Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

What Is the Fascination with Anthony Bourdain’s Estate Plan?

Last Will and Testament“Ever since his untimely death, the press and the public hasn’t been able to get enough of Anthony Bourdain. His name caused another commotion this week, when his will was probated in New York.”

There’s something about a rebel who lives life on his own terms that is like a magnet: it’s sometimes hard to turn away and that’s how many are responding to celebrity Anthony Bourdain’s passing, according to the Forbes’ article “How Anthony Bourdain’s Estate Plan Reflected the Two Most Important Parts of His Life.”

Reports that his net worth was only $1.2 million grabbed a lot of attention. It shouldn’t have surprised anyone, because Bourdain regularly said that until his 40s, he lived paycheck-to-paycheck. What’s really interesting from the estate planning perspective, is how he expressed his wishes in his will. The details became public because it was probated.

Bourdain made provisions for his only child, who will inherit the bulk of his wealth. He also seemed to have been influenced by the enormous amount of travel his career required. What is interesting is that he passed his frequent flyer miles to his estranged wife “to dispose of, in accordance to what she believes to be his wishes.”

Those who travel often and have large frequent flier miles, award points and perks, often overlook them as part of their estate plan. They are often valuable and should be addressed in estate planning.

However, passing along airline points is not as easy as filling out a beneficiary form. Each airline has their own policies, so you may have to fill out a form for each one. Loyalty programs are basically contracts with a company and you’ll need to read the fine print, since not all airlines allow their points to be assigned. The selection of beneficiaries also may be limited by the airline.

Bourdain’s very public profile makes it unlikely any airline would refuse to honor his request to transfer those points. Because he carefully documented his desire to leave his frequent flier miles to a specific beneficiary, it’s even more likely his points will transfer without too much fuss.

Bourdain is proof that even rebels make sure to put estate plans in place.

His will reflects his personality of authenticity and relentless curiously about the world around him. The final message he leaves us with, is to take care of those we love, even as we travel the globe.

Reference: Forbes (July 6, 2018) , “How Anthony Bourdain’s Estate Plan Reflected The Two Most Important Parts of His Life.”


Have These Documents Prepared for a Child Headed to College

man kissing a woman's cheek as she holds a gift“There are documents pertaining to health, money, and college records, that your child can sign to give you some peace of mind. Not all of these are required, but you may want to consider if you need them or not.”

There’s no end to what parents and grandparents can worry about, when their child or grandchild heads off to college. Will they make the right decisions, choose good friends and perform well in their studies? One thing you can do to help prepare your college-bound student, is to have certain legal documents prepared before they go, advises in the article “Legal Documents Your Child Needs to Sign Before Heading to College.”

Once your child turns 18, your access to their medical records ends, unless they complete a form called a HIPAA Authorization. Your child must sign the form to give you access to their records, appointments, test results, etc. If your child is going to a school out of state, you may need a state-specific form. Keep these documents in a safe place, where you can access them quickly, in case of an emergency.

Chances are your student is heading off to college with a debit card and a credit card.  However, do you have access to those accounts? Talk with your estate planning attorney about creating a Financial Power of Attorney form, so you don’t run into any roadblocks, if your child needs help handling their finances. Opening a bank account or having a credit card attached to your account makes it easier for you to transfer money to your student. It also makes it easier for you to keep a watchful eye on their spending. Make a copy of the front and back of all cards so you can easily report them if lost or stolen.

Colleges have a form known as FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), which you usually can obtain at some point during orientation. This is a document that gives you the legal right to your child’s academic and financial information through the college. Think of this as the college’s HIPAA law. It’s not the same, but it can create the same level of obstruction, if you do not address it in advance. With it in place, you’ll be able to discuss their finances with the bursar’s office, their grades with their academic advisor and many other offices in the college that will otherwise refuse to speak with you.

College is a transition time for both students and parents, as well grandparents. Having these documents properly prepared, with the help of an estate planning attorney, will give you some peace of mind, as your child leaves the nest.

Reference: (March 29, 2018) “Legal Documents Your Child Needs to Sign Before Heading to College.”



Why You Need an Estate Attorney

Th (2)When a loved one passes away, it is a good idea to get the assistance of an estate attorney, if for no other reason than to deal with all of the paperwork. 

The government has many things it is very particular about.  However, you are not likely to notice one of those things very much. That is that property all needs to be traceable to a particular owner or owners.

This is important to the government for tax purposes. However, as you do not generally get all your property at one time, it is not always that noticeable. It is not a lot of paperwork for most individual pieces of property.

When someone passes away, things change. Then there is a lot of property that needs to change ownership and there is a lot of paperwork that needs to be done at once, as U.S. News & World Report discusses in "How to Deal With the Paperwork Scramble After a Spouse Dies."

It is easy to get overwhelmed and make costly mistakes when there is that much paperwork to fill out and file in such a short period of time. Those mistakes require even more paperwork and time to fix. People who are grieving and who do not know all the things that need to be done, make these mistakes all the time.

There is a good way to avoid most mistakes. Hire an estate attorney who can help with the process. The attorney knows what needs to be done and has staff to help with the paperwork.

