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One of the Most Important Conversations You Should Have With Your Family

Woman Helping Senior Man To Complete Last Will And Testament At Home

As an estate planning and elder law firm, we strive to provide all of our clients with the tools and strategies they need to prepare for whatever comes along, including wills, trusts, advanced directives, and more. While it is vitally important for you to have these documents, it is equally important to talk to your family about them.  

It is entirely possible that your children and other loved ones would like to know, for example, how you want to be cared for in the event of incapacity or an end of life situation. But do your loved ones know that you have made your wishes clear through advanced directives and the thinking behind the choices you made? Do they know that you have created a power of attorney that allows a person of your choosing to make medical and/or financial decisions on your behalf? Even if they understand that you have done so, do they know where the documents can be found? If the documents are on your computer, do your loved ones know what file name or password must be used to access them? 

Similarly, your children may wonder about your financial situation. Is your house paid for, or are you carrying a mortgage that will need to be covered if you pass away suddenly? What about your automobile? Have you created a will or trust, and if so, do your children stand to inherent any assets? Your children may be hesitant to ask questions such as these for fear of appearing greedy or insensitive. Yet they may also need this information to do proper estate planning of their own. 

We understand how difficult it is to begin a conversation of this nature, and can help you find the best ways to begin one with your loved ones. Experience tells us that families who are able to open up in this manner draw closer together and feel a sense of relief afterwards.

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If you have additional questions or concerns regarding this important conversation, contact the experienced Pennsylvania Elder Law attorney at Cardinal Estate Planning by calling 570-252-9043 to schedule an appointment.

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The Gift That Keeps on Giving: Paying Your Grandchildren’s College Tuition

Paying for grandchildren's college tuition.

Paying your grandchildren’s (or adult children’s) college tuition is one of the greatest gifts you can make. The education lasts a lifetime and opens a world of opportunity for your grandchildren. In a way, it is like giving a gift to your children as well, since it alleviates their concerns about paying for their children’s education on their own. And when done correctly, the gift of a college education can be an excellent estate planning tool. 

One way to help pay for your grandchildren’s education is to simply give them part or all of the money to cover tuition. The gift tax exclusion is currently $15,000 per person per year, and $30,000 for a married couple, which can go a long way toward covering the tuition for most colleges. Of course, giving the money to your grandchildren directly carries with it a big risk. Are they genuinely interested in using the money to get an education, or will they suddenly decide a year abroad, funded by your gift, might “better prepare them” for college? 

A safer approach is to pay the college directly. In this case, the tuition payment is exempt from gift taxes, meaning you could also make a gift to cover other expenses such as room and board, books and other fees. The same $15,000/$30,000 gift tax exemption mentioned above still applies.

Finally, you could contribute to a 529 college savings plan, which is offered on the state level. A 529 plan is a college savings account that is exempt from federal taxes. 529 plans were introduced in 1996 to help taxpayers set aside college expenses for a designated beneficiary. Named for Section 529 of the federal tax code, these plans often have tax benefits at the state level for in-state residents. (This applies only in states that have an income tax.) If the maximum deduction is exceeded in a calendar year, the deduction can often roll over into later years. It is important to note that each state enforces a specific total contribution limit, which are typically between $235,000 and $520,000.

Some of these plans allow for the use of various investment options. Others, known as prepaid tuition plans, let you lock in at the current cost of tuition in place of the future cost. A 529 account is not owned by the grandchild—in most cases, one of the parents owns the account, so if your grandchild does not attend college when the time comes, he or she cannot access the money. Similarly, if your grandchild doesn’t want to attend a university covered by the 529 account, allowances can be made to use the funds elsewhere.

Before deciding whether to pay your grandchildren’s tuition using any of these strategies, you must first ask yourself one very important question: “Can I afford it?” You need to consider not just if you can afford it today, but whether you will be able to afford it ten, twenty years down the road. We can help you determine whether you can indeed afford to help your grandchildren pay for college, and if so, the best strategy for your particular situation.

Contact Us

If you have additional questions or concerns regarding gifting strategies, contact the experienced Pennsylvania Elder Law attorney at Cardinal Estate Planning by calling 570-252-9043 to schedule an appointment.