Category Archives: Estate Planning

Clearing Financial Clutter, Minimalist Style

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Clearing Financial Clutter, Minimalist Style

By Attorney Ginger B. Kelly, June 6, 2018

Living the minimalist lifestyle has been an ongoing passion of mine for at least the past five years. Working on becoming less cluttered, less driven by my own urges and material wants, is something I strive to do every day.  In turn, this leaves more time to become more creative, mindful and wise. This is a process, not a destination.

Minimalism is also a movement. It’s a personal organization life-design and a simpler way of life.  Living the simple less cluttered life, financially, tends to make your wallet and your heart more full and happy.  A person only needs a few things to find comfort and safety.  Likewise, a person only needs a very few tools to keep their financial life under control and comfortable.  Many credit cards and savings accounts will not bring more mental calmness and financial security.  In fact, a cluttered financial life will limit your options and your productivity.

USE ONE SIMPLE PLAN TO PAY YOURSELF FIRST

First and foremost, pay yourself.  Use one long term savings account, if possible.  The strategy is to save at least 10% for your long term retirement goals.  The minimalist strategy is to have only one 401(k) or one IRA and invest in this.  If you want to get fancy, have two accounts. For example, have one annuity and one 401(k) or have two 401(k) accounts, one for each spouse. If you are older, it is not uncommon to have more than one long term savings plan.  However, a multiplicity of whole life policies, stocks, savings bonds, mutual funds and 401(k) accounts will not help to drive your financial goals forward.  In fact, many accounts drive most folks crazy.  Avoid multiple fees, multiple financial institutions, more than one financial adviser and tons of “stuff” to look after. Then, save it and forget about it. Have the money taken out of your pay check, each and every pay period, and you’ll never miss it.  Out of sight, out of mind.  This really works!

Tip:  If you can’t save 10%, start with a minimum like 4%.  Increase this figure every year until you reach the goal of 10%.  Ask your tax accountant and financial adviser to help you plan a strategy that is realistic and works best for you.

HAVE ONE CHECKING ACCOUNT AND ONE SAVINGS ACCOUNT

Two or more bank accounts do not help clear the mind nor do they add value to your life. Two checking and savings accounts require extra passwords, extra time, extra books, extra statements, extra checks and other not so valuable things, like bank fees and charges. Get rid of all checking and savings accounts but one, unless you own a business. If you own a business have two, one for your business and one for your personal finances.

Also consider having only one savings account and using it. A savings account is an important tool, useful for short term goals, like car repairs and/or down payments, kid’s activities like summer camp, gifts and summer vacations. A good rule of thumb is to save 5% to 10% of your gross income each month for short term goals. That means, if you earn $2,000 per month, you should be stashing away at least $100 to $200 per month into short term savings.

Joint Account Tip: Sometimes it’s a good idea to have designated “jobs” when working together with joint accounts.  Find a simple plan and strategy for you, as a couple, and follow that.  Be honest with each other and communicate about everything important. If you can’t work together, seek counseling, a trusted priest, pastor or neutral party to help you correct underlying breakdowns, fears and anxieties.

Savings Tip:  Saving the equivalent of at least one car payment each month just for transportation is a great rule to follow, whether or not you actually have a car payment. If you aren’t saving anywhere from $100 to $400 per month, simply for transportation, then a $50 bus or mass transit pass may be the better option. For most folks, driving to work is far more important than an expensive mobile phone plan or eating out over and over again.

LIMIT CREDIT CARDS TO ONLY THREE

Get rid of all credit cards and revolving credit accounts but three. Why three? Most people remember and retain information very well in increments of three. Any more than three points, topics or tasks and the waters get muddy.  As a bankruptcy attorney I’ve seen a lot of things.  Having tons of credit cards seems to be a thing these days.  The point here is to not get hung up on the numbers of cards you have, but to shed unnecessary high interest cards and revolving accounts that charge unwanted fees. Caring for balances and payment dates is easy, when there are only three. No is a very empowering word.  Set a goal and use the word no to your advantage. When it comes to credit cards, less is best.

Tip: Don’t close credit card accounts in the days, weeks or months before making big purchases, like a home or a vehicle.  Closing credit card accounts can actually lower your credit scores for a time. Keep this in mind. After you’ve made that big purchase, then you can begin to close small revolving accounts you don’t need and ones with annual fees and things that do not add value to your financial well-being and peace of mind.

