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In-vitro fertilization, also known as IVF, has its origins in the 1890’s when the first known case of embryo transplantation occurred in rabbits in Great Britain. By 1973, scientists were able to transplant a human embryo into a woman. The first human IVF pregnancy occurred 47 years ago in Melbourne, Australia. In addition to IVF there are other assisted reproductive technologies, commonly called ART for short, that have changed human conception, such as artificial insemination and surrogacy that have made parenthood possible for people who are unable to reproduce naturally.

Significant changes are afoot in the area of estate planning of such families as more children are born from ART methods for reproduction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1.8% of all infants born in the United States were aided by ART methods. In the context of estate planning, there are two main issues ART families should tackle. First, how parentage and descendants are defined for legal purposes, such as maintenance and inheritance. Second, is who controls the disposition of stored genetic material that has not been used.  

Are all children descendants, legally speaking, of course?

The conventional wisdom is to wait and not claim Social Security benefits until you are over 66 (the full retirement age for individuals born between 1943 and 1954). Full retirement age is calculated by year of birth. To see what your full retirement age is click here, or review the website maintained by the Social Security Administration (www.ssa.gov). The reason choosing when to begin claiming Social Security benefits is a big decision that will impact the size of your monthly benefit amount or checks for the rest of your life. For example, if you have a full retirement age of 67 and wait until age 70 to begin claiming Social Security benefits, you’ll receive your full benefit amount plus an extra 24% each month for the rest of your life.

 
Delaying benefits however isn’t right for everyone, and it may make sense for you to claim your benefits as early as possible, or age 62, (the earliest retirement age for individuals born between 1943 and 1954). Again, to determine when you can claim your benefits, click here. Three reasons why claiming your retirement benefits through the Social Security program may be right for you are as follows:

 

  • Your retirement years are limited.

After decades together, there are still couples who do not share information about their finances with each other. Some couples separate their money – mine, yours, and ours. They too often get caught in the same position, having very little knowledge about their spouse’s money.

 
The problem is compounded in household’s where one spouse worked outside the home. The stay at home spouse may not have a separate stockpile of money and investments and is wholly financially dependent on the other spouse.  The working spouse in this scenario, usually manages the family’s bank accounts and makes the financial decisions. The non-working spouse trusts the information the working spouse provides and goes along with the plan.

 
Without a financial power of attorney, one spouse has no way of knowing what the other spouse has by way of cash, investments, life insurance policies, stocks and bonds, pensions, and retirement accounts. Unless, the accounts are held jointly, even if you are legally married, you will not receive financial information from any financial institution about your spouse’s accounts.

The general consensus is that Social Security replaces around 40% of your pre-retirement income. The reality is that half of all single people depend on their Social Security benefits to replace close to 90% of their pre-retirement income, says the Social Security Administration (SSA). From the start, the only way for you to survive retirement is to cut your living expenses to 40% of your working income.

 
For married couples, the outlook is better. One spouse, usually the one who may never have worked or earned less than the other spouse, is able to receive Social Security benefits based on the other spouse’s work record. Because that spouse is married, his or her Social Security benefits will be higher than a single person. According to the SSA, only 21% of married couples depend on their checks for at least 90% of their retirement income.

 
If you are single and divorced, in some circumstances, you too can receive Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work record, even if your ex has remarried. You may be surprised to learn that there are few eligibility requirements you’ll have to meet in order to claim benefits based on your ex’s work record. To qualify for Social Security benefits based on your ex’s work record:

If you’re eligible for divorce benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), you can collect up to 50% of the amount your former spouse is eligible to receive by claiming your benefits at his or her full retirement age (FRA).

 
Your FRA is either 66, 66 plus a few months, or 67, depending on the year you were born. The earliest you can claim Social Security benefits is 62. If you claim benefits before your FRA, your Social Security benefits will be permanently reduced by as much as 30%. You can only receive your full Social Security benefit amount if you claim benefits at your FRA.

