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Tips for Long Distance Caregivers
Providing long distance care for an aging family member can be especially difficult during a pandemic. Below are a few tips to consider if you are in this situation:

Providing long distance care for an aging family member can be especially difficult during a pandemic. Below are a few tips to consider if you are in this situation:

1. Gather a list of resources available in the senior’s neighborhood. Use the internet to familiarize yourself with your aging loved one’s neighborhood. Create a map that shows where certain resources can be obtained such as health care providers, a pharmacy, medical supplies providers, the local ombudsman office, financial institutions where your aging loved one has accounts, an estate planning attorney, a CPA and any mental health professionals that may be appropriate as resources.

2. Organize documents. As a long distance caregiver you will need access to the loved one’s personal health, financial and legal records. Make sure your loved one has provided an access plan to this essential information if and when he or she becomes incapacitated and or passes away. Depending on the cognitive condition of the aging loved one you may need to actually possess copies of all of this information or just have a plan of access at such time of need.

3. Plan your visits. Make sure your loved one has a schedule and knows when to expect you to visit in person. Try to visit as often as possible. When visiting, balance out your time between caretaking and enjoyable activities. These visits are a good time to make sure your resources are all still in place and available when you need them.

4. Consider setting up an Alexa care hub. This new feature from Amazon's Alexa allows caregivers to monitor activity and receive alerts about their aging loved ones from a distance. The senior will need an Echo or Alexa enabled device and wi-fi. The caregiver will need to download the Alexa app onto a phone. From that Alexa app, the caregiver can view a summary of the senior’s interactions with Alexa and other compatible connected smart home devices. The care hub also allows you to create alerts and enables emergency contact calling.

At Stouffer Legal, we care about our seniors and stay up-to-date on technology and tools that may help improve the lives of loved ones and caregivers. For more information about elder law, long-term care planning and estate planning, please contact Stouffer Legal in the Greater Baltimore area.

January 1, 2021
If you are a parent it is likely a will is an essential document.
It is likely that once you bring a child into this world you are going to be more concerned about them than you are about yourself which means you need a will as Nerdwallet explains in "Protect Your Family by Writing a Will."

If you are a parent it is likely a will is an essential document.

It is likely that once you bring a child into this world you are going to be more concerned about them than you are about yourself which means you need a will as Nerdwallet explains in "Protect Your Family by Writing a Will."

Parents who want to make sure their children are taken care of if the parents pass away need a will. Two important things can be done with a will. First, in a will parents can make sure their children are taken care of financially. Second, and most importantly, a will is the proper legal document for parents to express their wishes about who should act as guardians for their minor children.

The guardian is the person tasked with taking care of the day-to-day needs of the child. Parents who want to have a say in who rears their children thus need to have a will.

There are other estate planning documents that can be helpful for parents with young children.

An estate planning attorney can guide you through the process of best matching an estate plan with your circumstances. Call (443) 470-3599 today and schedule a consultation with Maryland Attorney Britt L. Stouffer to learn more about Estate or Elder Law and how she can help you.

Reference: Nerdwallet (Sept. 19, 2016) "Protect Your Family by Writing a Will."

Suggested Key Words: Will, Guardian

December 31, 2020
Mediating Probate Disputes
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) refers to legal remedies to settle disputes outside of court litigation. The most popular methods being mediation and arbitration.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) refers to legal remedies to settle disputes outside of court litigation. The most popular methods being mediation and arbitration. For probate disputes, there may be an option to settle the issues using mediation.

Mediation may not be appropriate in every probate dispute. Many cases allow the parties to discuss the issues and reach a mutual agreement which often helps heal family strife.

Typical kinds of probate disputes include conflict over decedent’s property and a fair method of distribution to rightful heirs, guardianship issues and disputes between a trustee and a trust’s beneficiaries.

Some benefits of mediation over litigation include confidentiality, peace of mind, cost effectiveness and the ability to be creative in discovering solutions. Mediation and subsequent agreements reached may be kept out of the public eye. This privacy feature makes it more appealing to those with cases involving sensitive issues, family disputes and public figures. A seasoned mediator can help provide all parties with peace of mind by allowing them to feel heard by the opposing party. Mediation often costs much less than litigation and it allows for some flexibility in creating agreements that may be outside of the typical scope of probate court.

That is not to say that mediation is easy. It can be difficult to deal with grieving family members. Sometimes initiating a delay in the process allows loved ones to work through grief and get to a better place of healing prior to attempting mediation.

Some of the following guidelines may help determine if mediation is right for your probate dispute:

- Will the parties need to maintain a future on-going relationship? If yes, like in the case of close family members, then mediation may be a better approach that litigation. Mediation may help rebuild and preserve family relationships.

- Are the parties in good mental health? In order for mediation to work, all the parties must be competent and in good mental health.

