Friday, November 17, 2017

Making Choices 2.0

Since relaunching the blog, much of our focus has been on ability for an individual (the Principal) to choose other people (the Designees) to have the ability to make decisions in the event that the Principal becomes incapacitated. For almost every client this gives rise to the question, "who should I choose?" As with all of the decision-making aspects of estate planning, the answer to that question lies with the person who is creating the plan. As advisors and counselors, we can provide some insight into that decision, but ultimately it is one that must be made by the client.
Many of our clients struggle with choosing a single individual to name as a Designee, sometimes out of concern that the responsibility will create too heavy a burden for one person to handle. The good news in these circumstances is it is possible to appoint multiple Designees to work together to serve in any given role. This means that two or more people may be named to work together, either by unanimous consent, by majority rule, or each acting independently, in order to manage the responsibilities of serving under a Power of Attorney, Will, or Trust. While naming multiple Designees is always an option, it may not be the most efficient way of managing affairs, as naming multiple Designees normally requires those individuals to work together to achieve results. Further, with respect Designees named to make medical decisions under a Patient Advocate Designation, we generally recommend that our clients name a single person to serve as the Patient Advocate at any given time, in order to avoid creating a situation where multiple Designees cannot agree on a course of medical treatment, so doctors require that the Probate Court name a Guardian to remove uncertainty. The goal of implementing a Patient Advocate Designation seeks to avoid the Probate Court, not create a situation that requires it.
We make clients aware that they have the freedom to name anyone they desire to serve as a Designee, but all too often clients delay estate planning decisions due to concerns about their Designees. A common worry is someone who is not named will feel disappointment or even anger because of their omission. In those circumstances we find it helpful to remind our clients it is in their own best interest to choose the people that they believe have the capacity to fulfill the responsibilities of the role, especially as it pertains to them. If that means that a single child is named as the primary Designee in all of the documents because the child is more responsible, so be it, because that child has the ability to manage the responsibility. If the person named as the Designee in the Power of Attorney for making legal and financial decisions is different from the Designee in the Patient Advocate Designation for making medical decisions, that too is acceptable because the goal of naming Designees is to have the people best equipped make decisions making those decisions. Ultimately it is important to consider the consequences of naming someone less capable simply to avoid hurt feelings. Under those circumstances most people are able to trust their instincts, name the individuals who will do the best job and have enough peace of mind to set aside the worry that someone not named will be offended.
The bottom line in all of this is that the Designees named in an estate plan are essential to the success of that plan. While it is possible to name multiple individuals to work together, that is not always the most efficient way to administer a plan. The success of the plan is the result of naming the best people for the job. These decisions are not always easy and every planning situation is unique, which is one reason why it is especially useful to work with an attorney experienced in estate planning. That attorney should take the time to assist and guide you through the process of choosing Designees that meet the standard.

Matt and Al

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Estate Planning Impact During Life 2.0

