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Funeral Planning

Funeral Planning

Advanced funeral planning may seem premature or morbid, but it can also be a cathartic experience and a gift to your heirs and family members. You may not realize all of the anguish that can happen after death, as loved ones worry about honoring someone’s wishes correctly. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful gift to guide loved ones through pre-determined arrangements to ensure a proper, respectful and meaningful ceremony? Funeral planning is a natural extension of estate planning at Wiles Law Firm. Not only can you protect and honor someone’s legacy at Wiles through our Legacy Letter program, but your estate documents can also include formal plans for a funeral, service or celebration. A local funeral home like McAlister-Smith Funeral Home can help you develop detailed and loving plans to be included in your estate when you are ready. They are committed to providing your family with the highest quality care and service in your time of need, and they take pride in lightening your burden as you take the first steps toward healing.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, an increasing number of people are beginning to plan their funerals in advance, even paying for them in advance, to relieve family members of stress. The FTC recommends to, “put your preferences in writing, give copies to family members and your attorney, and keep a copy in a handy place. And avoid putting the only copy of your preferences in a safe deposit box. That’s because your family may have to make arrangements on a weekend or holiday, before the box can be opened.”

Once you make an estate plan, it’s imperative to include any and all wishes for a funeral or service as your estate plan represents the first step towards legally determining what can happen next. Only 21% of Americans have spoken to their loved ones about their wishes. And one out of five Americans haven’t broached the subject, as they are waiting for their loved ones to bring the topic up first. Let’s change that reluctant conversation into a loving, planning experience and relieve the burden from your heirs. No matter where you are in the process, we’re here to simplify or plan the estate’s next steps and get you through this transition smoothly. Wiles Law can guide and protect your loved one’s legacy through estate planning, probate and trust administration and fulfillment. We are here to help you start these delicate conversations and navigate life after death.

Our services include:

ESTATE PLANNING

  • Design a Plan (Will, Trust, LLC, etc.)
  • Align Assets
  • Asset Protection
  • Education & Maintenance

PROBATE ADMINISTRATION

  • Reading of the Last Will
  • Transfer of Assets
  • Closing of Estate
  • Representation in Probate Court

TRUST ADMINISTRATION

  • Assist Trustees
  • Timeline Management
  • Draft Legal Documents
  • Distribution

We’ll offer caring support so your family and friends can do their grieving in a safe environment, while we guide the wishes of your loved ones. Knowing where to start is the first step to peace of mind. See our checklist below on how we can help after the funeral is over.

  • Review of Estate Plan & Assets
  • Review Deadlines, Duties, & Liabilities
  • Review of Potential Fees & Taxes
  • Asset Protection
  • Probate Representation
  • Death Benefits & Insurance Claims
  • Transfer of Assets
  • Trustee Reviews
  • Distribution Proposals
  • Closing of the Estate
  • Final Accounting & Asset Distribution

Let us help you celebrate an enduring legacy left behind and provide a healing experience for those who remain. Contact us today to setup an appointment with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys. It’s never too late to protect more.

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End of 2020 Checklist

End of 2020 Checklist

Since things have been in a constant state of flux this year, we haven’t always had the time to take inventory of the changes and how they impacted us. Especially how they may have impacted our estate plan. As we look forward to 2021, there is still an opportunity at the end of 2020 to make sure you have accomplished your goals or have adjusted for the changes you’ve experienced.

Please take a moment to review our end of the year checklist to see if your wishes reflect your current state of affairs, how you would like your assets distributed or your healthcare delegated. Contact one of our experienced estate planning attorneys to help you quickly update as needed.