Another tip: Coordinate your credit card payments with your pay period.  This makes paying your cards, on time, every time, easier. Then, every pay period, when checking on your bank balance and direct deposit, pay your credit card bills (all at the same time). Having multiple due dates on many credit cards is nothing less than stressful and confusing. Ask your lender how to do this.

As we can see, there are a few financial “things” almost everyone needs to get by in life and plan a successful future. Too many and life gets complicated. Jen, Ray and Mary are great examples of this.

Jen and Ray are a couple who decided to take the minimalist approach and de-clutter their finances.  They gave themselves clear goals to de-clutter their finances, with broken-down steps on how they wanted to attain them.  Most importantly, they wrote down why they wanted to live more minimally and posted their goals on a calendar.  Over the course of just one year, they reduced their credit cards from ten to four. They eliminated six checking accounts to two. They also started a joint savings account and began to save money into Ray’s 401(k). They have saved over $300 in typical,  albeit unintentional, yearly overdraft fees and bank charges. Even better, Jen and Ray communicate much better and have far less stress and anxiety.

Mary, in taking her first steps toward getting rid of clutter, wrote down the fact that she didn’t need hundreds or useless items and financial tools to be happy, unique and to feel secure.  Part of Mary’s plan was to get rid credit cards and spend less.  She eliminated her JC Penny, WallMart and TJMaxx cards and decided to keep her cash-back Discover card and a lower interest Citi Bank card with no annual fee.  Mary also decided to have only one checking and one savings. Then, she started to save 10% of her income for a newer car purchase over the next year.  In less than eight months, Mary has saved over $100 in extra bank fees and interest charges and tucked away over $1,000 in her savings account. Mary doesn’t go out to eat very often anymore, but that’s OK.  She likes to cook.  For Mary, creating nice things, like meals, helps her to be a better person, all around.

You’ve heard it before, “everything you do and have in life (material things, relationships etc.) either adds value to your life or drags you down.” (author unknown) There is no third option. Things that add value to your life are things that make you happy, lead you to become more creative, healthier, wiser, and more energetic, develop your talents and so on. The same holds true for your finances.

Please feel free to comment, below.  We are open to your tips and ideas for getting rid of financial clutter and eliminating stress.

The Law Offices of Ginger B. Kelly is now accepting appointments to see clients in the Sturbridge, Southbridge, Dudley, Webster, Oxford, Sutton, Charlton, Auburn, Worcester, Framingham, Shrewsbury, Spencer, Brookfield, West Brookfield, Warren, Putnam, all of the Worcester County, parts of Hampden County and Northern Rhode Island.  We can explore whether or not bankruptcy is the easy way out in a comfortable, private place to talk.  We will have a fresh pot of coffee waiting for you.

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ABOUT ME: Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Her law practice is focused on consumer debt, finance, bankruptcy and District Court matters. Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work. On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing, gardening, conservation and agriculture.

To find out more, visit, http://www.attorneykelly.com or call us at (508) 784-1444.

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NOTICE: This is an Advertisement. This post is not legal advice. Consult your attorney. Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet. Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other. We cannot stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney. Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice. Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2018 by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

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Basic Estate Planning in Massachusetts

last-willProtecting loved ones and establishing wishes prior to death is pretty basic and important part of life.  Sometimes families with children don’t realize how essential it is to select a guardian.  Oftentimes grandparents would like to leave a legacy to their grandchildren or skip a generation.  We all need to think about our essential health care and financial decisions now, before these kinds decisions are made for us.

If you do not have a will, or if your will is invalid, you will die what is called, “intestate.” In cases when a person dies intestate, their probate assets are distributed according to statutory guidelines.  These guidelines are extremely rigid. When a person dies intestate, the process of distributing assets does not take into consideration any of the wishes and desires the person who died (the decedent) or the family.  Furthermore, this process takes a considerable amount of time.

In Massachusetts, there are four basic legal documents needed to protect a basic estate and avoid the hassle, time and expense of probating an estate for those who die intestate.  A basic estate is an estate valued at less than $1 million dollars in total assets.  These four documents are:  a Will, a Durable Power of Attorney, a Health Care Proxy and a Health Care Directive.

  1. The Will

A will is a document that you use to specify your wishes as to how to distribute your assets after you pass away.  Your assets are your personal property and real property, like your home, automobiles, bank accounts, and other personal items.  For a will to be legally valid, it must be signed in front of at least two witnesses and notarized.

The will also designates an executor for your estate.  An executor is the person whom you choose to administer your estate.   An executor should be reliable and trustworthy, because they will have broad powers over all of your assets after you have passed away.

After appointment of the executor, a will lists individual items that will be distributed to certain individuals.  A will can designate anything to be left to anyone, as long as the conditions and items are lawful.