- Are the parties willing to participate? If even one party refuses to cooperate, you can first try a delay and see if that changes things, but at some point, you may have to realize that mediation will not work for your case.

- Is saving money a top priority? Resolving conflict through mediation is likely to cost much less than enduring an expensive court battle.

If you are dealing with an issue arising out of a probate case and need assistance in determining whether mediation is an option, contact the probate attorneys at Stouffer Legal in the Greater Baltimore area for a consultation.

December 30, 2020
Live Webinar January 5th at 10am-Now is the time to protect and plan!
This webinar covers frequently asked questions and common misconceptions regarding: Wills & Trust, Asset Protection, Nursing Home Issues, Medicaid Qualification, and Estate Taxes.

LIVE Webinar – Click Here to Register for January 5th at 10am

How to Protect your "Stuff" in 3 Easy Steps (Estate Planning Workshop)

This webinar covers frequently asked questions and common misconceptions regarding: Wills & Trust, Asset Protection, Nursing Home Issues, Medicaid Qualification, and Estate Taxes.

Please click to register for our webinar:

LIVE Webinar – Click Here to Register for January 5th at 10am

Our webinars are designed to be educational, interactive, informative and generate relevant discussion for attendees. Modern Estate Planning is more than just preparing a will and putting it in a safe. Find out how a comprehensive Estate Plan will protect your assets and your family. Our experienced attorney, Wilson McManus, will be sharing stories on how Estate Planning is beneficial and sometimes crucial. In an Estate Plan, you need to know the Rules: Who's "Rule-book" controls your Estate Plan? Yours? The Governments? Someone else? You need to know your Predators: Who's a Threat to Your Stuff? The Government? Long-term Care Costs? Your Family? You need to know your Options: What Plans are out there? Does a Will work? What about a Trust? Which kind of Trust?

Please click to register for our webinar:

LIVE Webinar – Click Here to Register for January 5th at 10am

Our workshops fill up fast, so please call (443) 470-3599 today to RSVP.

We can't wait to see you!

Today is the right day to take your first step. Click below to register for our next free workshop and learn what everyone is talking about.

Attending our next free Workshops is the best way to
Get Started on your New Estate Plan!

REGISTER FOR A WORKSHOP

December 29, 2020
The Basics of a Spousal Lifetime Access Trust (SLAT)
With a new administration moving into the White House, many high net worth married couples are reaching out to seasoned advisors about the impact of potential tax changes. At Stouffer Legal, we discuss the creation of a spousal lifetime access trust commonly referred to as a SLAT with many of these couples.

With a new administration moving into the White House, many high net worth married couples are reaching out to seasoned advisors about the impact of potential tax changes. At Stouffer Legal, we discuss the creation of a spousal lifetime access trust commonly referred to as a SLAT with many of these couples.

The Basics – What is a SLAT?

A SLAT is a gift from one spouse to an irrevocable trust for the benefit of the other spouse. The SLAT is funded while both spouses are still alive which is different than many other types of credit shelter trusts. The beneficiary spouse can receive distributions from this trust even though it is designed to be excluded from the beneficiary spouse’s gross estate and not subject to estate tax when the beneficiary spouse dies. The amount transferred into the SLAT uses the federal lifetime gift exemption (currently $11.58 million in 2020) and shields the gift from gift tax.

The grantor gives up any rights and control over the assets transferred; however, the spouse, as beneficiary, still maintains access. The spouse can receive trust distributions as the beneficiary, but use them for joint support and maintenance.

We work with couples to draft language in the SLAT appropriate for each particular situation and take precautions against future divorce or premature death. Often a SLAT will be worded to only benefit a current spouse so that it ends with divorce. It can also be worded to allow funds to be returned upon the spouse’s death or even allow the beneficiary spouse to make loans back to the grantor spouse as needed. There are many creative ways to word SLATs to protect spouses in a variety of unforeseen circumstances.

While a couple may set up SLATs for each other, they are not permitted to mirror one another. The IRS will not recognize mirrored SLATs which then defeats the purpose of creating them in the first place. To remedy this, the SLATs need to be funded with different types of assets and set out different distribution schedules.

Generally, the SLAT and the grantor are treated as the same taxpayer for income tax purposes even though the SLAT is a separate legal entity. You report the income and deductions on your tax return and pay ordinary income tax on the income generated from the assets in the SLAT.

Set up a consultation with the knowledgeable attorneys at Stouffer Legal to learn more about SLATs. Exemption. Do not procrastinate because it may be wise to set up and fund these prior to any tax law changes that decrease the federal gift and estate tax. With the urgent need to fund COVID-19 related stimulus spending, the federal government may need to raise revenue rather quickly. It is even possible that legislation passed later in 2021 will be retroactive to January 1, 2021. That is worse case scenario, but if you are a high net worth married couple, schedule an appointment right away to discuss the option of using a SLAT to protect your assets.