In our previous blog, we began unravelling the mystery that is Estate Planning by focusing on what happens when a person dies without a Will. Today’s blog focuses on how an Estate Plan can help avoid problems and complications during lifetime. While planning for an orderly transition at death is a major component of Estate Planning, a person is more likely to become disabled due to injury or illness rather than die, and planning can be critically important for these situations. Today’s blog discusses the “here” component of Estate Planning when someone becomes disabled but does not die.
When we discuss the “here” of Estate Planning we are talking about Powers of Attorney and Patient Advocate Designations that allow a person to designate who will have control of their lives in the event they are unable to control their lives. Each of these documents serves a different role, so it is important to understand what each does, when they work, and who should be named to handle the decision making responsibility. As you continue reading, keep in mind the person who signs and has these documents is known as the Principal and the person named to act on the Principal’s behalf is the Designee.
The Durable Power of Attorney is the document that gives the Designee the authority to make legal and/or financial decisions on behalf of the Principal. While Powers of Attorney can cover a wide variety of circumstances and specific powers, a Durable Power of Attorney for Estate Planning purposes gives much broader authority to make decisions on behalf of the Principal. The word “Durable” in relation to a Power of Attorney means the document is intended to be legally effective even if the Principal becomes incapacitated. Including a Durable Power of Attorney in your Estate Plan provides a tool to loved ones, allowing them a broad spectrum of powers, including, but not limited to, the ability to continue to pay bills, run a business, and even file lawsuits in the event that the Principal become incapacitated.
In the absence of a Durable Power of Attorney, a person wanting to make legal decisions on your behalf must file a Conservatorship Petition in the Probate Court. In addition to dealing with Estate Administration, the Probate Court is responsible for reviewing these petitions, appointing, and supervising those people named to make decisions on behalf of others in the absences of a Power of Attorney. The Probate Court process can be cumbersome and will include multiple hearings, documents, and meetings with attorneys. While it is important that this process exists to assist those who fail to plan, having a Durable Power of Attorney avoids these delays and additional stresses in what is likely already a very stressful time.
The Patient Advocate Designation is similar to a Power of Attorney (and is sometimes called a Medical Power of Attorney or Appointment of Healthcare Surrogate) but this document allows a Designee to make medical decisions on behalf of the Principal in the event the Principal does not have the capacity to make them. A well drafted Patient Advocate Designation grants the authority for the Designee to make a wide variety of decisions, including treatment options in emergency situations and long-term medical decisions such as recovery/rehabilitation alternatives. In the most extreme circumstances, a Patient Advocate Designation also allows the Designee to make decisions regarding end of life care, the so called “pull the plug” decision. These are important and serious powers to grant to another person, which is why we also include a Living Will as part of our Estate Plans. The Living Will (sometimes called an Advanced Medical Directive) articulates a Principal’s desires regarding their care, allowing them to communicate those wishes to their Patient Advocate, even when the Principal is unable to speak.
As the Conservatorship is the Probate Court equivalent of a Power of Attorney, a Guardianship is the Probate Court equivalent of a Patient Advocate Designation. This Probate Court process can determine who has the power to make medical decisions in the event another person cannot make their own decisions, but it is still a much more time consuming and stressful situation, requiring multiple meetings and hearings before decisions can be made. A Patient Advocate Designation ensures that the person you want making decisions about your care can make them promptly without waiting for the Probate Court to weigh in on the matter and select a person the Principal might not otherwise selected.
The Durable Power of Attorney and Patient Advocate Designation are important aspects of the Estate Plan. Choosing a Designee, and a successor Designee if necessary, is an important decision and we strongly recommend that the people chosen to be named in these documents be the people who our clients feel are the most likely to make the decisions that the client would want made. While it is true that many clients worry if children (or parents) will be hurt or offended if they are omitted, but we feel it is better to name those people you feel are able to handle the responsibilities than to include someone who cannot or will not make the decisions that are best for you.
As with much of what we write about, there is a great deal more to this topic. While we strive to provide you with good information, it is important to remember to consult with an attorney experienced in Estate Planning before taking any action in order to avoid potentially expensive mistakes.
Matt and Al

Monday, November 13, 2017

What's the Worst that Can Happen 2.0

"I need to take care of estate planning, but I keep putting it off. 
What's the worst that could happen?"

