Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

The Mars Problem

Bigstock-Vintage-brass-telescope-on-ant-44347372[1]Humans have long dreamed of visiting the planet Mars. However, to do so would cause aging problems for astronauts.  However, we might be on the cusp of overcoming that by reversing the aging process itself.

One of the basic facts of human existence is that throughout our lives, our cells continuously divide.

Some cells die, but the division process ensures that new cells take the place of the dead ones. The division process is not perfect, however.

Each instance of cell division causes a small bit of deterioration in the cell and in the DNA of the cell. Over time, these bits of deterioration add up and the result is what we know as the aging process that we can see with our own eyes.

While not exactly constant, this deterioration from cell division occurs at a fixed enough rate that the maximum lifespan is the same for all humans. Scientists have been unable to change this rate of deterioration until now.

A way to reverse it might have been found, reported by the Daily Mail in "Would YOU choose to live forever? Age-reversing pill that NASA wants to give to astronauts on Mars will begin trials within six months."

If the report is true and trials bear out, then scientists have found a drug that can reverse the deterioration from cell division that causes aging.

This would have potential benefits for astronauts because space travel is extremely dangerous.

Astronauts are exposed to radiation that causes the cell deterioration to increase.

NASA is interested in this drug as a possible way to protect astronauts on a trip to Mars.

If this drug actually works, it has profound implications for more than just space travelers. It would cause great changes for all elderly people and for all estate planners.

Reference: Daily Mail (March 23, 2017) "Would YOU choose to live forever? Age-reversing pill that NASA wants to give to astronauts on Mars will begin trials within six months."


Finding the Right Nursing Home

MP900439289[1]Going into a nursing home can be a frightening experience. It can be made less scary by asking questions and choosing the right nursing home for your family.

No one wants to go into a nursing home.

When we think about what happens in them, we usually imagine nursing homes to be sterile places where people are sent off to be isolated and alone. That stereotype comes to us from the distant past. It is a bad caricature of what nursing homes are like today.

However, nursing homes do come in all sorts of different varieties with many different levels of care and interactions between staff and residents. It is important that the nursing home you choose is the right one for you.

That can be accomplished by asking appropriate questions before deciding on a nursing home, as Next Avenue points out in "18 Questions to Ask Any Nursing Home."

While the questions to ask are too numerous to list here, it is important to understand that the most fundamental questions are not about cost, although that is important. Instead, the most important questions to ask are about how patients live, what activities are available to patients and how staff helps patients with those activities.

The answers to those questions are what truly determine what quality of life will be like in a nursing home and how happy you might be there as a resident.

Before deciding on a nursing home, take a look at the questions to ask and actually ask them of the nursing homes you are considering. That way you can make sure that you are choosing the right place for you.

Reference: Next Avenue (March 15, 2017) "18 Questions to Ask Any Nursing Home."

Elder Law, Nursing Homes

Absolute Minimal Estate Planning

MP900442211[1]Even if you do not think that you need an estate plan, there are a couple things that you absolutely must do.

You need to do some estate planning. Even if you think that you do not, you do.

Your possessions will not just magically go to whomever you want after you pass away, if you do not make some sort of estate plan.

While you should visit an estate planning attorney and get the most comprehensive estate plan that you can get, you might wonder what the absolute minimal amount of estate planning you can do to make sure that you have everything done that is absolutely necessary.

Recently, Fidelity discussed that in “Estate planning must dos.”

There are really two things that must be done at a minimum.

First, you need to check beneficiaries on documents such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts. These beneficiaries are legally entitled to the proceeds of the accounts after you pass away.

The second thing you absolutely must do is to title any real property you have appropriately. Of course, what is appropriate titling, depends on your individual family situation and is something you should discuss with an attorney.

Those are the two absolute basic minimal estate planning requirements.

If you do not want to do just the minimum and would prefer to do more, talk to an estate planning attorney about what more you can do.  Our site provides information on the basic estate documents you need for fundamental planning.

Reference:  Fidelity (March 27, 2017) “Estate planning must dos.”


The Trumps and Trusts

Ivanka_Trump_RNC_July_2016_(cropped2) (1)Trusts might be more of a topic of political conversation today, thanks to the Trump family, than at any other time since President Theodore Roosevelt waged war against the trusts of the Gilded Age. That could be a good thing.

Trusts are not often a subject of much public discussion. They are important to estate planners, but as a matter of pressing national concern they rarely register.

The last time they were considered to be a matter of nightly discussion on the national news was during the first Roosevelt administration, when President Theodore Roosevelt resolved to bring the trusts to heel.

Today, trusts are back in the news because of the Trump administration and how members of President Trump's family are using trusts to hold their assets.

