Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

Creating A Good Estate Plan

Dose-media-424257-unsplashMany people these days wonder about what do I need to do before I die and what is the process. Well, the answer to those questions is: Create an Estate Plan. By creating an estate plan, it helps open up the options about money distribution in a will or trust to the heirs of your inheritance. In fact, there are 12 easy steps to follow in order to make sure that your estate plan can go smoothly without having the risk of going to probate court.

 

  1. Create a Will
  2. Consider creating a trust
  3. Make Health Care Derivatives
  4. Make A Financial Power of Attorney
  5. Protect your children’s property
  6. File Beneficiary Forms
  7. Consider having Life Insurance in place
  8. Understand any estate taxes that will be made
  9. Make sure the funeral expenses are covered
  10. Make the final arrangements
  11. Protect your business
  12. Make sure your documents are stored in a secure place

By following these steps, your estate plan will be carried out smoothly and successfully without any further negotiations. If you don’t create an estate plan, your future heirs would need to go to probate court to negotiate over your inheritance which is not good at all. Avoid going to probate court and create an estate plan today!

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.

Princess Diana’s Estate Plan

9aa3f79b8231f3c510cf05d1b718abbf“Family is the most important thing in the world.” Diana, Princess of Wales, was the most beloved soul that left the world too soon. When Princess Diana died on August 31, 1997, the whole world mourned because their queen was gone and her legacy of social work was cut way too short thanks to the paparazzi. Unfortunately, Lady Diana Spencer’s failure to have a proper estate plan came into play 17 years after her death.

Along with creating a will, Diana had created a Letter of Wishes. That letter contained the fact that ¾  of her jewelry and prize possessions were to be given to her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry and the ¼ would be given to her 17 godchildren. Unfortunately, this letter was not recognized and her godchildren only received one item of Diana’s estate. This letter went undisclosed for several years until it was revealed due to the outrage of the parents of the godchildren who were supposed to receive the ¼ of Diana’s estate.

According to the executors of her estate, they had filed a “variance” after her death which was supposed to distribute the money to her sons until they turned 30 which of course did not occur.

In Diana’s case, Personal Property that is valuable and important should be directly in a will or trust. Not a letter. If Diana had done this in her estate plan, there would be no questions about what the deceased individual wanted. Also, there would have been no variances. Even though Diana was the beloved princess of the world, by making the mistakes and causing much havoc in her family, her estate plan ended up in turmoil.

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.

 

 

 

Sonny Bono’s Estate Plan

“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.

 

How Michael Jackson’s Estate Plan Was A Success

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson, the King of Pop culture, not only left behind a legacy; he also left behind a great estate plan. He made the sensible choice unlike Prince, Aretha Franklin, and Whitney Houston. With the help of his chief executor of his estate both his entertainment attorney John Branca and his music executive John McClain, he left an estimated over $500 million value of assets to his heirs. By having this money, his heirs, under Jackson’s will, will be protected.

In order for him to create this smart and sensible estate plan, he had to follow the steps which include: Creating A Living Trust, Naming A Guardian, and Assembling A Good Estate Plan. By Creating A Living Trust, it spared his heirs the ongoing and prolonged legal process of transferring assets through probate court. By Naming A Guardian, he chose who would care for his minor children. By Assembling A Good Estate Plan, he was able to make sure his heirs got what they wanted.

According to a close correspondent to the King of Pop, “He put two people in charge of the will and trust who he felt were sage, mature, and had a great deal of expertise in how to handle what are probably considerable assets. He couldn’t have put his estate in a better position.” With these steps, you will be able to achieve what Michael Jackson did, which is a “Good Estate Plan.” Overall, the bottom line is that Estate Planning is important and you should have one in place, just like Michael Jackson did. It will serve you well in the future and protect your future heirs.

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.

