Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

Sonny Bono’s Estate Plan

Sonny and Cher“I’ve got you babe.” Those were the words that the beloved Sonny Bono said to Cher in 1965, 33 years before his tragic death in 1998 from a ski accident. Salvatore “Sonny” Bono was a comedian, a father, a singer, and also a congressman who appealed to to the younger generations as a figure of American singer- songwriters. His fame skyrocketed after he married his second wife, Cher in 1964 and produced a show, “The Sonny and Cher Show,” which featured even their own daughter Chaz(Formerly: Chastity) Bono, who is now a man.

Along with his career, his death also sparked some difficulty. Since he died without a will, his estate was even up for grabs, even for his second wife Cher. Cher sued Sonny’s fourth wife, Mary Bono, and the estate for $1.6 million dollars that was in unpaid alimony. That money consisted of: $25,000 per month for six months, $1,500 per month for child support, and $41,000 in attorney fees. Whether or not Cher collected this money is up for debate even to this day.

By not creating his will, Sonny’s legacy suffered drastically. It was all filled with legal fees and like before it is now up for grabs. Don’t make the same mistake that Sonny did. Create an estate plan.

Michelle Profit is an estate planning attorney serving Maryland and the District of Columbia. A Harvard Law School graduate, she has worked in the financial services industry for over 20 years. A dedicated advocate for all of her clients, Michelle Q. Profit personally handles each client case from start to finish to meet the client’s needs and objectives. Michelle listens in the consultation sessions and works with any other client accountants or financial planners to create a comprehensive estate plan.


Hidden Costs of Probate

MP900407553People will often go to great lengths to make sure that their estates do not have to go through probate. They often fail to take little steps and find themselves in probate unnecessarily for other reasons.

Probate is often thought of as something that happens after a person passes away. If a person has not planned to avoid probate, then the estate must go through probate for administration before any assets can be distributed to heirs. What many people do not realize, is that probate courts handle more things than just wills.

Consider the case of one elderly couple in Arizona. The wife suffers from dementia. She had a modest retirement account of $25,000. Her husband wanted to withdraw funds from the account to pay her medical bills. Before he could do that, he had to go through probate court to be appointed his wife's guardian and conservator. In the process, he incurred $6,000 in attorney's fees as WLTX19 reports in "Man spends thousands in probate costs to help wife with dementia."

This unfortunate situation can often be avoided. Estate planning attorneys do more than just help their clients' estates avoid probate, after the clients pass away. They also help people plan for end-of-life care and what will happen should they ever become incapacitated and can no longer look after their own affairs.

If you have not planned for this, then visit an estate planning attorney and ask about a general durable power of attorney. That document will let you appoint someone to look after your finances, if you become unable to do so.

Reference: WLTX19 (Feb. 15, 2018) "Man spends thousands in probate costs to help wife with dementia."

Planning for Accident or Illness

MP900314367It is impossible to know whether you will ever have an accident or have an illness that will leave you incapacitated.  However, you can easily plan for dealing with it should it happen.

Most people generally understand that the older they get, the more likely they are to suffer from cognitive decline because of Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia. As people get older, they often begin to prepare for what will happen if their time comes and they become incapacitated.

What people do not think about is that elder dementia is not the only way people can become incapacitated. There are no age requirements for disabling accidents or illnesses. Everyone, no matter their age, should plan for what would happen if they are incapacitated. It is not difficult to do, as TC Palm discusses in "Be as prepared as you can by planning for incapacity."

To get started, schedule an appointment with an estate planning attorney. The attorney can prepare the necessary documents for incapacity.

You will need a general durable power of attorney, so someone else has the authority to handle your day-to-day finances. A health care power of attorney will allow someone else to make your health care decisions. A living will lets you decide ahead of time what medical means can be taken to prolong your life.

Consider taking another step at the attorney’s office and get an estate plan, just in case an accident or illness does more than incapacitate you.  A thorough estate plan prepares you and your loved ones for illness and death.

