Choosing a loved one as your beneficiary could be considered an act of kindness for some. Learn more about the basics of beneficiaries, tax implications and other considerations that can help ensure your loved ones receive your assets.What is a beneficiary and why is it important?What's the difference between primary and secondary beneficiaries?Who can you designate as a beneficiary?Beneficiaries for retirement accounts, annuities, and life insurance policiesSpecial considerations for IRAs What is a beneficiary?A beneficiary is a person or entity, such as a trust or nonprofit, that you designate to receive the assets in your financial accounts when you die. For example, life insurance policies and retirement accounts allow you to designate beneficiaries.When deciding who you should designate as a beneficiary, consider family members, friends or business entities. Note that the account and subsequent funds are treated differently depending on your relationship with the beneficiary. For example, if you choose your spouse as an IRA beneficiary, they can move the assets into their own IRA account after your death. Non-spouse beneficiaries do not have this option.The importance of choosing a beneficiaryChoosing a beneficiary is a simple way to indicate who should inherit the funds or assets in your accounts without going through the steps of creating a will or estate document. However, be aware that the beneficiary/beneficiaries you name for each of your retirement plans, annuities, life insurance policies and other assets will receive the proceeds from that account even if your will outlines different instructions. To help ensure everything is in order, you should regularly review all your beneficiary designations with a financial advisor or estate planning attorney. Primary beneficiaries, secondary beneficiaries, and contingent beneficiaries whats the difference?Its important to understand the different beneficiary types: primary, secondary and contingent beneficiaries.Primary beneficiaries are your first choice to receive your retirement accounts or other benefits. If youre married, this will typically be your spouse.A secondary beneficiary and a contingent beneficiary are essentially the same. These beneficiaries will be named and awarded your retirement benefits and assets if your primary beneficiary doesnt survive you or disclaims the assets.Designate both primary and secondary beneficiaries and take special measures if youre assigning minorsIf your named beneficiary doesnt survive you, your funds could revert to your estate, resulting in probate court. To help prevent gaps in the beneficiary designation process and properly allocate all of your accounts, you should name both primary and secondary beneficiaries.Similarly, if youre designating children as your beneficiaries, your advisor or estate planning attorney can help you create a plan to ensure that your minor beneficiaries receive the funds when theyre supposed towithout unnecessary legal costs in the future. Who (and what) can you designate as a beneficiary and what are the outcomes?Your spouseA spousal beneficiary has more flexibility to delay taxed distributions and move assets to their own account. For 401(k) or pension plans, your spouse must be the primary beneficiary unless spousal consent is given to the naming of another beneficiary.Your children or other family members (excluding your spouse)You can assign someone else such as a child or other family member but it will require your spouse to sign away rights to be the primary beneficiary. Keep in mind that assigning a non-spouse as your beneficiary will not come with the same tax benefits and rollover options.A trustDesignating a trust as beneficiary provides control over how assets are distributed. But there can be tax implications and other considerations. Always seek advice from an experienced tax professional before choosing a trust as a retirement plan or IRA beneficiary.A charityChoosing a charity as a beneficiary is a simple process for those wanting to give back after they pass away. However, keep in mind that mixing charity and non-charity beneficiaries may change the options available to the non-charity beneficiaries of a retirement plan if the charity is not paid out in a timely fashion.Naming multiple beneficiariesHaving a hard time choosing between multiple beneficiaries? Fortunately, you can name more than one. If doing so, you will specify the amounts you want to allocate to each beneficiary. You can also choose to designate different beneficiaries within different accounts.In addition to naming beneficiaries in a will, its important that you record your beneficiary choices in each of your financial accounts. Note that if there is a discrepancy, the beneficiaries you note in those accounts will supersede who you designate in your will.Naming your estate as a beneficiaryNaming your estate as a beneficiary can feel more straightforward than naming specific beneficiaries for your major assets, but it has significant downsides.If you name your estate as a beneficiary, the assets in your estate must pass through probate before distribution. This could take a year or longer. Additionally, when an estate is in probate, distribution of the assets cant occur until creditors claims against the estate are resolved.However, if your named beneficiaries are individuals, trusts or charities, your assets will typically go to them directly, bypassing probate and creditors.Choose both primary and secondary beneficiariesKeep taxes in mind when choosing beneficiariesDon't choose your estate as a beneficiaryMinors require special considerations Retirement account, annuities, and life insurance policiesNot all accounts and assets are equal with regard to beneficiary designations. The responsibilities and outcomes for beneficiaries can be very different, depending on the type of account or asset:AnnuitiesAny annuity beneficiary can cash in the remaining funds left in an annuity after the owner passes away.Spouses can either cash in an annuity or keep it, with the original contract terms still in force.Non-spouse beneficiaries are required to take distributions.Annuity beneficiaries must pay income tax on the gains in the annuitythe difference between the principal paid into the annuity and the value of the annuity at the time the owner dies.Retirement accountsRetirement account assets are taxed when distributed from the plan to beneficiaries.