Estate planning is a mystery for many people, and they do not know where to start to unravel the mystery.  They are not sure what information they need to begin the estate planning process or what questions to ask. People have a vague understanding of what a Will is, and they have heard the terms Living Trust, Patient Advocate Designation or Power of Attorney, but do not understand what those documents do. They get the impression that having an estate plan is a good thing, but never truly understand how that plan can protect them and their loved ones. When those people speak with us, or other attorneys, and begin to learn more about the estate planning process, they are frequently relieved to discover that the process is neither as costly nor as time-consuming as they initially believed. But as they learn the benefits of an estate plan they also become curious about the consequences of not having a plan. Over the next two blogs we will review the consequences of failing to have an estate plan.  We can then move on to discuss the benefits of estate planning and specific strategies for various situations.
First, the good news, it is impossible to die without an estate plan. An estate plan, at its core, is a set of directions regarding the distribution of a person's assets at their death. The Probate Court is the government body responsible for ensuring that a person's directions are carried out. The most common tool for articulating these directions to the Court is a Will. The Will tells the Court who the deceased wants to distribute assets to and who should be responsible for making those distributions (the "Personal Representative" or PR for short). 
When a person dies without a Will, the Probate Court defaults to Michigan's intestacy (legal speak for “dying without a Will”) laws which imposes a distribution plan on that person's assets. This default plan can be sufficient for some people, but in many cases the intestacy laws create unfavorable results because there is no flexibility to distribute other than to “family” members in relatively equal proportions. 
The Probate process, when using the intestacy laws, is lengthy, public and cumbersome because the Probate Court must act as a decision maker and supervisor throughout the whole process. The Probate Court has the responsibility for approving a Personal Representative and then supervising the PR as he or she navigates the process of locating all of the deceased's property, handling claims from creditors, determining who is entitled to distributions, and finally making distributions. Throughout this time there will be multiple hearings, filings, and Orders needed to finally resolve the process and allow the appointed PR to make distributions. 
In a best-case scenario, where all of the heirs are adults, creditors are known, and there are no substantial conflicts among heirs, probate may be completed within 8 to 16 months depending on the efficiency of the PR and the Probate Court. If there are any issues with the estate, the probate process can be ongoing for several years. During that time, each visit to the court will have both a financial and time cost for the estate. In a simple uncontested Probate Court costs are likely to add up to 3 to 5% of the estate's assets. The longer the probate process drags, on the greater the amount of assets consumed by court fees and expenses.
When a person dies with a Will, the Probate Court is still involved in the transfer of asset but unlike an intestacy situation, the Court has clear instructions from the contents of the Will as to whom the deceased wants to serve as the PR and to whom assets are to be distributed. Additionally, through the Will, the deceased can request an informal probate of the estate, which dramatically simplifies the process. The informal probate process limits the number of hearings and filings needed in the event of an uncontested estate. While the Probate Court is still involved in the administration of the estate, the involvement is limited to a more supervisory capacity thus limiting the costs in time and money for the PR and the estate. 
This is only a brief synopsis of the differences between dying with or without a Will, one that does not even begin to address the problems that can arise if everything does not move smoothly. Additionally we have not discussed yet some of the other documents that may make up an estate plan which can simplify the administration and distribution process to eliminate the involvement of the Probate Court completely. Further, today’s post only addresses events after a person dies, estate planning also includes preparing documents, such as Durable Powers of Attorney and Patient Advocate Designations that simplify decision-making in the event that a person becomes incapacitated and cannot make decisions for himself or herself, 
 With all this in mind, it is important to remember that the "worst that could happen" will have very little effect on a person who fails to plan because they will be gone. The cost in time, money, as well as the stress and problems, will all fall on the shoulders of their loved ones, who are already dealing with a loss. The worst that could happen to them is potentially devastating but with some relatively simple planning it is possible to greatly decrease the issues and problems loved ones will need to address. 
Matt and Al

Friday, November 10, 2017

Why You Need an Estate Plan 2.0

Congress is currently engaged in the task of revising tax law, including provisions relating to estate tax. The current proposal calls for raising the estate tax exclusion amount (the threshold over which a person incurs estate tax liability) from the current $5 million per person plus annual cost of living increases to $10 million per person plus annual cost of living increase. Additionally the estate tax would eliminated entirely in 2024. While we am personally skeptical that this is a “middle-class” tax cut, whether the current exclusion is retained, doubled, or entirely eliminated, it will have no effect on the estate planning for 99.98% of taxpayers or our clients. 
Over the last 40 years there has been an overemphasis on trying to avoid estate taxes when talking about estate planning. This has fueled the misconception that estate planning is only for the wealthy who want to control their fortunes from beyond the grave and minimize the amount of taxes their estate might have to pay. The reality is, as the estate tax exclusion has increased over time and eliminated the concern of estate taxes for most people, protecting one’s family and avoiding the state probate process has become much more important. Estate planning creates your blueprint for taking care of your loved ones in those hardest of times after your passing, and taking care of yourself and the ones you love if you are incapacitated because of illness or accident.. 
There are four common documents that make up an estate plan, two of those documents address concerns about the "here" while the other two address what happens in the "hereafter." The "here" refers to a situation where a person becomes incapacitated and unable to make their own decisions while the "hereafter" documents address the administration of assets following a person's death. We will address each briefly in this blog and discuss each and more detailed in future blogs.
The "here" documents include the Durable Power of Attorney and the Patient Advocate Designation, which allow you to appoint others to make decisions for you in the event of sickness or incapacity. This ability is important because it allows a trusted family member or friend to make immediate financial, legal, and medical decisions if you become incapacitated, rather than having to go through a long and costly court process. 
The Durable Power of Attorney names a person who, usually upon your incapacity, has the authority to deal with your financial well-being, including arranging for payment of bills, filing insurance claims and lawsuits, and handling other business matters on your behalf. 
The Patient Advocate Designation appoints a person to make medical decisions on your behalf, up to and including “pull the plug decisions”. Anyone over the age of 18 should have these documents because absent the existence of these documents it becomes necessary to Petition the Probate Court for the authority to make financial, legal, or medical decisions on behalf of another person, this process can be time consuming and cumbersome especially when a loved one needs assistance immediately.
The “hereafter” documents, Wills and Trusts, are documents that serve to enforce your asset distribution wishes after your death. These documents create an organized distribution scheme for your assets that you can modify as your situation and assets change, and if funded properly, can avoid the cost and time delays of probate under state law. The similarities and differences between a Will and a Trust, as well as how they work together, will be discussed in greater detail in future blogs.
At this point, if your answer to any of the following questions is “yes”, you should consider estate planning: 
  1. Do you have minor children? A Will and/or a Trust will allow you to name Guardians you are comfortable with to raise you children and ensure that any assets you can pass along to your children are used to their greatest advantage.
  2. Do you have assets?  Whether the value of your assets is large or small, a properly drafted estate plan allows you to determine who will receive your assets and under what terms or conditions, rather than having your assets distributed pursuant to a state statute.
  3. Do you want to determine who will be able to make legal and medical decisions on your behalf in the event you are incapacitated? Knowing who will make decisions on your behalf is very important because it allows you to guide those people with respect to the decisions you would want them to make. It also eliminates the stressful need to involve the Court when decisions need to be made promptly.
It should be clear that regardless of the size of one’s estate, proper planning is necessary for a number of reasons besides estate tax concerns. An attorney experienced in estate planning can answer your questions and help guide you in preparing a plan that fits your needs, being available to work with you to change your plan as your needs change, and being there to assist and guide your loved ones through those difficult times after your death.
Matt and Alan

