Divorced, kids grown, moving? Time for a pre-checkout checkup!

Second honeymoons are romantic to be sure. A third is even more so, unless maybe if each was with a different person.

Nothing wrong with that, but it is a game-changer. And the will or agreement you wrote 20 years ago, which maybe you have misplaced or forgotten, may not reflect your current thinking — or soulmate.

By the same token children grow up and leave the nest. Your need for life insurance, once very important, may be less or nonexistent.

Also if you have a house in an area like Washington, D.C., have you checked its value lately? In some cases the taxes may be more than the original mortgage. That’s good, but also food for thought, as in maybe it’s time to rethink your exit strategy, starting with a complete revisit to your estate plan? And if you didn’t have one in your ’20s or ’30s, things have changed.

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If you are like many feds or government retirees there is a very good chance you are worth a lot more than you think — certainly more dead than alive. For moderately successful Americans, chances are you are worth more dead than alive, in many cases a lot more.

And during times like this, when a pandemic is still running wild, your estate, which you may not have known you had, probably needs a little work because the old rules no longer apply.

Regardless of where you live, your age, race, sex and what precautions you take, or ignore, we are all at risk — some a lot more than others. But still, if you have people you want to leave something to, if you leave unexpectedly, do you know where to start? Have you done something or nothing?  Ask yourself the basic question: Do you know what you don’t know?

For instance what’s the difference between having a will and setting up an estate? Do you need one or both? Short answer: Probably yes, so how come?

What’s power-of-attorney, of a medical directive? If you become seriously ill or injured, maybe in a vegetative state, do you want the hospital to take heroic measures to keep you alive? If you don’t make that decision beforehand, somebody who loves you — a spouse, adult child — may have to do it.  And they may need the assurance, especially if other family members disagree, that they are acting as you directed. Grim stuff but these are grim times. Nobody alive has been through anything quite like this.

So we asked tax and estate attorney Tom O’Rourke, a frequent guest on our Your Turn radio show, for advice on wills, powers of attorney and the tax implications for your estate which, even if you don’t know it, you probably have. Here are some things you need to consider:

“The basic estate plan includes powers or attorney and some mechanism for distributing your assets in the event of death.

“At the present time an advance medical directive, also known as a health care power of attorney, is essential. This document accomplishes two important goals: It names an individual of your choosing to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to make these decisions for yourself. It also includes end of life instructions (a living will) that specifies what actions you wish to have taken on your behalf if you are terminally ill, in a vegetative state, if you are unlikely to recover. Do you wish to be kept alive by artificial means, such as a ventilator?

“An equally important tool in any estate plan is a durable financial power of attorney. This allows an agent of your choosing to manage your financial affairs if you are incapable of managing your own affairs.

“When most people think of estate planning they think about a will. Although a will is very important, most people have many assets that will not be affected by their wills such a jointly owned property, and assets for a beneficiary is designated, such as life insurance, TSP and annuities. The important point to emphasize is that everybody needs to specify how they wish to have their assets distributed following their death. This can be a will, a trust, or by beneficiary designation.

“I have also been getting a number of questions about changes in the tax law that are part of the CARES Act. These questions generally relate to the following:

  1. The amount of any rebate a person may get and what do you need to get this rebate?
  2. The ability to make a penalty-free withdrawal from an IRA or other tax deferred plan.
  3. The waiver of the required minimum distribution for 2020.”

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Amelia Brust

Despite what Warner Bros. would have people believe, coyotes can actually reach a top speed of 43 miles per hour, more than twice as fast as roadrunners.

Source: The Cornell Lab