John Lennon’s Estate Plan

John Lennon, a beloved songwriter and singer from the band The Beatles’, was murdered tragically at the age of 40 in 1980. John Lennon always had the motivation to change the world and to imagine a life without destruction. With the backup support from his wife, Yoko Ono, Lennon became a voice for the people of the world. Instead of naturally giving his son Julian full control over his estate like he did at first, Yoko Ono got full control over Lennon’s original song rights and his image. Unfortunately, Lennon’s estate plan became sad just like a ballad due to his son Julian’s fury over his estate. Sixteen years after Lennon had passed away, Julian sued Ono for a larger part of his father’s estate. Eventually, it was settled completely in 1996 and Julian received 20 million in English pounds after the long and limitless legal battle versus Yoko Ono. Some of the lessons that can be learned from Lennon’s estate plan include: Don’t leave your children out of will, Create Steps in order to make sure each one of your heirs receives their part, and Create an Additional Trust just in case your child gets left out. By using this advice, you can avoid family feuds and will be able to make sure your estate plan is executed smoothly.

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.

Have These Documents Prepared for a Child Headed to College

MP900446487“There are documents pertaining to health, money, and college records, that your child can sign to give you some peace of mind. Not all of these are required, but you may want to consider if you need them or not.”

There’s no end to what parents and grandparents can worry about, when their child or grandchild heads off to college. Will they make the right decisions, choose good friends and perform well in their studies? One thing you can do to help prepare your college-bound student, is to have certain legal documents prepared before they go, advises getintocollege.com in the article “Legal Documents Your Child Needs to Sign Before Heading to College.”

Once your child turns 18, your access to their medical records ends, unless they complete a form called a HIPAA Authorization. Your child must sign the form to give you access to their records, appointments, test results, etc. If your child is going to a school out of state, you may need a state-specific form. Keep these documents in a safe place, where you can access them quickly, in case of an emergency.

Chances are your student is heading off to college with a debit card and a credit card.  However, do you have access to those accounts? Talk with your estate planning attorney about creating a Financial Power of Attorney form, so you don’t run into any roadblocks, if your child needs help handling their finances. Opening a bank account or having a credit card attached to your account makes it easier for you to transfer money to your student. It also makes it easier for you to keep a watchful eye on their spending. Make a copy of the front and back of all cards so you can easily report them if lost or stolen.

Colleges have a form known as FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), which you usually can obtain at some point during orientation. This is a document that gives you the legal right to your child’s academic and financial information through the college. Think of this as the college’s HIPAA law. It’s not the same, but it can create the same level of obstruction, if you do not address it in advance. With it in place, you’ll be able to discuss their finances with the bursar’s office, their grades with their academic advisor and many other offices in the college that will otherwise refuse to speak with you.

College is a transition time for both students and parents, as well grandparents. Having these documents properly prepared, with the help of an estate planning attorney, will give you some peace of mind, as your child leaves the nest.

Reference: getintocollege.com (March 29, 2018) “Legal Documents Your Child Needs to Sign Before Heading to College.”

 

 

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."

 

Tax Reform and People with Disabilities

Pexels-photo-265702Republican tax plans have some people with disabilities worried. For parents and grandparents of those people with disabilities, it suggests that a special needs trust is more important than ever.

The ramifications of the new Republican tax reform for individual Americans are still being assessed.

Some people will pay lower taxes, but a few will likely see their taxes increase. One group concerned about the new law was people with disabilities.

Not only will those with disabilities enjoy the standard deduction doubling under the Republican plan, but their taxes might decrease even further due to another provision. The plan includes a provision to lower the itemized deduction threshold for health care expenses in tax years 2017 and 2018. The new tax law lowers the deductibility threshold from 10% to 7.5% of adjusted gross income.

Not until 2019 will the threshold increase return back to 10% where it was pegged in 2016.

Accordingly, the fears expressed by The Hill in "Restructured tax code would unduly burden people with disabilities" did not come to pass.

There is something parents and grandparents of the disabled, as well as the disabled themselves, can do and that is create a special needs trust. These trusts do not ease anyone's tax burden but do allow people with special needs to have more income to help cover any increased taxes.

If you would like to learn more about special needs trusts, then talk to an estate planning attorney Bethesda Maryland for the details about setting one up.

The process is complicated and needs to be done in a particular way in order to work but an experienced attorney can help you with that.

Reference: The Hill (Nov. 24, 2017) "Restructured tax code would unduly burden people with disabilitie