  • I like who I have selected as my Trustee(s). Yes __ No __
  • My Trustee(s) are up-to-date with my current wishes. Yes __ No __
  • My legal guardians are up-to-date for my minor children. Yes __ No __
  • My beneficiary designations are current and list contingencies. Yes __ No __
  • I have a Durable Power of Attorney to protect me. Yes __ No __
  • My estate is protected through a Trust or LLC.  Yes __ No __
  • I have moved new bank accounts into the name of the Trust. Yes __ No __
  • I have set up continuing Trusts to protect my children from creditors, and other attacks. Yes __ No __
  • I have funded my Trust, including retitling all important accounts and documents.Yes __ No __If
  • I have recently moved to South Carolina, I have updated my estate to new or applicable SC law. Yes __ No __
  • I have considered purchasing long-term care insurance. Yes __ No __
  • I understand how to safely gift money, tax free, by the end of the year. Yes __ No__

If you answered “No” to any questions, remember that things can shift quickly in your life and it’s important to protect yourself and your heirs. You matter, and your wishes matter. Let’s make sure they are updated and protected today. The State of South Carolina will only uphold your most recent legally approved changes or new submissions, not write-ins. Such amendments may even have your Will thrown out or ruled invalid. It’s important to work with an experienced attorney to ensure your legacy is updated and protected. Take control of your future and call us today for a free consultation!

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Thanksgiving Conversation Starters

Thanksgiving Conversation Starters

The holidays will not look the same this year for many families. While we are all hoping to gather together, our plans may have to change or look very different. But as plans change, so should our conversations about life’s unexpected turns. Family gatherings, whether in person or virtual, are a great time to ask important questions about your loved one’s care – or to at least get the conversation started.

Seventy percent of Americans say that their family is what they’re most thankful for as they gather around the dinner table. Now more than ever, we are truly appreciating the time we have with each other. With the family gathered, you may have a prime opportunity to broach the topic of medical care and estate planning during the pandemic.

You may notice that your once healthy parents are now much older and more fragile. Your family could have grown substantially, and some family members might be sick and others might have passed away. These familial changes are inevitable and almost expected as time moves on. What is usually a surprise though, is when a loved one becomes incapacitated or dies and does not have a plan. As your family changes, your estate plan should too. At Wiles Law, we can help you anticipate what could happen so you don’t have to. If you don’t have an estate plan set yet, there is always time to start somewhere. Beginning these delicate conversations now before an emergency arises is a great place to start.

First, asses your own family’s situation and make sure they are prepared for medical decisions, incapacity and asset protection. It’s important to make sure anyone elderly, single or at risk has an advanced healthcare directive setup, and if possible, a Will or Trust. This is to safeguard them through the pandemic and beyond. Next, think about the level of protection they need, especially if there is a minor in the family or someone with special needs.

Before you begin the conversation, pick a moment when you and your family members can spend time together. Find a comfortable, and private environment so everyone is relaxed, with no distractions that could send the conversation off-course. The goal on both sides is to make everyone feel at ease and create a framework for an ongoing dialogue that goes beyond the Thanksgiving holiday. Ask your parents if there are any wishes you should be aware of, or legacies and values to be passed down. Remind them to think about what their care should be in the future and who they would like to be in charge.

Encouraging parents to create formal documents after your conversations will relieve family stress and chaos during emergency situations. It will also ensure that their wishes, and assets go to the people they choose, at the time they want.

Don’t feel like you need to solve every discussion point during the holiday weekend, as it’s more important to just start the conversation. Focus the dialogue on key next steps or clarifying questions to document their wishes. Once the holiday is over, ask them to set some time aside to meet with our experts to make their intentions legal and safe. After all, who and what we are most thankful for is also what we want to protect. Let us help you protect your family’s values and grant the wishes of your loved ones.

To help gently open the conversation this holiday, we recommend some of these open-ended questions.

  1. Have you ever thought about what happens if you can’t take care of yourself?
  2. What are your wishes for care?
  3. Who would you like to make decisions for you?
  4. Have you written anything down? (If so, do you have any formal documents protecting you?) (If so, where can we find them?)

Speak to one of our experienced estate planning attorneys for a free assessment of your current plan or wishes. We’re here to help you achieve peace of mind and feel prepared. Whether you have a small or large estate, or just a need for a guardianship, we have worked with clients from all walks of life in the Charleston area and planned for all different kinds of needs. We look forward to learning your story and designing a strategy that creates a living legacy for you and your family.

