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Checklists for the Retiring Baby Boomer: 10 More to Think About

Category: Retirement Planning

June 3, 2014 — Congratulations on your retirement, be it impending or already underway. You’ve worked hard to get to this point, and we hope you enjoy every well-deserved second. But before you get too carried away with your new-found freedom, we would like to bring to your attention some housekeeping items that need to be taken care of. These are in addition to, and in fact go off in a different direction from, the to-do items in Part 1 of this series: Now That You’re 65: 10 Items You Need to Know. There is also a Part 3.

Peace of Mind and a Gift for Your Heirs
Today’s To-Do list has to do more about taking steps to simplify the job for your heirs, once you pass on to Woodstock in the Sky or wherever you believe you might end up in your next life, than it does for your immediate needs. If you take some easy steps now you will not only save your heirs endless work and hassle, but as wonderful by-product of this process you will also experience greater peace of mind in the years to come. We guarantee you won’t have so many guilt feelings, and your quality of life will be higher.
village-attractive mature couple on beach

As a caveat we caution that we are not legal or financial experts. We merely want to bring up some common sense planning topics that we feel need to be carefully addressed by you, in consultation with the legal and financial experts you should use in matters this complex and important.

Why You Need to Do the Things on This List!
The worst thing you can do is continue to say, “Someday I am going to get these things done,” because in all probability they won’t. The result when that happens is likely to be a crushing burden for those you love. Your adult children have enough going on in their busy lives – working hard on the job while raising their children. Then throw on top of all that another full-time job – as executor of a messy estate that includes a house overflowing with stuff, scattered to non-existent documents, and a time consuming and frustrating financial sinkhole called probate.

10 Things for Your Retirement To-Do List
Some of the items on this list are more important to those of you who have significant financial assets. But almost of them have great importance for even those with modest means. We can’t emphasize how much better you will feel once you have crossed these items off!

1. Start Downsizing now
Even if you are a young retiree it’s still a good idea to start paring down your accumulated belongings now – you never know what the future holds. Don’t burden your kids with the problem of getting rid of your junk. Sort out those old photographs and papers. Get rid of the junk in the attic, garage, and the basement. Ask your children what they want, and then sell or give the rest away. Once you’ve downsized, considering moving to a smaller home. See our “How to Downsize in Retirement” article, plus a ton of great comments for more.

2. Turn your collectibles and nicer belongings into cash, or a donation that someone can use
Ask your kids what they want and either give it to them now, or put it in an instructions letter. If you have collectibles that you never look at or nobody wants, either donate them to a place that can use them, or sell them now and give the kids the money. They won’t know how to sell them, you can do a better job of that.

3. Develop an up to date estate plan
It is surprising how many people don’t have any kind of will. Even more folks have one that is woefully out of date. Hire a competent lawyer who does a lot of estate work and make sure that your latest wishes will be fulfilled, as well as taking advantage of legal options to reduce taxes.

4. Avoid probate
Folks who don’t have a solid will and estate plan end up with their assets in probate, a place your heirs won’t want to be. Sometimes estates go into probate because the assets weren’t titled properly – like a bank account or home in your name only. In probate your court appointed attorney will chew up quite a few of your assets while disposing of them, sometimes to people you didn’t plan on giving it to. Meanwhile your heirs will wait an extra long time to get the money. Many people set up living trusts to avoid estate problems, but it must be funded.

5. Check the beneficiaries on your IRAs and 401ks
Is your ex-wife still the beneficiary on your IRA -if so she might be touched and surprised that you still cared. Who are your secondary beneficiaries – are they spelled out and current? Periodically you need to check these things to make sure all is as you want it.

6. Consider converting some or all of your IRA/401k money to a Roth
Without getting into all the technical advantages/disadvantages, converting some or all of your retirement assets to a Roth IRA is an idea worth exploring. One big advantage of a Roth is you don’t have to start taking RMDs at age 70.5. You will have to pay taxes when you convert, but if your income is greatly reduced or you have big losses to go against in some years, that makes it more feasible. Talk with your tax professional about whether this is a good idea for you.

7. Get a living will
You might think you have expressed your desires about what steps you want to be taken in various situations. But ask any medical professional about this topic and they will tell you that you need a very carefully written document to cover the complexities that can arise. They’ve seen too many families in distress arguing about what they think your intentions were. Fortunately there are some good standard documents – but it does need to be thought-through, signed, and legal.

8. Gather all your important documents
Think about the treasure hunt your heirs will have to go on if you suddenly went on to your greater reward. Deeds, wills, charitable instructions, cemetery plot info, bank and financial accounts, IRAs, passwords and user names, insurance policies, stocks, keys to safety deposit boxes – they could spend days and weeks tracking these down. Choose a safe place where all this data can reside – and let your heirs know where that is.

