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End of Life Decisions

Most people have been told that if a paramedic is summoned to their home for an emergency, the paramedics must take any and all necessary procedures to cause the person to keep breathing until transported to the hospital. In many cases, however, a person may not choose to be kept alive or resuscitated in the unfortunate event of a serious illness, and it is at these times, that the document that is most appropriate for them is reviewed to determine their personal intentions relative to medical care.

Philip Seymour Hoffman's outdated will

Mr. Hoffman and his partner Marianne O'Donnell were not married, but the actor left his estate, which reports pegged at about $35 million, to her directly. Per the will, if Ms. O'Donnell renounces or disclaims any portion of the inheritance, that amount will go to a trust fund that's held in the name of his son and eldest child, Cooper Hoffman, who was only a year old when Mr. Hoffman signed the will. Mr. Hoffman and Ms. O'Donnell had two daughters in the years after the will was drafted, one in 2006 and the other in 2008. The document does not account for them.

Reduce Estate Tax by Making Gifts

Making gifts during your life can provide you with tax savings and more.

Very few Americans need to worry about federal estate tax (see Estate Tax: Will Your Estate Have to Pay?) or the federal gift tax. For deaths in 2015, everyone has a lifetime gift and estate tax exemption of $5.43 million, which means you can leave or give away up to $5.43 million without owing any federal tax. This amount goes up every year to adjust for inflation. Married couples can together leave up to twice that amount free of federal estate tax. (Some states, however, impose their own estate tax on smaller estates. See Estate and Gift Tax FAQ.)

What Does a Will Not Do?

A will does not govern the transfer of certain types of assets, called non-probate property, which by operation of law (title) or contract (such as a beneficiary designation) pass to someone other than your estate on your death. For example, real estate and other assets owned with rights of survivorship pass automatically to the surviving owner. Likewise, an IRA or insurance policy payable to a named beneficiary passes to that named beneficiary regardless of your will.

Life Insurance can affect the Medicaid Application

Ohio Certified Elder Law Attorney, Marta J. Williger explains in her article "Life Insurance and the Medicaid Application, that "to qualify for Medicaid in Ohio, an individual can have only $1,500 or less in "countable" assets. Certain life insurance policies are considered "countable" assets. Others are "exempt" and will not affect the Medicaid application. Understanding the type of life insurance policy you own and its value, both during your lifetime and when you die, will help you best arrange your assets for Medicaid qualification."

Steer clear of the 8 biggest estate-planning mistakes

Barry Glassman, special to CNBC.com writes about the biggest estate-planning mistakes. Read the entire article.Let's be honest: Thinking about the inevitable-death-is not very pleasant. Perhaps that's why so many people fail to plan for the time when their time will be up. Even clients who make the effort to plan their estates often neglect to follow through or update their plans as changes occur in their lives.

Modifying Estate Plans in the Face of Catastrophic Illness

The "I Love You" plan. Husband executes a will leaving everything to wife. Wife executes a will leaving everything to husband. Everything is left to children in equal shares when both parents die. For good measure, we title the assets jointly with right of survivorship (house, bank accounts, stocks, bonds) or designate the spouse as beneficiary (IRA's, life insurance, annuities) so that there isn't even a probate estate when the first spouse dies. Why is this plan so popular? It's because that is what most people want.The problem comes when one spouse becomes ill or debilitated to the point he cannot care for himself. The spouse may become so ill as to require nursing home care now or in the future, especially if the caregiver spouse passes away first. Then, the "I Love You" plan becomes the worst of all possible plans because leaving everything to the ill spouse, in essence, means leaving everything to the nursing home to pay for the spouse's care. Planning ahead is essential to protect assets for the family.

How to Retire Happy

6 questions you need to ask yourself - and easy steps you can take

Some of us embrace it, others dread its approach, but few escape retirement. No matter how you feel about it, you need to take some steps to make sure you have the mental and monetary resources to make this next phase of life a happy one. Here are six key questions you need to ask yourself about retirement, as well as some practical tips for improving your financial security.

Estate Planning for Parents of Minor Children

Seattle attorney Michael Ballnik explains that Estate planning is the process of deciding and documenting what should happen if you or your partner becomes disabled or dies. Everyone can benefit from proper estate planning regardless of their assets or family situation but it is perhaps most important for people with minor children.

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