December 28, 2020
Using 529 College Savings Plans as Part of Your Gift Strategy
If you are looking for ways to help younger generations afford a higher education while still focusing on your overall financial and estate planning goals, using a 529 college savings plan as part of your gift strategy may be a win-win.

If you are looking for ways to help younger generations afford a higher education while still focusing on your overall financial and estate planning goals, using a 529 college savings plan as part of your gift strategy may be a win-win.

One of the many benefits of saving for a child or grandchild's future college education with a 529 plan is that these contributions are considered gifts for tax purposes. In 2020 an individual may receive $15,000 without any gift tax consequence. If you are married then both you and your spouse can gift $15,000 each to each individual recipient you desire.

The 5-Year Election

There is a super-funding strategy allowed under the law where an individual may contribute as much as $75,000 to a 529 plan and then treat the contribution as it is spread over a five-year period. This five-year election must be reported on Form 709 for each of the five years. This allows you to shelter a large amount of assets while still retaining control of those funds in the 529 account. Keep in mind that if you change your mind and remove the funds from the account they will be added back to your taxable estate.

Taking this five-year election option is an all or nothing strategy. You cannot contribute $75,000 and attempt to elect five-year treatment for only a portion of that amount. The entire $75,000 will be included in the election and must be reported on the form 709.

Since the current lifetime exemption is $11.58 million you do not start paying gift taxes until your cumulative taxable gifts exceed that amount. For most people, the gift tax is not such an issue except for the hassle of filing the required Form 709. The same can be said for the generation skipping transfer tax that could apply to grandparents making gifts to grandchildren; however, the $15,000 annual exclusion, the five-year election and $11.58 million exemption are still available for generation skipping transfers as well.

Make sure to take note of any other gifts made during the calendar year because the $15,000 exclusion is an aggregate of all gifts made not just those contributed to a 529 plan.

One last point to make is that the donor taking the five-year election must live until January 1st of the 5th calendar year to earn the full five-year annual exclusion. If this person dies prior to that date, the prorated election amount will be included in the gross estate. Any earnings in the 529 plan will remain outside of the taxable estate.

For more information on higher education gifting strategies, contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Stouffer Legal in the Greater Baltimore area.

December 25, 2020
Living a Thrifty Life and Leaving Millions
Generally speaking, librarians don’t leave a lot of assets behind when they pass away yet they sometimes do as My Central Oregon reports in “Librarian Quietly Saved $4 Million, Left it to School Where He Worked.”

New Hampshire librarian leaves millions to university.

Generally speaking, librarians don’t leave a lot of assets behind when they pass away yet they sometimes do as My Central Oregon reports in “Librarian Quietly Saved $4 Million, Left it to School Where He Worked.”

Robert Morin read a lot of books even to the point of apparently reading every book published in the U.S. between 1930 and 1940. When he graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1963 he was hired to work in the library. When he passed away he left approximately $4 million to the university.

Apparently, Morin lived simply and invested well. He stipulated that $100,000 should go to the library where he worked, but the university can use the rest for other purposes.

Similar stories come up every few years. For example, grade school teachers have been known to save and leave millions to charity. In another recent case, a janitor left a small fortune to the school where he worked.

What this shows is that anyone who has the desire to do so can make a fortune by living simply and investing money well.

An estate attorney can help guide you on leaving your assets where you want them to go. Call (443) 470-3599 today and schedule a consultation with Maryland Attorney Britt L. Stouffer to learn more about Estate or Elder Law and how she can help you.

Reference: My Central Oregon (Sept. 4, 2016) “Librarian Quietly Saved $4 Million, Left it to School Where He Worked.”

Suggested Key Words: Estate Planning, Charitable Giving

December 24, 2020
What Can Go Wrong with a Life Estate?
With a life estate deed , two or more people are granted an ownership interest in a property but for different periods of time. The life tenant possesses the property during his or her life but cannot easily sell or mortgage the property with only a life estate interest.

With a life estate deed , two or more people are granted an ownership interest in a property but for different periods of time. The life tenant possesses the property during his or her life but cannot easily sell or mortgage the property with only a life estate interest. The remainderman, the other ownership interest, cannot take possession of the property until the death of the life estate tenant. The life tenant has a legal responsibility to maintain the property and may execute full control of the property during his or her lifetime. This includes renting it and making improvements to it.

While there are many benefits to life estates, there are also many pitfalls. It can be an excellent tool for Medicaid planning, probate avoidance and an estate tax avoidance strategy; however, take a look at some of the risks involved:

- A life estate is a recorded deed therefore you cannot easily make changes to it.

- All remaindermen must agree if the life tenant wants to sell or borrow against the property.

- One huge issue to consider is that all remaindermen, since they are named on the deed, hold a legal interest in the property. This means that a lien could be filed against the home if any remainderman is sued or owes back taxes. The spouse of any remainderman may have a claim to the interest in the property as well upon death or divorce.