9. Develop a plan for your charitable giving
If you always wanted to help, for example, the local animal shelter, better get a plan to make that happen. Maybe you can afford to give that gift while you are still alive, which allows you to enjoy doing it. One way to make charitable gifts is directly from your IRA (if that tax break continues), instead of taking your Required Minimum Distribution. Make sure your will specifies the charities you want to help. Have a letter of instruction for any personal property you especially want to give away.

10. Maximize your tax free gifts
Currently you can give anyone $14,000 a year without having to pay a gift tax. So for example, you could give your child that amount and the same amount to her spouse. And your spouse could do the same. This approach is useful for wealthier people to reduce federal estate taxes, as well as in states with low exemptions like New Jersey and Connecticut.

Whew – now you can have some fun
Sure, it is a little sobering to attend to so many details that involve you not being alive. But believe us, your heirs will appreciate it, and you will feel such a relief to know you are not going to burden them. And now that the hard work is done, go have some fun – Start checking items off your Bucket List!

For further reading:
Now That You’re 65: 10 Items for Your Checklist
7 Must-Do Items in Retirement (Part 3 of this series)
Are You Ready for Retirement Checklist
Common Estate Planning Mistakes

Comments? What have we left off, overemphasized, or got wrong? Please share what you are doing to reduce the worry and anxiety that comes with this type of planning in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on June 3rd, 2014

14 Comments »

  1. […] This is Part 1 in a series. See also “10 More Checklist Items for the Retiring Baby Boomer” from June, 2014. January 9, 2011 — The oldest of the nation’s baby boomers, […]

    by » Now That You’re 65 – 10 Things You Need to Know Topretirements — June 3, 2014

  2. An important list. It can also be helpful to let your children/others know what kind of “send-off” you’d like, such as preferring a burial or a cremation. My father wrote his own obituary, and my mother chose her casket when she was still able to do so, along with songs she wanted sung at her funeral….as one of six children, it was helpful and comforting knowing we were fulfilling our parents’ wishes. If you have strong feelings about the kind of services you want when you pass away, it’s good to share these with your heirs as well.

    by Jan Cullinane — June 4, 2014

  3. Very good idea, Jan. Both of my parents pre-planned their funerals. I wrote the first draft of my father’s obituary (the newspaper doctored it up some) and after he died, we helped my mother write hers. It was so much easier on my mother and us kids when my dad died. And it was even better when my mother died because we were all in such shock because it did not happen when we thought it would (her cancer doctor told us she would die of old age, not cancer. She was wrong).

    by Norma — June 5, 2014

  4. For easy transfer of assets, look into T.O.D. (transfer on death), also called Payable on Death account. Following is from Nolo.com (or google yourself)

    “Payable-on-death bank accounts offer one of the easiest ways to keep money — even large sums of it — out of probate. All you need to do is fill out a simple form, provided by the bank, naming the person you want to inherit the money in the account at your death.

    As long as you are alive, the person you named to inherit the money in a payable-on-death (POD) account has no rights to it. You can spend the money, name a different beneficiary, or close the account.

    At your death, the beneficiary just goes to the bank, shows proof of the death and of his or her identity, and collects whatever funds are in the account. The probate court is never involved.”

    by OldNassau — June 5, 2014

  5. TOD accounts also work for brokerage accounts. And they will split the assets among the different beneficiaries. We just went through this with my mother and it worked very well.

    by Linda — June 6, 2014

  6. Wow, T.O.D. is such a good idea! Wish I had known this as I am still finishing up Probate stuff 14 months after Mom’s death. What about T.O.D. on personal property like a house or a car? Or I suppose you could be added as joint owner of a home and a car.

    by Louise — June 7, 2014

  7. I’m looking for a very small and quiet town somewhere in the south. I do not like the winter and hate humid. Is there a place in the middle. Please with any suggestions. Thank,gloriaebberts@yahoo.com

    by gloria a — June 14, 2015

  8. Mary11 and Louise sent in these comments concerning probate:

    If anyone has gone thru a probate is love to hear how easy it difficult it was for them……thanks everyone!!
    by Mary11 — March 26, 2018

