Category Archives: Elderly

Dementia and Guns: A Tragedy Waiting to Happen

It’s common for families of those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia to realize that at some point, their loved one shouldn’t be allowed to drive. But fewer people are aware they should exercise the same level of caution when it comes to restricting their loved one’s access to firearms.

This was one of the findings of a May 2018 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine covering firearm ownership among Alzheimer’s patients. The study noted that even though 89% of Americans support restricting access to firearms for those with mental illness, there’s been little attention focused on limiting firearm access among elderly dementia patients.

Indeed, there are currently no federal gun laws prohibiting the purchase or possession of firearms by persons with dementia. And only two states—Hawaii and Texas—have laws restricting gun access for dementia patients.

A ticking time bomb
This lack of attention comes despite an increasing number of incidents involving elderly dementia patients shooting and killing family members and caregivers after confusing them for intruders. And with so many Baby Boomers now entering retirement age, this dangerous situation could get much worse.

In fact, the number of people with dementia is expected to double to around 14 million in the next 20 years, with the vast majority of those over age 65. Since nearly half of people over 65 either own a gun or live with someone who does, it’s clear that firearm safety should be a top priority for those with elderly family members—even if they don’t currently have any signs of dementia.

That said, just talking about restricting someone’s access to guns can be highly controversial and polarizing. Many people, especially veterans and those in law enforcement, consider guns—and their right to own them—an important part of their identity.

Given this, the study’s authors recommended that families should talk with their elderly loved ones early on about the fact that one day they might have to give up their guns. Physicians suggest bringing up the topic of firearms relatively soon after individual’s initial dementia diagnosis.

This discussion should be like those related to driving, acknowledging the emotions involved and allowing the person to maintain independence and decision control for as long as it’s safe. Even though this can be a very touchy subject, putting off this discussion can literally be life threatening.

All part of the plan
Since it relates to so many other end-of-life matters, this discussion should take place as part of the overall estate planning process. One way to handle the risk is to create a separate “gun trust,” an estate planning tool specially designed to deal with the ownership of firearms.

Such a trust allows the gun owner to name a trusted family member or friend to take ownership of their firearms once they’re reached a certain age or stage of dementia. In this way, the process may seem more like passing on a beloved family heirloom and less like giving up their guns.

Moreover, the transfer of certain types of firearms must adhere to strict state and federal regulations. Unless the new owner is in full compliance with these requirements, they could inadvertently violate the law simply by taking possession of the guns.

With a gun trust, the firearm is legally owned by the trust, so most of the transfer requirements are avoided, making it a lot easier for family members to manage access after the original owner’s death or incapacity.

Indeed, gun trusts can be a valuable planning strategy even for gun owners without dementia. Speak with us to see if a gun trust would be a suitable option for your family.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

3 Deadly Sins of Retirement Planning

Retirement planning is one of life’s most important financial goals. Indeed, funding retirement is one of the primary reasons many people put money aside in the first place. Yet many of us put more effort into planning for our vacations than we do to prepare for a time when we may no longer earn an income.

Whether you’ve put off planning for retirement altogether or failed to create a truly comprehensive plan, you’re putting yourself at risk for a future of poverty, penny pinching, and dependence. The stakes could hardly be higher.

When preparing for your final years, it’s not enough to simply hope for the best. You should treat retirement planning as if your life depended on it—because it does. To this end, even well-thought-out plans can contain fatal flaws you might not be aware of until it’s too late.

Have you committed any of the following three deadly sins of retirement planning?

1. Not having an actual plan
Even if you’ve been diligent about saving for retirement, without a detailed, goal-oriented plan, you’ll have no clear idea whether your savings strategies are working adequately or not. And such plans aren’t just about calculating a retirement savings number, funding your 401(k), and then setting things on auto-pilot.

Once you know how much you’ll need for retirement, you must plan for exactly how you’ll accumulate that money and monitor your success. The plan should include clear-cut methods for increasing income, reducing spending, maximizing tax savings, and managing investments when and where needed.

What’s more, you should regularly review and update your asset allocation, investment performance, and savings goals to ensure you’re still on track to hit your target figure. With each new decade of your life (at least), you should adjust your savings strategies to match the specific needs of your new income level and age.

Failing to plan, as they say, is planning to fail.

2. Not maximizing the use of tax-saving retirement accounts
One way or another, the money you put aside for retirement is going to be taxed. However, by investing in tax-saving retirement accounts, you can significantly reduce the amount of taxes you’ll pay.

Depending on your employment and financial situation, there are numerous different plans available. From traditional IRAs and 401(k)s to Roth IRAs and SEP Plans, you should consider using one or more of these investment vehicles to ensure you achieve the most tax savings possible.

What’s more, many employers will match your contributions to these accounts, which is basically free money. If your employer offers matching funds, you should not only use these accounts, but contribute the maximum amount allowed—and begin doing so as early as possible.

Since figuring out which of these plans will offer the most tax savings can be tricky—and because tax laws are constantly changing—you should consult with a professional financial advisor to find the one(s) best suited for your particular situation. Paying taxes is unavoidable, but there’s no reason you should pay any more than you absolutely must.

3. Underestimating health-care costs
It’s an inescapable fact that our health naturally declines with age, so one of the riskiest things you can do is not plan for increased health-care expenses.