A lot of digital ink has been spilled over whether the President's family is using trusts in ethically appropriate ways.

One of the more recent examples of that comes from a New York Times article on Ivanka Trump's trust titled "Despite a Trust, Ivanka Trump Still Wields Power Over Her Brand."

While the press reporting has been mostly over the concerns about the ethical considerations of the Trump family trusts, there is another possible story.

What the Trumps are teaching us is that trusts can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They can be created for different purposes and give different people various levels of control over the assets in the trusts.

Whether or not you care about the ethical considerations of the Trump trusts, pay attention to the different things they do with their trusts. It might give you some ideas about what you can do with trusts that you can make part of your estate plan.

Reference: New York Times (March 20, 2017) "Despite a Trust, Ivanka Trump Still Wields Power Over Her Brand."


Planning for a First Child

MP900448410[1]New parents have many possible things to worry about. One of them does not need to be what will happen to their newborn, should anything happen to them.

First-time parents are stereotypically known to be a nervous group. That is understandable. Bringing a new life into the world that you are responsible for, is a daunting task for even the most financially secure and emotionally stable people.

It is not easy being a parent and it is anything but cheap. Parenting a child costs a lot of money in today’s world. It requires careful planning.  We have some of the basics about planning for young families on the Profit Law Firm website.

Recently, Wealth Management outlined some financial planning advice for new parents in “Six Financial Planning Steps for Expecting Parents.”

All of the steps listed in the article are important and worthy of consideration for new parents. However, the last one is of particular importance, because it is the one that is most often forgotten.

New parents need to get estate plans.

It is through estate planning that parents can prepare for the worst case scenario if something happens to them, the parents, before their children reach adulthood.

It is in estate planning that guardians are nominated for minor children.

It is also through estate planning that financial arrangements are made to make sure that minor children have the resources needed for their care, if something happens to the parents.

If you are expecting a child, make sure you do not neglect to see an estate planning attorney so you do not have to worry about what will happen to your child, if something happens to you.

Reference: Wealth Management (March 31, 2017) “Six Financial Planning Steps for Expecting Parents.”


Data Collection and Elder Abuse

Tracking what people do online is intended to increase the value of advertising, but it has the potential to be used to worsen the elder abuse problem.

Regardless of whether you are aware of it, some computer somewhere knows you are currently reading this article. This is most likely true, even if you did not give explicit permission for the computer to know.

Everything you do online is potentially tracked and collected by computers that compile a profile of you. It is what is known as big data.

No, this is not the result of the government spying on people. The people behind this data collection are people who want to sell you things. The better profile they can compile of who you are and what you like, the better they can create advertisements that cater to your interests and that are more likely to make you want to buy something.

This data knowledge increases the value of the ad space on the Internet and makes more money for companies selling that space, such as Facebook and Google. In other words, most people find this data collection and tracking to be mostly benign and necessary for popular Internet sites to continue to be free to use.

However, there are potential downsides to the data collection that worry elder law experts, as Financial Advisor explains in "AI, Big Data May Become Tools for Elder Financial Abuse."

In the wrong hands, this same data could be used to more effectively target elderly people for financial scams. That has elder law advocates worried, since elder financial abuse is already a big problem.

There are currently few rules about to whom marketers can sell their data. That might need to change to protect the elderly and others from abuse.

Reference: Financial Advisor (March 22, 2017) "AI, Big Data May Become Tools for Elder Financial Abuse."


In Vitro Fertilization and Posthumous Children

Bigstock-Doctor-with-female-patient-21258332[1]Advancements in technology often require that legal rules be put in place to account for the advancements. When it comes to in vitro fertilization, the law is still adapting, as a case from Spain illustrates.

Before undergoing cancer treatment that could render him infertile, a Spanish man decided to freeze his sperm for possible later use by his partner. After the treatment, the couple started the process of in vitro fertilization but did not complete it, since his condition got worse and he passed away.

The day before he passed away the pair were married.

After his death, the Spanish woman unsuccessfully attempted in vitro fertilization four times. The clinic refused her a fifth attempt without a court order.

It seems that Spanish law only allows genetic material to be used for 12 months after a person has passed away, according to FOX News in "Judge allows woman to undergo in vitro fertilization with dead husband's sperm."

The interesting aspect of this case is that the government chose not to argue in court on legal grounds that the woman should not be able use the sperm. Instead, the government argued on the moral grounds that it was impossible to know whether the man would still want the child or even if he would still want to be married to the woman, if he were still alive.

The government took the position that the man could not consent to having a child, but the judge was not persuaded and ruled in favor of the woman.

Similar cases are expected to appear with greater frequency and present a challenge to current estate law.

