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  • 02/09/2021 - balloubedell 2 Comments
    Do you own property with other family members? Consider a Realty or Nominee Trust

    Many people own property with family, such as a vacation home with other siblings. Most people own these properties in their own name, needlessly subjecting themselves to probate at the death of any owner. The perfect solution is something called a Nominee Trust (also often referred to as a Realty Trust). This is a very special trust that allows the beneficiaries not the trustee to be in control of the Trust. The ownership share would be reflected in the Trust. If you own half now, you would still own half of the trust, which would own the house. But, all owners would now enjoy the probate avoidance of a Trust. Better yet, you and your siblings will all share in the cost of the trust, making it a great value. You can even name a beneficiary of your share if you pass.

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  • 08/26/2020 - balloubedell 8 Comments
    Are your Young Adult Children Protected?

    Young adults rarely think about estate planning because they often have no assets (real estate, car, etc.).  However, they are just as in need of planning as any other older adult.  If your 18 year old is attending college in another state you likely will not be able to communicate with your child’s doctors, even in an emergency. Imagine your child is in an automobile accident in a distant state and you cannot talk to their doctor because they are unconscious or unable to give permission- every parent’s worst nightmare come true.  The problem is easily solved by ensuring that your young adult has a Durable Power of Attorney and Advanced Directive, giving you the automatic right to speak with the hospital.  These documents are inexpensive and easily amended as the children age and perhaps want to pass agency to a spouse.  Until then, don’t let your children go unprotected.

    – Kathryn Bedell, Esq.

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  • 06/22/2020 - balloubedell 4 Comments
    What is a Special Needs Trust and Do You Need One?

    Any parent or spouse who knows that their child or other beneficiary has special needs that will require them to avail themselves to governmental programs (like Maine Care) in the future will want to consider a Supplemental Needs (also known as Special Needs) Trust in their Estate Planning. A Supplemental Needs Trust is specifically designed to ensure that the beneficiary will not be deemed to have inherited assets that could potentially disqualify them for the program they are on. This can be especially important for children who have extreme medical needs and cannot afford to lose that funding. A Supplemental Needs Trust will protect the money so it will be there for the needs of the child/grandchild/beneficiary. It is a very restrictive trust that must last for the rest of that beneficiary’s life. This requires special care when choosing a Trustee and Successor Trustee to oversee the trust. If you think this may apply to your family situation don’t hesitate to call and learn more

    – Kathryn Bedell, Esq.

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  • 06/11/2020 - balloubedell 29 Comments
    I’m a Young Parent, How Should I Set Up My Life Insurance Policy?

    Many people with young kids to educate and mortgages to pay off will have large term-life insurance policies to cover these expenses if anything happens to them. Young families often do not do estate planning and make simple mistakes that can prove costly down the road. Most standard Wills will have a trust in place for minor beneficiaries. The Trustee holds on to the money and spends on behalf of the minor, for their benefit until they reach a certain age (i.e. 25 years old). For this reason, if you have young children, your life insurance should flow through your will to fund these trusts for your children. Instead I find that young families will name the children themselves or worse, a brother or sister thinking that they will spend the money on the kids behalf. But then time goes by, people get divorced, etc.. life happens. These policies are forgotten. Part of the Estate Planning process is going through all your assets and making sure details like this are attended to. I offer a sizable discount to young families because they so often neglect this critical issue. See my young family discount and call me today.

    – Kathryn Bedell, Esq.

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  • 05/29/2020 - balloubedell 31 Comments
    Is your Trust Fully Funded?

    Many of my clients come to me with Trusts that have not been funded or fully funded. What does that mean? It means they had a trust document drawn up by their lawyer in the past, but everything they own is not in the trust. Their house is not in the trust, bank and stock accounts, etc. are not in the trust. They likely did the trust to avoid probate and in fact will not only have probate, but will also have to deal with the trust, who is likely the beneficiary in the Will. What should you do to prevent this? Check out my Determining Your Net Worth hand out ​​ and make sure that everything on that worksheet is either in your trust or has beneficiaries (IRA’s, 401Ks cannot be in the trust). Is the house in the trust? Are the timeshares in the trust? What about the cars? In order to have that seamless transition you are expecting when you pass you need to make sure EVERYTHING you own has been included. It doesn’t matter how big or small that account is. The details matter. Learn more about trusts in my hand out – Trusts are they Right for Me?

    – Kathryn Bedell, Esq.

