Estate Planning Myths and Misconceptions
- by: Hank Berkowitz
- July 8, 2018
Now is the time of year when extended families get together at the beach, lake, mountains or national parks. While the focus is on meals, family bonding and R&R, it’s also a good time to get the ball moving about those sensitive estate planning issues.
According to my friend Valentino Sabuco, founder of The Financial Awareness Foundation, half of the U.S. adult population has NO financial, estate or gift plan. As most of you know, estate planning is not just for the wealthy or elderly. It’s essential for anyone who wants to make their own decisions about their assets and their heirs—rather than the government making it for them.
I don’t have to remind you that estate planning is not only a touchy subject; it’s complex and often misunderstood. In response, several of our clients have been speaking to the national media recently about estate planning myths and misconceptions that frequently trip successful families up.
With the significant increase in the lifetime exemption under the 2017 tax act ($11.2 million per spouse in 2018), our client, Blake Christian, CPA said even many affluent taxpayers do not believe estate planning is truly necessary. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Christian, a partner of HCVT in Long Beach, CA. “Even for the 99 percent who will never pay estate tax, estate planning is very necessary for numerous reasons, including:
1) Avoiding the probate process.
2) Asset protection.
3) Simplifying mixed-family complexities associated with divorce, blended families and common-law marriage situations.
4) Titling assets properly can also make the difference between getting a full or partial step-up in an asset’s tax basis for the heirs.
5) Making sure your assets are distributed correctly to provide your heirs with sufficient after-tax income after you are gone,” added Christian.
According to our client, Mark A. Rioboli, CFP®, CFS, director of wealth management at Wayne, PA-based Independence Advisors, “The misconception is that if you have a will, it controls everything. In reality, it only controls the assets in your own name.”
*** NOTE: HB clients Anthony Glomski, Molly Grubb and I will be speaking about advanced planning topics at the Accounting & Finance Show in NYC this week at the Javits Center. More than 2,000 attendees and 200 speakers are expected. Stop by if you are in the Big Apple.
Our client, James Nevers, an advisor at Soundmark Wealth near Seattle, WA agreed. He said it’s a common mistake to believe that if you have a Will, you don’t need to worry about your beneficiary designations on retirement accounts. “I manage several 401(k) plans for medical groups. When I provide participant education to their staffs, I tell them the same story every time we meet – ‘If your primary beneficiary designation on your retirement accounts says your ex-spouse, then all your hard-earned savings in your 401(k) is coming to your ex-spouse, regardless of what your Will states.’”
According to Nevers, you should also check to see if a minor child is listed as a beneficiary. “I don’t know many 8 year-olds who can responsibly manage $100,000. Nor do I know anyone who wants their ex-spouse to get one more penny than they’ve already received,” added Nevers. “Beneficiary designations supersede your will – simple as that. I advise everyone to consult with their estate attorney about who they should designate, whether it is their spouse, a trust, or another individual.”
As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Don’t let that happen to you and your clients. Hope to see you at the Accounting & Finance Show on July 11th and 12th.
TAGS: Mark Rioboli, Independence Advisors, Blake Christian, HCVT, James Nevers, Soundmark Wealth, NYC Accounting & Finance Show, Valentino Sabuco, The Financial Awareness Foundation