HOBBIES ARE GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

Do you have a hobby? Hobbies can give meaning and purpose to your life in retirement. As Robert Putnam points out in his book, Bowling Alone, it’s easy to discount the importance of hobbies and social engagements. Putnam details the widespread decline in civic engagement, from PTA memberships to neighborhood potlucks and bowling leagues. Over a couple of generations, Americans have misplaced the concept of free time.

SPECIAL PLANS FOR YOUR SPECIAL PEOPLE

Lily is a beautiful, active and full of personality toddler who happens to have Down syndrome. Lily’s parents and I have been friends for years and I have the continuing pleasure of watching Lily and her siblings grow up. While Lily is becoming a physical therapy rock star and hitting all her milestones in a timely fashion, her parents have started planning for the future.

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WHY WE ENJOY OUR HOBBIES

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a hobby as “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation, engaged in especially for relaxation.” Hobbies include anything from playing a musical instrument to gardening, bird watching or sewing. A hobby is a way of focusing on something you enjoy just for the sake of that enjoyment. It may also be a way to clear your mental palette. You could be stressed out by a situation at work or the challenges of raising children and need an escape.

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Assets subject to probate include only those things you own in your own name alone at the time of your death and without a beneficiary designation. Probate assets generally include real estate, financial accounts, and personal property. The expense of probate largely depends upon the State in which the decedent resides and the size of their estate. Court costs vary from state-to-state.


In Kentucky, the out-of-pocket court costs and filing fees are generally less than $300 and vary depending on the required cost of a published announcement to creditors. (If the personal representative hires an attorney or takes fiduciary fees, the cost will be higher.) This cost is much less than the cost of a Living Trust.


4. The Cost of a Living Trust


In contrast, setting up a Revocable Living Trust may cost significantly more. Costs for drafting vary from attorney-to-attorney. (Generally, it will cost several thousand dollars.) And you should use an attorney to set up a living trust; pitfalls abound and DIY trusts can cost you more in the long run. In addition, to actually avoid probate, you must be sure to that the trust holds all of your assets overtime until death. Any asset not titled in the name of the trust is not subject to the terms of the trust and could possibly pass through probate. This means that your home, checking account, savings accounts, CDs, and automobile, should be titled in the name of the trust. This goes beyond just adding the items to “Schedule A” on the last page of the trust. You must take the steps of actually retitling these assets.


The process of retitling all of your assets may also be have costs associated with it. There may be fees for changing ownership or even income tax consequences.


Further, if any of your trust assets are managed by a financial professional, you will be charged a management fee. Trustees are also entitled to a trustee fee.


5. Revocable Trusts Do Not Preserve Your Assets In Regards To Medicaid


Lastly and most importantly, from an Elder Law perspective, Living Trusts do not protect assets from Medicaid’s spenddown requirement. Medicaid’s policy is that because the trust is revocable, the funds are an available resource to the Grantors (the people who funded the trust). Thus, all assets owned by the trust will be considered to belong to the Grantor of the trust and must be spent down to qualify for Medicaid programs.


So, When Might you Need a Revocable Living Trust?


Revocable Living Trusts are right in certain situations. Individuals with privacy concerns, management needs, high asset values, or supplemental needs may benefit from a revocable trust. However, you must get advice from an attorney in order to determine if one of these is right for you.


What If You Already Have A Living Trust?


If you already have a Living Trust, there is nothing wrong with that. You should determine what the trust actually owns. Further, a Living Trust should be reviewed with your attorney along with your estate plans every 2 years or after any major life event. Your attorney may suggest ways to make the trust more beneficial to you.

One of the most common things I hear from my estate planning clients is that they want a Living Trust so that they can “avoid probate.” So, I’ve started asking them “why?” They tell me one of two things: first, they have heard that probate is expensive, or secondly, they need to save on estate taxes.


In 1965, Norman F. Dacey published his well-known book How to Avoid Probate! Norman F. Dacey, while not an attorney himself, instructs the public to transfer everything they own into a Living Trust using one of the forms in the back of his book. A review of the book, at the time of its initial publishing, in the Valparaiso University Law Review stated, “The inter-vivos trust is a valuable tool in estate planning. Its use is often effective in the minimization of costs and taxes. The indiscriminate use of this vehicle by laymen without professional advice will lead ultimately to heartbreak and additional costs for many families.”


1. Laws Have Changed


In the years since the publication of Dacey’s book, the laws have changed. When he published his book, the federal estate tax exemption amount was $60,000. Today in 2016, it is $5.45 million (or $10.9 million for a married couple). (The exclusion will change yearly.)

5 REASONS WHY LIVING TRUSTS ARE NOT FOR EVERYONE

Tax-planning used to be the main issue addressed by estate plans; this in turn gave rise to the popularity of Living Trusts. But that is no longer the case. My clients, who are typically middle-class individuals, simply will not accumulate enough assets to make using a Living Trust worthwhile.


2. Some Assets Already Transfer Outside of Probate


Without even knowing it, many individuals have assets that already avoid probate. Generally, most retirement accounts and life insurance policies are payable to an individual beneficiary. Payable-upon-death accounts, including those on your bank accounts, similarly are payable to a named beneficiary. These do not pass through the probate process. If you own real estate or accounts “jointly with right of survivorship” with your spouse (or another person), this will likewise pass outside of probate. Thus, in many instances a Living Trust will not be needed to avoid probate.


3. The Real Expense of Probate

MARY ELLIS PATTON

Mary Ellis Patton is an associate at Bluegrass Elderlaw, PLLC in Lexington, Kentucky. In her practice, Mary uses customized Powers-of- Attorney, Wills, and Trusts to help clients to achieve their financial, legal, and health care goals. Mary is licensed to practice law in both Kentucky and Ohio. She is the author of Chapter 13, Age Discrimination, of the Kentucky Practice Series, Elder Law Volume.

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