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Introduction to Plainly Legal 2.0

Estate planning is an area of law that is constantly evolving and adapting to a variety of influencing factors. While the impact of changes in the law are a significant driver of change in estate planning it is important not to underestimate the impact of judicial decisions and development of new technology on the field. Over the course of the last 20 years, we have seen a refinement of the law to address some of the issues that have arisen due to other societal changes during that time, but often it is the responsibility of estate planning professionals and their clients to attempt to resolve situations in the absence of clear statutory guidance. This ongoing evolution is one of the many reasons why we consider estate planning an ongoing process that requires a strong attorney-client relationship built over the course of many years. In the coming days and weeks we will be reviewing and revising many of our previous blog posts in order to update and improve the information contained on our blog and to begin addressing potential changes that could result from Congress's current push to reform the tax code.
We normally encourage our colleagues and clients to review their estate planning as the year comes to a close, this year is no different because, no matter what comes from the legislative efforts in Washington, changes in individual lives generally have a much greater impact on an estate plan than changes in the law. Regular review is essential to confirm that the terms of your estate plan still aligned with your goals for managing your affairs in the event of your incapacity or death. As often as a client contacts us to update a designee or beneficiary in their estate plan, we also hear from clients who need to make significant changes to their estate plan because the goals of their planning have changed over time. We hope that the information we provide to you through the end of the year will prove useful, answering your questions and concerns regarding estate planning and to assisting you in a review of the current state of her planning (or lack thereof).
As you read through our posts, if you find yourself stuck with questions that we have not answered or topics that you would like us to address, please do not hesitate to contact us directly and we will do our best to assist you.
Matt and Alan

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Tax Reform "Framework"

