Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

Under Pressure: David Bowie’s Estate Plan

Download-1“Under Pressure.” These two words were said by the iconic David Bowie along with Queen singer, Freddie Mercury. Sadly, Bowie died back on January 20, 2016 from liver cancer at the age of 69 in Manhattan, New York City. Many celebrities, including Kanye West and Madonna, reacted with deep sorrow because they had lost the “Chameleon of Rock.” Bowie’s legacy still lives on through his children, Lexi and Duncan, along with his wife and now widow, Iman.

Bowie, initially, left the rest of his residuary estate and the remainder of Iman’s trust to Duncan and Lexi. Lexi was also subjected to her own separate trust until the age of 25. After the age of 25, she would be able to possess all the trusts assets. In the case of Iman’s trust, it did qualify for a full marital deduction, which created Bowie’s estate taxes that were to be managed by the children’s shares of the residuary estate.

Even though Bowie was iconic, his estate plan did suffer some consequences. With the $100 million value of his estate, Bowie did not create lifetime trusts that would have benefited his children. If he had created that trust, his children would have been protected from creditors for either his or her lifetime. It would have also given Bowie the power to use his full GST exemption. Since he did not achieve this step, both Lexi and Duncan did not have a special power of appointment over the trust.

One other mistake that David Bowie made in his estate plan was that he did not institute the decanting procedure, which an authorized trustee, not the grantor, transfers assets from one trust into another trust which contains the necessary changes that will achieve the intended purpose. Since he did not use this process, Iman’s trust could not be transferred from one to another.

When creating an estate plan, make sure to use the decanting process. The decanting process can be a powerful tool for post- mortem estate planning and should always be considered whenever testamentary trusts are created. Don’t be under pressure! Create your 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.

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.


John Lennon’s Estate Plan

Michelle ProfitJohn 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.

Want to Give Away All of Your Money?

Giving-to-charity2“Even if you’re not a millionaire, you may have reached a stage where you think, It’s enough. It could even be a bit too much. A second car may sit mostly in your garage. A beloved vacation home may have transformed from a place to relax to a place to maintain.”

You don’t have to be a millionaire to feel like you’ve got enough. How many cars, vacations or houses does anyone really need? If you’ve reached that point, congratulations. Now, what do you do about it? How do you share your resources in a way that is carefully thought out and doesn’t create a battle among family members? An article from AARP, “How to Give Your Money Away,” provides some good points.

A grandchild needs a college education. Use a 529 college tuition plan to help your grandchild, by contributing to a plan created by the child’s parent. Financial aid formulas look at contributions from a grandparent’s plan but not a parent’s plan as student income. To allow your grandchild to be eligible for student aid or grants, make sure that the funds you contribute go to his or her parent’s 529. Many states permit you to switch ownership to the parent,  if the beneficiary remains the same.

You want to be philanthropic, even if you’re not Warren Buffet. You can use what’s called a DAF—donor advised fund. They are like charitable savings accounts. The tax deduction for any cash or investments placed in the fund is immediate, so you can front-load two or three years’ worth of giving into one year. You can also claim a charitable deduction for a year, when you intend to itemize instead of taking the new standard deduction. You can direct grants from the fund to any non-profit organization you choose and whatever timeframe you like.

One child is a smashing success, the other is a starving artist. Sometimes the disparity of incomes between children, can be a result of choice or abilities. Nevertheless, you may not wish to leave the exact same amount to both kids. One of your children might have a disability and needs special planning. It’s your call and it’s also your call whether to share all the details with your kids. Logic prevails in some families and there’s no drama over these kinds of decisions. Less information about their inheritance is better for others. You could insert a no-contest clause in the will to forestall any litigation.

You have visions of generations enjoying your summer cottage. Sometime this works out.  However, sometimes the kids have no interest in the property and just want to sell it. Have that conversation first. If no one wants it, sell it when the timing works for you. If one kid loves the house and the others don’t care, work out the numbers so the house stays in the family, but the child receives a smaller percentage of assets. If the family wants to keep the house, work with an estate planning attorney to create an LLC (Limited Liability Company) and give shares to the kids. You’ll need an operating agreement, including how the cost of maintaining the property will be handled and what happens, if someone wants to sell their share. Define the universe of eligible owners as lineal descendants and not spouses, to forestall an ownership battle in the case of a divorce.

Talk with an experienced estate planning attorney about how to give away your assets in a way that will make sense for your family and gain useful tax benefits for your estate.

Reference: AARP (May 1, 2018) “How to Give Your Money Away”


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.”


Will Inheritances Become a Thing of the Past?

MP900439346[1]In wealthy countries aging populations and the increasing costs of caring for the elderly are putting in jeopardy the entire idea of inheritances for large percentages of the population.

