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He Gets, She Gets

James McGlynn  |  Dec 15, 2020

IF YOU DESIGNATE beneficiaries for your retirement accounts, that’s usually a surefire way to pass those assets directly to your desired heirs without going through probate—but not always.
Because those beneficiary designations are so important, you should verify your choices every year in case there’s a change due to, say, marriage, birth, divorce or death. Especially marriage and divorce. Which brings me to a crucial issue: When dealing with IRA and 401(k) beneficiary designations,

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Don’t Leave a Mess

Richard Connor  |  Jun 23, 2020

I’VE BEEN INVOLVED in settling five estates. They ranged from insolvent to almost seven figures. Some were well-organized, but one took significant time and effort to settle. These experiences taught me a key lesson: An organized and easily understood estate is a gift to those you leave behind.
I’m not an estate planning attorney. I’ve dealt with a few and found them to be professional, empathetic and helpful. If you have a complicated financial life or family situation,

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From Two to One

Catherine Horiuchi  |  Apr 30, 2020

FOLLOWING MY husband’s death, I went from feeling prosperous to precarious in the space of a few short months. For decades, I’d had something extra in hand, beyond the minimum sum necessary to keep going. That sense of prosperity was now gone.
This wasn’t just my imagination. Studies have found that widows are significantly less wealthy than their married counterparts. One academic article notes, “The death of a spouse is an event that may precipitate a large decline in wealth.” Similarly,

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Missing a Step

Catherine Horiuchi  |  Apr 23, 2020

I LIKE TO THINK my husband and I were savvy and careful when planning our estate. Yet anybody can make an occasional dumb mistake. That brings me to my next surprise in settling my husband’s affairs—and it came with an unfortunate legal bill.
As a couple, we’d established a revocable living trust at a young age, when death was a strictly theoretical idea. The trust eliminated the need for our estate to go through probate,

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It’s a Stretch

Richard Quinn  |  Jan 27, 2020

FROM LISTENING TO financial talk radio shows, it seems the hot topic these days is the SECURE Act and how it’s hurt the middle class. One caller had $2 million in his IRA, and was worried about the impact of the stretch IRA’s elimination on his children and grandchildren.
What am I missing here? I thought IRAs were a vehicle to help average Americans save for their retirement, not an estate-planning tool. Under the new law,

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An Unkind Act

Adam M. Grossman  |  Dec 29, 2019

AS IF ON CUE, Ebenezer Scrooge recently showed up in Washington, DC. The result wasn’t pretty.
A bill known as the SECURE Act, a favorite of the insurance industry, had been stuck in Congress all year. But suddenly, on Dec. 20, it got tacked onto another bill and signed into law. As far as I can tell, the primary beneficiaries of this new law, which heavily impacts retirement plans, will be the IRS and the insurance industry—but probably not you.

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When It Rains

Catherine Horiuchi  |  Dec 19, 2019

TWO WEEKS AFTER my husband’s death, we held a memorial service for local friends and family. Days later, after a reasonable amount of online research, I visited a car dealer.
It’s my experience that bringing at least one youngster along speeds up dealmaking, plus a parent can get unvarnished opinions about life in the backseat. So I brought along my 13-year-old. The two of us test drove two used cars and bought one of them.

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A Graceful Exit

Adam M. Grossman  |  Nov 10, 2019

WHEN STEWART MOTT died in 2008, his obituary in The New York Times described him as offbeat. That’s probably a fair description. Mott’s father, Charles Mott, had been one of the founding shareholders of General Motors. As a result, the younger Mott didn’t need to work and instead pursued other passions.
Among his many activities, Mott enjoyed political activism, but he wasn’t a strict partisan. To underscore this, he once brought both a live elephant and two donkeys to a fundraiser.

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After You

Dennis Friedman  |  Aug 28, 2019

I HAD AN AUNT WHO did everything for her husband. She paid the bills, invested their money and oversaw the family budget, plus she did all the household chores.
They both liked this arrangement. It worked for them. But as they grew older, people were concerned about what would happen to Uncle Bob if he outlived my aunt. He depended on her for everything. How could he take care of himself?
My uncle could not operate a washing machine,

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Naming Names

Dennis Friedman  |  Aug 1, 2019

I JUST WENT TO SEE a lawyer about making changes to my trust and will. It’s been some 20 years since I had my revocable living trust drawn up, and a lot of things in my life have changed since then. 
For most folks, it’s difficult to decide how they want their estate distributed upon their death. Consider five questions:

Should the division of your assets be based solely on relationships, leaving your assets to immediate family,

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One Last Thing

Richard Quinn  |  Apr 25, 2019

ONLY ABOUT 40% of Americans have a will, including just 58% of those ages 53 to 71. The good news is, among those of us 72 and above, the percentage is much higher—81%.
Putting in place a will, trust documents, powers of attorney and so on is no easy task. I’ve been through the process twice and it’s not fun, mostly because a good attorney will ask a lot of uncomfortable questions you’d probably rather not think about—like,

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Pass It On

Ross Menke  |  Apr 15, 2019

BABY BOOMERS ARE retiring every day and Generation X is right on their heels. With this, an increasingly large amount of wealth is making its way into IRAs and Roth IRAs, thanks to rollovers from employer retirement plans.
I’ve found that many folks don’t quite grasp the complexities of such accounts. On the surface, they seem pretty simple: You contribute to an IRA or Roth IRA, receive tax-deferred growth and then gradually withdraw the funds during retirement.

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A Great Gift

Ross Menke  |  Apr 12, 2019

I OFTEN TALK WITH estate planning attorneys—and they tell me that individuals typically complete an estate plan just twice in their lives: upon marriage and upon retirement.
On the one hand, this is good. Major life changes warrant a review of your estate plan and an update to key documents. On the other hand, this is not so good. Much like other areas of your financial life, your estate plan needs to be reviewed on a regular basis.

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Other People’s Stuff

John Yeigh  |  Feb 21, 2019

WE’VE ALL GOT STUFF. Too much stuff. George Carlin was among the first to highlight our obsession with stuff in his 1980s standup comedy routines. I hadn’t thought much about Carlin or stuff for decades—until 2015, when I inherited my parents’ stuff.
Not only did I inherit their stuff, I inherited some of their parents’ stuff and their grandparents’ stuff. Boxes, drawers and shelves full of unlabeled stuff. I wouldn’t call my parents hoarders.

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Deadly Serious

Adam M. Grossman  |  Nov 18, 2018

THE MUSICIAN PRINCE died in 2016 at age 57, leaving behind a legacy of musical genius. Unfortunately, he also left behind an ongoing legal and financial mess. The issue: For reasons no one understands, Prince neglected to prepare even the most basic estate plan, leaving potential heirs squabbling over his fortune.
Under the latest tax law, passed late last year, only those with more than $11.2 million in assets ($22.4 million for a married couple) are subject to federal estate taxes.

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