With many employers eliminating retiree health-care coverage, Medicare premiums rising, and the extremely volatile nature of health insurance law, planning for your future health-care expenses is critical. And it’s even more important seeing that we’re now living longer than ever before.

Plus, these considerations are assuming that you don’t fall victim to a catastrophic illness or accident. The natural aging process is expensive enough to manage, but a serious health-care emergency can wipe out even the most financially well off.

Start preparing for retirement now
The best way to maximize your retirement funding is to start planning (and saving) as soon as possible. In fact, your retirement savings can be exponentially increased simply by starting to plan at an early age.

Let us know if we can help. We’ll be glad to review what you have in place now, advise you about what you need, introduce you to advisors you can trust, and ensure you and your family are well-protected and planned for, no matter what.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

How to Leave Your Life Insurance and Retirement Plan to Your Minor Children

PARENT-CHILD-CUSTODY-91024Your children are your pride and joy. It is no surprise that at some point or another, every parent likely becomes concerned about who will care for a minor child or children if one or both parents die or are incapacitated. From a financial perspective, many parents turn to life insurance in an effort to take care of their family in the event of death. While it is true that life insurance is a particularly helpful financial tool to protect your loved ones, it is just as important to consider how to leave the proceeds to your minor children. Beyond this, you should also consider how to incorporate your retirement money (IRAs and 401(k)s) into your overall estate plan.

Once you decide to purchase life insurance you will name a beneficiary of the death benefits.  You also name a beneficiary on your retirement accounts.  But, if you fail to have a system in place and your children are minors at the time they inherit these assets, the court will appoint a conservator to “watch over” a minor person’s money. This process requires attorneys’ fees, court proceedings, supervision from the court, and will generally limit investment options — all costs and delays that will not help your children, but rather cost them a significant percentage of their inheritance. Another downside? Whatever’s left when the child turns 18 will be handed over, without any guidance or boundaries. This can impact college financial aid opportunities as well as open a ready opportunity for irresponsible spending that most parents would never intend.

How To Leave Assets?

There are several ways in which you can structure your life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and overall estate plan to benefit your minor children in the most streamlined way possible.

First, instead of naming minor children as beneficiaries, use a children’s trust to manage and use the money for the benefit of your children. This lets you designate someone you think will manage the money well, rather than leaving it to the whims of the court.

Second, select and name a guardian to handle the day-to-day care for your children. This person can be different than the person managing in the money, which can sometimes work well depending on the amounts involved and the different skill sets needed to manage money versus raise children.

Third, if you have a living trust, make sure you have properly funded the trust and aligned your retirement assets with the plan. If you do not yet have a trust, consider the benefits of one over will-based planning.  Both types of plans will allow you to designate how much and when your children will receive the money, but a trust-based plan will allow you to do so without court involvement.

Benefits of a Trust

Generally, parents list a minor child as the secondary or contingent beneficiary on life insurance and retirement accounts after first naming the surviving spouse as a primary beneficiary. This may work, as long as everyone dies in the “right” order and at the “right” time. But, it’s a gamble, and providing structure through a trust for these inheritances is a vastly superior option. Unlike guardianship or custodian accounts, where the proceeds must be handed over once the minor(s) turns a certain age, you can specify at which age your child receives the proceeds. This allows you to specifically designate how the money is to be used, so it will be available for important life events, while protecting your children from reckless spending. Ultimately you have more control with a trust, and your customized plan will provide the best protection for your family.

If you have any questions about how to leave assets to your minor children — whether it is a life insurance policy, a retirement account, or any other asset — contact us today so we can help you explore the options available to your family, determine what tax implications will result, and advise you on the best structure that will protect your family’s needs.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

Marc Garlett 91024

Does Your Parent Need Help With Finances? Start Here

 

Elderly 91024Caring for an aging parent is a common challenge for Baby Boomers, and now even Gen-X’ers and Millennials. And, stepping in to help manage your parents’ finances, without eroding their sense of independence and privacy can be a tricky endeavor.

Many aging parents are reluctant to ask their children for help with their finances. It means a loss of control, a trading of places (from them taking care of you to you taking care of them), and can feel quite frightening for your parents.

Nevertheless, you may be wondering what you can do when your parents start needing help.

A pile of unpaid bills, threatening calls from creditors or repeated instances of credit card fraud or financial scams are good indicators that your parent needs help managing his or her finances.

Financial caregiving is easiest when you already have a plan in place. You may be in a good position to make educated decisions about their finances, but without the proper information and legal authority, your options are limited.

If your parent needs help, the first step is to make sure you know what they have, where it is, and how you can access it, if necessary.

Next, you want to make sure you know what bills are due, when and that their bills are being paid on time.

Unless you have the legal authority to manage your parents’ finances, you will need their help in getting access to their account and setting up auto-bill pay for them.

When you are ready, the first place to start is with a heart to heart conversation about whether your parent is ready for help and what that help could look like.

Then, if your parent is ready, you can ask him or her (or them) to legally designate you as either the Trustee of their trust or financial power of attorney holder, depending on the issues. And, be sure you are also designed as medical power of attorney, so you can make important care-giving decisions for your parent(s) if he, she or they cannot.

This is also an opportune time for you to consider your own long-term financial planning. By helping your parents and getting your own affairs in order, you are making things as easy as possible for each generation in your family. What an incredible gift!

Dedicated to empowering your family, increasing your wealth and building your legacy,

Marc Garlett 91024