Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

Blended Families and Trust

Bigstock-Large-Mixed-Race-Family-2589417_(2)[1]Trust can be a key aspect of whether blended families will fight over an estate, after a loved one passes away.

Blended families are often the ultimate source of problems in estate litigation. When there are children from multiple marriages and stepparents who all have a potential stake in an estate, fights over the estate are more likely to occur.  An estate planning attorney can help you find solutions for planning for blended families.

Those in blended families just have fewer bonds than more traditional families.

The Financial Times recently discussed this in an advice column titled “Should I trust my wife to divide my assets fairly?” A man who was on his second marriage wanted to make sure both of his children received an equal share of his estate. The children were each from a different marriage, so the man was concerned that his second wife might not leave the same amount of money to the child from his first marriage, if he left everything to her first.

The question almost begs the answer: well, if you must ask, then you have your answer.

That is not to say that stepparents can never be trusted to divide everything equally.  However, the real trust factor to be concerned about, is not the trust between the husband and wife. The real concern should be the trust between the stepparent and the stepchild. The better they get along and trust each other, the more likely they will work together without fighting over an estate.

It is normally best not to leave things up to trust. Estate planning attorneys can give you many different options for making sure everyone in your family is appropriately taken care of, regardless whether they trust each other.

Reference: Financial Times (Feb. 6, 2018) “Should I trust my wife to divide my assets fairly?


Assisted Reproduction and Technology

Bigstock-Extended-Family-Outside-Modern-13915094[1]Estate laws have not kept pace with all of the latest technological ways that help people have children today. That means that you should have an estate plan that covers them.

The average family today looks a lot different than just a few years ago. Many couples do not stay married for life today and not all of a couples’ children are biologically their own.

Americans today live in all sorts of blended families rearing children from multiple marriages.

Estate law has generally kept pace with these changes. However, it often requires careful estate planning.

In the past couple of decades, things have become even more complicated as medical science has developed new ways for people to have children through such things as surrogacies and frozen embryos.

The law has not kept pace with all of these developments, according to Private Wealth in “Yours, Mine, Ours And ‘ART’.”

When children become part of a family through technological means, it is not always clear what their legal inheritance rights are. Different states have different rules.

For example, if a child is born after someone passes away through implantation of a frozen embryo, should that child have a right to a portion of the estate of the deceased? The default answer is different in different states.

What this means is that people who have or who might have children with technological assistance, need to be sure their estate plans take the laws of their state into account. That makes it more important than ever to have the assistance of an estate planning attorney.

Reference: Private Wealth (Sep. 13, 2017) “Yours, Mine, Ours And ‘ART’

What Is Fair in Blended Families?

Bigstock-Large-Mixed-Race-Family-2589417_(2)[1]How to fairly divide an estate between multiple children, can be a difficult question to answer. It can get even more difficult, when the family is not a traditional one.

When people get remarried and they have children from a previous relationship, then their estate planning can get pretty complicated.

Consider for example, a man who has two homes and two daughters from a previous relationship getting remarried. This man decides to create a trust that leaves one of his homes to his two daughters, since that is the house in which they grew up in. The other home will go to his new wife.

That seems like an equitable solution.

However, the man and his new wife, then had a son and they also purchased a third home.

Now, the question becomes how do they make sure that all of the man's children are treated equally?

If any inheritance the new wife receives will eventually go to her son and he also receives a portion of his father's estate, then he will receive a larger inheritance than his step-sisters.

How to resolve this situation was the subject of a recent letter to Market Watch as reported in "How do I split my estate between my two stepdaughters and biological son?"

There is no single perfect solution to this situation that will work in all cases.

 It depends on how much the woman brought into the marriage and how old her step-daughters were at the time.

What will work for one family, will not work for another.

If the women brought few assets into the marriage, then the fair thing to do might be to give her a life estate in the property, but then divide that property up equally between all three children when she passes away.

If you have a blended family, then visit an estate planning attorney to learn about the options to deal with this type of situation for your family.

Reference: Market Watch (August 8, 2017) "How do I split my estate between my two stepdaughters and biological son?"


Fight Over Barry White’s Estate

  600x600barryWhen someone says that you should trust them to handle an estate and be fair to you, it is not usually a good idea to agree to that idea, without first seeing the estate plan so you know what you are supposed to receive.

Barry White passed away in 2003. To date, his estate has stayed out of the news.

For a celebrity estate it has been a smooth estate administration by all appearances. However, Darryl White, Barry's son, has now filed a lawsuit opening up the estate to public scrutiny.

Darryl claims that when his father passed away, his widow told Darryl that she would make sure he got his fair share of the estate, as long as he agreed not to challenge the estate. For his part, Darryl claims he never even saw his father's will to know what he was supposed to receive.

He received regular payments until 2015, when they suddenly stopped. He believes the money is now being wasted by his stepmother.

Darryl has filed suit and is demanding to see the will to know what it is he should be receiving.

TMZ reported on this story in "Barry White's Son Sues My Dad's Widow Can't Get Enough of His Dough."

In one sense, this is not an unusual story.

It is very common for children to have fights with a step-parent over an estate. On the other hand, this is an extremely unusual story.

It is not at all common for a child to trust the step-parent enough to agree to her terms, without at least seeing the estate plan and knowing what the child is supposed to inherit.

If nothing else, this case illustrates why it is an obviously bad idea for the child to agree to that.

