March 20

The SECURE Act

secure act 2020Comprehensive federal legislation referred to as the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act (the “Secure Act”), became effective on January 1, 2020. The Secure Act makes changes to federal policy which may impact planning related to defined contribution plans, defined benefit plans, individual retirement accounts, and 529 plans. This article focuses on certain changes that impact owners and beneficiaries of retirement accounts, including traditional individual retirement accounts, Roth individual retirement accounts, and 401(k) and 403(b) plans (collectively “IRAs”).

Required Minimum Distributions to Account Owner:

The Secure Act raised the age at which an IRA owner is required to take minimum distributions (“RMDs”) from 70½ to 72 years old, for any account owner who turned age 70½ after December 31, 2019.

March 12

What’s the Difference Between Acting under a Power of Attorney Document and Serving as an Executor of an Estate?

POA vs Executor EstatePlanning for end of life can be more than a little intimidating. (Perhaps that’s why 76% of respondents in a recent survey thought having a Will was important, but only 40% had one.) Perhaps it’s because we are too busy thinking of the here and now to think of how things will be managed after our death. Those of us who have already granted a trusted person authority to manage certain matters for us by signing a power of attorney document might be breathing a little easier, because we assume that individual will continue to take care of things for us upon our passing. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case since someone acting for you under a power of attorney document loses all authority to continue managing your affairs after your death. There are key differences between the roles of serving under a power of attorney document and an executor of an estate, and they’re important to understand to avoid confusion and costly delays in managing your estate.

Simply stated, a power of attorney (POA) is a document used to grant someone the authority to manage certain aspects of your finances or care while you are alive. When you sign a power of attorney document, you are known as the “principal,” whereas the person you name to manage your affairs is known as an “agent” or an “attorney-in-fact.” There are many types of POAs, depending what is needed. A general Power of Attorney gives broad financial and business responsibility to the named agent.  A special or limited Power of Attorney concentrates on a certain type of authority (examples are selling property or managing a specific business transaction).  A health care Power of Attorney authorizes a named individual to make medical care decisions for you when you are unable to.  A Power of Attorney can be non-durable (only valid so long as the principal has mental capacity) or durable (valid even after the principal loses mental capacity). A Power of Attorney also can be written to take effect only under certain circumstances, such as the principal losing mental capacity. That type of POA is called a “springing power of attorney.” Whatever the type of POA, they all have one thing in common – their power only exists while you are living and they become null and void at the time of your death. In other words, someone acting on your behalf under a Power of Attorney can no longer do so when you die. That’s where an executor comes in. 

February 24

Benefits of Therapy Dogs in Nursing Homes

 

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. What is a non-intrusive, low-risk way to help seniors in a nursing home to reduce stress, relieve boredom, and provide a needed avenue for physical touch and to show and receive love? Therapy dogs!

There are several types of trained and/or certified therapy dogs. Facility Therapy Dogs and Animal-Assisted Therapy Dogs are used by physical and occupational therapists in aiding their patients’ rehabilitation and recovery. Therapeutic Visitation Dogs are the most common and the subject of this piece. These therapy dogs are typically household pets whose owners invest the time for certification and to visit facilities such as hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes.

January 29

How To Write a Letter of Intent

Special Needs Planning Basics

letter of intentIt’s difficult to know where to start with writing a letter of intent. The information provided here is designed to give you some ideas of what you might want to include, and we’ve provided a downloadable template to help you get started. Keep in mind that the letter of intent is not considered a legal document. However, it has the advantage of going beyond legal instruments to help caregivers and the courts better understand the person it is established for and their needs as well as your personal care wishes for them. Also, please treat your letter of intent as a “living” document, one you review and update regularly (at least yearly).

Here are some areas to consider when writing your letter of intent. They are not exclusive, but a good place to begin:

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