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  • 05/21/2020 - balloubedell 0 Comments
    BUYER BEWARE – On-line Estate Planning Documents

    In these uncertain times Estate Planning (Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Advance Health Care Directives) is on everyone’s minds. Many people use on-line services to generate basic forms. Unfortunately, those documents are often cut and paste, and can often have wrong information. Maine, for example, just passed a sweeping change to it’s Probate Code in September, and many on-line national programs have not caught up yet.

    The Estate Planning Process is so much more complex than drafting a few forms. One of the most critical elements of the Estate Planning process is reviewing a client’s assets and making sure they are all titled properly. No on-line program can do this.

    Working with an attorney is not as expensive as one might think. At Ballou and Bedell the entire process for a single person is $475 and $775 for a married couple. We offer a generous discount (25%) for any young families with minor children. These documents, if done well, can potentially last you the rest of your life, depending on your age. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.

    Call us today and put your mind at rest.

    – Kathryn Bedell, Esq.

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  • 08/16/2019 - balloubedell 240 Comments
    Why Everyone Over the Age of Eighteen Should Have a Durable Power of Attorney and an Advance Health Care Directive

    Imagine if your adult child is in a car accident and brought to the hospital unconscious, don’t assume that the hospital will talk to you automatically, like they did when they were minors.   Due to HIPAA restrictions, hospitals have to adhere to strict guidelines as to whom they can communicate with regarding health information.  EVERYONE (even 18-year-olds) should designate parents as agents in a Durable Power of Attorney for finances and an Advance Health Care Directive.  These documents will ensure that you, as a parent, will be able to advocate for your young adult children if they cannot speak for themselves. Consider paying for them to execute the documents for your peace of mind.

    -Kathryn Bedell, Esq.

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  • 08/09/2019 - balloubedell 0 Comments
    Do I need to worry about estate tax?

    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.

    – Kathryn Bedell, Esq.

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  • 08/02/2019 - balloubedell 2 Comments
    To gift money to friends or family or not?

    Many people want to give cash to friends and family, but are afraid they will have to pay tax on the gifts.  Good news- it turns out that it has never been easier to give away money.  Each person has the right to give $15,000 per person, per calendar year, with NO reporting to anyone.  This means you can give $15,000 to your son, $15,000 to his wife, $15,000 to each grandchild, $15,000 to your neighbor, etc.  There is no limit to the number of people.  But, if you give more than $15,000 to any one person, you do have to report it through an informational return.  This return would merely state the gift and counts toward your ability to give a total of $5.7 million away (2019 amount in Maine) during your life, and double that at the Federal level.  See blog post about estate tax.  If you are like most people, you will be well under these exemption amounts and you never have to worry about triggering any taxes.  So, if you want to help someone out with a down payment on a house, or whatever else and you think you can afford it, talk to your accountant first, but chances are that taxes will not be due on gift.

    -Kathryn Bedell, Esq.

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  • 07/26/2019 - balloubedell 5 Comments
    Why everyone needs a Will

    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. 

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  • 07/18/2019 - balloubedell 5 Comments
    Do you have a Registered Agent?

    Many LLC’s, small business corporations, and condominium associations doing business in Maine do not have a Maine Registered Agent.  The State of Maine requires all such for-profit and non-profit entities (foreign and domestic) to have a Maine Registered Agent, which means a person or entity with an office located in Maine available to receive court related documents during normal business hours.  It is vital that you do not serve as your own Registered Agent.  If your business or association is sued or subpoenaed the sheriff will appear at your place of business potentially causing an embarrassing and awkward situation.  A Maine Registered Agent will also ensure that you are promptly informed about the court related documents and deadlines.  Maine law also requires annual reporting and fee filing with the Maine Secretary of State’s office, which are services we also provide as part of our Maine Registered Agent services.  Call today to have Ballou & Bedell serve as your Commercial Registered Agent. 

    -Kathryn Bedell, Esq.

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  • 07/12/2019 - balloubedell 5 Comments
    Timeshares: Lots of fun until you die…

    If you have not properly planned, timeshares can inadvertently saddle your loved ones with headaches and needless expenses when you die.  Few people realize that most timeshares are deeded real property, even if it is only a week in Sedona or two weeks in Hawaii.  If you own the timeshare jointly with someone (e.g., a spouse or friend), you may be fine.  But what if you and your spouse die in a common accident?  Or your spouse has passed and you now own it yourself alone?   Owning real property subjects you to a probate in that state when you die.  If you do own a timeshare, make sure you have thought about succession planning.  Some options are to place the timeshare in a trust, or to add a child or friend you wish to inherit your timeshare deed before you die (assuming they are willing to take on the annual expense after you are gone).  Otherwise, you may end up costing your family far more money dealing with the timeshare than it is actually worth, not to mention the added stress!    

