Real Estate Investments Bring Real Long-Term Value to Families

If there is one way to be sure money stays in the family and grows over time it is through real estate. Despite the year-to-year ups and downs of the real estate market, the value of real property continues to grow over the long term.

Real estate is often considered a comparatively easy way to maintain and grow wealth because it doesn’t require the kind of daily attention—or stress!—that a business demands. Depending on the type of property, real estate typically requires duties that are annual or month-to-month, such as maintaining the physical structures, paying property taxes, making insurance payments, getting updates from property managers, and the like.

What real estate investors might be slow to realize is that property ownership carries with it significant liability risks. Unless the precautionary measures are taken, one small misstep can result in the loss of all your real estate holdings. Imagine it, one person slips and falls in front of one of your properties, and suddenly ALL of your holdings are at risk.

Preventing this kind of mess is not as difficult as you might think—for example, putting each of your properties in its own separate legal entity is one technique that can be used to protect all of your properties (and yourself) from lawsuits. Our firm can help you with this and other asset protection techniques.

We know how important it is to keep your family and your finances safe, and we are dedicated to helping you achieve that security. Call our office and let us tell you how we can put our expertise to use for your benefit.

Where Can Seniors Find “Home Sweet Home”?

Where you live is a defining aspect of your character throughout your life.  Your “hometown” often plays a large part in the formation of your character; as adults we decorate our homes to reflect our interests, hobbies and loves; and the neighborhoods in which we choose to raise our children (city, farm, suburb) tell us a lot about our underlying values and where we feel safe and secure.

The idea that where you live is an important part of who you are doesn’t diminish as you get older—in fact, the longer you’ve lived in a place the more it seems to become a part of who you are, and vice-versa—so it’s no wonder that seniors are as choosy about where they live as any of the rest of us. What follows are some of the options for senior living arrangements. What you and your loved one will choose will depend on health, finances, community support, and of course—your family.

Most seniors would prefer to stay in the home they’ve known and loved. A senior or retirement community may look perfectly nice to a son or daughter; but mom or dad may see the retirement community as a first step toward losing their independence and being forgotten. Many senior citizens can stay in their homes for quite some time so long as they have the support of family and community and perhaps the help of an in-home caregiver.

Another option for housing is a senior or retirement community. These are often independent communities which provide age-segregated living opportunities for seniors who are still active.  They usually provide social activities, regular transportation around town, and some personal care or nursing services.  These communities can be the perfect solution for a still active senior who is unable to drive anymore, but be very cautious when choosing a community; with no regulation or governing body the non-social services they provide can be suspect.

A nursing home is the most drastic option for senior living, and is usually reserved for chronically ill people who need medical care and regulation in addition to help with the most basic of daily tasks. The decision to use a nursing home is a difficult and emotional one, and should not be put off to the last minute.  Not only because nursing homes are expensive, and require as much advance financial planning as possible, but also because finding the right nursing facility for your loved one can take time.

Whatever housing option you are looking for, don’t be afraid to ask for professional help or advice.  A Geriatric Care Manager, Elder Care Support Services, or an Estate Planning or Elder Law Attorney can help your family make and implement this tough decision.

How to Get the Perfect Retirement Home—and Get it Now

It has been said that the best investment one can make is in land; real estate. this is especially true now, when housing prices are at an all time low, and even more true if you are in a position to begin thinking about your retirement—and your retirement home. While some people are worriedly watching falling real estate prices, others are taking advantage of the housing dip and planning for their later years by purchasing the retirement home of their dreams.

The thought of making such a big purchase can be a frightening one when everyone else you know is hiding money under the mattress. But if done the right way, and with the right guidance, it can end up being the best move you’ll ever make for your retirement. Dan Kadlec of CNNmoney.com shares four steps to taking the leap and landing the best deal in his article Home Sweet Retirement Home.

Kadlec’s advice is just what the doctor ordered, especially his suggestion that you “drive a hard bargain.” As a culture of retail stores, where everything comes with a price tag, many of us have forgotten the fine art of bargaining. But Kadlec reminds us that this is a buyer’s market, and there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of haggling—especially if you’re the one with the upper hand. He also advises that you know what you can afford. Don’t let the spirit of bargaining carry you away. Know your limits and stick them!

But perhaps Kadlec’s best advice is to “pick your sweet spot”. This is the place where you will be spending your golden years, where your grandchildren will come to visit, and where you’ll spend those lazy days of retirement sitting on the porch and watching the sun set. Don’t just pick any place because it’s a deal; pick the place you’ll be happy to wake up in every morning.

Don’t Let Your Vacation Home Become a Memory

The end of summer is upon us, with many people closing up the summer cottage, and—with wistful backward glances—returning to the hubbub of everyday life.  But those happy summer memories, and looking forward to next summer, will keep us going through the winter.  And so, to conclude our series on real estate protection and investments, we offer you this article by Sylvia Hsieh on how to keep that treasured vacation property in the family for future generations.

Hsieh accurately points out in her article that in order to keep a property intact and available to ALL your children and grandchildren, care must be taken now to avoid confusion and arguments later.  One of the best ways to keep a property available for many beneficiaries is to hold it in trust, with one person (or group of people) serving as trustee, managing the property according to your instructions.  This is not the only option, however, and our office can tell you if a trust is right for you, or if your family might benefit from holding property in an LLC or FLP instead.

One of the most important points Hsieh makes in her article is that this issue isn’t an issue exclusive to wealthy families.  Your vacation home doesn’t have to be a mansion in the Hamptons.  Many middle-class families have a small cabin, a piece of undeveloped property in the woods, or even a timeshare, which serves as the setting for countless happy family vacation memories.

Your children and grandchildren can continue the traditions you’ve begun if you take care to protect your investment now.  Let our office help you preserve your vacation property for future generations—and future memories.

The Cost of Assessing Your Property

This week’s blog series has focused on real estate and how your estate planning attorney can help you leverage and protect it.  But we know that many homeowners right now aren’t concerned so much with protecting their property, but protecting themselves—from the effects of falling home prices.  If you are one of these homeowners, this post is for you.

Craig Gustafson describes in his article how one San Diego, CA resident found relief by asking county officials to reassess the value of his property in order to lower his taxes. The result will save him $1000 annually.  This trend of reassessing property is taking hold not only in California, but all over the country (although not all residents will be as lucky as Michael Ortiz).

Before you run to your phone to call your assessor, Deborah Gates asks us in her article to remember that lowered assessments can have far-reaching results not only for you, but for your entire community.  One of those effects includes a lower assessable base from which counties can draw income, which could result in a rise in county taxes. Another effect, which is more personal, is that when your house is valued at a lower price, you lose the credit you have to your name, and which banks are willing to let you borrow against.

If after reading both of these articles, you still feel that a new assessment is the right step for you, Elizabeth Brokamp has some advice that can make the assessment process go a little more smoothly.  Brokamp includes some excellent tips in her article, but one thing she leaves out is that you can ask for help from professionals who know the process.  This is one of those situations when experience can make all the difference.

However, if all these articles only tell us one thing, it should be that assessing your property is anything but a quick and simple fix.  Before taking action it is always helpful to get the advice of the advisors you know and trust, including your estate planning attorney. Remember, although the property is yours, you don’t have to do it alone.

Real Estate Involves Real Risk

One of the main ways that wealthy families accumulate and keep wealth is through real estate.  Despite the year-to-year ups and downs of the real estate market, the value of real property continues to grow over the long term.

Real estate is often considered a comparatively easy way to maintain and grow wealth because it doesn’t require the kind of daily attention—or stress!—that a business demands.  Depending on the type of property, real estate typically requires duties that are annual or month-to-month, such as maintaining the physical structures, paying property taxes, making insurance payments, getting updates from property managers, and the like.

What real estate investors might be slow to realize is that property ownership carries with it significant liability risks.  Unless the precautionary measures are taken, one small misstep can result in the loss of all your real estate holdings.  Imagine it, one person slips and falls in front of one of your properties, and suddenly ALL of your holdings are at risk.

Preventing this kind of mess is not as difficult as you might think—for example, putting each of your properties in its own separate legal entity is one technique that can be used to protect all of your properties (and yourself) from lawsuits. Our firm can help you with this and other asset protection techniques.

We know how important it is to keep your family and your finances safe, and we are dedicated to helping you achieve that security.  Call our office and let us tell you how we can put our expertise to use for your benefit.

How to Leverage Unproductive Real Estate

Real estate plays an extremely large role in the estate planning process.  As mentioned in previous posts, your home (or other real estate holdings) often forms the bulk of your assets, and figures largely in the creation of your family’s estate plan.  But real estate can serve as far more than just the cornerstone of your estate plan, especially if you have property aside from your family home.

In the current downswing of the real estate market, many people are finding that holding on to unproductive property is becoming a financial hardship.  And yet they are reluctant to sell the property at a loss.  Enid Ablowitz, in her article Giving the Gift of Real Estate, has some excellent suggestions on how to get the most out of property that no longer serves your family or your business, including giving the property as a charitable donation, transferring the property into a charitable “lead” trust, and keeping the property in a retained life estate.

Ablowitz suggests in her article that unproductive property can be turned into an asset when used as a charitable gift.  In fact, Ablowitz writes, “When there is charitable intent, there are many scenarios where a gift of property can also be tax-wise.”

If you think you might like to look further into leveraging your property—for charitable purposes or otherwise—your estate planning attorney can help.  Our office can answer your questions about the tax advantages of making a charitable donation of property, or alternatively of keeping the property, but holding it in a separate protective entity such as an LLP or FLP.

When considering your estate, your property is likely your greatest asset.  Let our firm help you decide how to make the most of your property, whether you choose to leverage it now or keep it safe for the future.