Ask Brian Higbie a law question

How to Talk to a Loved One About Estate Planning

April 22nd, 2013

Estate planning rarely comes up in the course of regular conversation and if it does, it usually involves what has happened to a celebrity's estate or an acquaintance's family after a death.  The distance is safe, so the conversation can take place.

But what if you need to discuss estate planning with a loved one.  Perhaps you and your spouse do not have an estate plan or haven't updated it in at least the last 3 years, or perhaps you want to talk to your parent, siblings, or adult children about the importance of getting an estate plan in place.  Because no one likes to think about (nevermind talk about) the death of someone close to them, we rarely have this critical conversation.  But we all should.

So how do you talk to a loved one about estate planning?  A recent article provides some good tips:

Pick the right time.  Try to schedule the time to have this important conversation; this allows your loved one(s) to prepare themselves.  If it is too difficult to schedule a time for this conversation, have it when you’re doing something else, like taking a walk.

Start with a story.  Use a story as an opener to the conversation, like the death of a celebrity or someone known to them, and tell of the pitfalls that failure to plan can wreak on family members.  Or, talk about how you created your own estate plan.

One Step at a Time.  It may be easier to have a number of conversations rather than trying to cover everything in one sitting.  If you have adult children that you want to talk with, it may be best to have separate conversations with each one, rather than talking to them in a group.

Use a thoughtful approach.  If you are having difficulty getting your loved one to focus on estate planning issues, communicate your concerns. Talk about how aging means making mature decisions. You could emphasize your own mortality ("I'd like to talk about ways to provide for you and the family in case something happens to me"), make it a subject of mutual concern ("We're not getting any younger"), or focus on the children. ("Now that we are parents, we really need to have a plan in place that protects our children").

Ask for feedback.  After discussing your estate plan, ask how they feel about what you have told them.  Tell them what the next step would be (for example, a Family Estate Plan session with attorney Brian Higbie)

Explain why.  An estate plan involves making important decisions. Explain to your loved ones the principles that guide your decision about how your estate plan is to be formed.  If you already have a plan, this explanation may lessen the chance of conflict.

If you would like to learn more about this topic, contact our office by phone (914) 613-9250 or by e-mail to schedule a Family Estate Planning Session.


Tips to Help Families Plan for Retirement in a New Era

Posted:January 28th, 2013

Planning for a long and prosperous retirement is no longer just about the money. Here are six tips to get you on the right track:
1. Get healthy. This should take priority even over saving more money, since significantly improving your physical health will reduce the chances  you will need expensive healthcare procedures. Exercise more, eat better, and take advantage of any wellness programs offered by your employer.
2. Spend less. Prioritize what you need versus what you want, and focus on spending just enough to meet your needs.
3. Save more. Add more to your 401(k) or IRA; increasing your savings by just 1 to 2% of your income can make a noticeable difference to your savings without impacting your current lifestyle.
4. Pay off debt. Research shows that people who reduce or eliminate their debt prior to retirement do a lot better than those who carry debt into retirement. Pay off as many of your credit cards as possible and consider refinancing your house to take advantage of historic low mortgage rates.
5. Continue working. Most boomers will need to work at least part-time once they retire. Start investigating the kind of work you might enjoy doing. If you earn enough to cover your daily expenses, you won't have to touch savings, which can continue to grow until you are fully retired.
6. Maintain your network. Retirees with a large network of friends and family do better in retirement and live longer. Be sure you continue to nurture your network as you ease your way into retirement.

If you would like to learn more about this topic, contact our office by phone (914) 613-9250 or by e-mail to schedule a Family Estate Planning Session..


The Fiscal Cliff Tax Deal: For Most of Us, It's a Wash

Posted: January 14th, 2013

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 that Congress passed on New Year's Day extended the Bush era tax cuts, but the benefits of those cuts for most American taxpayers will be offset by a 2% increase in payroll tax.

According to the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan Washington research group, less than 1% of American households will see an increase in income taxes this year. Here are the specifics of what the bill that President Obama signed into law on January 2 entails:

Income tax
The Bush era tax cuts were extended permanently for individuals making less than $400,000 annually and married couples earning less than $450,000 annually. Those making over these amounts will see the top tax rate increase from 35% to 39.6%.
The personal exemption phase-out (PEP) and itemized deduction limits (Pease) were extended, with a cap of $250,000 for individuals and $300,000 for married couples.
Tax rates for capital gains and dividends increased 20% for individuals earning more than $400,000 per year and married couples with annual income of $450,000.
The alternative minimum tax (AMT) exemption increases to $50,600 for individuals and $78,750 for married taxpayers filing jointly, and is permanently adjusted for inflation.
The charitable IRA rollover has been extended for one year. This means that those over the age of 70 1/2 with traditional IRAs can funnel their required minimum distributions to an IRS-approved charity. Those who waited until December 2012 to take their required minimum distribution have until the end of January to transfer those funds to a charity for 2012, but cannot make the contribution directly. You must contact the financial institution holding your IRA and request the donation.
Several individual tax credits – including those for college tuition, child tax credit and earned income tax credit – have been extended for five years.
Estate and gift tax

Good news here. The individual federal estate tax exemption stays at $5 million per individual, adjusted for inflation. Over that, a top tax rate of 40% applies.  The annual gift tax exclusion limit is $14,000 for 2013, with a lifetime gift tax exclusion of $5 million.
Payroll tax

As expected, payroll taxes will increase 2% in 2013. The rate goes from 4.2% to 6.2% on the employee portion of Social Security contributions.
If you’d like to learn more about how the new tax laws will affect you, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.

If you would like to learn more about this topic, contact our office by phone (914) 613-9250 or by e-mail to schedule a Family Estate Planning Session.

Call NOW: 914-613-9250

Ask Brian

Suggest a question for Brian to address in his newsletter.

Enter the

Contact Us

Enter the following fields along with your detailed message.

Sign up below to receive our COMPLIMENTARY Newsletter


We respect your email privacy