Reference: TMZ (May 24, 2017) "Barry White's Son Sues My Dad's Widow Can't Get Enough of His Dough."


Just Living Together After 50

Bigstock-Senior-Couple-8161132[2]More and more elder Americans are choosing not to get married to their partners. Instead, they are just living together.

The trend over the last few decades has been for people to get remarried late in life. This has created  many issues for estate planning and the families of the people who do get remarried.

That trend is starting to reverse, but that does not mean people are not finding companionship in their retirement years.

Today, rather than getting married, many elderly people are just moving in together and foregoing a marriage certificate, according to The New York Times in "More Older Couples Are 'Shacking Up'."

While this might solve some problems, such as getting around the laws of intestate and spousal election to make sure that any assets go to the children and remain in the family, it does not solve all of the problems. Instead, it creates a different set of problems that need to be worked through in an estate plan.

If two elderly people are living together, it becomes important to create estate plans that do not leave one of them in a bad position when the other passes away.

You do not want to create a situation where a partner is unable to afford the rent after you pass away or gets kicked out of the property you own by your heirs.

These do not need to be major problems with proper estate planning, but they can be without that planning.

Reference: New York Times (May 8, 2017) "More Older Couples Are 'Shacking Up'."


Remarriage Planning

Bigstock-Senior-couple-standing-togethe-12052331[1]Before you get remarried late in your life you should do some estate planning.  Profit Law Firm has information on how you can do estate planning to protect everyone in your new blended family.

People who are at or near retirement age are getting remarried more often than ever before. Most elder advocates think it is a wonderful thing that people are finding love and comfort late in their lives.

However, there is a potential problem.

Not enough older people getting remarried are properly planning for what doing so will mean for their families and estates. Without proper planning things can quickly go awry as New Hampshire Magazine reports in “Navigating Late-Life Remarriage.”

The biggest problem is that people do not take the time to consider what a second marriage might mean for their children’s ability to receive an inheritance. Children from an earlier marriage can be left out of an estate entirely without planning.

By default, a person’s entire estate goes to a living spouse. It cannot be assumed that the spouse will make plans to leave anything inherited for stepchildren in his or her estate. There is no legal obligation for the spouse to do so and the law will not give the money to those children if the spouse passes away without an estate plan.

This, of course, does not mean that someone should not get remarried late in life. It just means that some planning needs to take place before doing so, in order to protect children.  P

Before getting remarried visit an estate planning attorney who can assist with the proper legal plans to make sure your children are protected.

Reference: New Hampshire Magazine (Dec. 2016) “Navigating Late-Life Remarriage.”


Step-Family Estate Planning

Bigstock-Extended-Family-Outside-Modern-13915094[1]One of the most difficult things to navigate with estate planning is dealing with blended families. If not done well, then the people you want to inherit your estate could be left out.

Americans are continuing to get divorced and remarried at a high rate. This has led to an increasing number of blended families where the spouses have children from previous marriages.

Despite this new reality the default estate laws have not kept up. They still reflect the general idea that people will get married only once in their lives. That means if you pass away without an estate plan, the laws of intestate succession will presume your spouse is also the parent of all your children.

In most states, the spouse will get everything, but the spouse will be under no legal obligation to pass anything on to his or her step-children.

The Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog recently wrote about this issue in "Estate Planning for your Step-Family."

When attempting to deal with step-families, it is vital that you have some sort of formal estate plan. At a minimum you need a will. Even better would be a more elaborate estate plan that specifically includes the names of everyone you consider to be in your family and precisely what you want them to inherit.

It should also include those people you do not consider a member of your family, such as former step-children.

If you have a blended family, you should see an estate planning attorney without delay to make sure the people you want to inherit your property are those who actually do.

Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (Oct. 7, 2016) "Estate Planning for your Step-Family."

Suggested Key Words: Estate Plan, Blended Family

Should Seniors Get Married?

Happy-old-couple[1]Getting married always comes with challenges and finances that needs to be worked out. This is especially true for people in their retirement years.

When people fall in love and decide that they want to get married, they often do not think of all of the financial consequences of their decision to wed. In the popular imagination this is something that young couples do all the time. They rush into a marriage without having first considered all of the financial implications.

However, elder law experts point out that the tendency does not go away with age.

Senior citizens are just as likely to get married without thinking everything through. That can be a problem, because seniors have more they need to think about than younger people as the Hartford Courant reports in “Fit To Be Tied? Think Twice About Marriage In Your Golden Years.”

Senior citizens considering getting married need to think about how marriage will affect all of their other plans, including retirement and estate plans. For example, a retired person might think his well-crafted estate plan to leave his assets to his children is solid and that a new wife with assets of her own will not affect those plans.  Under the law, in Maryland and DC, however, a spouse is given inheritance rights.  Therefore a retired person should contact a Maryland estate plannning attorney to review options to protect his children and the new spouse.  There are several trusts that protect a spouse during life, while leaving the underlying assets to children from a prior marriage.  Call Profit Law Firm, for consultation to find an option that works for your family.

In reality, it is almost impossible to cut a spouse out of an estate plan entirely. Consequently, whether or not the couple intends it, the new spouse is likely to inherit something without very careful planning. An estate planning

That is not to say senior citizens should never get married. They just need to think about it and visit an elder law attorney familiar with estate planning to learn about all the implications and what can be done about them.

Reference: Hartford Courant (Sept. 24, 2016) “Fit To Be Tied? Think Twice About Marriage In Your Golden Years.”