Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

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?”

 

Michael Jackson Estate Sues Disney

The Michael Jackson estate has seen so much litigation that it should probably get bulk discounts for court and lawyer's fees. The latest litigation has the estate suing the Walt Disney Company. MP900387776

There might never have been a more contentious estate than that of Michael Jackson. Every few months, just when it seems things have died down, the estate is back in the news because it has been sued or is suing someone itself.

The latest case is over a documentary produced by the Walt Disney Company. In the documentary, footage of Jackson's children was used and short clips of two of his songs were also included. The estate claims this is copyright infringement and that Disney did not even ask permission to use the material.

Disney claims it did not need permission, because it was making a documentary. TMZ reported on this case in "Michael Jackson Estate Sues The Walt Disney Co. You've Got Balls For Exploiting MJ's Kids!!"

The estate does have a duty to protect any copyrights entrusted to it. If someone were to make a movie and use an entire Michael Jackson song in it, then the estate would need to file a lawsuit, if the song had been used without permission. However, in this case the estate might be a little overzealous.

Copyright does allow for the use of material without permission, if that use falls under the fair use doctrine. Doctrine normally does allow for short clips of material to be used and more material can be used, if it is done for educational purposes.

Reference: TMZ (May 30, 2018) "Michael Jackson Estate Sues The Walt Disney Co. You've Got Balls For Exploiting MJ's Kids!!"

 

Joint Tenancy Is a Bad Idea

Bigstock-Elder-Couple-With-Bills-3557267Adding a child as the joint tenant of your home to avoid probate is always a very bad idea.

Some bad ideas in estate planning never seem to go away. No matter how many times estate planning attorneys try to tell people that the ideas are bad, people continue to make the same mistakes.

One common mistake is when people try to do their own estate planning to get around probate. For example, a widow may add an adult child as a joint tenant on the deed to her home. While it is true that if all goes according to plan, the child will inherit the house after his mother passes away without the need for probate. This approach can be a bad idea.

Why? Normally, the trouble comes because the child has a creditor who can attach the home to pay off the child’s debts.  However, there are other potential issues, as was recently discussed in the Napa Valley Register in "Can new wife inherit home?"

In this case, a married couple added their daughter to the deed as a joint tenant. The wife passed away, which made the father and daughter co-owners of the home. The father then remarried to a much younger woman.

The daughter refused to give up ownership and allow for a new deed allowing the new wife to inherit the home. When the father passes away, the daughter will inherit the home and be free to throw the new wife out if she wants.

Instead of looking for ways to avoid probate on your own, go to an estate planning attorney for assistance. The attorney can give you better ways to accomplish your goals and help you avoid these types of problems.

Reference: Napa Valley Register (April 5, 2018) "Can new wife inherit home?"

 

Tell Someone about Your Advanced Medical Directives

MP900448483If you have a health care power of attorney and living will, you should make sure that someone you trust knows where to find them.

It is very easy to get advanced medical directives today. You can often get living wills and health care powers of attorney as part of the process of admission to a hospital. If you tell a doctor about your wishes, it is often good enough for the doctor to make a note of them in his or her notes. However, getting those documents at a hospital or by telling a doctor can be a problem.

The system of medical records used in the U.S. does not make it easy for doctors to know that you have expressed your wishes ahead of time, especially when they actually need the information as The New York Times reports in "You've Detailed Your Last Wishes, but Doctors May Not See Them."

There is a potential way to mitigate the possibility that this problem will happen to you. Get your living will and your health care power of attorney ahead of time, by going to an estate planning attorney. These documents are routinely created as part of the estate planning process.

Once you have created the documents, you should store them in a secure place.  However, do not stop there. Make sure that someone you trust knows where to find the documents. That person can then get them when needed, to the doctors providing care for you.

This is not a perfect plan that will work all of the time, but it is better than relying on the current system of medical records.

Reference: New York Times (March 27, 2018) "You've Detailed Your Last Wishes, but Doctors May Not See Them."

 

Digital Asset Availability Limitations

MP900442500Gaining access to the digital accounts of deceased loved ones is slowly becoming easier. That means that people need to think about what type of access they want to grant as part of their estate planning.

Even just a few years ago, it was almost impossible to gain access to the digital accounts of the deceased. Even when ordered to allow access by judges, tech companies would point to their terms of service and deny that access. This created many problems for families and estate administrators who needed access to those accounts for a variety of reasons.  In Maryland, the legislature passed a law which became effective on October 1, 2016.  The law allows Maryland residents to name a fiduciary, during incapacity and upon death, to access the resident's online accounts. DC has not yet enacted such legislation.  For details on how to manage your digital assets, see an estate attorney.

In response to this problem, state legislators have slowly been passing new laws to gain access to digital accounts.  As a result, some tech companies are beginning to change their policies to account for this. However, when it comes to your estate planning, do you want someone to have access to your digital accounts after you pass away? If yes, for how long should they have that access?

