If you are a Maine resident and your assets are less than $5.7 million dollars (2019), then the answer is “no.” The amount is doubled at the Federal level. This number includes all your assets – retirement, life insurance, real estate, and even assets held in revocable and many irrevocable trusts. If you die with real estate in Maine, a simple form stating that your estate is under the amount is all that is necessary to be filed to release the property. As a result of these higher exemption amounts, most people can have fairly simple estate plans, if they choose. Some people with trusts may find that they have old language in their documents that is outdated and unnecessary. If you are nearing the exemption levels in Maine it’s never too late to start gifting to keep your estate under the exemption amount.
What happens to your assets (real estate, bank accounts, etc.) that are in your name alone if you die without a will? Your assets will go to whoever the State of Maine, or whatever State you are a resident when you die, thinks they should. When you die without a will you die intestate, and the laws of intestacy kick in. Sometimes this can lead to disastrous results. For example, you own a home alone but have lived there with a life partner for many years, and you die without a will, your life partner is not a beneficiary under the laws of intestacy. If you have no children that house could go to your parents or your siblings or even your distant cousins, that you may have nothing to do with. The simplest way to ensure that your assets go to the people you want is to execute a will.
Many people have not looked at the beneficiary designations on their Life Insurance, Retirement or Annuity Accounts for years. With most of these accounts, you were most likely prompted to designate a beneficiary when you first opened the account. People do not realize that any beneficiary designation made on these accounts will override their will, trust, or other estate planning documents executed. Too often, an ex-spouse is inadvertently left as a beneficiary or a later born child is omitted. Taking the extra step to add contingent beneficiaries to retirement accounts can even result in dramatic tax savings for your loved ones. A few minutes of work on your end can eliminate grief and consternation for your heirs after you pass.
So please, review all those designations to ensure they reflect your current wishes.
Many people mistakenly think that they have control over a loved one’s property by virtue of being a parent, a child, or a spouse. This is wrong! If you are disabled (hospitalized, nursing home) and unable to act for yourself, no one else can deal with your property. No one else can speak with social security, the IRS, the bank, even a utility provider if the account is solely in the unavailable person’s name. This even includes assets that are jointly held. Everyone, even young adults, should have a Durable Power of Attorney appointing someone they trust to immediately step into their shoes. Otherwise that loved one will need to get a guardianship and/or conservatorship to gain access, which is time consuming, burdensome, and extremely expensive.
Durable Powers of Attorney have strict requirements from state to state. For example, Maine has statutory notices that must be in every Maine Durable Power of Attorney. Grabbing a Durable Power of Attorney on-line is not a good solution and puts you at risk for having invalid documents.
Don’t ignore this critical document and leave your assets unprotected. EVERYONE must have a Durable Power of Attorney today.
Kathryn Bedell 12/12/2018