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Don’t let life insurance proceeds go missing

It’s impossible to know what life has in store—just ask Joan Rivers who went in for a routine surgery recently and suffered cardiac arrest that led to her passing.

It’s uncertain when the inevitable will happen but you can at least provide some certainty about the future of your children and loved ones. Life insurance is a must if you’re a parent or if you have anyone depending on you financially. It was reported recently that in California 11 major life insurance companies agreed to pay $763 million to the heirs of deceased policyholders after it was discovered the companies continued billing customers for their policies even after they had passed away.

This agreement is the second in the last three years to be reached with insurance companies, which had previously agreed to provide restitution and do a much better job of locating beneficiaries after being sued by the attorneys general of several states for not paying out benefits to the heirs of deceased policyholders. This pattern indicates we all need to do a better job to ensure that the life insurance benefits we pay for come back to our heirs in the way we intend.

So how you can ensure life insurance proceeds don’t go missing?

Here are five tips for making sure your heirs benefit from your life insurance benefits:

Be truthful in your application. If in your application for a life insurance policy you have not been completely forthcoming about a major medical issue or your health habits (smoking, drinking, and so on), the policy could be declared null and void and your heirs would be out of luck.

Don’t let it lapse. If your family is counting on life insurance benefits to pay the bills should something should happen to you, make sure you are paying the premiums timely on the policy. The policy lapses if the premiums aren’t paid, and your family could be left unprotected. As recently reported by the New York Times, it’s especially important to keep a decedent’s bank accounts open so that certain auto-debits can continue to go through—otherwise a policy unknowingly might not be paid, resulting in unintended cancellation.

Have a beneficiary backup plan. Having a beneficiary on your policy who dies before you do is a recipe for disaster—and it happens much more than one may think. Designate a secondary as well as a final beneficiary for your life insurance benefits, and update them as the need arises. And if you have a trust, it’s typically recommended that you name your trust as the beneficiary of your life insurance benefits, rather than naming an individual or series of individuals (see a trusted attorney on whether this is the right choice for you).

Play it safe. If you die because you engaged in risky behavior not covered by the policy or if you take your own life, it’s possible your heirs may receive only what you paid in premiums versus the full value of your policy.

Talk about it with your family. The primary reason a vast majority of potential beneficiaries never see a dime in life insurance benefits is because policies were lost or misplaced and family members were never told of their existence in the first place. You should prepare an asset profile and keep it updated annually so that nothing goes unclaimed after your passing.

If you have a life insurance policy, let your loved ones know—and ask them if they have one too.

 

About the author: To help protect your family, your assets, and your memory, learn more about Bonnie Bowles—Estate Planning Attorney, Organized Mom, and Co-Founder & Co-Owner of Wills & Wellness—a friendly and approachable law firm helping families with their very important estate planning and ensuring their estate plan matches their goals, concerns, and desires. Bonnie educates families on the pitfalls of probate and how estate planning that focuses on serving you for your lifetime can help. If you want to have an estate planning “check-in,” check out Bowles Ruddell & Associates Ltd. or call 720-266-8190 today.

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Tuesday June 24th, 2014 Podcast

HaystackRadio 06-24-14 (Your Money Matters)

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The Best Father’s Day Gift for Dad (free $500)!

Have you thought about what to get your partner, spouse, father or grandfather for Father’s Day this year? Maybe all the typical gifts are coming to mind like sports memorabilia, beer brewing kits, music or concert tickets, or a day of family fun including bike ride and picnic! Those are wonderful gifts and any Dad would be delighted to receive them. But there’s one gift that is sure to last an entire lifetime and you might not have thought about the special impact it can have. What is it? An estate plan! Yes, that mysterious collection of documents that you’ve heard about here and there throughout your life. How can that possibly be the best gift for Dad this Father’s Day?

 

An estate plan is the best gift for Dad this Father’s Day because it will give him PEACE OF MIND—that elusive feeling of total calm, knowing that he will have the right documents in place during emergencies so that his medical decisions are never delayed, his finances are maintained in the short-term in case he is unable to manage them temporarily, that his kids will always be cared for and raised by people he’s chosen and trusts, and that if something ever happens to him permanently, that his family will be okay because they’ve ideally set up a Living Trust to protect assets and distribute them at age-appropriate times for important things such as health care, college, a vehicle, or whatever else is needed throughout life.

