Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

An Easy but Bad Way to Avoid Probate

If you own a home, then there is a very simple thing that you can do to make it so that your home will not have to go through probate after you pass away. Do not do it though.

MP900448491[1]Many people are certain that they must avoid probate at all costs for their estates after they pass away. That is not always true. It depends on the size of an estate and the specifics of the probate process in your state of residence.

Whether it is true or false, the perception is an important one. The best way to know if probate will be burdensome for your estate, is to visit an estate planning attorney

Some people don’t visit an estate planning attorney.  However, they decide that their home is their most valuable asset and they put a child's name on the deed. This will make it, so the home does not have to go through probate after they pass away. It will automatically go to the child on the deed.

It works to avoid probate but it is almost always a very bad idea, as My Prime Time News discussed in "Deeds and Probate Avoidance."

The problem is that by putting a child's name on the deed, the home becomes an asset for the child. Any creditors the child has, can put a lien on the loan.

It also has the potential for adverse capital gains tax consequences for the child, should the home be sold after you pass away. This is an example that shows that this method of probate avoidance may actually cost your heirs a lot of taxes.

A much better idea to avoid probate is to visit an estate planning attorney and ask about putting your home in a trust.

Reference: My Prime Time News (Jan. 29, 2018) "Deeds and Probate Avoidance."

Estate Planning, Probate, Trusts

Planning for Your Horses

MP900403058[1]If you have horses, then you can plan for them in your estate just like you would plan for any other property. However, since horses are not exactly like other types of property, you might want to consider treating them differently.

People who own horses tend to think of those horses as some of the most important things in their lives. The horses often represent valuable investments and require large sums to maintain.

For many people, the horses are also considered part of the family and just as important as any other pet. Sometimes they are considered just as important as human relatives.  However, under the law, horses and other pets are personal property.

Horses are no different legally than a car. You cannot leave an inheritance to your horses, so they can simply take care of themselves after you pass away. Traditionally, estate law did not allow for anything other than leaving the horses to an heir as property.

Another option exists today as Newsmax discusses in "Equestrian Legacy Planning Through Trusts."

You can now set up a trust for the benefit of your horses. You can put assets into the trust and leave directions for how those assets are to be used to take care of your horses.

A trustee can then be appointed to make sure your wishes are carried out, when you are no longer around to care for your horses. This will ensure that there is a legally enforceable way for you to make sure that the horses are cared for as you want.

If you would like to get a trust for your horses or any other pet, visit an estate planning attorney.

Reference: Newsmax (Jan. 17, 2018) "Equestrian Legacy Planning Through Trusts."


Disability Planning

MP900442437[1]The number of Americans who suffer from Alzheimer's disease is expected to double in upcoming decades. It is important to make plans for what should happen, if you are one of the victims.

Alzheimer's is a scary disease to contemplate. Those who suffer from it slowly lose their cognitive abilities. They no longer recognize their loved ones and are increasingly unable to take care of even their most basic affairs.

Unfortunately, experts do not think a cure for this disease is likely in the near future.  They expect that the number of people who suffer from it in American will double by the year 2060.

That is a scary proposition for many and it is something everyone should make plans for as the Times Herald-Record discusses in "Disability planning is vital in case of cognitive impairment."

Fortunately, planning for Alzheimer's disease is not very difficult.

An estate planning attorney or elder law attorney can assist you in getting your legal paperwork in order. You will need a health care power of attorney, so someone of your choosing can make your medical decisions for you. You will need a general durable power of attorney, so someone of your choosing can handle your day to day financial affairs. You will also need a living will so that doctors will know what to do and not to do, when you are terminally ill with no chance of recovery.

There is no reason to delay getting these documents. They are easy to get. Everyone should have them, just in case something happens.

Reference: Times Herald-Record (Jan. 18, 2018) "Disability planning is vital in case of cognitive impairment."


