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Tips for choosing the right executor

When creating a will, there will come a time when you have to choose an executor. This is the person who will review your will, enter it into probate and ensure that everything goes as you have planned.

Choosing the right executor is easier said than done, especially if you have several people on your radar. Here are three tips for helping you make the perfect choice:

  • Choose a responsible individual: You don't have to choose a legal or financial professional, but you must select someone who is responsible. This person will take on many tasks, all of which require efficient and effective decision-making and communication.
  • Name two executors: This isn't a requirement, but it can help in many situations. For example, if your first executor passes on before you or turns down the responsibility for some reason, the second person can step in.
  • Honesty is the best policy: Choose an executor who is known for being an honest person. Not only does this give you peace of mind, but it also helps avoid a situation in which your executor doesn't follow the instructions you have left them.

Is bankruptcy the right answer to your financial troubles?

As your financial troubles mount, you may need to focus on the many strategies that can help you regain your footing. While there may be more than one answer to your fiscal woes, many people realize that bankruptcy is the best way to make progress in an untenable situation.

If you're on the fence about filing for bankruptcy, here are some questions you can answer to determine if it's right for you:

  • Do you qualify? Even if you don't qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may realize that you can use Chapter 13 to your advantage.
  • Can you improve your finances without bankruptcy? If you've yet to try everything, e.g., debt counseling, you may not want to jump into bankruptcy just yet.
  • What type of debt do you have? Don't assume that bankruptcy will wipe all your debts away. While bankruptcy discharges many unsecured debts like credit card accounts, it doesn't eradicate student loans, legal bills, past-due child support and income tax debt.
  • Are you okay with the downside of bankruptcy? Even though bankruptcy can improve your finances, there are downsides to consider. From the red mark on your credit report to the possibility of losing some of your property, there's a lot to consider.

When estate planning, consider the benefits of a living trust

When creating an estate plan, many people assume that a will is all they need. While it's okay to rely solely on a will, you don't have to do this. You can partially replace your will with a living trust, which will bring additional benefits to you, your family and your estate plan as a whole.

To determine if a living trust is the right approach, you must first understand why it's such a popular estate planning tool. Here are five of the top benefits:

  • Avoid probate: If you want to keep any assets away from the probate process, the best way to do so is to transfer them into a living trust. When you rely strictly on a will, all of your assets will go through probate upon your death, which puts additional strain on your loved ones.
  • It can provide for you during incapacity: If you're unable to care for yourself, such as the result of a serious injury or illness, your trustee can step in and make key decisions on your behalf. This gives you peace of mind at all times, regardless of your age.
  • Privacy protection: A will is public record, giving outsiders the ability to see who received what and how much. Conversely, a living trust is not public record, which provides a high level of privacy protection.
  • Greater control over your assets after your death: For example, you can add a stipulation that your children do not receive anything from the trust until they reach a certain age.
  • Possible to make changes: With a revocable trust, for instance, you can make changes throughout your life. In fact, you can even revoke the trust if you find that you no longer need it.

Steps to take before filing for bankruptcy

Filing for bankruptcy isn't something you should do on a whim. Instead, it takes a lot of planning to ensure that you're making the right decision.

There are several steps you can take before filing for bankruptcy that will help you better understand your situation and what the process entails. Furthermore, taking these steps will put you in position to make a final decision in regards to whether or not you should proceed.

  • Stop using your credit cards. Don't fall into the trap of running up credit card debt with the idea that it'll be discharged in bankruptcy.
  • Do your best to keep up with payments. From your rent to your utilities, do whatever you can to continue making payments.
  • Stop automated payments. If you have these set up, cancel them before you file for bankruptcy. This is important because creditors are required by law to stop collecting payments from you once you file for bankruptcy.
  • File past tax returns. If you've fallen behind on your tax returns, you must file these before you proceed with bankruptcy. It's not always easy to catch up on filing back taxes, especially if you don't have all the documents you need, but it's a requirement of filing for bankruptcy.

