New Year + New Laws = Outdated Estate Plan

Sivia Law

Todd Sivia, Managing Partner, Sivia Business & Legal Services

As 2016 begins, we reflect upon the joys and challenges we faced throughout the past year. Unfortunately, many people overlook how these joys and challenges affect estate planning. Often, the events that shape our lives the most also influence how we would want to take care of our loved ones. For example, have you experienced changes such as these in 2015:

  • Birth or adoption of a child or grandchild
  • Child turned 18
  • Divorce or marriage
  • Change in named guardians, beneficiaries, trustees or personal executors
  • Approaching age 70
  • State-to-state move
  • Own your own business

Of course, even if you haven’t had any major changes take place in your life, it is still a good idea to have your estate plan reviewed every three years. Laws change periodically so it is important to find out if any legislative revisions impact your estate plan. After all, an out-of-date can add to the stress and pain affecting loved ones during a difficult time.

It is important to us that our clients are always prepared for the unexpected. If you wish to set up a review of your current estate plan or establish a new one, our firm is offering you a free estate planning consultation now through January 31, 2016. You can reach our office at 618-659-4499 or email us at info@sivialaw.com. In the meantime, check  our free Estate Planning Resources Page here.

We hope you transition into 2016 knowing you have safeguarded your loved ones from unintentional consequences through intentional planning.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

Understanding Veteran’s Benefits & Eligibility

Sivia Law

Todd Sivia
Managing Partner, Sivia Business & Legal Services

In honor of Veteran’s Day, I wanted to talk about benefits available to Veterans and their spouses. The federal government offers a variety of benefits to Vets and their families, but many Vets are unsure how to access such benefits or aware of the eligibility requirements.

There are several benefits available, including education and training, compensation, home loans, rehabilitation, life insurance and pension offerings for Veterans and their dependents. Each benefit has its own eligibility requirements.

A Veterans Pension is a tax-free benefit paid to low-income, wartime Vets. Similarly, a Survivors Pension is a tax-free monetary benefit payable to a low-income, un-remarried surviving spouse and/or unmarried child(ren) of a deceased Veteran with wartime service.

To qualify, a Vet or a surviving spouse must be housebound or require the aid and attendance of another person. Pension benefits are needs based and your “countable” family income must fall below the yearly limit set by law.

Veterans must have at least 90 days of active duty, including one day during a wartime period, to qualify for a VA pension. The 90 days does not have to be continuous. At least 90 days of active duty service during WWI, WWII, Korean War, or the Vietnam War (09/16/40 to 07/25/47, 06/27/50 to 01/31/55, and 08/05/64 to 05/07/75). If you served less than 90 days, you may be eligible if discharged for a service-connected disability.

If the active duty occurred after 9/7/1980, you must have served at least 24 months or the full period that you were called up (with some exceptions).

Eligible Veterans must also be:

  • Age 65 or older with limited or no income, OR
  • Totally and permanently disabled, OR
  • A patient in a nursing home receiving skilled nursing care, OR
  • Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, OR
  • Receiving Supplemental Security Income

A Survivors Pension is calculated to be an amount equal to the difference between your countable family income and the annual pension limit set by Congress. For spouses or unmarried children to qualify for the Survivors Pension benefit, the deceased Veteran must have met the following service requirements:

  • Veterans must have at least 90 days of active duty, including one day during a wartime period, to qualify for a VA pension. The 90 days does not have to be continuous. At least 90 days of active duty service during WWI, WWII, Korean War, or the Vietnam War (09/16/40 to 07/25/47, 06/27/50 to 01/31/55, and 08/05/64 to 05/07/75).
  • If the active duty occurred after 9/7/1980, you must have served at least 24 months or the full period that you were called up (with some exceptions).
  • Was discharged from service under other than dishonorable conditions.

Discerning eligibility and the completing the application can be a daunting, complicated process. If you, or someone you love, may qualify for VA or survivor benefits, contact me at 618-659-4499 or email me at info@sivialaw.com. You can also visit our website at www.sivialaw.com for more information on our Veteran’s Benefits assistance. I would be honored to assist a Veteran receive the benefits he/she deserves for protecting our freedom.

Three Myths About Wills & Guns

Sivia Law

Todd Sivia
Managing Partner, Sivia Business & Legal Services

I have written estate plans for a lot of gun owners and I find that they are surprised to learn that transferring a gun is a lot different than willing other forms of personal property. Therefore, I feel it is important to address a few of the myths surrounding the passing down of firearms.

Myth #1 – I do not need to include my guns in my Will. My family knows my wishes.

While your family may know what you want done with your guns, it isn’t always that simple. If you will a firearm to anyone without a valid FOID card (in Illinois), and that person takes possession, then they have committed a felony.

Or, if that person lives in another state and takes the firearms across state lines, it is now a federal felony—punishable with 5 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. That is probably not the “gift” you intended.

But these scenarios are easily preventable with proper planning.

Myth #2 – My guns are noted in my Will. That is enough.

Unfortunately, every item listed in your Will goes through the probate process. Probate is a public hearing where a judge determines who gets the items in your estate.

So not only will everyone know which guns you own and how much your collection is worth, but your beneficiaries will have to pay the transfer tax per firearm–and possibly estate taxes on top of that. Did I mention the lawyer fees?

Myth #3 – I created a Revocable Living Trust online to protect my guns from the probate process.

While a RLT certainly is a helpful estate planning tool, it is not, however, a good place to put your gun collection.

Why? The fact is that an online RLT can be downright dangerous, since they do not contain firearms-specific language. Some boilerplate RLTs have even proved invalid in court. So RLT downloaded from the internet or purchased from a gun shop might seem like a economical option, but it can cost your family more money in the long run.

The most effective method for protection is a gun trust. A gun trust is a special-purpose trust written to hold ONLY your firearm collection. You are trustee and beneficiary. You can appoint successor trustees, lifetime and remainder beneficiaries, and the trust can be amended or revoked at any time.

A gun trust ensures your guns will be handled lawfully after your death or incapacity, allows easier application and ownership of NFA items, permits ownership transfers without the $200 tax, and avoids probate and guardianship.

Most importantly, it protects your firearms from being declared illegal in the future.

Gun collecting isn’t like other hobbies. You’re not stashing away beanie babies in the attic. You’ve invested considerable amount of time and money into your guns. If you are interested in protecting your investment, contact me at 618-659-4499 or email me at info@sivialaw.com. Or, visit our website at www.sivialaw.com/estateplanning.