     Following in the footsteps of the recently released estimates of the 2018 inflation adjusted exemptions for the Estate and Gift Taxes, yesterday the President unveiled what the White House refers to as a "framework" for tax reform. This framework contains a number of significant proposals, many of which are similar to ideas put forward during the President's campaign including:
  • reducing the number of individual income tax brackets from 7 to 3,
  • nearly doubling the current standard deduction,
  • increasing the child tax credit to an unspecified higher level, 
  • significantly reducing the corporate income tax rate, and
  • reducing the tax rate on income received from "pass-through" companies (such as LLC's, partnerships, and S-corps).
Also significant in the framework is a renewed effort to reduce individual and corporate tax deductions and repeal the Estate and Gift Tax.
     Economists, pundits, and reporters will have much to say about this effort to reform the tax code, but for our purposes it is important to remember that this framework is essentially a “wish list’ and not a well-defined bill Congress can discuss and pass. The framework omits significant details, including basic, but integral, information such as where the individual bracket thresholds start and stop. While this is clearly a statement of intent regarding how the administration would like to move forward on tax reform, the lack of specifics make it little more than a compilation of common Republican talking points on the subject of tax reform from the last 10 years.
     From our point of view, any discussion of tax reform is an important issue to stay abreast of in order to understand how it will impact our clients planning. The potential repeal of Estate and Gift Taxes reinforces this belief, as any change of that magnitude is likely to create a ripple effect reaching other aspects of the tax code, including whether inheritors receive a step up in basis and the rules regarding the distribution of inherited IRAs. That said, it is our philosophy to keep track of tax proposals but not to spend a significant amount of time gazing into our crystal ball to determine how proposed legislation that may never come to pass will affect our clients.
     Rest assured we will continue to stay abreast of tax proposals and their impact on the planning landscape so that if and when a tax reform proposal becomes law we will be prepared to provide our clients with the expertise necessary to adapt their planning to the changed landscape and ensure that it continues to achieve their goals moving forward.
Alan and Matt

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Changes to Gift Tax Exclusions for 2018

Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters released their predictions for 2018’s inflation-adjusted figures related to the Unified Estate and Gift Tax Exclusion amount and the Annual Gift Tax Exclusion this week. While these are not final numbers released by the IRS, they are likely to reflect the 2018 increases.

For gifts made and estates of decedents dying in 2018, the Estate and Gift Tax exclusion amount will likely increase to $5,600,000 (up from $5,490,000 for gifts made and estates of decedents dying in 2017). This increase raises the threshold for Estate and Gift Tax liability to $11,200,000 for married couples.

For gifts made in 2018, the Annual Gift Tax Exclusion will also likely increase to $15,000  per person (up from $14,000 for gifts made in 2017).

Finally, the Exemption from Generation-Skipping Tax (GST) is will likely increase to $5,600,000 for transfers in 2018 (up from $5,490,000 for transfers in 2017).
These increases will allow clients to make further use of planning strategies which allow them to reduce their tax liability by making gifts during their lifetime. Feel free to call or email us if you have any questions or if you want to discuss planning strategies.
Alan & Matt

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Domestic Asset Protection Trusts

Michigan Trust Law has remained fairly static in recent years with little change since the adoption of the Estates and Protected Individuals Code and the Michigan Trust Code. That changed recently with the passing of bills which allow the creation of Michigan based, self-settled, asset protection trusts. 

     February 2017 brings us an exciting change in Michigan Trust Law. As of Sunday, February 5, 2017, Michigan becomes the 16th state to permit Domestic Asset Protection Trusts (DAPT). A DAPT allows an individual (the “Grantor”) to create and fund an irrevocable trust which, subject to certain legal requirements, allows the Grantor to shield assets from the claims of a creditor.
     There are number of rules that a Grantor must follow in order to establish a valid DAPT, including the prohibition on the trust Grantor acting as the Trustee. However if properly drafted and funded, a DAPT will provide significant creditor protection while still allowing the Grantor to retain substantial rights with respect to the Trust property, including the ability:
  • to receive all of the income produced by the trust’s assets as well as to receive discretionary distributions of the Trust’s principal; 
  • to direct the investment of Trust assets 
  • to remove and replace trustees; and 
  • direct the distribution of assets following the Grant’s death.
While the Grantor cannot act as the Trustee of their own Trust, they do have broad discretion over who to appoint and can even appoint family members to serve in that role. 
     While a DAPT is incredibly powerful tool for creditor protection, it does have limitations. Most prominently, there is a two-year period from the date assets are transferred to the trust before creditor protection is achieved. Additionally, in situations related to bankruptcy or fraudulent concealment, protection takes longer to be applicable or may be completely unavailable. Due to these limitations, it is important to create and fund a DAPT well in advance of any claim arising. 
     DAPTs have the potential to become a very important part of estate planning, especially for those individuals such as doctors and business owners who face higher than average creditor exposure. However in order for them to provide the intended protection it is vital to ensure the DAPT comports with the governing statute. As always, before attempting to include a DAPT in your planning, or the planning of your clients, it is important to consult an experienced estate planning attorney.

Alan and Matt

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Michigan Law Update

The last few months have brought us some significant changes in Michigan law that deals with estate planning. Our next two blogs will address those changes and the impact that they are likely to have on existing and future estate plans.