Reference: TC Palm (Feb. 20, 2018) "Be as prepared as you can by planning for incapacity."


Incapacity Planning

MP900442500[1]It is important that you make plans for what will happen to your family and your possessions after you pass away. It is also important to plan for what will happen to them, if you are incapacitated.

You might be aware that you need a will or a trust, so you can make sure your family is taken care of after you pass away. Getting a will or trust also lets you determine what happens to your property after you pass away.

If you have not done so, you really should see an estate planning attorney to get a will or trust as soon as possible, just in case.

While you are at the attorney's office, you should also get plans for what might happen if you become incapacitated, as the Times Herald-Record discusses in "Make plans in case you are incapacitated."

The issue is that if you are incapacitated, someone else needs the legal authority to act on your behalf.

Someone will need to be able to handle your bills and to make medical decisions for you, should it be necessary.

If you do not plan ahead, it can be a difficult process for someone else to get the legal authority.

Someone will have to hire an attorney and go to court to get a judge's permission to act as your guardian.

Fortunately, planning for what will happen if you become incapacitated is not difficult.

You just need a general durable power of attorney and a health care power of attorney.

The estate planning attorney can prepare both of them for you.

Reference: Times Herald-Record (Dec. 12, 2017) "Make plans in case you are incapacitated."


Last Minute Estate Planning

If you have avoided getting an estate plan and are now facing the prospect of death, it might not be too late for you to get a Maryland estate plan that protects the interests of your family.

Ideally, you should get an estate plan long before you become terminally ill. However, not everyone really thinks about the prospect of their own death until it is imminent and that is somewhat understandable. When faced with the prospect of death do not assume you do not still have time to get an estate plan.

There is still be time to do some planning to help your family, consult Profit Law Firm to find out how.

Recently, NASDAQ listed some estate planning tips for people in that situation in “6 Estate Planning Tips for Those Approaching Death,” including:

  • Make sure to get powers of attorney in place so when you become incapacitated someone else will be legally able to handle your affairs.
  • Come up with a plan for your estate to avoid probate with the help of a Maryland estate planning attorney and make sure all of your assets are titled appropriately.
  • You may want to consider swapping assets for capital gains tax purposes, but only do so after talking to your attorney to make sure you do everything correctly.
  • It might be a good time to make donations to charities you support.
  • Review any life insurance policies you have to make sure the beneficiary designations are still appropriate.
  • Talk to your attorney about the best strategies to avoid income and estate taxes for your family. This could include avoiding income in respect of decedent issues.

Reference: NASDAQ (July 26, 2016) “6 Estate Planning Tips for Those Approaching Death,”


Estate Planning Documents You Need

Attractive Mixed Race Couple SmilingEveryone needs an estate plan, and every estate plan will contain a mix of different documents depending on the complexity of the estate assets and individual preferences. However, there are a few documents that everyone needs.

Estate plans come in all shapes and sizes. Some are extraordinarily complex and contain thousands of pages of legal documents. Other estate plans contain only a few basic documents. One of the interesting things about estate plans is the documents that make up the simplest estate plans are also part of the most advanced plans. These documents are the basic framework of estate plans. The Chicago Tribune recently discussed what these basic documents are in “Documents you need before you die or become incapacitated.” They include:

  • Will – At its core a will is simply a legal document that declares how a deceased person’s property that is not disposed of by any other legal means should be handled.
  • General Durable Power of Attorney – A standard document that allows a person to determine who should handle his or her finances in case of incapacity.
  • Health Care Power of Attorney – Similar to the other power of attorney, but it allows for someone else to make medical decisions for an incapacitated person.
  • Living Will – Gives prior instructions to medical personnel about what means should be used to prolong a person’s life in the event that the person is terminally ill with no chance of recovery and unable to give instructions at the time.

Meet with an estate planning attorney at Profit Law Firm, PLLC to determine what additional documents you may need.

Reference: Chicago Tribune (July 25, 2016) “Documents you need before you die or become incapacitated