- Complications may arise if a remainderman passes away prior to a life tenant especially if there are multiple remaindermen.

- Creating a life estate deed could still disqualify the grantor from receiving Medicaid benefits if it occurs within the five-year lookback.

While a life estate deed can be very useful and provide many valuable benefits, it is a complex planning tool that requires the involvement of a knowledgeable estate planning attorney. Many factors will need to be considered to determine whether this planning tool is appropriate for your particular situation. For more information on life estate deeds, contact the experienced estate planning law firm, Stouffer Legal, in the Greater Baltimore area.

December 23, 2020
Live Webinar December 29th 6pm-Now is the time to protect and plan!
This webinar covers frequently asked questions and common misconceptions regarding: Wills & Trust, Asset Protection, Nursing Home Issues, Medicaid Qualification, and Estate Taxes.

LIVE Webinar – Click Here to Register for December 29th at 6pm

How to Protect your "Stuff" in 3 Easy Steps (Estate Planning Workshop)

This webinar covers frequently asked questions and common misconceptions regarding: Wills & Trust, Asset Protection, Nursing Home Issues, Medicaid Qualification, and Estate Taxes.

Please click to register for our webinar:

LIVE Webinar – Click Here to Register for December 29th at 6pm

Our webinars are designed to be educational, interactive, informative and generate relevant discussion for attendees. Modern Estate Planning is more than just preparing a will and putting it in a safe. Find out how a comprehensive Estate Plan will protect your assets and your family. Our experienced attorney, Wilson McManus, will be sharing stories on how Estate Planning is beneficial and sometimes crucial. In an Estate Plan, you need to know the Rules: Who's "Rule-book" controls your Estate Plan? Yours? The Governments? Someone else? You need to know your Predators: Who's a Threat to Your Stuff? The Government? Long-term Care Costs? Your Family? You need to know your Options: What Plans are out there? Does a Will work? What about a Trust? Which kind of Trust?

Please click to register for our webinar:

LIVE Webinar – Click Here to Register for December 29th at 6pm

Our workshops fill up fast, so please call (443) 470-3599 today to RSVP.

We can't wait to see you!

Today is the right day to take your first step. Click below to register for our next free workshop and learn what everyone is talking about.

Attending our next free Workshops is the best way to
Get Started on your New Estate Plan!

REGISTER FOR A WORKSHOP

December 22, 2020
New “Universal” Deduction for Charitable Contributions Under the 2020 CARES Act
Part of comprehensive estate planning includes finding last minute tax saving strategies in the final quarter of 2020. One such strategy involves the changes that were made to the charitable giving rules under the 2020 Cares Act.

Part of comprehensive estate planning includes finding last minute tax saving strategies in the final quarter of 2020. One such strategy involves the changes that were made to the charitable giving rules under the 2020 Cares Act.

This act, established in 2020, provides a universal provision that allows taxpayers to deduct non-itemized, above-the-line charitable contributions. It has been deemed universal for the reason that all tax filers may use this deduction regardless of whether they itemize or take a standard deduction.

The provision allows taxpayers to deduct $300.00 for charitable contributions. Charities have lobbied for such a universal deduction for many years. Although the charities were seeking a universal deduction in the thousands of dollars, at least the $300 deduction is something and may pave the way for increases in the future.

The $300 limit applies for each return so for those filing jointly they can only take the deduction one time up to the $300 limit. As a universal above-the-line deduction, you can list your contribution as an adjustment to income on your taxes. If you donate up to $300 in cash to a qualified organization, your adjusted gross income will be reduced up to $300.

The contributions that qualify must be made in cash, which includes checks and credit card payments, but not in-kind donations. The contributions must be made to a 501(C)(3) public charity. Any contributions to private foundations or donor-advised funds are excluded under this new deduction.

A few other end-of-year tax savings strategies as we wrap up 2020:

- Organize all your receipts and other important documents now. We often advise our clients that tax preparation is a full-time, year-round endeavor in collecting and organizing records, receipts and other important documentation.

- Make the maximum allowable contribution to your retirement fund so that you can deduct that from your taxes. The annual contribution limit for 2019, 2020, and 2021 is $6,000, or $7,000 if you are age 50 or older. Read more FAQs on IRA contributions here.

- Familiar yourself with all deductions and credits that may apply to your situation.

Make sure your estate planning documents are reviewed and up-to-date. We offer year-end consultations at Stouffer Legal for estate planning document review and revisions. Contact us to learn more.

December 21, 2020
We can't wait to see you!
Today is the right day to take your first step. Click below to register for our next free workshop and learn what everyone is talking about.

Attending our next free Workshops is the best way to
Get Started on your New Estate Plan!
REGISTER FOR a WORKSHOP