Estate planning for your pet

As my dear friend’s awful cancer journey neared the end, it forced her family to make the gut-wrenching decision to remove her beloved dogs from her home. The two rescue dogs, which had provided so much comfort to her throughout her life and illness, had become hazards for my walker-bound, increasingly confused friend. The family had to scramble to find homes and care providers for the dogs, which added extra stress and trauma to an already unbearably sad situation. Had she known about the possibility, my friend might have been able to mitigate some of the stress and heartache by setting up a caretaker trust for her pets. According to Wisconsin Statute 701.0408, a person can set up a trust to “provide for the care of an animal alive during the settlor’s lifetime. The trust terminates upon the death of the animal or, if the trust was created to provide for the care of more than one animal alive during the settlor’s lifetime, upon the death of the last surviving animal.” In order to set up the trust, you must name both a trustee and a beneficiary, which is nice because the trustee is then required to do occasional check-ins on the pet to ensure that your pet is receiving care according to your wishes. In addition to protecting your beloved pets in the event of your death, you should also consider protecting them in case of your disability. Consider, for instance, the cost of a dog walker or kennel stay and factor that into the amount of coverage you purchase. If you have any questions regarding estate planning for your pets, please call the office. One of our advisors would be glad to run through the available options to give you and your family some peace of mind.

A grand slam in legacy planning

Frederik B. Wilcox left a multi-layered legacy when he died in 1965. A champion of both risk and prudence, he famously wrote, “Progress always involves risk. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” Thanks to those oft-quoted words, Wilcox will be remembered for his wit, and, based on his financial wisdom, he’ll also be remembered for his will. Two years ago, a bequest by Wilcox granted the largest unrestricted gift to the Rhode Island Foundation in its 100-year-history. An investment banker who forged his way from humble beginnings, Wilcox left a trust of about $1 million, to be overseen by his daughter, Nancy W. Mattis. He specified that 60 percent of whatever it had grown to at the time of her own passing would be given to the Rhode Island Foundation. Due to her careful stewardship, the trust grew to $48 million by the time she died in 2016 at age 95. Based on his foresight and her care, the foundation received $28 million in unrestricted funds, a grand slam for the smallest state in the union and a testament to the lasting power of estate planning. The Wilcox plan worked beautifully for several reasons. First, he set up his legacy plan carefully and designated beneficiaries based on his own passions and beliefs. Then, he chose a capable (turns out gifted) trustee to manage the account. Lastly, he vetted his beneficiary carefully and understood that the Rhode Island Foundation would be solvent and prepared to handle his generous bequest a half century after he made it. Mr. Wilcox began his life impoverished, but he’ll be remembered for generations thanks to astute estate planning. At Winch Financial, we don’t just recognize exceptional legacies, we help build them.  If you or anyone you know has any questions regarding estate planning, please contact us. We’re always glad to help.

Why Prince needed a will (and so do you)

For an artist who maintained a legendary level of control over his music in life, Prince reportedly died without a will, an astounding omission that left his entire estate, including his vault of music, in flux. Without a will, Prince’s estate will have to go through probate, a public process that will expose everything the man fought so fiercely to protect – his assets, his lifestyle, his potential heirs and, most devastating of all, his music. The man once battled his record label so furiously to regain the rights to his music that he gave up his legal name for a period of time. The Artist Formerly Known as Prince earned a reputation as a fierce protector of his creative property. Prince Rogers Nelson, on the other hand, left his entire catalog vulnerable. Because he died without a will, his assets will be distributed according to Minnesota state law, and by a court designated administrator, likely someone who never had a single conversation with Prince. Without a will, all of the songs Prince produced, including those he wrote but did not release for reasons known only to him, will be part of the probate process. Also, though he supported several charities in his lifetime, Prince will not be able to direct his assets into any of them posthumously. Charitable donations will also be decided by the court designated administrator. Dying intestate, as Prince apparently did, exposes all the assets he worked so hard to accumulate to dramatic tax consequences and leaves the distribution of those assets, the naming of the heirs, up to a slow, expensive court system. A simple, revocable trust with a pour over will would have allowed Prince’s estate to avoid all of this, and to exert the control he so obviously valued. It’s a poignant lesson for all of us. Do you have a will? Have you updated it recently? Do you have a trust? Should… | Read More »

Five retirement tips to prepare you for every season of your life

Much like the financial markets, our lives progress in rollercoaster waves. A day might seem interminable, while a year flies by with frightening speed. Nothing is static, least of all the seasons of your life. That’s why we’ve developed the following tips to help you prepare for what we hope will be one of the most enjoyable times in your life, retirement: 1) Start now. It’s never too soon to think about retirement planning, thanks to the magic of compound interest. Set up an automatic monthly withdrawal from your savings account and invest it wisely in a safe, growth vehicle. Our mutual fund is a perfect example of how a steady investment of even a small amount can yield impressive rewards down the road. 2) Don’t stop planning. Conversely, you’re never too old to think about your retirement.  Life changing events can affect your plan dramatically, so notify your advisor any time you’re anticipating a wedding, the birth of a child, a major purchase, a divorce, a debilitating illness, a job change etc. 3) Think about your goals. You get to define your own retirement and it might not look like anyone else’s. Do you want to travel? Start a new hobby? Invest in an upstart business? Envision your golden years and devise a plan to make it happen. 4) Don’t skip the dirty work.  You have to dig deep and be honest about your spending habits and current financial situation.  Calculate your net worth, set up a budget and consider your goals. Don’t be afraid to add up your debt. Knowing is the first step to solving. Take a deep breath and crunch the numbers. 5) Be disciplined. You can splurge every now and then, but it’s best to stay vigilant in matters of your financial health. You’ve already done the hard work, the rest is simply maintenance. Sit down at least once a quarter to review your portfolio…. | Read More »

Annuity fine print can cost you money.

Recently a client of ours came to us with an indexed annuity that he had just bought and wanted us to take an independent look at.  We called the annuity company with him and asked a wide variety of questions to better understand the terms and conditions of the product.  Our clients’ main concern was how he could access his money.  What we found out was news to our client and he didn’t like what we learned. This particular product had ten-year surrender period.  This means if our client needed to pull his lump sum of money out he would have been charged between 12% and 4% depending on which contact year he did so.  He did have access to 10% of the contract value every year without penalty but not until the second contract year.  This annuity also had a lifetime income payment benefit.  The longer he waited to access this benefit the higher percentage of his benefit base value he could access.  At our clients current age he could access 5.2% a year for the rest of his life.  The major problem with this was that once he attempted to access this income rider, the payment amount was fixed for life, which would not keep up with inflation.  This benefit was costing our client .95%. After the phone call I asked our client what he told the people who sold him this product.  He said, “I want to be able to access my money when I need it.”  This statement threw up a giant red flag to me because this particular annuity had plenty of limitations on how he could access his money.  Then I looked at the start date of this contract and realized that he had purchased this product within the last month. I immediately thought of the free look period. Every insurance-based product has what is called a free look period, which varies by company… | Read More »