Talking to an Attorney About the New Tax Law

Bigstock-Elder-Couple-With-Bills-3557267[1]Now is a good time to take advantage of the new tax law and review your estate plan. There are some questions that you should ask your attorney before making any new plans.

Whenever there are significant changes made to tax laws, it is important to review your estate plan to make sure you still have a plan that best benefits you under the law. Even minor changes to tax laws can have an impact on estate plans.

The tax changes recently signed into law are no exception.

Now is the time to go to an estate planning attorney and make sure your estate plan is still optimal for you and your family. There are a few things you will want to discuss with your attorney.

Recently, Forbes offered some suggestions of things to talk to your attorney about in "5 Questions to Ask Your Estate Planner After the New Tax Law," including:

  • You need to know if the new law effects your estate plan at all. The estate tax exemption limit has been doubled and you will want to know what that means for your estate.
  • If you are married, you will want to discuss what the new law means for spousal “portability” and how that could impact you and your spouse.
  • Many states tie their state estate tax exemption to the federal exemption and you will want to discuss whether yours is one of them.
  • Have the attorney review your plan to make sure it is still optimal for what you want to do, given the new laws.
  • Before leaving the attorney's office, ask the attorney when you should come back and review your plan again. Estate plans should always be periodically reviewed with an expert, in case there are other changes to the law that need to be addressed.

Reference: Forbes (January 9, 2018) "5 Questions to Ask Your Estate Planner After the New Tax Law."


Dealing with Scams

Bigstock-Elder-Couple-With-Bills-3557267[1]Scams conducted against the elderly are far too frequent and difficult to prevent. However, there are some steps you can take if you or an elderly loved one has been scammed.

Along with the growth of America's elderly population, has come a less welcome population growth.

The number of scammers.

This unwelcome “population” has increased, as unscrupulous people seek to make easy money by duping the elderly.

There are many types of scams that target the elderly, ranging from large ones meant to make millions to very small scams meant to cheat an elderly person out of a few hundred dollars.

The smaller ones can be very difficult to prevent because they often consist of someone calling the elderly and pretending to be someone else, such as a charity or a debt collector.

These callers lie and sweet talk their way into getting the elderly victim's bank or credit card information.

If you know someone who has been a victim of such a scam recently, there are some things that you can do as My San Antonio discusses in "How to handle a scam against elderly parent."

The first thing that needs to be done is to contact the financial institution and make sure it is aware of the scam.

The institution can even block the transaction, if it is not too late.

The local police should be called as well to make sure the crime is reported.

It is also a good idea to contact an elder law attorney to ask for legal advice, if needed to get any money back.

When the elderly are scammed, it is not always possible to get their money back.  However, by making a few phones calls, you can make it more likely.

Reference: My San Antonio (Jan. 12, 2018) "How to handle a scam against elderly parent."


Getting Your Affairs in Order

It is a good idea to get your affairs in order, for when you pass away. However, to do that you need to know what it entails.

You have probably heard the phrase "Getting your affairs in order."

It is the euphemism for what people do, when they are preparing for the time when they pass away.

They might not be planning to pass away for many years.  However, to get your affairs in order  involves making sure that if anything does happen to you, everything will be taken care and your family will not have to struggle figuring out what to do.

To accomplish that, you need to know what you need to do to get your affairs in order.

Recently, The Daily Courier discussed a few things to do in "I'm dead. Now What?"

These steps include:

  • Gathering all your important financial documents in one place. This includes all of your bank account information, your retirement account documents, your regular bills and anything else that is important. Make sure that someone in your family knows where to find everything.
  • If you want to make sure your family gets the pieces of your property they want and that they will not fight unnecessarily over things, talk to your family members about any possessions of yours that they treasure and make a list of who wants what possession.
  • Since you have your financial documents in one place and you know who wants what, it will now be easier for you to go to an estate planning attorney to formalize your wishes concerning your estate. While you are at the attorney's office, make sure that you also get power of attorney documents.
  • Finally, you should make arrangements for your own funeral, so your family will not need to worry about making them while they are grieving you.