This subject was recently considered by the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog in "Digital Assets Estate Planning — Alternatives to Perpetual Access."

The problem? The longer a digital account remains open without someone monitoring it, the more likely it is to be hacked by someone who can use the information in it for criminal, fraudulent or other nefarious purposes. Cases of this happening are becoming much more frequent. It sometimes means that estate administrators must deal with all of the problems associated with identity theft in addition to their more traditional duties.

Given these potential abuses, you might want to direct in your estate planning that your accounts be closed completely, after the period of time necessary to wrap up your affairs.

Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (April 6, 2018) "Digital Assets Estate Planning — Alternatives to Perpetual Access."

 

The Process of Getting a Will

Extended Family SmilingIf you do not have a will, you should know that the process of creating one is not difficult in most cases.

People who do not have estate plans, often think that the process of getting one can be more difficult than it normally is. It is not difficult to get that false impression, if you start doing some digging online.

You will be confronted with unfamiliar terminology and 10 to 15 step plans that can make estate planning seem very time-consuming. You can also find some online form companies that tell you that purchasing their products make creating an estate plan easy. However, once you start reading their documentation, it might all look difficult again because you do not know the finer legal details of estate planning.

The truth? Estate planning does not have to be that difficult to accomplish, as The New York Times discusses in “What It Was Like To Finally Write My Will.”

The author of the piece discovered that creating his will was not very difficult at all. The key thing that he did was to get a recommendation for an attorney from a friend. He then went to that attorney and told the attorney what he wanted to do.

The attorney discussed the options and the author was able to work with the attorney to determine what the best plan would be for his unique circumstances. The attorney then wrote the plan down formally and the author just needed to go back to the attorney’s office a few weeks later, to formally sign the will and everything was done.

Most people will find that estate planning is just that simple when they also choose an appropriate estate planning attorney.

Reference: New York Times (April 3, 2018) “What It Was Like To Finally Write My Will.”

 

Who Really Needs an Estate Plan?

children in a circle holding handsIf you were to survey people about who most needs an estate plan, the most popular answer would likely be incorrect. People think that the wealthy need estate plans the most.  However, that is not true. Parents with minor children need them more.   Planning for young families is critical to protect loved ones.

One of the fascinating things about estate planning is how it is perceived by average Americans. When you talk to people about it, they often think of estate plans as a way for rich people to determine who gets their property when they pass away. That is a big part of it but it is not the only reason for estate planning. In fact, the wealthy benefit from planning more than other people, only if you think that money is the most important thing people have to protect and preserve.

Most people think protecting their children is more important than money. That is why parents with minor children have more reasons to plan their estates than wealthy single people, as Volume One points out in “When There’s a Will.”

When parents of minor children plan their estates, they accomplish two very important tasks. First, they figure out how their children’s expenses will be met. Parents who thoughtfully prepare their estate plans can decide who will handle their assets for the benefit of their children and how that will be done. Even more importantly, they can decide who will take care of their children, should they be orphaned.

An estate plan is the only means by which parents have a say regarding who should be appointed as the guardian of their minor children, if anything happens to the parents.

If you have minor children, talk to an estate planning attorney, so you can make sure they are taken care of if the worst happens.

Reference: Volume One (March 7, 2018 ) “When There’s a Will.”

 

Advice for Widows and Widowers

MP900442402It is not easy losing a spouse.  However, widows and widowers do not have to let dealing with financial issues overwhelm them.

When people anticipate that their spouse will pass away, they often have a very difficult time handling everything afterwards. The grief that comes with the loss can make other things seem overwhelming, even for those people who have thought ahead and made careful plans. Things are also much worse when a spouse passes away unexpectedly.

If the deceased spouse was the one who handled most of the financial issues for the couple, things can get even more difficult. However, widows and widowers should not let financial issues bother them too much, as the Green Bay Press Gazette explains in “Financial planning tips for navigating loss of a loved one.”

The truth is that most financial decisions are not nearly as urgent or important as they are often made out to be. Widows and widowers do not have to make any financial decisions, until they are forced to do so. They should not make those decisions before. They should put off as much as they can, until they have had a chance to properly mourn the loss of a spouse.

Financial decisions do not have to be made alone either. If an attorney is helping with the estate administration, the attorney can make sure that all necessary estate financial matters are taken care of and suggest a professional to help with other things.

Things do go much better for widows and widowers, when the deceased spouse has made proper estate planning arrangements. Having an estate plan will greatly help your spouse, if something happens to you. Learn about the fundamentals of estate planning for Profit Law Firm.

Reference: Green Bay Press Gazette (March 9, 2018) “Financial planning tips for navigating loss of a loved one.”

 

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."

 

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."