Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

“To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before”: The Gene Roddenberry Estate Plan

Mr. Spock and Captain KirkGene Roddenberry, the creator of the beloved series, Star Trek, had the intuition of a creative mastermind. Although he passed away back in 1991, his legacy lives on. A normal burial was exactly the opposite of what Roddenberry imagined. The celestial burial is exactly what he wanted, which was not normal whatsoever. His wishes, however, were carried out by his wife Mrs. Majel Barrett Roddenberry in 1997 when a portion of his cremated ashes were shipped in a space capsule by Celestis Incorporated, which specializes in memorial spaceflights.

Creating A Living Trust definitely played a huge roll in being able to carry out this task. Even though Roddenberry defined the odds by having his remains float in orbit around earth, he was able to make sure that his estate plan was updated with that new change. By channeling what he really wanted, Roddenberry’s legacy- having a “space burial” continues even today. Astronauts, school teachers, James Doohan(Scotty), and his wife Majel Barrett (Nurse Chapel) all had their wishes fulfilled: a space burial. By creating a living will, your wishes can be fulfilled as long as a trust is established so you can avoid probate court.

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.

Women Living Longer but Saving Less

Woman sitting looking out a window

“All working Americans need retirement savings, regardless of gender.  However, the need is particularly strong for women, since they have a tendency to live longer than their male counterparts. Therefore, they’re also more likely to require paid care at some point—since a spouse may not be around to provide care.”

Women have a statistically longer lifespan than men. It’s unsettling to learn that women save about half as much as men for retirement. This disparity could put women in a very bad position, when they are most vulnerable late in their lives, says The Motley Fool in its article “Why Are Women Only Saving Half as Much as Men for Retirement?”

When queried about why they think it is so difficult for women to save for retirement, most woman honestly said they are living from one paycheck to the next, with little to spare for savings. They are also paying back student loans. Men say much the same thing, so why is the average female saver saving so much less for her future?

In a recent Student Loan Hero study, women admit that they don’t know a lot about investment and retirement planning. Women are also more likely to take breaks in their careers to be caregivers, raising children and taking care of aging parents. This reduces their earnings. While some wage equity has been achieved and even made into law, most women do not earn the same as their male counterparts. Therefore, women face special challenges to their retirement savings.

What can be done to address the gap?

  • Start by examining your budget and cutting unnecessary expenses.
  • Make sure to maximize your employer’s 401(k) match.
  • Fight for raises throughout your career. To gain more info on what your position is worth, use websites like Glassdoor’s “Know Your Worth” tool to compare salary data.
  • Consider changing your investment approach. If you have steered clear of stocks over conservative vehicles like bonds, they may be a good way to catch up.

Finally, don’t forget that retirement includes estate planning. Sit down with an experienced estate planning attorney, who can help you prepare the necessary documents to protect you and your family. Make planning for retirement a priority. Your future self will appreciate it!

Reference: The Motley Fool (June 3, 2018) “Why Are Women Only Saving Half as Much as Men for Retirement?”


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.”


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."


Real Estate Should Be Put in a Trust

MP900442456In most cases, real estate has to go through the probate process after the owner passes away. That can be avoided. There is a good way and a bad way to do so.

Many Americans could avoid having their estates go through probate, if they did not own their homes. For many people, their home is their most valuable asset. Without the home, their estate would be small enough to avoid probate.

In most places, all real estate must go through probate after the owners pass away.  Otherwise, the deed will not be properly changed and recorded. Some people seek to avoid this problem by adding someone else’s name to their deed before they pass away. This is usually a child or maybe a grandchild, but it is almost always a bad idea.

The Daily Republic discussed this matter in “All Things Real Estate: Living trust best way to pass house to children.”

Among other problems, adding someone’s name to your real estate deed makes it available to that person’s creditors. That sometimes does not become a problem.  However, when it does, it is normally a big one.

A much better way to avoid having real estate go through probate, is to create a revocable living trust. The real estate can be transferred to the trust and will not have to go through probate, after the owner passes away.

If you would like to create a trust for your home, contact an estate planning attorney about it and other probate avoidance ideas.

Reference: Daily Republic (March 3, 2018) “All Things Real Estate: Living trust best way to pass house to children.”


IRA Inheritance Options

Bigstock-Senior-Couple-8161132Deciding who should inherit your retirement account is an important part of estate planning. You have several options that are available.

When many people pass away, they will still have a lot of money in their individual retirement accounts for a beneficiary to inherit. It is important to decide who that beneficiary will be, in a way that fits your overall estate plan.  Contact an estate planning attorney to figure this out.

The IRA can be used to balance out other bequests and can be used to enhance other estate planning goals. Depending on what you decide to do, there are various tax implications, which Morningstar recently discussed in “Who Should Inherit Your IRA?

Options include:

  • Spouse – If your spouse is the beneficiary, he or she can roll your IRA into their own. However, it might not make sense to designate a spouse, if they are nearing the age of having to take required minimum distributions and will not need the money.
  • Child or Grandchild – If they inherit the IRA, then they can stretch the benefits out over their own lifetimes. However, as a practical matter, few do so because they need the money.
  • Charity – Your estate can get a tax deduction, if you leave your IRA to a charity. It can be complicated, so get expert advice before filing out a beneficiary designation form.
  • Your estate – There is not much benefit to naming your estate as the beneficiary. However, if you cannot decide on another option, you can do so.
  • A trust – Ordinarily, there is no benefit to leaving your IRA to a trust. However, if the beneficiary would otherwise be a minor child or unable to manage their finances, it might be necessary to do so.

Reference: Morningstar (March 2, 2018) “Who Should Inherit Your IRA?



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."