     Clients who have specific wishes for funeral arrangements, but worry that family members may disagree with them and go against their wishes, whether for religious or personal reasons, now have a specific statute that gives them the right to designate a "Funeral Representative" to make decisions about postmortem funeral arrangements and the handling, cremation, disposition or disinterment of the person's body. 
     The new law allows the client to appoint a "designated federal representative", who then has priority over spouses, family members and others with respect to making arrangements for the client's remains. The funeral representative designation can be included in another estate planning document, including a will or patient advocate designation, but it must be executed before two witnesses and/or be notarized. The representative accepts the appointment by signing an acceptance or by acting as the funeral representative. 
     One important caveat is that the funeral representative is personally liable for the costs of final arrangements, so it is important that the person who has made the declaration insures payment for the costs of the disposition through a trust, insurance, a prepaid funeral contract or some other means.

     Recently signed legislation eliminates a wife's "Dower" right. Prior to the legislation, Michigan law assigned a married woman a one third ownership right in any property owned by her husband during the marriage. The effect of this law was that the husband could not attempt to sell property purchased during marriage without obtaining his wife's signature on any legal documents.  The Dower rights were claimed after the husband died, and the widow was entitled to a portion of the property even if it had been transferred to another party without her consent, for the rest of her life. She could not, however, pass those Dower rights on to anyone else and the right was extinguished when the wife died.
     The new legislation abolishes Michigan Dower, and transfers of real estate in Michigan will no longer be subject to a potential Dower claim. The husband will no longer be required to obtain his wife's signature in order to extinguish her Dower rights when transferring property to another.

In addition to these two changes the state of Michigan has also now provided statutory authority for the creation of a Domestic Asset protection Trust (DAPT). A DAPT allows an individual to create and fund an irrevocable trust, which, subject to certain legal requirements, allows the rantor to shield their assets from the claims of a creditor. Our next blog will discuss this new development in greater details.

Alan and Matt

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

New Year - Resolve to Review your Estate Planning

Today we reprise a New Year's blog from 2015 because we feel that it is important that planners and clients add a commitment to review and update their estate planning to their list of New Year's resolutions.
The importance of this resolution really struck home with me when I reviewed my own estate planning on New Year's Day and realized there were changes I wanted to make even though the most recent revision had occurred less than two years ago.
Our message from that 2015 blog continues to be relevant:
"While we all have full lives that often get in the way of planning, the beginning of a new year is a great time for our clients, friends, and me, to make a resolution to review or consider estate planning.   It is particularly important to: 
1.    Review estate planning documents especially if they have not been updated in the last two or three years. If you have no documents, it is time to consider getting them. Pay special attention should be paid to:
a.    Guardians named to care for minors in the event both parents pass away. If you have previously named guardians, are these still the people you trust?
b.    Distribution provisions for children and grandchildren --when should they receive money and how much?
c.    People named to act as trustees and personal representatives after your death to protect your children and other loved ones. Are those people you named to administer your trust and estate still the ones you want to accept that responsibility?
d.    People named to make legal and medical decisions under your Durable Power Of Attorney and Patient Advocate Designation, in the event you become incapacitated. If you have previously named people, are they still able, and willing, to make these decisions on your behalf?
2.    Review how you titled your assets to confirm you can avoid the high cost, time delays and public exposure of probate under Michigan law at your death.
3.    Inventory your assets, so that a complete list is available for your administrators in the event of a sudden death.
4.    Consider making a list of personal property designations, so that items you value can go to the desired beneficiaries.
5.    Consider making a list of important people and contact information, such as your attorney, accountant, financial planner, or investment advisor, to save your family time and aggravation.
6.    If you have any particular desires, write a letter indicating your personal burial preferences, so your loved ones will know how to handle arrangements at your death.
7.    Consider starting Section 529 education accounts for your children or grandchildren so the funds can grow tax-deferred, and be distributed tax-free, to the extent they are used for higher education.
8.    For those of you with unmarried children over the age of 18, encourage them to execute their own patient advocate designations and durable powers of attorney so that if something were to happen to them, decisions can be made without involving the probate court.
Like all of our other resolutions, these may be hard to keep but, if completed, can provide us peace of mind that if the unexpected occurs, our loved ones will be prepared to deal with whatever comes their way."