Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

Cloning and Estate Planning

MP900262644As far as anyone knows, there are not any clones of humans walking around yet.  However, it might soon be possible. That could have some interesting effects on estate planning.

The idea of cloning humans has been a science fiction staple for a long time. The original premise was that an exact genetic match could be made with all of the knowledge, memories and personality of the original human reproduced in the clone.

The reproduction of things learned after birth is not likely anytime soon, so an almost identical genetic clone might be far off. America recently learned that Barbra Streisand had successfully cloned one of her dogs twice as The New York Times reported in "Barbra Streisand Cloned Her Dog. For $50,000 You Can Clone Yours."

It is likely that some scientist somewhere will set aside ethical concerns and figure out how to clone humans. That could have a profound impact on estate planning. There is currently no legal status for clones.

Someday, the laws of intestate succession may need to determine whether clones have an equal or greater or lesser priority than children. It also might make a difference when and by whom the clone was made.  

Science has never had a major impact on estate planning. The possibility of cloning and the possibility of “eternal life” that other researchers are working on could soon change things.

Reference: New York Times (Feb. 28, 2018) "Barbra Streisand Cloned Her Dog. For $50,000 You Can Clone Yours."


A Big Myth Concerning Trusts

Wills-trusts-and-estates-covered[1]If you do too much reading online about the difference between wills and trusts, then you are likely to think of the two as something that you have one or the other. That is a myth.

One of the key concerns for people planning their estates today, is whether they should use a will or a trust. Everyone seems to have an opinion about which one of the two main estate planning vehicles is better for general purposes. The two are often discussed, as if they are oppositional.

If you do some research and decide you want to get a trust, then you might go to an online service, pay a fee and download a form to create a trust. The problem? Getting a trust does not mean you should not get a will. You still need a will, as Lake County News discusses in "The difference between a trust and a will."

It is likely that when you pass away you will have some assets that for one reason or another were never put into your trust. Those assets will need to be distributed by your estate and often under the guidance of the probate court. You need a will so what you want done with those assets can be done.

Often that will is only a “pour-over will” that directs that everything should be transferred to your trust. However, there are other things you might also need to accomplish with a will, such as directing who should be appointed as a proper guardian for your minor children. You also might have some assets you do not want to go through a trust for other reasons, for which a will would be appropriate.

The best way to make sure you have all the documents you need in your estate plan, is to hire an estate planning attorney to draft your plan.

Reference: Lake County News (Feb. 24, 2018) "The difference between a trust and a will."


Do Your Estate Plan Now

If you are wondering when you should do your estate planning, the best answer that you can get is that you should do it as soon as you possibly can. MP900442327[1]

One of the many things people wonder about when it comes to estate planning, is when they should plan for their own estates. People often think the best time for estate planning, is after some particular life event happens.

They wonder if that means they should do it after they get their first job, after they get married, after they have their first child, after they make a certain amount of money, after they retire or after something else. The truth is that estate planning should be done after any of those events.  It is best not to wait for any particular event to get started.

You will always be better off with a plan, than without one, as points out in “Estate Planning: better done sooner rather than later.”

You never know when you will need to have an estate plan. You cannot guarantee you will only pass away after you have lived long enough to experience any specific big life-changing event. We all know that life and death does not work that way. Waiting for something specific to happen in your life before getting an estate plan, does not make sense.

It always makes good sense to have an estate plan. Having one will leave your heirs better off after you pass away, no matter how many assets you have or at what stage of life.

Do not wait for something to happen to get an estate plan. Visit an estate planning attorney and get one now.

Reference: (Feb. 9, 2018) “Estate Planning: better done sooner rather than later.”


Trusts May Be The Answer: When Minors are Your Heirs

Bigstock-Extended-Family-Outside-Modern-13915094[1]If you think it is likely your heirs will be minors would when you pass away, it is best to do so differently than you would leave assets for adults.

If you have minor children, grandchildren or other relatives you want to include in your estate plan you should do so, because if you leave assets only to their parents, they might spend everything before the minors can inherit it.

You could also simply write provisions in your will, so the minors receive certain assets or a portion of your estate. However, that does not work in the same way leaving assets in a will to adults does.  The probate court will have to hold hearings and determine who the best adult is to be in charge of handling those assets on behalf of the minors, until they come of age.

This can be inefficient and, unless you have left special instructions in the will, the person appointed by the court might not be the same person you would have appointed. There is a better way to leave assets to minors as the Times Herald-Record discussed in “Proper legal planning for minor beneficiaries.”

The better option is to create a trust and to fund the trust with the assets you would like to leave for the minors. You can appoint a trustee of your own choosing to administer the assets for the benefit of the minors. You also can leave instructions about how and when the assets are to be distributed for the children. That does not have to be the moment they reach the age of majority.

If you would like to leave part of your estate to minors, then talk to an estate planning attorney about creating a trust to do so.

Reference: Times Herald-Record (Feb. 1, 2018) “Proper legal planning for minor beneficiaries.”

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

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."


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."


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."