It is not clear how estates that are already settled, will be able to handle a child born years after the deceased passed away.

Reference: FOX News (March 23, 2017) "Judge allows woman to undergo in vitro fertilization with dead husband's sperm."


Dying With Debt

Bigstock-Vintage-brass-telescope-on-ant-44347372[1]Most Americans pass away still owing some debt. The debt does not merely die with them. It is more complicated than that.

There is a common belief that any debt a person has, dies with him or her. In a sense that is true, but it is also false depending on the type and the amount of debt.

It is important to understand the dynamics of debt and dying, because 73% percent of Americans pass away with debt. The average amount of debt at death is approximately $62,000 according to FOX Business in “Americans Are Dying with an Average of $62K of Debt.”

The only type of debt that completely disappears when the debtor passes away is federal student loans. However, even then the proper paperwork must be filed. The same situation is not necessarily true with other types of student loans.

Other types of debt must be paid by the estate, before any assets are distributed to heirs.

Thus, if a person passes away owing $100,000 and having assets of $150,000, then the estate must pay the debt and only the remaining $50,000 can be inherited by heirs.

If the estate does not have enough assets to cover the full amount of the debt, then heirs are not responsible to pay it. However, there are exceptions. For example, if the estate contains a home, then the value of that home might be used to pay the debt even if other people are living in it. As a result, the heirs might need to pay the debt to stay in the home.

The issue of debt and death can get very complex. If you have any questions, it is a good idea to talk to an estate planning attorney who can help you manage what will happen to any debt you have when you pass away.

Reference: FOX Business (March 21, 2017) “Americans Are Dying with an Average of $62K of Debt.”


The Elderly Could Benefit From Autonomous Cars

Bigstock-Senior-Couple-8161132[1]Experts predict that in a few years, the technology will be good enough that vehicles will not need human assistance to operate. One of the groups that could benefit the most from this is the elderly.

One of the most dreaded conversations for children with elderly parents, is telling their parents that it is time to give up driving. For the elderly, the loss of the ability to drive is symbolic of a loss of self-reliance, since it makes it much more difficult to get around.

Elderly people who have always been able to get in their vehicles and drive themselves anywhere they want, naturally resent not being able to do so. They also often fear that if they call someone to help them, then they are being a burden.

Nevertheless, at some point people do lose the ability to drive safely.  Therefore, children must have the conversation with their elderly parents no matter how much everyone involved dreads the prospect.

Soon, however, it may no longer be necessary according to The New York Times in "Self-Driving Cars Could Be Boon for Aged, After Initial Hurdles."

Automakers and technology companies are in a race to develop cars that can drive themselves. These autonomous vehicles would be able to take passengers where they want to go more safely than human drivers, according to advocates.

If the elderly were to use self-driving cars, then they would no longer need to lose their mobility when they are no longer able to drive. Some believe that these vehicles could be available in as little as five years.

There are still legal issues that need to be considered for elder law advocates. Lawmakers currently appear reluctant to allow autonomous vehicles that are not overseen by a human capable of taking control safely.

Reference: The New York Times (March 23, 2017) "Self-Driving Cars Could Be Boon for Aged, After Initial Hurdles."


An Estate Battle over Support for Donald Trump

Bigstock-Elder-Couple-With-Bills-3557267[1]In an extremely unusual case, the children of Phyllis Schlafly are involved in a bitter dispute over her estate that appears to have started, when Schlafly decided to support Donald Trump for President.

Throughout the late 20th century, Phyllis Schlafly was a well-known and powerful force in Republican politics. She is often credited with personally defeating the Equal Rights Amendment, when it appeared to be on the verge of passing.

Although she had faded away from the public eye in recent years, Schlafly remained an important figure in Republican circles until she passed away in 2016. When she endorsed Donald Trump for President during the 2016 primaries, it might not have mattered to the general public, but it did matter in the Republican operative world.

It also appears to have mattered to her children and her estate, as the Daily Mail reports in "Children of late conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly at war over their inheritance and have been fighting since she threw her support behind Donald Trump."

Schlafly's endorsement of Trump created a rift between her sons, who supported the decision, and her daughter, who opposed it. The daughter claims that the decision was influenced by Republican political operative Ed Martin.

Since Schlafly passed away, Martin has been creating political action committees in her name to support Trump and the daughter has attempted to stop him. She also claims that Martin and her brothers unduly influenced their mother to change her will in their favor and to make it more difficult for the daughter to challenge the will.

This is disputed by the sons.

Reference: Daily Mail (March 23, 2017) "Children of late conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly at war over their inheritance and have been fighting since she threw her support behind Donald Trump."