Don’t Leave Children Unequal Shares By Mistake

August 26, 2009

Siblings do not always receive equal shares of a parent’s estate. Sometimes the inequality is intentional and sometimes it is accidental. Regardless of how it happens, it can cause arguments among the children. However, there are some steps parents can take to promote family harmony.

If you intend to leave your children equal shares of your estate, don’t forget to consider any money or property held jointly with a child. Property in a joint account passes outside of your estate. If you add a caregiver child to one of your bank accounts out of convenience, the account will pass to that child alone when you die. This is true for any property held in joint tenancy or any property in a POD (Pay on Death) account. If you don’t intend for that child to receive a bigger share of your estate, you can add a provision in estate planning documents stating that any property passing through joint tenancy to a beneficiary will be treated as an advancement of that beneficiary’s share.

On the other hand, you may intend to leave one child a different share of your estate than your other children. For example, you may want to reward a caregiver child or you may feel that a child with a disability needs a bigger share. If you do decide to favor one child over another, you should explain in detail your reasoning in your estate planning document. This may help your children understand your decision. You also need to make it clear that it is your decision and not the influence of the favored child. If your children are unhappy with how much they have received, they may try to challenge your will. (For more information on preventing a will contest, click here.)

The attorneys at the Elder Law Center can help you ensure your estate is divided the way you intend. Please email the Elder Law Center or call 630-844-0065. The Elder Law Center is located in Aurora, IL, Kane County, in the Chicago Western Suburbs.

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Long-Term Care Hybrid Products Give Buyers More Options

August 13, 2009

With many people unwilling to purchase long-term care insurance policies due to the cost, insurers are rolling out new products that combine long-term care insurance with either a life insurance policy or an annuity. These new products have been on the market for awhile, but they are gaining in popularity due to a law that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2010, making distributions from life insurance and annuities tax free when used to pay nursing home costs.

Even though long-term care costs continue to rise, long-term care insurance has not become widespread. Long-term care insurance is expensive and many people do not want to pay premiums for something they might not need. A hybrid product has the benefit of combining two products into one. If you don’t use the long-term care insurance, you can still benefit from the life insurance or the annuity.

The products vary in the details, but the general idea of a hybrid life insurance policy is to allow a buyer to purchase a cash-value life insurance policy and to use a portion of that policy for long-term care benefits, if necessary, and keep the rest as a death benefit that will be paid to the purchaser’s beneficiary. If long-term care benefits are used, the death benefit may be reduced.

Hybrid annuity products also vary significantly, but in general they allow a buyer to purchase a fixed deferred annuity with a long-term-care rider attached. The annuity may pay out for a specific number of years or for life. For example, a purchaser could deposit $150,000 into an annuity. The annuity would provide approximately $4,700 a month of long-term care benefits for 36 months. For an additional cost, the purchaser could get the $4,700 monthly benefit for life.

While a two-for-one product may seem attractive, these products are not for everyone. For one thing, you may have less flexibility with a combined product than you would with a stand-alone product. Hybrid products may not cover home care or include inflation protection, for example. In addition, hybrid products may not offer enough long-term care coverage for what you need. It is impossible to predict exact coverage needs, but click here for more information on how to figure out how much insurance to purchase. A hybrid product is likely less expensive than purchasing two separate products, but it is often more expensive than purchasing a stand-alone long-term care insurance policy.

As with any major purchase, you need to evaluate it carefully before purchasing. Before deciding what to buy, get advice from an impartial investment advisor, not a sales agent who makes a commission off the sale of policies.

For more information on long-term care insurance, click here.

For an article on hybrid long-term care insurance policies from MarketWatchclick here.

To discuss Elder Law matters with an attorney, please email the Elder Law Center or call 630-844-0065. The Elder Law Center is located in Aurora, IL, Kane County, in the Chicago Western Suburbs.