    Hi Mary11. I went thru probate in 2013 in CT and it was no fun but I got thru it without hiring a lawyer. I am an only child and I inherited everything. As far as the condo goes, I would go to the probate court and talk to the people there and ask them about permission to sell the condo right away. I think the Judge looks over the death cert and will if your Mom had one and will approve the sale right away. Same with a vehicle if there is one. If you are joint owner on your Mom’s accounts then it is all just a matter of bringing death certs to the bank and having them remove your Mom’s name from the accounts. If your Mom had an IRA and you were the beneficiary, you will continue to receive Required Minimum Distributions each year. The financial institution where the money is held will be able to calculate the minimum you need to take out for Federal taxes. You can take more than the minimum too. If your Mom had any stocks, you have to know how many of ABC stock she held on the day of death and calculate the value of the stock on that day. So if ABC stock was $50 a share the day she died and she owned 1,000 shares the value of the stock would be $50,000. Each stock name must be listed and reported as value Date of Death (DOD). Basically you need to list all of her assets and value of the condo, car, bonds, IRA’s, Savings. Some of it was straight forward and some of the paperwork was lawyer mumbo jumbo. I had a few times that I wanted to throw in the towel. I contacted the Senior Center twice and spoke to a woman who helped me out. The Probate people in my town were very standoffish and didn’t want to help me at all. Towards the end when I was almost done with the stupid paperwork and was ready to have a melt down, one lady helped me out some and we were able to finalize it all. I think they are so afraid that if they give you any information if anything goes wrong you will point the finger at them. Why should I have to pay thousands of dollars to get what is mine in the end. They make it way too difficult. Mary11 have you started the probate process and are you doing it yourself?
    by Louise — March 27, 2018

    by Admin — March 27, 2018

  9. Louise, thanks for the info. I will be meeting with the attorney this week. I am the last living relative and my mom’s only assets are her condo with a value of $255,000. The only thing she’s owing is on some credit cards. CA law state’s that the cost of the probate costs is a percentage of the value of the home. So, it should be around $8000. I don’t mind paying that with the profits that I will be receiving after the sale so maybe it’ll go more smoothly. She had a small mortgage but she bought the condo for $55000 so I should net enough for my hubs and me to live comfortably. I was told not to sell even anything that I own, and I’d like to start doing that so I can list the condo for sale as soon as possible. You have to hire an appraiser and put an ad in the paper concerning to the estate. Hopefully it will go smoothly and that the mortgage co doesn’t complicate things. I will feel less stressed out when everything is completed and we move to Oregon. I’ll be able to relax and enjoy my life again….not complaIning but as you know being a caregiver is very stressful and looking forward to having quality time with my hubs again…lol

    by Mary11 — March 27, 2018

  10. I thought a trust, when set up properly, and a will would help one to avoid probate. If so, why would one put their heirs through probate and lawyers costs? Maybe someone could shed the light on this issue. Trusts allow the smooth transition from the person who died to their heirs correct? Mary11, I hope all goes well, I hope you will chronicle your experiences as you go through this process to you new home in Oregon. I am still in limbo as to where I will go from here and have put off thinking about it for the moment. There is much I need to learn.

    by Jennifer — March 28, 2018

  11. I was the only heir to my Mother’s estate. My name was on all her accounts and was beneficiary to her IRA. The two things that we did overlook was putting my name as joint owner on her home and car. Also, her stocks. However with the Will, everything was clear that I was the heir. Probate is a rip off and even with everything being crystal clear I still had to pay court costs. I never even saw the judge. It was just a bunch of mumbo jumbo paperwork. I personally think it is geared so the average joe doesn’t understand the paperwork and it forces people to pay lawyers. They should pass laws to make this probate paperwork in layman’s terms and not written like it came from England In the 1750’s. One thing I did do wrong is buy too many death certificates. Most places ask for originals which means you need to go to town hall and have them put the raised seal on it. My town hall charged $20 for each original. Each stock required a death cert. but didn’t need originals. So, I probably spent $180 on death certs I didn’t need. Of course, they don’t take returns! I would encourage people who’s probate isn’t too complicated to do it yourself. There must be a book out there called Probate for dummies. Some of the wording on the probate paperwork was so confusing!

    by Louise — March 28, 2018

  12. A good lesson here. PROBATE can be very expensive and time consuming. Also, your privacy is not protected.

    by Bubbajog — March 28, 2018

  13. The probate process took a full year due to the fact that I had to file taxes for my Mom. Once that was done, I submitted the final paperwork to Probate. Even when I was down to the last forms, it was hell on earth and the people at Probate would just look at me like deer in headlights. How hard can it be to give a person a little help. They deal with this stuff every single day. I sincerely feel that they resented it that I was not represented by a lawyer. It was like ‘oh crap, it’s her again’.

    by Louise — March 29, 2018

  14. Jennifer
    A revocable living trust allows much of probate to go away. Your home deed , bank and credit union accounts can go into the trust. Social security and pension checks cannot be directly deposited into the trust so you can have an automatic withdrawal from those direct deposit accounts moved each month into the trust. You can freely write checks from the trust. The trust is revocable, or changeable, until you pass away. Then it becomes irrevocable. You should also set up a health care proxy, living will and POA.

    by Sue — March 29, 2018

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