Is your pet in your estate plan?

A survey of pet owners and found nearly half (44%) of pet owners have prepared for the future care of their animals should their pets outlive them. Utilizing traditional financial planning instruments such as living trusts, life insurance and annuities, pet owners are able to have peace of mind knowing that their pets’ needs will be met.

Generally,  pet estate plans consist of more than who will care for the pet when you are no longer able. Expenses such as food, doggie day care, veterinarian bills / medication and needed home repairs, because of the pet, should also be considered. Those expenses can result in substantial costs over time.  

Also, one-in-five of all respondents in the survey said they have financially planned for their pets’ future care:

38% said they added the pet’s future caregiver as a beneficiary to a life insurance policy.

35% added more coverage to their life policies.

-13% recently purchased annuities naming the pet’s caregiver as the beneficiary.

Many pet owners consider their pets as members of their family and many go to great lengths to make their pets’ lives enjoyable as possible.  So, not surprisingly, many respondents stated that they would forgo other debt payments to ensure their dogs were taken care of properly.

Yet, most pet owners overlook end-of-life planning.  Setting up a trust for a pet or a donation money to a local  humane society or pet shelter are just a few of the options available.

A question many people consider before adding a new animal to the family is, “Can we afford it?” The price of an animal from a breeder can be high, into the hundreds and even thousands of dollars. A more affordable option is often available at a local humane society or rescue shelter. Here in New York, you can get an animal that has been thoroughly evaluated, spayed or neutered, and vaccinated – all for about $140. Annual costs of food, veterinarian bills, etc. are equally important to consider before making a pet a part of your family. Sadly, pets are often returned to animal shelters because the pet owners were unable to afford things like veterinarian bills.

Finally, inquire about pet insurance the next time you visit your veterinarian. Many clinics offer reasonable plans and staff members will be able to speak with you about the appropriate option based on the type of pet, breed, age and other criteria. Typically, policies cost as little as $15 a month, which is a huge difference compared to a $1,000 emergency bill. The average policy cost closer to $45 per month.

Simple steps, like the aforementioned examples, will ensure your pets are cared for properly and affordably. If you need help or guidance in developing a care plan for your pets after you pass on, please contact us here at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Weinstein @(212) 693-3737.

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Your estate planning checklist

When people hear the words “estate planning,” many think it’s just writing a will. Estate planning is about more than writing a will.  It is also about taking care of yourself while you are alive should you become incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions.

The following is a list of must have documents to have in your estate plan in addition to your will.  The names of the documents vary from state-to-state, but the following are essential ones to ask an estate planning attorney like Jeffrey Weinstein  to draft for you.

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HIPAA Release. HIPAA is the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which prohibits your doctors from discussing your medical condition and treatment with anyone, except those you name on your HIPAA form.  Only these individuals will have full access to your healthcare team.

Advanced Health Care Directive or Medical Power of Attorney. With this document, you can designate an individual (known as a “health care agent”) who you want to make decisions about your health care, should you  you become too ill or injured to make them for yourself.

Living Will. This details the kinds of medical care and treatment you want and don’t want to receive if you’re close to death and there is no prospect of a recovery. Your health care agent will have the power to make sure your wishes are followed.

Durable Power of Attorney. In the event you become incapacitated, your debts need to get paid, like the mortgage or rent. A Durable Power of Attorney names a person during your incapacity to manage your finances. He or she can write checks and speak with your financial companies.

But note, a Durable Power of Attorney is different from a plain  Power of Attorney. (POA) The POA is no longer legally valid when you become incapacitated. When that happens, you need a Durable Power of Attorney.  Ask your bank(s) and real estate title companies about their requirements for this, because some are rigid. They might want you to use theirs.

Revocable Living Trust. Some people with larger estates elect to avoid problems with POAs and create revocable living trusts. These act like a super power of attorney. Banks must comply with their terms. With a revocable living trust, you transfer title of your assets to the trust and name yourself as trustee, so you can continue to manage and benefit from those assets as you did before they were in the trust. If you can’t act as the trustee because you become incapacitated, your designated successor trustee will manage the trust.

You may need all or some of these in your estate plan. For best results contact Jeffrey Weinstein at (212) 693-3737who will be able to create an estate plan best suited to your needs,

 

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PREPARE for you health care

Kaiser Health News reports that most Americans avoid making important end-of-life decisions, called Advance Care Planning, because it can be uncomfortable and the paperwork confusing.

Rebecca Sudore, a geriatrician at the University of California-San Francisco, created prepareforyourcare.org, which provides step-by-step instructions and video stories to help people navigate the care they want at the end of their lives. She built the site in 2013 for families unsure how to broach sensitive questions. In a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in May 2017, she and other researchers found that the website, combined with the use of an “advance directive” form, prompted participants to plan ahead.

The website gained the attention of major charities and since that time the organiztion has gained financial support from foundations such as the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, California Health Care Foundation, Stupski Foundation, as well as the American Cancer Society, California Health Care Foundation, The Donaghue Foundation, John and Wauna Harman Foundation, National Institute on Aging, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, UCSF, and Veterans Health Services Research & Development.

Visit the PREPARE website to have them help you

  • Have a voice in YOUR medical care
  • Talk with your doctors
  • Give your family and friends peace of mind
  • Print a summary of your wishes
  • You can also fill out an easy-to-read advance directive

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Preparing for probate.

Probate is the legal process for transferring property after someone dies. In most cases the process follows the instructions in the will but occasionally other factors may arise, but basically, property is transferred, debts paid and assets distributed.

But even though it’s a pretty straightforward process, you should still prepare for probate to make sure there are no unforeseen snags.

  1. Learn about probate.  It is a good idea to learn about probate. Learn about the process and what happens during the process.
  2. Collect relevant documents.  All your assets will need to be appraised. In order to make this process run as smoothly as possible, you should have the necessary documents, such as tax statements, a proof of your assets, etc. that can be presented to the court.
  3. Choose a personal representative. Once you’re familiar with what the general probate process entails, you’ll need to choose a personal representative. This person will administer your estate and help you carry out your intentions. You should not only pick someone loyal and trustworthy, but also organized.
  4. Hire a lawyer. Hiring an estate planning or probate attorney is not required, but it is in your best interests. A lawyer can help guide you through the process smoothly and efficiently. An attorney will also ensure that you meet your deadlines and avoid irreparable mistakes.

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Sears on the edge

Back in 2005 Sears decided to merge Kmart with Sears in an effort to create a fortified competitor to fend off giants like Walmart. It failed to stem the fall of the retail giants.

Over the past ten years, Sears has had just one quarter of positive store sales. Since thy couldn’t rely on the Sears’ business to pay the bills, the CEO Eddie Lampert sold or spun off many of its most valuable stores and brands. A thinning cash flow left little money to reinvest in the company itself.

Sears used to be America’s largest retailer and largest employer. But its declines goes back well before the growth of online shopping that threatens traditional brick-and-mortar retailers.

When Sears and Kmart merged to form Sears Holdings in 2004, they had 3,500 US stores between them. A long series of store closings has left it with fewer than 900 today.

Briefly, here is what happened in the last fourteen years:

2004: Kmart purchased Sears, then named the Sears Roebuck Co. and merged the two into the Sears Holding Company. This briefly gave the company record profits in 2006.

2015: Sears announced that it has lost $7 billion. Eddie Lampert was brought in as CEO and gave the company a $500 million loan to help avoid bankruptcy. Sears had been closing a large number of underperforming stores.

2018: In June, Sears announced it is liquidating 78 locations. Lampert also warned the company is running out of money, and likely will need to restructure debt.

 

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