Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

Handling a Younger Boss

Wi9yf7kTQxCNeY72cCY6_Images_of_Jenny_Lace_Plasticity_Publish_(4_of_25)[1]Americans are putting off retirement and continuing to work at an increasing rate. Many seniors who do retire later, chose to go back to work. One of the consequences is that it often leads to having a younger boss.

People often do not like taking directions and orders from others who are much younger. It seems to go against the natural order of things for younger people to be in charge of older people. However, that is exactly what is frequently happening in the American workplace today.

As The New York Times reports in "When the Boss Is Half Your Age," 38% of Americans have a younger boss. One of the reasons for this trend is that many employers want to hire managers who grew up with the technology used in today's workplaces, such as cell phones and email.

There is a belief that being a native to the technology, makes younger people better at understanding it and using it to their advantage.

Another reason for this phenomenon is that Americans are working longer than before and many people who have chosen retirement go back to work for one reason or another.  As a result, many senior citizens have immediate superiors at work who are much younger than they are  which can lead to problems.

Elders do not always like being told what to do by younger people, and younger bosses are often on guard against older employees who think that the old way of doing things is best.

Seniors who do have a much younger boss need to be aware that the law does protect them against discrimination due to age.  However, they should also be open to new things and be willing to do their work, as directed by their younger boss.

Reference: New York Times (March 17, 2017) "When the Boss Is Half Your Age."


Tennessee’s Cowan Rule

MP900202201[1]In most states, to completely disinherit a child in a will, parents have to mention the child and specifically disinherit him or her. Otherwise, it is presumed that the child was left out by mistake. Tennessee has an exception to the rule.  Likewise, in Maryland, a parent must explicitly state an intent to disinherit a child to do so and should proceed with the advice of a Maryland estate planning attorney.

  1. Don Brock, the late CEO of Astec Industries, wrote many wills over the years. He executed new wills in 1994, 1998, 2006, 2012 and 2013. His first three wills all did different things with regard to his five adopted children.

They were given various amounts of money or cut out from receiving anything in the different wills. The last two wills did not mention the adopted children at all. They claim that was done by their stepmother, in order to preserve the assets of Astec Industries for herself.

The children filed a lawsuit against the estate, but lost in the lower courts. The Supreme Court of Tennessee has now agreed to hear their case, according to the Times Free Press in “Tennessee Supreme Court agrees to hear J. Don Brock estate challenge.”

The main issue in this case is a 110-year-old decision by the Supreme Court of Tennessee that created what is known as the Cowan Rule. It limits the ability of potential heirs to challenge a will, if they were not mentioned in the previous will.

The adopted children lost in the lower courts because they were not mentioned in the 2012 will. The rule makes some sense.


Merely having the 2013 will ruled invalid would not create an inheritance for the children,  since it would just validate the 2012 will, unless it is also successfully challenged.

However, this is not how other states handle disinherited children.

In other states, it is presumed that if a child is not mentioned in a will at all, it was a mistake and the child can challenge the estate, regardless of what an older will might state. In Maryland and DC, the will should explicitly disinherit.  Contact a Maryland estate planning attorney or DC estate planning attorney in order to successfully disinherit a child.

Reference: Times Free Press (March 21, 2017) “Tennessee Supreme Court agrees to hear J. Don Brock estate challenge.”


The Core of Estate Planning

MP900178564[1]If you feel overwhelmed about planning your estate, it might be helpful to remember what is at the core of estate planning. It is a way to transfer assets.

Estate planning can be and do many different things. It can provide for the care of minor children. It can be a way to let people know that you love them. It can create a charitable legacy.

In fact, there are so many things estate planning can be and do that may people get overwhelmed thinking about all of them. As a result, they do not create estate plans.

At its core, however, estate planning is not that complicated. Estate planning can be as simple as transferring your assets after death.

As the Times Herald-Record explains in “Transferring assets upon death,” there are four main ways to do that, including:

  • Wills – In a will you state who should get your assets and appoint someone to be in charge of making sure that your wishes are carried out. Wills have to be approved by a probate court.
  • Joint Ownership – If you have assets in joint ownership with another person, then by law when you pass away the joint owner becomes the sole owner of the asset.
  • Beneficiary Designations – For life insurance policies, retirement accounts and savings accounts, you name a specific beneficiary to receive the assets after you pass away. A court does not need to approve the designation.
  • Trusts – With a trust, you state how your assets should be handled, appoint someone to handle them and name the people for whose benefit the assets will be handled.

How do you know which approach or approaches are best for your circumstances? Contact an experienced estate planning attorney.

Reference: Times Herald-Record (March 15, 2017) “Transferring assets upon death.


A Good Time to Get an Estate Plan

Bigstock-Elder-Couple-With-Bills-3557267[1]While you are busy doing your taxes this year, it is also a good time to think about getting an estate plan.

Every year at about this time, Americans breathe a big sigh of relief when they seal their tax returns and send them off to the IRS or hit "send" to file electronically. The sigh is even bigger, if the envelope did not include a check written to the government and the tax filer can expect to receive a refund in the next couple of months.

No one likes doing their own taxes.

When they are finally done, the last thing that most people want to do is to deal with more financial issues. However, it is a good idea to do one more thing, as CTV News points out in "The mistakes of not having a will."

When you finish doing your taxes, you should get an estate plan or update your plan, if you already have one.

To do your taxes, you had to get out many of your financial documents. You have also been thinking about how much money you have and where it is all located. Doing those things is one of the first steps to getting an estate plan.

You could put all of your financial documents away and think about other things.  However, if you later decided to do estate planning, you will have to start all over again.

Why not just go ahead and get an estate plan now, while things are still on your mind?

Reference: CTV News (March 21, 2017) "The mistakes of not having a will."


Offering Condolences

2445515_cbf4c9d8[2]When someone you know passes away, one of the most important things that you can do is to sincerely offer condolences to the deceased's loved ones.

A lot of the time when we see other people hurting, we wonder what we can do to help.  We often conclude that there is nothing we can do. It is common for this to happen, when we learn that someone has passed away and we see their family in mourning.

As humans, we lack the ability to bring the deceased back to life.

There are other things, however, we can do to help the family that do not require much time and effort as the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog points out in "How Condolences Alleviate Grief."

The easiest and one of the best ways to help people mourning for a loved one, is to let them know we care and to offer our condolences. This does not require a grand gesture. It only requires a sincere statement of sympathy.

Sending a card or flowers is another way to offer condolences. Charitable donations in the name of the deceased is also a small thing that can let grieving people know you care.

This is important. Knowing that other people really do care helps those who are grieving.

It does not fix everything. It does not bring anyone back to life. Nevertheless, it does help people move on and makes it easier for them to handle other things that need to be done when a loved one passes away, such as making funeral arrangements and dealing with the estate.

Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (March 20, 2017) "How Condolences Alleviate Grief."



The Aging Wealthy are Making Plans

Much of the world's wealth is in the hands of a relatively small number of super wealthy individuals. Many of them are now elderly and making plans about what will happen to their wealth, after they pass away.

Over the past few years, you may have heard reports about income and wealth inequality in the U.S. Economic data shows that the country's wealth is rapidly being concentrated into fewer and fewer hands, at the top of the socioeconomic scale.

As a result, many politicians like to talk about the top 1%.  However, the data shows that wealth is even far more concentrated than that. Actually, it is in the top 0.1%.

This same phenomenon is not just occurring in the U.S. It is happening all over the world.

Old-couple[1]What will happen to all of that concentrated wealth when the current holders pass away, is a burning question as they continue to get older and older and eventually die?

This was the subject of a recent Private Wealth article "The World's Aging Rich Are Plotting What's Next."

The article provides many examples of what various wealthy people are planning. They naturally wish to keep their wealth away from waiting governments and do not want their families to fight over it.

This has led to various legal methods to avoid estate taxation and other problems.

Some are choosing to transfer the bulk of their assets to family members now. Others are planning to give a large portion of their wealth away to charities, so their families have nothing to fight over.

Since much of the world's wealth is in complicated trusts and other entities, it will be interesting to see how it all gets sorted out when the current holders continue to age and do pass away.

Reference: Private Wealth (March 3, 2017) "The World's Aging Rich Are Plotting What's Next."


Delaware Trusts in Doubt

Wills-trusts-and-estates-covered[1]For decades, Delaware trusts were considered the gold standard for asset protection. A recent case has called that into doubt and many people now prefer Nevada trusts.

When people set up dynasty trusts, one of their goals is to keep assets in the family. That is the primary reason for the trusts. People would rather have their assets go to their children and grandchildren, instead of an ex-spouse of one of the children getting the assets, for example.

For a long time, the preferred way of accomplishing this was to create a Delaware dynasty trust. It was believed that Delaware offered the best asset protection.

A 2014 court decision, however, has led many people to question whether Delaware is still the best option, according to Kiplinger in “Delaware Trust? You May Want to Consider Nevada Instead.”

The case is truly only remarkable because the decision came as a surprise.

The facts themselves are simple.

A man created a Delaware dynasty trust for the benefit of his son, his son’s spouse and his grandchildren. Over the years, the trust assets grew to hundreds of millions of dollars. The son and his wife got divorced.

The court ruled that the now ex-spouse was entitled to a portion of the dynasty trust, so the assets were not kept in the family as desired.

This decision has caused many to look for other states in which to create trusts that better preserve assets in the family. Nevada is the most popular choice,  since it allows trusts to be created that shield assets from ex-spouses, even for child support purposes.

Reference: Kiplinger (March 2017) “Delaware Trust? You May Want to Consider Nevada Instead.”



Medicaid Can you Rely On It?

Bigstock-Elder-Couple-With-Bills-3557267[1]People who plan to rely on Medicaid, if they ever need long-term care in a nursing home, often make a very big mistake.

Nursing home care is one of the most expensive things facing elderly people. It costs a lot of money to get long-term care in a nursing home.

Many older people do not have the money for it and do not have a realistic way of getting that money. Profit Law Firm provides Medicaid crisis planning.

As a result, they look to the government to pay for that care. The government will step up through Medicaid, but only if the elderly person, who is in need of nursing home care, has no assets.

When seeking to qualify for Medicaid, however, many people make a big, big mistake.

This mistake is discussed in the Pauls Valley Daily Democrat article titled “Misunderstandings create traps in planning.”

The mistake is a simple one to explain, but it is important to make sure you understand it so you will not make it. You cannot give your assets to your children, just before you go into a nursing home, at Medicaid’s expense.

Unfortunately, that is just what many people are planning to do and it will not work.

What is the problem?

Medicaid has a five-year lookback window, which means that the program will look at any asset transfers the applicant (or anyone on his or her behalf) made within five years of needing long-term care.

If those transfers were not made at market value, then Medicaid will not pay for care until the expenses start to exceed the value of the transferred assets. There is a formula to calculate the “penalty period” that will be applied.

This simple mistake is a big source of problems for the elderly. Make sure that you understand it and ask an elder law attorney, if you have any questions about it.

Reference: Pauls Valley Daily Democrat (March 8, 2017) “Misunderstandings create traps in planning.”



What Estate Planning Really Is

MP900309139[1]You can think about estate planning in many different ways. One of the simplest and best approaches is to think of estate planning as a way of telling your family that you love them.

Estate planning is often thought of in cold or detached legal and financial terms. It is a way to decide who will get your assets, after you pass away and what the best legal instruments are for distributing those assets.

Viewed in that way, estate planning might not seem very important to many people, especially if they do not have many assets and do not particularly care about the legal aspects of transferring those assets after they pass away.

There is, however, another way to think about estate planning as Lifezette reports in "Estate Planning: A Love Note to Your Family."

Estate planning is a way to let your family know that you love them.

As the article suggests, it is a love note to your family. You might not care too much about how your assets will be distributed when you are no longer around to worry about it, but it can make a big difference to your family.

Getting a proper estate plan, can spare your family the costs and legal headaches of having to go through the probate process. It can even stop them from fighting over who gets which assets.

When you think about estate planning in those terms, then it should be obvious that everyone should get an estate plan. If you love your family, it is one the best things that you can do for them.

Reference: Lifezette (March 7, 2017) "Estate Planning: A Love Note to Your Family."



Audrey Hepburn’s Sons Use Mediation to Settle Estate Plan Dispute

Audrey-hepburn-actress-breakfast-at-tiffany-s-prominent-76961Audrey Hepburn's estate planning mistake has led to a long legal fight between her sons. It appears that they have finally reached an agreement. Like many, she gave vague instructions to her sons about dividing her legacy and did not include any instructions  for her sons on resolving disputes.

Audrey Hepburn starred in some of the most beloved movies of all time. She came to symbolize beauty and grace in mid-century Hollywood.

When she passed away in 1993, she left behind a gigantic amount of memorabilia from her acting career, including some of the costumes and jewelry that she wore in her iconic roles. These items have obvious value to collectors, but so far no one has gotten their hands on them.


The items have been the source of a long dispute between her two sons.

Hepburn specified in her estate plan that everything she owned should be split between those sons equally, but she left no instructions regarding just how that was to be accomplished.

Which son should get which item?  This dispute could have been resolved without costly litigation if she included in her will instructions for mediation to resolve such disputes.  Michelle Profit, an estate planning attorney, has written an article on how mediation can be used to peacefully resolve disputes.

Hepburn's will was silent, however, so memorabilia has been contested in court for the last two years, but the sons may have finally reached an agreement, according to the Daily Mail in "Audrey Hepburn's sons agree to split their late mother's treasure trove of belongings, including costumes, jewelry, scripts and awards, after two-year legal dispute."

The sons have agreed to submit the question to mediation and use that process to determine the distribution of particular pieces of memorabilia. However, this will not be the end of all battles concerning Hepburn's estate, since a charitable fund she founded is now suing one of the sons for interference with its affairs.  

Hepburn's mistake was not including some way for her son's to resolve any disputes about who gets what in her estate plan. She could have made provisions for a mediator to resolve the disputes. That would have saved a lot of headaches and legal bills for her family. Profit Law Firm, LLC can include dispute resolution in your estate planning documents to avoid these disputes, and reduce the cost of such disputes, when they occur.

Reference: Daily Mail (March 9, 2017) "Audrey Hepburn's sons agree to split their late mother's treasure trove of belongings, including costumes, jewelry, scripts and awards, after two-year legal dispute."