Reference: U.S. News & World Report (June 19, 2018) "How to Deal With the Paperwork Scramble After a Spouse Dies."


Dodging an Unpopular Tax Provision

MP900442233The recently passed federal tax overhaul limits deductions for state and local taxes to $10,000.  It has not been popular with those affected. Estate planning attorneys might have found a way around it.

The new tax laws that were passed in December of 2017 have been controversial. Some people are very happy with the changes.  However, most people have found something they do not like about them. One of the more controversial changes was that the itemized deduction for state and local taxes was limited to $10,000.

People who own expensive property in high tax states are not happy that as it will increase their taxes, in many cases. Initially, some state governments tried to figure out a way around the limit for their citizens, but the IRS shot most of those down. Some estate planning attorneys might have found a solution though, as Bloomberg reports in "How the Rich Can Dodge Trump's Property Tax Hike."

The idea is to first create an LLC in a non-tax state such as Delaware or Alaska. Real estate ownership is then transferred to the LLC. After that, several non-grantor trusts are created. Ownership of the LLC is then divided up and transferred to the new trusts. When tax time comes around, each non-grantor trust can take a $10,000 deduction for any property taxes that were paid by the LLC. Effectively, the new deduction limit can be rendered moot.  Ask your local estate planning attorney about this practice.

The IRS could issue a new regulation against this practice.  However, estate planners think it will work.

Reference: Bloomberg (June 15, 2018) "How the Rich Can Dodge Trump's Property Tax Hike."


Have Fun

MP900422370Staying both mentally and physically active has positive health benefits for elderly people.  However, many have forgotten how to do that in enjoyable ways.

If you go to any park or recreational center, you are likely to see a lot of young people enjoying themselves. Kids know how to play. It is not something they need to be taught to do normally.

It does not matter if their activities are structured playing a game with formal rules. Kids will simply find a way to have fun. However, when kids grow up and turn into adults their lives change. They often do not have the time to have a lot of fun. They must go to work. They must raise their children. They have other responsibilities.

When they retire, they have the time to have fun again. However, it is somewhat rare to see a group of elderly people at a park or rec center having fun. They have forgotten what they once knew how to do, as the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog discusses in "A Lost Skill Among the Elderly: How to Have Fun."

What this means for retired people is that a lot of them spend a lot of time watching television for hours and hours at a time. While some television viewing is not going to hurt anyone, research suggests that elderly people who are mentally and physically active see health benefits. It would be better for elderly people to spend less time in front of the television and more time having fun.

Of course, not all elderly people are physically capable of playing the same games they did as a child. However, there are other activities available for the elderly in most places. 

Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (June 13, 2018) "A Lost Skill Among the Elderly: How to Have Fun."


Social Security Can Be Fixed

MP900390083 (1) People who are opposed to the Social Security system claim that it is about to go broke and disappear soon. That is not true.

Social Security opponents and opponents of government spending in general, like to make the claim that Social Security is going to go broke or bankrupt. They then normally use this piece of information to get people to support cuts to Social Security benefits or increases to the age of retirement.

They are using  recent government reporst as ammunition to suggest that if something is not done, then Social Security will go broke in 2022. The problem is the claim is not true, as Forbes discusses in "Fake News: Why Social Security Isn't Going Broke."

Social Security currently takes in more money every year than it pays out in benefits. That has created a surplus in the Social Security Trust Fund. What will happen in 2022 is that, due to demographic changes, Social Security will start paying out more than it takes in. However, since there is a surplus, current benefits will not have to change. The surplus can be spent down. It will not run out until 2034. When that happens, Social Security will not disappear. Instead benefits will be cut slightly, as the program will only be able to pay out as much money as it takes in.

This means is that politicians have a lot of time to fix Social Security, if they are willing to do so. They do not need to raise the retirement age or cut benefits. They can also fix things by increasing funding for the program.

Reference: Forbes (June 18, 2018) "Fake News: Why Social Security Isn't Going Broke."


Estate Planning for the Separated

Two recent celebrity deaths highlight a potential issue in estate planning. What happens when a couple does not get divorced but separates amicably?

Couple annoyed with each otherThe recent deaths of fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain have elicited an outpouring of grief.  They both committed suicide, which came as a shock to friends, family and fans. However, they both also share something else in common.

At the time of their passing, they were both separated from their spouses. That highlights a peculiar issue in estate law as Forbes discusses in “Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain And Estate Planning When You Are Separated.”

If Spade and Bourdain had gotten divorces, then their spouses would not be entitled to any portion of their estates. If the spouses were included in the estate plan, they would be constructively written out by a court. However, that does not happen when a couple is separated.

The spouse of the deceased retains full rights to the estate. That means if there is no estate plan, the spouse will normally receive the entire estate through the laws of intestate succession. If there is an estate plan, then the spouse receives anything the plan says he or she gets. If the spouse does not receive enough of the total assets of the estate, then the spouse can elect to take his or her spousal elective share (the amount of which varies between states).

Of course, both Spade and Bourdain might have been perfectly fine with their spouses receiving their assets. They did after all choose not to divorce, but instead to separate.

Reference: Forbes (June 12, 2018) “Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain And Estate Planning When You Are Separated.”