will be the perfect parent for your child, so typically this means making compromises in some areas. Select the person you think will muddle through the best.

Let’s Continue this Conversation

We know it’s not easy, but don’t let that stop you. We’re happy to talk this through with you and legally document your wishes. Know that you can change your mind and select a different guardian anytime you’d like – and – the chances of needing the guardian named in your will is slim; but, you’re a parent and your job is to provide for and protect your children, so let’s do this – together. Call our office now for an appointment and we’ll get your children protected.

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29 Mar

New Legislation Could Mean the End of Estate and GSTT Taxes

6a01b8d0a6271d970c01bb08906c57970d-500piWhat This Means for You and Your Family

On January 24, 2017, the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2017, or H.R. 631, was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives by South Dakota congresswoman Kristi Noem. If passed, H.R. 631 would completely repeal the federal estate tax. A separate companion bill put before the Senate by South Dakota senator John Thune, S. 205, would also repeal the generation-skipping transfer tax (GSTT). read more

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27 Mar
24 Mar

How to Choose a Trustee

1dc5774c-1394-4671-af6f-c58a4f1d001e-thumbnailWhen you establish a trust, you name someone to be the trustee. A trustee does what you do right now with your financial affairs – collect income, pay bills and taxes, save and invest for the future, buy and sell assets, provide for your loved ones, keep accurate records, and generally keep things organized and in good order.

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22 Mar

Who Should Be Your Successor Trustee?

Family Portrait At ChristmasIf you have a revocable living trust, you probably named yourself as trustee so you can continue to manage your own financial affairs, but eventually someone will need to step in for you when you are no longer able to act due to incapacity or after your death. The Successor Trustee plays an important role in the effective execution of your estate plan.

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