If you would like to put an estate plan in place contact an estate planning attorney.

Reference: The Daily Caller (Jan. 11, 2018) "I'm dead. Now What?"


This Is the Year to Plan Your Estate

Bigstock-Large-Mixed-Race-Family-2589417_(2)[1]If you have put off getting an estate plan until now, then make one this year.

If you are like most people, any New Year’s resolutions that you made are likely already broken or well on their way to being broken.

Every year millions of Americans make resolutions, such as they are finally going to get serious about exercising, only to have those resolutions quickly fade away when they get back to their normal lives after the holidays.

However, there are some resolutions worth following. If you did not make them, it is not too late to do so.

One such resolution is to finally get an estate plan, as the Virginian-Pilot discusses in “Make estate planning a priority this year.”

Many Americans have a tendency to put off planning for their estates.

They believe that they will always have time to do it later.

Year after year goes by and every year people think they will still have time to wait until next year.

The problem?

Eventually the years will catch up to you. You will no longer be able to put off your estate planning until next year.

The catch is that you rarely will know ahead of time when you will no longer be able to wait to do your estate planning until next year.

Something could happen to you at any time.

Since you do not know whether you can put off estate planning until next year, it is a good idea to act like you cannot do so.

Visit an estate planning attorney this year.

Reference: Virginian-Pilot (Jan. 12, 2018) “Make estate planning a priority this year.”


Going to North Korea

MP900422593[1]The State Department suggests that you get an estate plan, should you decide to visit North Korea.

Despite the extremely tense relations between the U.S. and North Korea, it is possible for Americans to visit North Korea. There are probably very few U.S. citizens who want to go anywhere near North Korea. Those that do, are probably journalists and researchers.

The State Department recently offered some advice for Americans who are planning a trip to North Korea.

So, what is that advice?

The agency advises people to first get a will, make funeral plans and get a power attorney, as Fox News reports in "Visiting North Korea? Draft a will and make funeral plans, State Department says."

Traveling to countries other than North Korea is likely not nearly as dangerous.  However, this is good advice before traveling to any foreign nation.

Before leaving on an overseas trip, it is a good idea to have an estate plan in place.

Having powers of attorney drafted is an especially good idea, in case anything does happen, so someone back home can handle all of your affairs.

It is unlikely anything will happen to you on your next vacation, but it is always good to be prepared.

Before you visit a foreign country, visit with an estate planning attorney so you can be prepared.

Reference: Fox News (Jan. 15, 2018) "Visiting North Korea? Draft a will and make funeral plans, State Department says."


Arthur Miller’s Archives

A fight over the archives of the late author Arthur Miller pitted two deep-pocketed educational institutions against each other.

Arthur Miller passed away in 2003.  However, literary scholars still have not had the opportunity to review his archived journals, notes and letters.


MP900399277[1]The dispute over where those archives should go has only recently been settled.

During his life, Miller had a close relationship with the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. On a couple of different occasions, Miller sent the center several boxes of his archive to the Ransom Center for safe-keeping.

He appears to have made it clear in his correspondence, that he wanted the Ransom Center to be the permanent home for the archives.

Despite that preference, Yale inspected the archives and offered Miller's estate $2.7 million for them.

After a heated dispute, the Ransom Center matched the offer, as The New York Times reported in "Inside the Battle for Arthur Miller's Archive."

The problem appears to have stemmed from the fact that Miller never formally left his archive to the Ransom Center.

No estate planning document was created making his preference legally binding. Therefore, his estate fulfilled its duty to maximize the amount of money it could get for the works.

It is not clear that they have that much value commercially, even if they do contain some letters and discussions about Miller's second wife, Marilyn Monroe.

The educational institutions were willing to pay for the prestige of housing the archives of the celebrated playwright.

Reference: New York Times (Jan. 9, 2018) "Inside the Battle for Arthur Miller's Archive."