Five Key Decisions When Putting Together Your Estate Plan

By Frederick "Rick" Fisher
Originally published in The Union on April 24, 2016. Download the PDF.

Over the last 26 years, I have settled three estates — and in my 18 years of financial planning, I have seen the effects of good planning and of poor planning. 

Having an effective estate plan is crucial, however having a poorly thought out plan can be as harmful as having no plan at all. 

Our firm routinely advises our clients who have yet to address their estate planning to do so. We provide referrals to competent estate planning attorneys. However, having a good estate planning attorney who will guide you through the process and prepare the appropriate documents, is not necessarily going to give you a proper estate plan. A crucial ingredient to the process has little to do with the attorney or the documents. It has to do with the choices the trustors make regarding who will administer the estate upon the death of the trustors, and how the estate will be distributed. 

To illustrate we will take the case of the fictitious couple Richard and Monica Jones. 

Richard and Monica are in their early 40s with three children under 18, with the youngest being 8. Richard is a banker and Monica is a part-time teacher. 

A few years ago, Richard’s parents asked him if he would be the successor trustee for their trust. They chose him because he was a banker and understood financial concepts. They also felt that he had the proper temperament to take on this huge responsibility. Richard could separate the financial aspect of an estate from the personal considerations of an estate. Richard had seen firsthand in his role as banker, how having a person who struggles with the emotional part of administering an estate can create problems. 

He remembered how a successor trustee refused to sell assets in order to pay estate bills and taxes, because they could not detach the deceased from the business part of estate administration. This led to fines, additional costs and fire sales that ultimately led to angry beneficiaries and lawsuits. Having successor trustees that can handle the job, from a business and emotional standpoint is crucial. Having accepted the role as successor trustee, I reminded Richard that he and Monica, had yet to complete their financial plan. 

They had started, but got stuck on who would be the custodian for their three children; a key decision when creating an estate plan. Another concern for the Jones’ was how to fairly divide their property to their kids. Deciding to split the financial assets three ways was the easy part. The hard part was how to divide the personal items, the artwork, the collectibles, and the family photos. 

This was going to take time and more discussion. To complicate matters, the Jones are wealthy and they want to make sure that their children don’t receive a financial windfall till they are ready. So, the decision is who will monitor the investments, and when should the children have access to the money. Fortunately, once the decisions are made, they are not set in stone. Estate plans can be amended as needed. Once the kids are grown, there is no need for guardians. In addition, they may be able to help trustors fairly divide up those personal items that are hard to assign. 

In the end, Richard and Monica sat down and made the decisions necessary to get the plan in place, and took our advice to review every five years and make changes as needed. 

If you have been putting off estate planning due to these issues, now is the time to set up a partnership with an Estate Planning Attorney and a Certified Financial Planner. 

Frederick Fisher is a Certified Financial Planning Practitioner, and Insurance Agent. Securities and Advisory Services offered through National Planning Corporation (NPC), member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Advisor. Ostrofe Financial and NPC are separate and unrelated companies. For questions or suggestions, contact Rick Fisher at (530) 273- 4425, or, or visit Branch address: 565 Brunswick Road, Ste. 15, Grass Valley

Long-Term Care Insurance: Don't Grow Old Without It

By Frederick "Rick" A. Fisher
This article first appeared in The Union on Feb 21, 2016. Click to view as PDF.

“Medicare And You 2015” reported that 70 percent of Americans 65 or older will need long-term care in their lifetime. With the average cost of a private room at a nursing home at $240 per day, and the average stay for non-Alzheimer’s patients at just over two years, many of us will have to come up with over $200K for care. For patients with Alzheimer’s, that cost could easily double.

Unlike auto and home insurance which are pretty much mandatory, LTCi is still optional. However, if you look at it from a risk-reward standpoint, it should be the most desired insurance for Americans 50 to 70 years old.

In the 20-plus years that we have been offering LTCi, the biggest hurdle to purchasing this valuable insurance is the cost. Fortunately, in the last few years, the numbers of options to purchasing long-term care has increased. There are now products to fit almost any budget — to at least cover part of the risk.

Let’s consider the situation for two fictional couples.

The Thomases and Smiths are both in their mid-50s and in good health. The Thomases have a substantial net worth and a large number of liquid investments. Their parents both lived long, healthy lives without needing any long-term care. Their biggest concern is to pass on assets to their heirs.

A universal life insurance policy with a long-term care rider provided the Thomases with protection against an early death and a long-term care financial burden. By using a portion of their liquid investments, the Thomases converted $100,000 into $250,000 of death benefit and $400,000 of long-term care benefit.

The Smiths’ perspective regarding long-term care is different than the Thomases. Mrs. Smith’s father needed skilled nursing care in a long-term facility. With no insurance in place, the financial burden became overwhelming.

The Smiths could not plan to rely on their savings to cover any potential long-term care costs, so we focused on finding the right insurance product to fit their budget — and reduce their risk as much as possible.

By utilizing a traditional term LTCi policy with a reasonable annual premium, the Smiths successfully protected nearly all of the $240 average daily cost.

The moral of the story — get current information on the pros and cons of Long Term Care insurance relative to your specific circumstances. Research all the new options available. Long-Term Care insurance might be expensive. Being without long-term care can be devastating.

Call us for a consultation and let’s check your needs before it is too late!

Frederick Fisher is a Certified Financial Planning Practitioner and Insurance Agent. Securities and advisory services offered through National Planning Corporation (NPC), Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. Additional advisory services offered through Ostrofe Financial Consultants, a Registered Investment Adviser. Ostrofe Financial and NPC are separate and unrelated companies. For questions or suggestions, contact Rick Fisher at (530) 273-4425, or; branch address: 565 Brunswick Road, Ste. 15, Grass Valley, CA 95945.