Don’t shy away from Chapter 13 bankruptcy

Many people facing financial difficulties set their sights on Chapter 7 bankruptcy. They understand that this allows them to discharge some or all of their debt, thus giving them a fresh start in the immediate future.

If you find that you don't qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you shouldn't turn away just yet. Instead, it makes sense to learn more about Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Durable financial power of attorney: What can your agent do?

When creating an estate plan, it's important to think about what would happen to your finances if you were to become incapacitated. If you're unable to make your own decisions, you want to know that someone responsible can step in and do so on your behalf.

A durable financial power of attorney gives another person, known as an agent, the ability to perform a variety of tasks. These include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:

  • Paying your bills and taxes
  • Paying medical expenses as they arise
  • Managing real estate, such as making mortgage payments and collecting rent payments
  • Investing
  • Collecting retirement and Social Security benefits
  • Operating your business
  • Hiring professionals to assist with specific tasks

Ask and answer these questions when touring a nursing home

There is more to touring a nursing home than checking out the surroundings, chatting with staff and hoping to get a better feel for what it has to offer. If you really want to make the right decision, you need to focus on the many details that give you a clear understanding of what's offered.

This will lead you to ask and answer a variety of questions, including but not limited to the following:

  • Are there any bad smells associated with the facility?
  • What do you see when you look at the residents who are already living there?
  • Is the staff attentive to the needs of residents, or are they off doing something else?
  • What type of care does the nursing home offer?
  • Is the nursing care facility certified by Medicare and Medicaid?
  • How long does the average resident live in the facility?
  • What are the qualifications and experience of the staff?
  • What makes the facility different from the others that you have toured?

Planning for long-term care needs and Medicaid as you age

People don't like to think about growing old or dying. That's why so many adults put off estate planning and end-of-life care preparations. Some individuals who live well into their golden years never require long-term care. Many others are not as lucky. They may require in-house nursing or may need to go live in an assisted living facility, such as a nursing home.

Individuals faced with these care needs are often shocked to learn that Medicare does not cover those expenses. In fact, the cost of in-home nursing or living in a nursing home is incredibly high. It can be thousands of dollars a month, which is difficult to pay when you are on a fixed income after retirement.

Do you know how to reduce your credit card debt?

There may come a point when you realize that you have entirely too much credit card debt. If this happens, it's critical to take immediate action to ensure a better financial future.

There's nothing simple about paying down credit card debt, but there are steps you can take to help your cause. Here are five to consider:

  • Know what you're up against: It's one thing to know you're facing credit card debt, but another thing entirely to understand the exact amount.
  • Search for a better rate: A lower interest rate can save you money as you carry a balance from month to month. You can negotiate this with your lender or opt for a balance transfer credit card.
  • Put your credit cards away: It's difficult enough to pay down the credit card debt you already have. You don't want to add more to this every month.
  • Pay more than the minimum: You can pay off your credit card debt by paying the minimum every month, but it's going to take much longer. If you can afford to pay more than the minimum, do it.
  • Track your progress: When you see yourself making progress, you're more likely to stick with your strategy over the long run.

Clear up these bankruptcy myths before filing

Filing for bankruptcy is a serious decision that will impact your personal and financial life in many ways. Not only does this hold true now, but in the future as well.

If you believe any bankruptcy myths to be true, there's a very good chance you could make a poor decision. Here are a handful of myths to clear up before filing:

  • You'll lose everything in bankruptcy. It's true that you may lose some of your assets, but it's not likely that you'll lose everything. With legal exemptions, you may be able to keep most or all of the assets you value.
  • A bankruptcy wipes clean all your debt. This would be nice, but it's not the way the process works. Some types of debts and obligations, such as student loans and child support, are not impacted by bankruptcy.
  • Bankruptcy will stop you from making future purchases. It's true that a bankruptcy filing will remain on your credit report for 7 to 10 years. For this reason, securing a loan is much more difficult. However, if you devote yourself to rebuilding your credit after bankruptcy, you can once again secure a loan at some point in the future.
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