The last section of a basic will usually involves paying of taxes, debts and expenses like funeral expenses and things that must be paid by your estate, which is part of Probate.  Only probated items will be included in your will.  Non-probated items will pass by operation of law.

A non-probate item is anything that passes by operation of law, like a contract or an insurance policy or jointly held property, like property held by tenancy by the entirety or joint tenants.  Many homes and bank accounts are held jointly.  Property and assets held jointly with someone else passes automatically to the other person and doesn’t pass by will and is considered a probate asset.

A few things that may pass by contract are life insurance policies, retirement accounts and most annuities.  The general rule is, property that has a beneficiary designation is something that passes by contract.  Therefore, property with a beneficiary designation is not a probate asset.

Even if your home is owned jointly, and a provision in your will designates something otherwise, the provision in your will, generally, will be ignored in most cases.

  1. Durable Power of Attorney

A will is an instrument that helps people know what to do with your things after you pass away, but a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) is a planning tool, or legal instrument, for use during your lifetime to provide for your wishes, if you were to become incapacitated.

A DPOA is a document that gives another person of your designation the right, (or power) to act on your behalf.  Essentially, anything you can do, your attorney-in-fact can do for you.  The Attorney-in-fact is the person who is designated by you, in the DPOA.   A DPOA controls your estate finances.  For example, your attorney-in-fact can act as your representative to withdraw money from your bank account to pay for your hospital bills and pay your mortgage, if you were to become unable to do so, because you became incapacitated.  A DPOA can be temporary or permanent, depending upon your mental and physical state and capacity.

A DPOA is a very important part of successful estate planning, because without someone to act on your financial behalf, you might not have access to resources you need when you need them.  A person who is completely trustworthy should be designated your attorney-in-fact.

  1. Health Care Proxy

A health care proxy (HCP) is similar to a DPOA, except for one thing.  The HCP does not designate someone to make financial decisions on your behalf, if you were to become incapacitated.  Your HCPO designates someone to make medical decisions on your behalf, if you were to become incapacitated.

Choosing a responsible HCP is also very important.  A HCP is someone you can trust to act as you would act, or do as you would do regarding medical decisions.  Oftentimes, family members are not always the best choice.  If a family member is likely to impose their own will, rather than follow your wishes, chose another person as your HCP.

  1. Health Care Directive

A health care directive (HCD) is also known as a living will and is the only document in your basic estate planning package that has no legal power or effect.  A HCD is a document that guides your HCP as to your own wishes and desires for Health Care treatment.  In the HCD, you can choose to list the different types of treatments you want and what treatment you wish to refuse. Since some people would not want to live if their brain was not functioning, for example.  The HCD is the place to tell your HCP your wishes regarding whether or not to resuscitate, in this instance.

Since the HCD isn’t a legally binding document in Massachusetts, your HCP can make decisions that override any provisions in your HCD. However, a HCD is a useful tool that guides doctors and family members during times of medical decision-making.

Advanced Estate Planning

Estates involving over $1 million dollars in assets require something more than basic estate planning.  Massachusetts has an estate tax on estates that exceed $1 million dollars, so tax planning is an important and a valuable tool.  With a proper tax plan, even if your estate exceeds $1 million dollars, estate taxes are often avoided.

Tax planning and advance estate planning typically involves the use of different types of trusts. Tax planning and advance estate planning involves the four documents, used in basic estate planning, plus the use of any additional needed trust instruments.

Estate Planning Costs:

By executing a will and signing a couple other basic documents, you could save your loved ones loads of aggravation and unnecessary expenses.  The value of this is something that can’t be counted in pure dollars and cents.  Nevertheless, the price range for a basic estate plan is wide.  Attorneys will often charge anywhere from $800 to $4,000 for a basic estate plan.

Typically, Attorney Kelly’s fees are very reasonable and will only charge, depending upon your specific situation and other factors like size and complexity of the estate.  Options for pro-bono (free) and reduced fee legal services are also available for those in financial need.

Call the Law Office of Ginger B. Kelly now and schedule your first appointment.  We are a small law office who offers your first confidential consultation is always free.

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ABOUT ME:  Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Her law practice is focused on consumer debt, finance, bankruptcy and District Court matters. Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work. On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture.

To find out more, visit, www.attorneykelly.wordpress.com, or call us at (508) 784-1444.

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NOTICE:  Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet.  Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other.  We can not stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney.  Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice.  Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2015, 2016 by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

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November 4, 2016 · 11:00 am