For other tips on how to start conversations with loved ones, download our FREE estate planning worksheet with all of the key questions to ask this holiday season. Preserve your legacy now!

South Carolina Estate Planning Attorney

 

References:

https://today.yougov.com/topics/food/articles-reports/2019/11/28/thanksgiving-turkey-plans-thankful-for-poll-survey

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Holiday Gift Giving Guide

Holiday Gift Giving Guide

Holiday gift giving can feel rewarding and fulfilling by showing your appreciation to loved ones and friends. Unfortunately, in person shopping has become difficult this year due to store restrictions and CDC social distancing guidelines. But one of the best ways to safely gift this year is through estate gifting. It’s one of the easiest ways to ensure your money stays safely in the family or transfers safely to your recipient. Giving while you’re alive can also bring down the value of the estate. And it will allow you the invaluable opportunity of seeing a life changing moment happen to your recipient.

Tax Exemption Gifts

As of 2020, the IRS allows individuals to give up to $15,000 per person and married couples up to $30,000 in gifts, tax free, while also ensuring the money is tax-free for recipients. It’s important to remember that everyone, no matter their estate plan, is taxed on what they own when they die. There are only two ways to reduce that tax: Owning less (gifting or charitable donations) or making what you own worth less. Real estate owners might be uniquely situated to do both. Consider gifting real estate whose values are depressed due to the pandemic and economy. But be careful about giving away assets that appreciate in value such as stocks or a house, as they can be worth more in the long run, making it more beneficial to transfer after death rather than before.

Trusts for Giving

For married couples who are uncomfortable gifting significant amounts to their descendants, each spouse can gift up to the unified federal gift and estate tax amount to a Trust (currently 11.58M) for the other spouse (also known as a spousal lifetime access trust, or SLAT) so that access is not lost.

Gifting Through Charitable Giving & Donations

Another way to give and reduce your estate value is through charitable giving and donations. The CARES Act made a new deduction available for up to $300 per taxpayer ($600 for a married couple) in annual charitable contributions. Individuals can elect to deduct cash contributions, up to 100% of their 2020 adjusted gross income, on itemized 2020 tax returns. This is up from the previous limit of 60%. Corporations may deduct up to 25% of taxable income, up from the previous limit of 10%. The RMD (required minimum distributions) is an attractive way for donors to make a significant charitable gift (up to $100,000 per individual) directly from their IRA to a charity through a qualified charitable contribution (QCD) while avoiding taxable income. Rather than giving a one-time gift or an RMD, you could also consider setting up a donor advised fund. This option would give you an immediate tax deduction for money deposited in the fund and then let you make charitable grants over time. A child or grandchild could be named as a successor in managing the fund as well.

Medical & Educational Gifts

Maybe you’d like to improve someone’s medical or educational journey. Direct payment for a child or grandchild’s medical or educational expense is also considered a tax-free gift. Payments made directly to a provider or institution are not taxable and these payments do not require a gift tax return. Or you can consider contributing to a 529 College Savings plan. Up to $15,000 can be contributed tax free each year. The main advantage is that the money will grow in the account, free from taxes. It’s also possible to front load five years’ worth at once ($75,000 from an individual, $150,000 from a couple).

Striking the right balance of gifting without burden whilst aligning with your goals is important. It requires the right expertise to make sure it’s secured. Let us help you decide what strategy is right for you and your family. Your legacy depends on it. Call one of our estate planning attorneys today!

 

Tax Disclaimer:

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax or accounting advice.

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Single or Unmarried Estate Planning

Single or Unmarried Estate Planning

If you are single, or unmarried with no kids, you may not have thought much about estate planning. You might have assumed estate planning is only for married couples who need contingency plans for minor children. Just because you have no dependents, doesn’t mean your life or your partner’s life isn’t important enough to protect. There are a few situations you should think about to safeguard your health and your assets in case of incapacity or death.