    -Kathryn Bedell, Esq.

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  • 07/07/2019 - balloubedell 1 Comment
    Are you a blended family?  You NEED to talk about Estate Planning

    I find many blended families avoid the topic of wills and succession planning because it can create tension between spouses.  It can raise touch point issues in the relationship.  Maybe you are much closer to your kids than your spouse’s kids.  You may have even lost touch with children because of hurt feelings when you divorced and remarried.  If you don’t confront this sensitive area you can leave behind a mess when you die.  A home that has been in your family for generations could end up with step-kids or people you have no relationship with.  A beloved spouse could be forced from the home when you die.  The only way to ensure your wishes are carried out is to start the discussion and visit an attorney to come up with a plan.

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  • 06/25/2019 - balloubedell 1 Comment
    Update Your Beneficiary Designations

    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. 

    -Kathryn Bedell, Esq.

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  • 03/12/2019 - balloubedell 1 Comment
    Should I Run My DBA-Small Business as an LLC or Corporation?

    The answer is an unequivocal "YES!"  Owning and operating your business as an LLC or S-Corporation may not only potentially shield your personal assets from business creditors and lawsuits, but the new tax law heavily favors operating as one of these types of "pass-through" entities.  It is a win, win.  BUT there are definitely traps for the unwary, and only a professional (not a web-site) can help you choose which form of business entity is right for you. Talk to a lawyer today. 

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  • 03/08/2019 - balloubedell 11 Comments
    What happens to the stuff in my house when I die?

    There is a statute in Maine that allows you to tell people who you want to get your "tangible personal property" (that’s a fancy word for "stuff") with a simple list in writing.  Tangible personal property includes furniture, jewelry, dishware, art, even cars and pets.  The general rule of thumb is that if you can touch it, it’s tangible.  Not included are cash, stocks, bank accounts, life insurance, real estate, etc.  This list does not have to be witnessed or notarized or carry any of the formalities of a will, yet your Personal Representative/Family must legally respect those wishes as if it did.  The advantage is you can give a grandchild or neighbor something special to remember you by.  If you get mad at them or lose touch you can change the list at any time without having to re-do your will or see a lawyer.  These lists can be invaluable road maps for your loved ones when you die.  They can also prevent fights over hot-point items like wedding rings or family heirlooms.  I recommend that you date and sign your list, especially if you use your computer to generate it.  Keep the list where it can be easily found.  You can have just a few items or you can map out the distribution of your whole house, that’s totally up to you. 

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  • 02/27/2019 - balloubedell 3 Comments
    Why Title Insurance is a MUST

    If you own real estate that you have inherited and you don’t have title insurance, consider it. People instinctively think that since it’s been in the family for years, there are no title issues.   Unfortunately, properties owned for generations are by far the very properties that do have title issues. These properties have usually not been mortgaged, so the titles have not been vetted. Title insurance is an insured statement of the condition of your title or ownership rights to the property.  It guarantees you own the property.  Don’t get to the closing and find out you have title defects, which can cause major issues.

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  • 02/13/2019 - balloubedell 3 Comments
    Why young families must have estate planning documents

    All too often young families avoid or put off executing Wills and other estate planning documents because they don’t think they need them.  Ironically, they are the very ones who do need estate planning.  A Will allows you to name the Guardian of current and future-born children. Testamentary Guardianships are automatically issued by the probate court.  There is no court process involved, so no family drama over who will take care of your children if both parents are gone.  Moreover, your Will can set up a simple testamentary trust for minors to ensure that the money you pass to your children is protected until they are ready to inherit it. To ensure your loved ones have no worries, it is also essential to go through your beneficiary designations on insurance, retirement and other assets.  

    Attention – parents with grandchildren:
    Estate planning gift certificates make great Christmas and Birthday gifts for our children!

    -Kathryn Bedell, Esq.

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  • 02/05/2019 - balloubedell 9 Comments
    Who should I choose as my Personal Representative or Trustee?

