Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

Funding a Trust

Irish-handsAfter creating a trust, you need to fund it. That does not have to be a difficult process.

One of the many problems of “discount” trusts, either from a trust service or an online document service, is that they never get around to funding the trust. When the settlor passes away, the trust does not work as intended, because there are no assets in it to be distributed according to the terms of the trust. The time and money spent creating the trust were all wasted.

Trusts must be funded. That does not mean just putting money in them. It means transferring the title of property to the trust, as the Times Herald-Record discusses in "How to transfer assets to a trust."

Transferring title of property differs for different types of assets. However, it does not need to be difficult for any asset type. It is mostly a matter of filling out the right paperwork and getting that paperwork to the proper authority. For example, when you purchased your home, the title was transferred to you and registered with your local Register of Deeds. You just need to do the same thing for the trust this time.

There is someone who can help you make sure that your trust is properly funded. That is an estate planning attorney who knows how to transfer title in different asset types. This is one reason why it is better to hire an attorney to create a trust, instead of using a cheaper service. It helps make sure that your trust gets funded and will be effective when it is needed.

Reference: Times Herald-Record (May 31, 2018) "How to transfer assets to a trust." 

Michael Jackson Estate Sues Disney

The Michael Jackson estate has seen so much litigation that it should probably get bulk discounts for court and lawyer's fees. The latest litigation has the estate suing the Walt Disney Company. MP900387776

There might never have been a more contentious estate than that of Michael Jackson. Every few months, just when it seems things have died down, the estate is back in the news because it has been sued or is suing someone itself.

The latest case is over a documentary produced by the Walt Disney Company. In the documentary, footage of Jackson's children was used and short clips of two of his songs were also included. The estate claims this is copyright infringement and that Disney did not even ask permission to use the material.

Disney claims it did not need permission, because it was making a documentary. TMZ reported on this case in "Michael Jackson Estate Sues The Walt Disney Co. You've Got Balls For Exploiting MJ's Kids!!"

The estate does have a duty to protect any copyrights entrusted to it. If someone were to make a movie and use an entire Michael Jackson song in it, then the estate would need to file a lawsuit, if the song had been used without permission. However, in this case the estate might be a little overzealous.

Copyright does allow for the use of material without permission, if that use falls under the fair use doctrine. Doctrine normally does allow for short clips of material to be used and more material can be used, if it is done for educational purposes.

Reference: TMZ (May 30, 2018) "Michael Jackson Estate Sues The Walt Disney Co. You've Got Balls For Exploiting MJ's Kids!!"


What Your Kids Need to Know about Your Death

It is important that you talk to your children about what you want to happen, if you ever become terminally ill and what you want to happen, after you pass away Irish-handsMost parents dread the thought their children might become ill and pass away before the parents. No matter how old the child is when it happens, it is painful for parents to lose their children. However, the reverse seems normal.

That parents will pass away before their children, seems like the natural order of things. Because it seems so normal, it is not often discussed how painful this can be for the children, even adult children. Parents do not talk to their children about what they want to happen when they are ill or deceased. However, things would go a lot better if they did, as Forbes discusses in "Talking To Your Kids About Your Dying Wishes."

You can make things a lot easier for your children, by letting them know a few things. Talk to your kids about what you want to happen, if you are ever terminally ill and on life support. Children need to know whether you would like to stay on life support or not. Tell your children about what your funeral wishes are and if you have made any arrangements. It is also a good idea to talk to your children about what is supposed to happen to your property, after you pass away.

The more your children know what to expect, the less likely they are to fight between themselves. The conversation with your children does not need to be long or contentious. It is not a difficult conversation to have at all. They just need to have an idea about what you want to happen, so they are not surprised at the same time they are grieving over losing you.

Reference: Forbes (May 15, 2018) "Talking To Your Kids About Your Dying Wishes."

Suggested Key Words: Estate Planning, Elder Issues

Why You Need an Estate Planning Attorney

Why You Need an Estate Planning Attorney

MP900400337You might think that you do not need professional assistance for your estate plan because you know who you want to get what. There is more to estate planning than that.

It is actually easy to create an estate plan for yourself. You can simply write your own will, directing who should get what pieces of property.  If you execute that will properly with witnesses and signatures, your will can be probated.

If you are not certain that is the best idea and would like a little bit more help, download some prepared forms to fill out from an online service at a low cost. The ease of doing that might make you think that an estate planning attorney is not necessary.  However, there are other reasons to see an attorney, as the Huntsville Item points out in "Do you really need an estate planning attorney?"

Those other reasons include:

  • The estate planning attorney knows about property law and how different types of property are handled differently by courts. If you do not get this correct in your will, your estate can face difficulties.
  • There are different types of estate planning documents that do different things. Estate planning attorneys can help you pick the right ones for your unique circumstances.
  • Estate taxes are still a concern at the federal level for many people and in several states. A professional is needed to properly plan around them.
  • The attorney can also help craft your estate plan in a way that compliments your other financial goals, often including paying less in taxes.

