United States: Wealth Management Group Newsletter – Fall 2014

Last Updated: October 14 2014
Article by Peggy Vyborny and Steve Lewis

REVISE YOUR ESTATE PLAN TO COVER HEALTH CARE DIRECTIONS

by Peggy Vyborny, CPA

What is a person to do if he or she is terminally ill, or permanently unconscious and unable to communicate? Who will make medical decisions on his or her behalf? This is why it is important to put one's wishes in writing before a situation like this arises. Generally, that means executing two documents: 1) a living will and 2) a health care power of attorney. This blog explains the differences between the two documents and describes what they can accomplish.

When Jay's motorcycle accident left him unconscious and on life support, his family had to make the difficult decision of keeping the life-sustaining machines on or turning them off and allowing Jay to die. Jay's wife thought he would prefer the latter, while Jay's parents wanted to hold out and see if he would wake up.

This unfortunate family debate did not have to take place. It could have been avoided if Jay had included his wishes in his estate plan using a living will and a health care power of attorney (HCPA).

Defining the Documents

To ensure that your wishes are carried out, and that your family is spared the burden of guessing — or arguing over — what you would decide, put those wishes in writing. Generally, that means executing two documents: 1) a living will and 2) a health care power of attorney (HCPA).

Unfortunately, these documents are known by many different names, which can lead to confusion. Living wills are sometimes called "advance directives," "health care directives" or "directives to physicians." And HCPAs may also be known as "durable medical powers of attorney," "durable powers of attorney for health care" or "health care proxies." In some states, "advance directive" refers to a single document that contains both a living will and an HCPA.

For the sake of convenience, we will use the terms "living will" and "HCPA." Regardless of terminology, these documents serve two important purposes: 1) to guide health care providers in the event you cannot communicate and are terminally ill or permanently unconscious, and 2) to appoint someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf.

A living will expresses your preferences for the use of life-sustaining medical procedures, such as artificial feeding and breathing, surgery, invasive diagnostic tests and pain medication. It also specifies the situations in which these procedures should be used or withheld.

An HCPA authorizes a surrogate — your spouse, child or another trusted representative — to make medical decisions or consent to medical treatment on your behalf when you are unable to do so. It is broader than a living will, which generally is limited to end-of-life situations, although there may be some overlap.

Working in Tandem

It is a good idea to have both a living will and an HCPA or, if allowed by state law, a single document that combines the two. A living will typically details the procedures you want and do not want under specified circumstances. But no matter how carefully you plan, a document you prepare now cannot account for every possible contingency down the road.

That is where an HCPA comes in. Although an HCPA can include specific instructions, it can also be used to provide general guidelines or principles and give your representative the discretion to deal with complex medical decisions and unanticipated circumstances (such as new treatment options).

This approach offers greater flexibility, but it also makes it critically important to appoint the right representative. Choose someone whom you trust unconditionally, who is in good health and who is both willing and able to make decisions about your health care. And be sure to name at least one backup in the event your first choice is unavailable.

Revising Your Estate Plan

Before an illness or an accident, consult with your advisor to revise your estate plan to include a living will and HCPA. Without these important documents, your loved ones may have to make medical decisions on your behalf without any guidance.

A PRIMER ON THE TIMING OF RMDS

By Steve Lewis, CPA

A key aspect of any retirement plan is knowing when to begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from employer-sponsored defined contribution plans and traditional IRAs. This blog discusses how to determine the minimum distribution amount that can be taken from an account each year, along with the tax implications, which vary according to the age at which withdrawals begin.

Planning for retirement is an important aspect of your overall wealth plan. A key aspect of any retirement plan is knowing when to begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from your employer-sponsored defined contribution plans and traditional IRAs.

You can begin taking penalty-free retirement plan distributions when you turn 59½. If you are fortunate enough to have other income to fund your lifestyle and do not need to tap your retirement funds at that age, you can forgo taking a distribution until you turn 70½. However, if you do not begin taking RMDs at 70½, the tax consequences are severe: The penalty on any shortfall — that is, the difference between what you should have taken and what you actually took — is 50%.

Specifically, you must take your initial distribution by April 1 of the year after you turn 70½. However, you can take it during the year in which you actually turn 70½. Waiting until the following year to take your initial distribution may have negative ramifications. Why? Because you will be required to take two taxable distributions within the same year, and you may end up in a higher tax bracket.

Following your initial RMD, the IRS requires you to take subsequent ones by the end of each calendar year. If you would like to spread out the distribution throughout the calendar year, you may take installments, so long as the total of the installments equals or exceeds the RMD.

You are free to make withdrawals in excess of your RMD. This will reduce the balance used to calculate your RMD in future years. However, the excess over the RMD you withdraw one year does not count toward your RMD in another year.

So what is the minimum distribution amount you can take from your account each year? To calculate, you divide your balance at the end of the previous tax year by the applicable IRS divisor. Your RMD will vary with the balance in the account, your age and possibly your spouse's age. Before taking any action, be sure to discuss your options with your tax, legal or accounting advisor.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Peggy Vyborny
Steve Lewis
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions