Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

Questions About Powers of Attorney

MP900442387[1]When you get a general durable power of attorney, it is a good idea to ask questions about how it will work, given your unique life circumstances.

In most states, getting a general durable power of attorney is fairly easy.

Some legislatures have included form documents in the statute books that are templates for powers of attorneys. Online services are more than willing to offer cheap form documents that can also be filled out to create general durable powers of attorney.

The ease with which these documents can be obtained masks an issue with them, as MD Magazine discusses in "Five Questions to Ask About Your Financial POA."

The problem is that form documents contain boilerplate language that might not work for everyone's unique situation. If you take care of an elderly parent, you will want to make sure that the general durable power of attorney authorizes the agent (you) to continue paying for ongoing care and to make investment decisions.

These problems can be overcome by hiring an estate planning attorney to craft your general durable power of attorney.

The attorney can assist your elderly parent to create a document that does what he or she needs done and that is not just boilerplate language.  For an estate planning attorney located in Bethesda, Maryland contact Profit Law Firm.

Reference: MD Magazine (Dec. 27, 2017) "Five Questions to Ask About Your Financial POA."


What Does It Mean to Unduly Influence a Will?

MP900442211[1]Successfully contesting a will is not easy. There must be a reason why the court should not accept the will. A common reason is because there was undue influence in the will's creation.

Wills are supposed to be the testator's carefully thought out wishes about who should have their property after they pass away. They are supposed to be made with great care and after deliberation.

One of the key ideas behind wills is that the contents of the will are the wishes of the testator and only the testator. They should not be the result of anyone else pressuring the testator into doing something in a will that the testator does not really want.

When the will is the result of what someone else wants,  it is known as "undue influence" as My Prime Time News discusses in "Undue Influence."

Undue influence can happen when someone who benefits from a will encourages the will's testator to create the will for the influencer's benefit. Merely encouraging someone to make a will does not create undue influence.

A common example is one child convincing his parents to leave him more in the will than his siblings. The siblings will be upset and may decide to challenge the will.

If the court does not believe there was a valid reason for the different inheritances, then the court will invalidate it on the grounds of undue influence.

One way to avoid having your will invalidated on undue influence grounds is to hire an estate planning attorney who can ask the appropriate questions to make sure the will you are getting, is really what you want and not what someone else wants.  Profit Law Firm, is an estate planning attorney in Bethesda, who can help strenthen your will against attacks.

Reference: My Prime Time News (Jan. 18, 2017) "Undue Influence."


The Disappearance of Pensions

MP900439295[1]Most American workers are no longer offered a pension by their employers. That leaves many wondering if they will ever have enough money to retire.

Pension plans have a long history in the U.S.  However, they did not become standard until the middle of the 20th century.

Labor unions advocated for pensions and companies agreed to offer them to their employees.

Even non-union employees benefited from this, as employers made pensions a standard part of their benefit packages.

In the 1970s, employers began wondering how they were going to be able to pay for everything they had promised their employees. The life expectancy of Americans was rising and that threw pension plans' actuarial tables off.

 As a result, many companies did away with pension plans for their employees and switched to 401(k) plans as the Washington Post discusses in "'I hope I can quit working in a few years': A preview of the U.S. without pensions."

401(k)s were supposed to make it easier for people to retire.

The idea was that employees could have their own investment account. They could put their money into the accounts and many employers matched the amount put in.

The system was entirely voluntary. That is where the problem came in.

Over the years, most people have not put nearly enough into their accounts. As a result, they do not have enough money to retire.

That leaves many elderly people now working long after they had hoped to leave the workforce, because Social Security does not provide enough money to live on.

Reference: Washington Post (Dec. 23, 2017) "'I hope I can quit working in a few years': A preview of the U.S. without pensions."


Will Inheritances Become a Thing of the Past?

MP900439346[1]In wealthy countries aging populations and the increasing costs of caring for the elderly are putting in jeopardy the entire idea of inheritances for large percentages of the population.

One of the key ways that people in the U.S. have been able to stay in the middle class and slowly build up some wealth between generations is through inheritances. Receiving even a small inheritance from parents, especially if it includes real estate, allows families to build up some wealth. That wealth can, in turn, be left as inheritances for their children.

Even if people are not consciously aware of this, they seem to know it intuitively judging by their actions and their estate planning. In wealthy countries, that idea is in jeopardy of becoming a distant memory for middle class families as the Financial Times explains in "Opinion Today: The end of inheritance."

The article is about the situation in the U.K., but the issues in the U.S. are the same.

The overall population is aging. The elderly are living much longer than in previous years. This increases the cost of providing care for the elderly population. There are not enough younger people paying taxes to make up for the increasing costs.

When political leaders have proposed addressing the issue, they have been punished by voters, who do not want changes to the elder benefits they have been promised.

At some point, the issue does need to be addressed.

If governments cannot afford to meet elder care expenses, then the costs will fall on individual families.  It is likely that there is nothing left over for many middle-class parents to bequeath to their children.

Reference: Financial Times (Dec. 23, 2017) "Opinion Today: The end of inheritance."


The Challenge of Compensating Shooter’s Victims

MP900382668[1]Despite his higher than average personal wealth, there are significant challenges to making sure that all of Stephen Paddock's victims are properly compensated.

It still is not clear why Stephen Paddock decided to commit mass murder by shooting at Las Vegas concert goers from his hotel window. He was relatively well-off and had not been in trouble as far as anyone knows.

Despite the mystery surrounding his motivations, his victims and their families would like to be compensated for his actions.

The good news is that his estate is worth approximately $5 million. That money would ordinarily go to his mother, since Paddock is not known to have had an estate plan.  However, Paddock's family has indicated they have no interest in his estate.

The bad news is that there are so many victims, it will be difficult to compensate them all, as The New York Times reports in "The Las Vegas Gunman Was Rich. Will His Wealth Go to the Victims?"

There are some challenges to making sure that all the money goes to the victims.

The first is that the estate could be rolled into an existing victims' compensation fund that has already raised $22 million.  However, all of the victims might not be eligible for compensation under the fund's rules.

The second challenge is that many victims are filing independent claims and lawsuits to the estate.

The case is very complicated and the attorneys who are working on it need to be compensated for their time, but not so much that there is nothing left for the victims.

Reference: New York Times (Dec. 23, 2017) "The Las Vegas Gunman Was Rich. Will His Wealth Go to the Victims?"



Baby Created from 24-Year-Old Frozen Embryo

MP900403058[1]Tennessee woman sets a new world record.

A Tennessee woman has recently broken the record for successfully birthing a baby from an embryo that was frozen 24 years ago, according to CBS Baltimore in "Woman, 26, Has Baby Born From Record Breaking 24-Year-Old Frozen Embryo."

That is the longest time on record for a successful birth to occur, after an embryo was frozen. The embryo was frozen when the mother was only a year and half old.  It came from her.

Why this was done when the woman was so young is not known.

This creates even more challenges for estate law, when it comes to posthumous births.

The length of time from when a person passes away to when the deceased person's biological child can be born keeps increasing. What should be done about previously administered estates, when a new child is born so long after death is not clear.

States that have addressed the issue have not all reached the same conclusions. It is something that will need to be addressed with increasing clarity in the near future.

People who might have posthumous children should talk to an estate planning attorney about what they would like to happen in case they do have one.

An estate planning attorney can advise you on creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances.

Reference: CBS Baltimore (Dec. 19, 2017) "Woman, 26, Has Baby Born From Record Breaking 24-Year-Old Frozen Embryo."


Ashes Stolen in Transit

Bigstock-Family-Portrait-At-Christmas-4881212[1]Postal worker leaves package on doorstep during Christmas season and the package is stolen.

A thief in Arizona stole a package that contained the cremated remains of an Arizona woman's father rather than a Christmas present, according to Fox News in "Ashes of woman's father stolen from front porch of Arizona home, reward offered." The package was left there by a postal worker, even though a signature was required.

The postal service is investigating the incident and has offered a $10,000 reward for information. The woman would just like the ashes back, so she can take them to her brother in California.

If this unusual story has any sort of lesson, it might be that it is not a good idea to ship a loved one's ashes during the holiday season.

Reference: Fox News (Dec. 18, 2017) "Ashes of woman's father stolen from front porch of Arizona home, reward offered."


Do Cryogenics and Estate Planning Mix?

MP900309088[1]Estate planning faces a challenge, if death is not a certainty.

Cryogenics could create challenges for tax authorities and estate planners, according to Wealth Management in "Do Zombies Pay Taxes?"

One of the bigger questions is how the estate of a person who dies and is expected to come back to life at a later date, should be taxed and distributed. Government will have to wrestle with whether the estate tax should apply.

For people planning their estates, the challenges are even greater. They will need to decide how much of their assets should be set aside for their own future life and how much should be distributed to their families who will need to survive in the interim.

Reference: Wealth Management (Dec. 20, 2017) "Do Zombies Pay Taxes?"


Americans Have Dim View of Life in a Nursing Home

Many in survey would choose death over moving to a nursing home. Pexels-photo-209224 (1)

A new survey reveals that 61% of Americans would rather pass away than go to a nursing home, according to Financial Advisor in "Older Americans Would Rather Die Than Live In a Nursing Home."

This creates a lot of potential challenges for stakeholders.

It is an issue for elderly people who might have no choice but to go to a nursing home.

It also creates challenges for family members who act as caregivers for the elderly, since they will want to be even more careful than usual when it is time to suggest that a loved one needs nursing home care.

It also creates a problem for nursing homes, since they need to look for ways to improve their reputation.

That could mean that they need to offer more care which costs money, which would be a challenge to nursing homes and the government.

Reference: Financial Advisor (Dec. 20, 2017) "Older Americans Would Rather Die Than Live In a Nursing Home."


New Tax Law Creates New Advantages

Pexels-photo-209224It might be wise to take a fresh look at your estate plan for new options.

Many estate plans will need to be changed to take advantage of the new tax laws, according to the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog in "A Gift from the New Tax Act: Kill That Trust."

One of the key changes for estate planning purposes, is that the estate tax exemption has been doubled.

Thais means people with estate plans that created trusts for the sole purpose of limiting their estate tax exposure may want to revisit their plans. They might now be better off revising those trusts or even getting rid of them altogether.

An estate law attorney can advise you on creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances and may include a trust or dealing with the doubling of the estate law exemption.

Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (Dec. 26, 2017) "A Gift from the New Tax Act: Kill That Trust."