*Spousal beneficiaries can roll assets over into a new or existing retirement account.Non-spouse beneficiaries are required to take distributions.Federal law requires that a spouse must be the primary beneficiary of a 401(k) account or pension account unless the spouse waives their right in writing.Life insurance policiesBeneficiaries receive the policy proceeds income tax-free.In certain states, a spouse may be legally entitled to life insurance benefits.Beneficiaries are paid in lump sums or in payments as requested by the account holder. *This does not apply to Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k) accounts. Because the initial account owner funded them with post-tax dollars, these accounts are not taxable for beneficiaries and earnings are tax free as well if the Roth account has been in place for 5 years. IRA stretch strategy in estate plansAn IRA stretch strategy allows an IRA beneficiary to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from an inherited IRA after the owners death.For deaths prior to Jan. 1, 2020, non-spouse beneficiaries such as adult children who inherited retirement accounts can take required minimum distributions over their lifetime.Prior to the SECURE Act, beneficiaries who inherited retirement accounts (such as a traditional or Roth IRA) could take the RMDs over their lifetime. The SECURE Act changes that financial strategy for most non-spouse beneficiaries who inherit their retirement account on or after Jan. 1, 2020. Now, those beneficiaries must take the account proceeds and pay the corresponding taxes within 10 years of inheriting the account. This can be done with any number of distributions as long as the entire account is distributed by the end of the year that contains the 10th anniversary of the owners death.While the timeframe for using an IRA stretch is now shorter, this strategy can still help you pass substantial assets to your children or other family members. Additionally, some beneficiaries can still stretch their inherited IRAs over their lifetime, including:Spouse beneficiaries (spouse beneficiaries usually rollover to their own IRA).Non-spouse beneficiaries with disabilities or chronic illnesses.Non-spouse beneficiaries who are no more than 10 years younger than the IRA owner.Minor children of the IRA owner (up to the age of majority). A financial advisor can help you with your beneficiary designationDeciding how to pick beneficiaries for your retirement and other financial accounts is important. Ask anAmeriprise financial advisorto review your accounts and beneficiaries so you can feel more confident about the legacy youre leaving.
Why You Need an Elder Care AttorneyMarch 8, 2023As we age, we constantly make decisions about our healthcare, finances, and overall well-being. But, all of these decisions have legal considerations. Seniors and their families must have legal support to navigate this complex landscape. Elder care attorneys specialize in addressing the unique legal needs of seniors. This article will explore why elder care attorneys are a valuable resource, how to choose the right one, and the services they can provide to your senior loved one.Why You Need a Florida Elder Care AttorneyElder care attorneys know all the legal needs of seniors. They can provide a wealth of knowledge and resources to help seniors navigate the legal complexities of aging. They are familiar with the legal needs of seniors who want to age in place and those who choose to move to an assisted living community. With an elder care attorney on your side, you have a trusted advisor who can help you make informed decisions about your senior loved one's healthcare, finances, and other vital aspects of their life.Estate PlanningOne of the primary reasons seniors need an elder care attorney is to help with estate planning. Estate planning involves creating a plan for your assets in the event of your death or incapacity. An elder care attorney can help you develop a comprehensive estate plan that considers your wishes, family dynamics, and legal or tax considerations.Long-Term CareAnother key area where an elder care attorney can provide support is developing a long-term care plan. As we age, the likelihood of needing long-term care increases. A Florida elder care attorney can help you evaluate your options, such as self-funding, Medicaid, or long-term care insurance. Your attorney will develop a plan to meet your needs and protect your assets.Protection Against Financial AbuseNationwide, seniors are the target of financial thieves and con artists. One in five seniors over 70 will be exploited for an average of $17,500. If the senior knows the scammer, the cost is $50,000. Having an elder care attorney can help protect you and your family.Florida is serious about protecting its senior citizens and established the Department of Elder Affairs to protect seniors from physical or financial abuse or exploitation. If you suspect any senior abuse or exploitation, call their hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873).An elder care attorney can help establish safeguards to protect your assets and ensure your financial well-being.How Do I Choose an Elder Care Attorney?Choosing the right elder care attorney is an important decision, and there are several factors to consider.Credentials: Only attorneys licensed with the Florida Bar Association can practice law in Florida. Make sure your attorney has a current license. The Florida Bar also allows you to see their disciplinary record for the past 10 years.Specialization: Look for an attorney who is a member of an elder law group like the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). This professional association requires members to meet rigorous education, experience, and continuing education standards.Experience: Look for an attorney with experience in elder law. This area of law is complex and constantly evolving, so it is important to choose someone who deeply understands the issues facing seniors.Communication: Look for an attorney who is a good communicator and takes the time to understand your needs and concerns. You want someone responsive and attentive to your questions and concerns.Fees: Make sure you understand the attorney's fee structure and what services are included. You want to avoid surprises down the road, so knowing what you are paying for is important.What Can an Elder Care Attorney Do for Me?Now that we've explored why seniors need an elder care attorney and how to choose the right one, let's take a closer look at the services they can provide. Here are a few critical areas where an elder care attorney can support you and your senior loved ones.Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts, and POAEstate planning is a critical component of preparing for the future. It ensures that your wishes are fulfilled when you are no longer here. An elder care attorney can help you create a comprehensive estate plan that considers your wishes, family dynamics, and legal or tax considerations. This includes creating the proper legal documents, including a will and a trust, and appointing a power of attorney to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. In Florida, a health care power of attorney is an advance directive in which you name a person to make decisions for you when you cannot do so. The document is called a Health Care Advance Directive.Developing a Plan for Long-Term CareThe best time to plan for our later senior years is before we get there. An elder care attorney can help you evaluate your options, such as self-funding, Medicaid, or long-term care insurance, and develop a plan that meets your needs and protects your assets. They can also advise you on structuring your assets and income to qualify for Medicaid benefits if necessary.Helping with Access to MedicaidMedicaid is a federal and state-funded program that provides healthcare coverage to low-income individuals, including seniors who need long-term care. However, qualifying for Medicaid can be a complex process. An elder care attorney can help you navigate the eligibility requirements and apply for benefits.Applying for Veteran's BenefitsFlorida senior veterans and their spouses may be eligible for various benefits, including healthcare, disability compensation, and pension benefits. A Florida elder care attorney can determine if you qualify for any benefits and how to access them.Protecting from Financial ExploitationScammers and other unscrupulous individuals often target seniors to exploit their vulnerability. An elder care attorney can help put safeguards in place to protect your assets and ensure your financial well-being. This may include creating a trust or appointing a guardian to oversee and protect your finances.Setting Up a Living TrustA living trust is a legal arrangement that allows you to transfer assets to a trustee who manages them on your behalf. A living trust can help you avoid probate, minimize estate taxes, and protect your privacy. An elder care attorney can help you create a living trust that meets your needs and provides for your loved ones.Summary: The Importance of a Florida Elder Care AttorneyKeeping our senior loved ones protected as they age is one of the essential loving things we can do. To most people, that means providing their seniors with the best care, living conditions, and quality of life.But it also means ensuring they are protected legally in all aspects of their lives. And this often calls for an elder care attorney who is an expert in all senior legal issues.The time to get all your senior's legal documents in order is before you need them. This is especially true with health care advance directives, powers of attorney, will, and trusts.Let us help.We will work with you to find the best home care help or assisted living community for their needs. We work with hospitals, care facilities, home health care, senior living communities, and elder care attorneys daily. We are a Florida-based company with expert knowledge of the Florida senior market. We know how to help with the move to assisted living while ensuring a smooth transition into the new community.While senior options can seem confusing, this is all we do. Florida Senior Consulting helps seniors decide their next best steps so they can live their best lives safely and securely.We have certified staff, licensed nurse advocates, and decades of experience in the field.Senior living should be on your terms, and the choice should always be yours.Call us, and we will answer all your questions and help you decide what is best for you or your senior loved one.For peace of mind, call us at (941) 661-6196 or visit FloridaSeniorConsulting.com.
Elder abuse is on the rise, and COVID-19 is to blame | Aging in Style with Lori WilliamsElder abuse is on the rise - in large part thanks to COVID. Nowadays, many seniors are isolated or lack the social support they've had in the past. Plus, many caregivers are simply not equipped to be caregivers, and there are fewer that remain in the workforce. Without the right care, seniors are vulnerable to abuse such as verbal, emotional, and even financial abuse like scams.Abuse can happen anywhere: not only in senior living, but often with family as well. Thats why its important to become aware of the signs. Senior Services Expert Lori Williams has tips to help you learn:- What elder abuse is- The different types of elder abuse- How we can prevent it- How to report it when we see itAnd more.Its also important to be aware that elder abuse is changing with the times. There are many predatory tactics happening with technology too. It's critical information for you and your senior loved ones to know.Topics discussed:- Elder abuse- Types of abuse- Caregivers- Scams- COVID isolation- Ombudsman- Dementia- Adult protective servicesTakeaways from this episode:- 60% of cases of elder abuse happens at the hands of a family member.- The best way to prevent abuse is to educate others and talk about it. Also, be sure to check in on older adults and caregivers you may know.- If you suspect elder abuse, call Adult Protective Services or a local long-term care ombudsman.- Help your senior loved ones set their social media to private and let them know about the types of social media, phone call and text message scams.- A common red flag in scams is if anyone asks you to wire money or send gift cards.Resources mentioned in this episode:Adult Protective Services (located in all states)Texas Adult Protective Services:http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Adult_Protection/The Role of the Ombudsman in Advocating for Seniors' Safetyhttps://www.loriwilliams-seniorservices.com/aging-in-style-podcast/episode/79a3922f/036-the-role-of-the-ombudsman-in-advocating-for-seniors-careTexas Ombudsmanhttps://apps.hhs.texas.gov/news_info/ombudsman/How seniors can protect themselves against identity theft and scamshttps://www.loriwilliams-seniorservices.com/aging-in-style-podcast/episode/7900734e/044-how-seniors-can-protect-themselves-against-identity-theft-and-online-scamsUpdated list of current scams to be aware of:https://oig.ssa.gov/scamListen to the podcast HERE