Reference: The Huntsville Item (May 21, 2018) "Do you really need an estate planning attorney?"


Planned Giving

Giving-to-charity2One of the ways that you can leave a good legacy behind, is to provide money to charity in your estate plan.

Your worth is likely more than the sum total of your assets. You have worth that does not have any direct monetary value. Your capacity to like and love your friends and family cannot be given a monetary value, for example. However, in estate planning, it can often seem like the only thing you will have left at the time you pass away, are assets that have monetary value and need to be given to other people.

You cannot give away your capacity to love after death. However, that does not mean your other value has to be left out of your estate plan completely. You can use your estate plan for planned charitable giving, as the Nashua Telegraph discusses in "Planning to give and leaving a lasting legacy."

Planned giving is simply making provisions in your estate plan that a certain amount of money or a percentage of your estate's assets should be given to charity. It is a popular option for people. It is popular not only with the wealthy, but also with people of more modest means who want to leave something behind for good causes.

There are several different ways you can make charitable donations a part of your estate. Some are as simple as a few lines written into a will and others are for more complicated, including setting up special trusts for the purpose. An estate planning attorney can help you choose the best way to do so.

Reference: Nashua Telegraph (May 20, 2018) "Planning to give and leaving a lasting legacy."

Estate Planning, Wills, Trusts

What are Digital Assets?

It is important to include your digital assets in your estate plan.  However, you need to know what they are. Wi9yf7kTQxCNeY72cCY6_Images of Jenny Lace Plasticity Publish (4 of 25)

In the last few years, digital assets have received considerable attention in estate planning. There have been lawsuits filed over access to them, after someone passes away. There have also been legislative attempts to provide greater access to them for estate administrators.

Estate plans now almost have to include plans for what to do with digital assets. However,  many people are still confused about what digital assets even are. There are actually four different basic categories of digital assets people might need to consider, as the Xenia Daily Gazette points out in "Estate Planning and Digital Assets," including:

  • Things that exist only digitally but that have some monetary value. This can include things like domain names for websites and cryptocurrencies.
  • Another category includes digital accounts that provide access to things that have value in the real world. If you access your bank account online, the information about that access is a digital asset.
  • Another potential asset includes messages meant to communicate digitally with others, including emails or social media posts.
  • Finally, there is another category of digital assets that includes things like photos and videos stored digitally.

Reference: Xenia Daily Gazette (May 21, 2018) "Estate Planning and Digital Assets."


Your Executor Is Important

One of the simplest things that you can do to help prevent your estate from facing difficulties, is to make the right choice about who your executor should be. MP900309139

People who get wills, normally put a lot of thought into how they would like their property to be distributed after they pass away. It is very important to them, that their wishes are carried out and everything goes to the appropriate heirs. However, often relatively little thought is put into who should make sure it all happens.

The person in charge is the executor. Instead of thinking about whether the person they are choosing is the right person, many people just pick a close friend or relative. This can be a very big mistake, if the person does not know what they are doing, as Forbes points out in "Choosing an Executor for Your Estate."

The executor of your estate will have a lot of work to do. There are often important tax decisions that need to be made quickly. The executor needs to determine what assets you have at the time you pass away.  However, they cannot just give those assets to the people you want to have them.

First, they need to go to probate court and be officially appointed to administer the estate. They will then need to determine, if you had any debt when you passed away. That debt normally needs to be paid out of your assets, before any property can be distributed.

Your executor needs to be someone who not only has the time to serve in the capacity, but also can handle administrative and financial tasks well. Put some thought into this important decision.

Reference: Forbes (May 16, 2018) "Choosing an Executor for Your Estate."


Why You Need an Estate Plan

If you think that you do not need an estate plan because you do not have very many assets, then you do not understand that estate planning is not just about your property. Mac-glasses

There are millions of Americans who do not have very many assets that need to be distributed after they pass away. It is not the case that they are all poor. Many of them are just younger people who have not yet lived long enough to accumulate assets.

People often think they do not really need estate plans, if they are young and with limited assets. In some sense they are correct.  If people do not own any real estate and do not have any other valuable property, it will not be too difficult for their families to handle their estates. However, estate planning is about more than that, as the Times Herald-Record discusses in "Everyone can benefit from an estate plan."

Almost all estate plans today also include some legal documents that are traditionally considered elder law documents. Despite the term "elder law", even young people need these documents because they are really about planning for disability.

That is planning for the possibility that you could have an accident or illness that does not kill you.  However, it can leave you legally incapacitated, even if it is only on a temporary basis. These documents include a health care power of attorney, so someone else has the authority to make health care decisions on your behalf.  It also includes a general durable power of attorney, so someone else can handle your finances, if you are unable to do so.

Reference: Times Herald-Record (May 17, 2018) "Everyone can benefit from an estate plan."