    Whether you have a will-based estate plan or trust-based one choosing the right person who will be in charge of your assets when you are gone is sometimes a difficult decision for people.  Gone are the days when the oldest son is automatically chosen.  I’ve seen too many family fights occur simply because the wrong person is serving in this position.  You know your family and its particular politics best.

    Blended families may want to utilize Co-Personal Representatives so that a child from each side is represented.  In some situations it is necessary to go to a neutral third party, like a neighbor, sibling, or professional.  Things to consider when choosing: 

    1. Are they fair? 
    2. Are they good communicators? 
    3. Are they able to take criticism and not let it bother them? 

    Worry less about who is "local" and more about who you truly trust to get the job done.  Always remember to have plenty of contingency planning in case someone you choose dies, gets sick, or just doesn’t want to do it. 

    Choose wisely and you will minimize family discord after you pass. 

    -Kathryn Bedell, Esq.      

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  • 01/31/2019 - balloubedell 4 Comments
    Do I need a Trust?

    Does your neighbor or best friend complain to you that if you don’t have a trust you will regret it?  Everyone has heard of the word, but few people truly understand the benefits and drawbacks of trusts, let alone what kind of trust they may have.  The truth is that not everyone needs a trust.  The answer depends on what state you are a resident of when you die, and other factors including whether you own real estate in more than one state. 

    Read this handout and you will know more about trusts than that pesky neighbor who thinks you are doing everything wrong…

    -Kathryn Bedell, Esq.

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  • 12/26/2018 - balloubedell 4 Comments
    “If I was looking for an estate planning Attorney…”

    Advice from a Seasoned Estate Planning & Probate Attorney

    1.    Don’t get your estate planning documents online. I estimate that 99% of what I do is not preparing documents, but giving tailored advice for your unique situation.

    2.     Use online research, but only to educate yourself, as well as to compare and contrast attorneys.

    3.     Interview lawyers, by telephone or at your first office meeting – shop around and ask for price.

    4.     Make sure to use a lawyer who only focuses on estate planning.

    5.     If you are afraid to interview a lawyer, use word of mouth – ask your friends.

    – Kathryn Bedell, Esq.

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  • 12/16/2018 - balloubedell 9 Comments
    Real Property Transfer on Death Deed

    Major changes to the Probate Code that affect all Maine Real Estate – Starting September 1, 2019, Maine will allow a real estate deed, known as a Transfer on Death Deed, to designate beneficiaries, the same way you would on a bank or stock account. Florida residents are already familiar with this deed and call it a "Ladybird" deed. The advantage of the new deed is that the beneficiaries will have absolutely no rights to the real estate and the owner can change the deed at any time before you die, without notice to the beneficiary.

    A Transfer on Death Deed will minimize the need for Trusts, especially out-of-state residents with Maine real estate who want to very simply by-pass Maine probate when they die. It will also potentially eliminate probate for Maine residents who have beneficiary designations for all their assets (life insurance, IRA, bank accounts) except the house. Call today to see if this new deed is right for you!

    -Kathryn Bedell, Esq.

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  • 12/12/2018 - balloubedell 7 Comments
    Everyone Must Have a Durable Power of Attorney – Do You?

    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, Esq.

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  • 12/03/2018 - balloubedell 4 Comments
    Retirement Accounts: Make Sure You don’t Waste your Retirement Money on Unnecessary Taxes

    Do you own an IRA/401K/Annuity or other retirement "pre-tax" account?  When was the last time you checked the beneficiary designations on those accounts?  You could be wasting your retirement money on unnecessary taxes.

    We often forget that giving retirement accounts to our heirs comes with a tax.  Most of these accounts are "pre-tax," meaning that you have taken a pass on paying income tax until later.  That promise to pay carries over to your beneficiaries.  Most companies will prompt you for a beneficiary when you set up the account, but that could have been years ago.  Things change, a beneficiary may have died, you may have divorced, etc.  You always want to make sure you have "primary" AND "contingent" beneficiaries on these accounts.  The tax savings you will pass to your heirs is significant.  If your primary beneficiary predeceases you, in a common accident, for example, and you don’t have a contingent beneficiary named, that account will default to your "Estate" when you die.  Estates are taxed (Federal and State) at the very highest income bracket there is.  Moreover, individuals can usually spread out the tax liability over the rest of their lives.  Estates have to take the money in a set time frame, meaning potentially one-half of the money will needlessly go to pay completely avoidable income tax.  

    So, update those beneficiary designations and make sure you have a contingent beneficiary named on all these types of accounts.

    – Kathryn Bedell, Esq.

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