Palm Springs Law Blog

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Holiday Gifts That Keep Giving

We wrap holiday gifts in gleaming foil – contributions to our loved ones to celebrate the season. What did you choose for your partner or spouse? That slick little metal sculpture you found at the street fair? A gorgeous pinkie ring you discovered together in that West Hollywood back-alley jeweler’s? A cruise to the Bahamas to get out of Palm Springs’ or LA’s cruel winters? 

Let me suggest some more permanent and life changing gifts. These may not be as pretty as flashy, gift-wrapped boxes with fancy bows on top, but they will be with you and your loved ones in a much more dramatic way. You can share a gift with someone and both of you will be thrilled. 

Do you have a committed partner? Consider the gift of marriage! Huh, you say? What? Get out of here!  But think about it. After decades of the LGBT struggle for equality, marriage is finally an option for us. Why not take advantage of the benefits it can offer? Think about your relationship. Is it a strong and fundamental part of your life? Marriage could be the gift that will give you both a solid future. You will want to think about it carefully, because your financial situation can determine whether it makes good economic sense for you. But if it does, you may save money on taxes and make many other aspects of your life more predictable and manageable.

Think about the benefits you and your spouse could receive from each other’s social security accounts, pension plans, and property of various kinds. And think of the future you will have together. Committed. Legally solid. A way for you both to live free of worry about your status if something happens to one of you. That could be the gift of a lifetime.

It’s not too late!  Plan to marry in this merry season with a fun little wedding ceremony before the end of the year. Any tax advantages will cover the whole year, and you and your new spouse will benefit every year from now on. Trade that pinkie ring for wedding bands!

In this holiday season, you have a gift allowance in your budget. You can choose how you spend your money. Make it work for those who may have no allowance. If you were alone, with few or no resources to support you, what would you wish for? A friend to stand behind you?  A plan that makes life liveable?  A path to a normal life?

You can help provide these things to the homeless, the AIDS-afflicted, the abused children, the disabled in birth or accident or war, the lonely senior citizen. Volunteer or make a donation in the name of someone to whom you would have given an ordinary gift, and to the cause that means the most to that person. Let everyone know that you are putting your money and your action where your mouth is. Make a difference in your community and in someone’s life. Better than that thingamabob from the street fair, or even a cruise to the islands? Oh yes, it is! 

You can make an investment in the well-being of your family and friends by creating a Will or a Trust that will make their lives easier if something should happen to you.  Whether you are young or old, you can never predict the future, and being prepared is one of the most substantial gifts you can give to those who love you. I’m not talking about how much money you leave to your heirs and beneficiaries, or how it is divided up. My concern is that, if something happens to you, someone has to pick up the pieces. If you don’t have a Will or a Trust, it is a complicated and daunting task. 

Your gift can be an estate plan that is carefully thought out, and makes it possible for those who care for you to protect you and your assets if something happens. Every one of us has an “estate”. It can be anything from a car and a few hundred bucks in the bank, to a modest home and a small investment account, to a millionaire’s mansion and vast financial holdings. No matter how big or small, every estate must be managed if its owner is incapacitated or dies. You can choose who will do it and how easily it is done.

 In addition to creating a Will or a Trust, please attend to these and other details:

  • Include a plan for your pets. Do not assume they will be cared for by family members or friends. Write instructions into your Will or Trust, and provide funds for their care, if you can.
  • Confirm that your retirement plans (IRA, 401k, etc.) and life insurance policies have named beneficiaries
  • Prepare a list of names and passwords to access your financial, computer, social network and other accounts. Keep it in a safe deposit box, or together with your Will or Trust
  • Add your named Executor or Successor Trustee as joint owner of your safe deposit box, so the bank will allow access if something happens to you.
  • Review your Will or Trust often, to make sure no updates are needed.

Your decision to prepare your estate for the future is a gift that your family and friends will be grateful for in all the coming years.

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