August 15, 2018
It may be difficult to consider, but funeral arrangements are a critical component of your estate plan. Failure to clearly communicate your wishes regarding the disposition of your remains can lead to tension, disputes and even litigation among your family members during what is already a difficult time.
Address these issues
The methods for expressing these wishes vary from state to state, and may include a provision in your will, language in a health care proxy or power of attorney, or a separate form specifically designed for this purpose.
Whichever method you use, it should, at a minimum, state:
Beware of prepaid funeral plans
To relieve their families of the burden of the costs of a funeral, some people pay for them in advance. Unfortunately, prepaid funeral plans can be fraught with potential traps. Some plans end up costing more than the benefits they pay out. And there may be a risk that you’ll lose your investment if the funeral provider goes out of business or you want to change your plans.
Some states offer protection — such as requiring a funeral home or cemetery to place funds in a trust or to purchase a life insurance policy to fund funeral costs — but many do not. If you’re considering a prepaid plan, find out exactly what you’re paying for. Does the plan cover merchandise only (casket, vault, etc.) or are services included? Is the price locked in or is there a possibility that your family will have to pay additional amounts?
How the state can intercede
If you fail to make your burial wishes clear, and your family members disagree about how you would want your remains disposed of, the outcome will depend on applicable state law. Absent express instructions from the deceased, some states give priority to the wishes of certain family members, such as spouses or children, over other family members, such as siblings.
To avoid this situation, talk to us about your wishes. We can help ensure that they’re properly documented.
If you wish to put your family on a better path to understanding the decisions you made in your estate plan, provide them a “road map.”
With the new year comes the need for small-business owners to begin thinking about filing their 2018 income tax returns. The TCJA could significantly alter your tax liability compared to previous years. So refresh yourself on its major provisions.
When you think of April 15, you probably think of the income tax return deadline. But it’s also the gift tax return deadline. Find out if you must (or should) file a 2018 gift tax return this April.