 
You cannot double dip

Estate planning around your child’s partner is concerning for many parents. Shielding your assets from your child’s spouse in the event of divorce is possible and can be a part of your estate plan. The reasons for wanting to shield your assets from your child’s spouse are varied and packed with emotions and feelings. Some parents wish to pass their property down within their own bloodline. Other parents themselves are also divorced and worry about how their child’s inheritance may wind-up down the road if there is a divorce or a new family in the picture. And some parents, even after years of their child being married, still do not like their spouse.

 
It is upsetting to a child when his or her parents disapprove of their spouse. Some families are discreet about their true feeling, while others make it well-known. No matter where you fall in the spectrum of possibilities, there are ways to prepare your estate plan that may take away some of your worries that your child’s inheritance will be squandered away when you die because of his or her relationships while avoiding the emotional time-bomb of revealing your true feelings about your child’s spouse to your child.

 
The most effective way to shield your assets from your child’s spouse is to have your child and his or her spouse enter a prenuptial agreement before they get married. While this may be the best solution, it is also the most emotionally charged and wrought with difficulties. If you push to hard, legally, it may be a ground to invalidate the prenuptial agreement, because such agreements need to be voluntary to be enforceable.  Trusts are an emotion-free method to communicate and exercise your feelings about your child’s choices without articulately them to all who would here.

The COVID-19 pandemic has understandably left many people facing challenges. Remember that even the most difficult times often present opportunities, which currently includes an ideal situation to transfer assets to a loved one. The combination of decreased market values, lowered interest rates, and a high tax rate exemption has caused people to utilize several advantageous estate planning strategies.

# 1 – Making the Most of Gifting

Based on the value of assets, transferring property through gifting often requires individuals to consider estate taxes, gift taxes, and generation-skipping taxes. By transferring assets to loved ones while the asset’s value is temporarily at its lowest, you have the greatest chance possible of removing the assets from your taxable estate while making the most out of available exemptions. 

We continue to wish you and your family safety and good health and hope that worldwide events unleashed by the pandemic we are experiencing does not keep you separated from your loved ones for too long. Wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. Limit your contact with other people and maintain cleanliness and good hygiene to slow down the spread of COVID-19.

We continue to discuss items you should review in your current estate plan to take into consideration the volatility of the financial markets and to compensate for financial losses your retirement plans may have experienced because of the losses. Ask your estate planning attorneys to help you  consider the following changes to your estate plan.

 

  •   Refinance intra-family loans to take advantage of lower interest rates.

The Trump Administration announced on March 9 broad new rules that will allow you to share your medical records with third-party apps of your choice in order to retrieve medical data like blood test results and doctor’s progress notes directly from your health care providers.  According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) the new system intends to make it easy for you to manager your health care on smartphones, similar to how you manage your finances through apps on their smartphones.

 
Anyone who has tried to access their medical records can tell you that giving people access to their medical records via mobile apps is a major milestone for patient rights. Some physicians still require patients to pick up health records on computer disks or issue paper copies only, charging patients exorbitant fees to process a request for copies of your medical records.

 
Even if your health care provides you access to your medical records, they can still limitation what type of information you can access from your medical records. For example, if you get blood drawn from a laboratory, you cannot have access to the results of your test until your doctor views your results and authorizes the laboratory to release your blood test results to you.  In the last several years there has been a proliferation of online portals to access information about upcoming appointments, medical records, and vital signs. These portals do not always provide access to progress notes or results from imaging tests, like MRIs and x-rays.

On March 13, CMS issued updated guidance for visitors to nursing homes related to COVID-19. If your loved one is residing in a nursing home, the facility should be actively screening and restricting or limiting visitors according to CMS guidelines. CMS is the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a division of the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

 
In addition to guidance on screening and restricting or limiting visitors, CMS recommends that nursing homes do the following:

  • Review and revise how they interact with volunteers, vendors, agency staff, EMS personnel and equipment, transportation workers, and other practitioners
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