 

Father’s Day is a day to honor and celebrate all fathers in all stages of life. We’re inviting all Dads, including Grandfathers and Fathers, to our upcoming talk “Beards, Beards & Babies” hosted by Bonnie’s husband, Tom Bowles, co-creator of the Wills & Wellness name and Bonnie’s number one support from the start. He knows first-hand what a great deal estate planning can mean to a family and he’ll be sharing how protecting your children and assets is truly the greatest gift you can give to your family.

 

We’re offering a special promotion for Father’s Day!

 

All you have to do is send your special Dad to our “Beards, Beards & Babies” talk on Tuesday, June 24th from 5:30 – 6:30pm (spouses, friends, parents of course all welcome, but Dads do need to be there!), set up a free consultation with us after the talk, and engage with us on either a Family Plan, Trust Plan, or Wealth Plan, and receive a full $500 off your plan if you engage by July 31st, 2014. (Plus, enjoy free beers, a welcoming kids play area, and an estate planning talk by a cool Dad who knows his stuff!).

 

RSVP today to reserve your spot. Just click here.

 

And….Dads who have already been to a talk are more than welcome to come enjoy a beer and listen again, or, skip the talk and set up an appointment. Any Dad or Grandpa who engages with us before the end of July, 2014 will also be able to enjoy this special discount!

 

Contact us today for more information. And…Happy Father’s Day!

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How to get creative with trusts – even for plants!

Want to read a news story that will make you smile? Check out the Wall Street Journal’s recent story about a woman’s trust that provides funds for her house plant.

Ronna Scoratow has no companion that has been by her side longer than her 42-year-old philodendron. It may very well be that her plant outlives her. What would happen to her plant if something happens to her? Great question!

The same question applies to your minor children, your pets, and even your plants. If you’ve poured sweat and tears into caring for a Bonsai tree, wouldn’t you want to make sure someone who cares just as much as you is prepared to step into your shoes – and perhaps more importantly, that this person has funds available to continue the high level of care you prefer?

Before you embark on a do-it-yourself version of providing funds for the ongoing care of things very close to your heart, check in with an attorney who can explain the process.

First, you can’t leave funds directly to a non-human such as a pet or plant.

Instead the funds have to be left in the care of a person who is directed on how to use those funds, such as for the continuing care of your prized possession. Plenty of people have tried to leave funds directly to a pet (and even a plant it seems), and the result almost invariably is court intervention to settle disputes among beneficiaries about where the funds should ultimately go.

Next, you need to choose someone who cares about your valuables as much as you do and who you fully trust to do a good job in your memory. If you leave a lump sum of cash along with your pet or plant, the person isn’t required to account to anyone whether the funds were actually used for the care of your pet or plant. The funds could ultimately be used however the recipient wants, even if it has nothing to do with your pet or plant. This may not be so bad if the cash gift is small, say $500 or less. But beyond that you might want to consider a “pet trust” or “plant trust.”

With a trust the guardian of your pet or plant is required to account for how the funds are used for the care of the prized item you’ve leave to the trustee. This ensures that the funds are used for pet food, vet bills, plant care, and so on, versus the trustee’s own desires.

The same holds true when you plan for how your assets will provide for your minor children if something happens to you.

If you leave funds to a person outright trusting they will use it for your children, they are not legally obligated to, even if morally obligated. The funds could be used for anything under the sun and could even end up in the hands of that person’s ex-spouse or creditors.

A better idea follows the recommendation above – set up a trust where you’ve specified who benefits from your assets (for example, your children, your pet, or your plants) and then select who is in charge of the assets for the benefit of who you named. This trusted person is required to keep your beneficiary’s best interest at heart, with the added benefit that you don’t have to worry about the trustee’s ex-spouse,

creditors, or anyone else who could make a claim against your children’s, pet’s, or plant’s inheritance.

About the author: Bonnie Bowles, Estate Planning Attorney and Organized Mom, is the Co-Founder & Co-Owner of Wills & Wellness, a modernized law firm helping families with their very important estate planning and ensuring their estate plan matches their goals, concerns, and desires exactly. Bonnie educates families on the pitfalls of probate and how estate planning that focuses on serving you for your lifetime can help. If you want to have an estate planning consultation “check-in,” check out www.willsandwellness.com, contact us below, or call 720-266-8190 today.

Some plants outlive their owners. What happens to the plant if something happens to you?

CREDITS

jaeplantscare.blogspot.com


Article contributed by Wills & Wellness.

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Tuesday May 6th, 2014 Podcast

HaystackRadio 05-06-14

For the first half hour we are joined by Kurt Rodgers from Affordable Interest Mortgage describing Denver mortgage loans and home sales.

Second half of of the show we learn to Trade Stocks with Online Trading Academy.

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