Your Health:

Being single, have you thought about what would happen next, if you become sick? Who would make health care decisions for you if you could not do it yourself? A Medical Power of Attorney, also known as a Healthcare Proxy, is a good starting point. It allows a designated person to act on your behalf to make medical decisions. This spells out precisely what types of interventions you agree to if you are not able to communicate your wishes.

Your Decision Making:

If you were incapacitated, who would act on your behalf for decision making? A Power of Attorney can appoint someone to act on your behalf for financial affairs and other matters when single. Without this, a court would need to appoint someone to handle important decisions for you. This could delay access to bank and investment accounts and make it difficult to access the money needed to pay bills. These documents are only used while you are alive and should be constantly updated as your life changes. When you die, they are no longer valid, requiring you to already have a Will or a Trust set up to cover any next steps.

Your Assets:

Have you thought about who will tend to your assets and affairs after you pass away? Have you thought about who your beneficiaries and heirs are? For unmarried partners, the opposite partner must be listed as a designated beneficiary to receive benefits, as it’s not an automatic distribution. Only children and spouses are natural heirs. Check that the beneficiary designations on your life insurance, retirement, and bank accounts are in line with your wishes and your choice of recipients.

At a minimum, everyone needs a Will. If there is no Will, the Probate court can rely on South Carolina law to determine the order of inheritance. This is an expensive, public process that can be open to challenges and claims, as well as, cost up to 10% of the value of the estate. It is important to check your beneficiary designations as well.  Those designations will override any instructions in your Will, so it’s important to always check in every three years to make sure things are properly aligned and updated. Ideally, the beneficiary of your Will should be a revocable Trust that will help you avoid Probate, and streamline inheritance administration to beneficiaries through the Trustee.

Why a Trust?

If you want to provide benefits for your partner, particularly, if you live together, and you are the breadwinner, you need the protection of a Trust.  All Wills are forced in to Probate court, it’s unavoidable. Probate literally means “to prove,” so in essence you are proving in court that the Will is even valid. And the presiding judge may not even hold a degree, let alone a law degree. Your Will then becomes a mere framework of your wishes versus your exact specification and the judge decides what should happen next.

A Trust will allow your beneficiary to receive the assets upon your death without being proved in Probate court, and to your exact specification. Perhaps you want to securely provide income after you die, or a place to live, or a way to manage inheritance. Only a Trust can administer these wishes AND mitigate the Probate process. Trust are ultimately more private, secure, and typically more affordable than a Will in the long run.

3-Year Check-Ins

Having an updated estate plan can help ensure that everything you worked so hard for is distributed to the people, charities, and organizations that mean the most to you. At Wiles, we suggest you revisit your plan at least every three years to make sure your wishes are in alignment with your legacy. Sometimes major life events can spur the need to revise an estate plan earlier. Such events could be:

  • Change in assets, or inheritance
  • Break-ups
  • Death
  • Desire to change personal representatives, heirs or beneficiaries
  • New business
  • Real estate
  • Relocation
  • Sickness or disability

Key Takeaways

Unmarried Couples & Partners:

  • Make sure to have documents in place to specify who can make financial and medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated. This is critical (especially during the pandemic) to have these conversations and documents in order before an emergency arises.
  • Check that the beneficiary designations on your life insurance, retirement, and bank accounts are in line with your partner or your preferred recipient.
  • A Trust is the best route to safeguard you and your partner and to avoid Probate.

Singles:

  • If you are single, you will need to focus on allowing someone else to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf.
  • Spend time thinking about where your assets would pass at death, because there may not be a clear set of beneficiaries (like a spouse or children).
  • A Power of Attorney on its own is usually not enough. It would be best to have a Will at a minimum, and consider the route of a Trust to fully protect you and your assets from the Probate court.

If you are looking for help setting up a Trust, updating your beneficiaries, writing a Will, or gathering your key documents, Wiles Law Firm can help. Contact one of our estate planning attorneys today for a FREE consultation! Or get started on your own by using our free, downloadable e-planner to fill out your wishes. Preserve your legacy now!

 

South Carolina Estate Planning Attorney

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