One of the key ways that people in the U.S. have been able to stay in the middle class and slowly build up some wealth between generations is through inheritances. Receiving even a small inheritance from parents, especially if it includes real estate, allows families to build up some wealth. That wealth can, in turn, be left as inheritances for their children.

Even if people are not consciously aware of this, they seem to know it intuitively judging by their actions and their estate planning. In wealthy countries, that idea is in jeopardy of becoming a distant memory for middle class families as the Financial Times explains in "Opinion Today: The end of inheritance."

The article is about the situation in the U.K., but the issues in the U.S. are the same.

The overall population is aging. The elderly are living much longer than in previous years. This increases the cost of providing care for the elderly population. There are not enough younger people paying taxes to make up for the increasing costs.

When political leaders have proposed addressing the issue, they have been punished by voters, who do not want changes to the elder benefits they have been promised.

At some point, the issue does need to be addressed.

If governments cannot afford to meet elder care expenses, then the costs will fall on individual families.  It is likely that there is nothing left over for many middle-class parents to bequeath to their children.

Reference: Financial Times (Dec. 23, 2017) "Opinion Today: The end of inheritance."


Children and Inherited Retirement Accounts

Bigstock-Large-Mixed-Race-Family-2589417_(2)[1]If your children inherit your retirement accounts, they will have a few options about what to do with them.

Most people designate their spouses as the beneficiaries of their retirement accounts after they pass away. Consequently, the surviving spouse then becomes the owner of the accounts and can use the account in the same way that the deceased spouse did.

However, sometimes people name non-spouse beneficiaries, such as their children or the children end up receiving the accounts after the designated spouse passes away.

What the children can do with the accounts is not as simple as it is for spouses.  However, there are a few options.

The Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog discusses some of these options in "What Your Kids Can Do When They Inherit Your Retirement Accounts."

The options include:

  • The assets in the account can be taken out immediately as one lump sum.
  • The assets in the account can be taken out whenever needed, as long as the account is empty within five years.
  • The children can choose to stretch the account out over their own expected lifetimes. However, they will need to make annual required minimum distributions and must take the first one by a set time.

If you have questions about your retirement accounts and your heirs, then talk to an estate planning attorney to get answers. While you are at it, learn more about how your retirement accounts can be used as part of an overall estate plan.

Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (Nov. 22, 2017) "What Your Kids Can Do When They Inherit Your Retirement Accounts."


Options Are Important When Inheriting an IRA

    Americans hold a lot of wealth in IRAs. However, do you know the tax consequences?

Forbes recently discussed some possibilities for beneficiaries of IRAs, including the good deals and the bad deals in "What To Do If You Inherit an IRA."
While inheriting an IRA account can be great news for some, it can also turn to bad news, if the beneficiaries make the wrong decisions about what to do with those accounts.

The single most important thing to keep in mind is that an inherited IRA can be the source of lifetime payments or it can be a source of a very large and immediate tax bill.

If you are smart, then you will want it to be the former, unless you absolutely need a large sum of money right away.
The general rule of thumb is that you should never take more out of an inherited IRA than you are absolutely required to take by law. It is recommended that you take no more than the required minimum distribution.
Exactly how much that is, will depend on several factors.

Before you make a decision on an inherited IRA, it would most likely be beneficial to consult an attorney.
Reference: Forbes (July 10, 2017) "What To Do If You Inherit an IRA."

How to Blow a Big Inheritance

MP900408932_(1)[1]It is often noted that great family wealth has a tendency to disappear after a generation or two. That is because the same mistakes in handling that wealth are made over and over again.

There is little doubt that an ever increasing amount of America's total wealth is being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. Many wealthy people are amassing large fortunes that could potentially pass down through their families for generations.

This "generational wealth" has the potential to make some families wealthy for hundreds of years.

However, we know from history that rarely actually happens, when great wealth is passed down by families.

Most of the time, the wealth dissipates after a generation or two, even if we do remember the exceptions where that did not happen.

If you are someone who is going to receive an inheritance of generational wealth, then you need to know how to make sure that you are one of the exceptions that preserves the wealth.

Financial Advisor recently discussed in this challenge "These 5 Mistakes Destroy Generational Wealth."

Things to avoid doing include:

  • Do not spend recklessly as soon as you get an inheritance. Buying all of your dream items, is not a good idea immediately after receiving an inheritance.
  • Do not think you can handle the assets without receiving proper financial advice.
  • Take your time to make a plan about what to do with the money. There is no need to act right away.
  • Make sure that you are not paralyzed by all of your investment options. You should not act right away in a rush, but you do need to act eventually.
  • Avoid giving to every friend or family member with a hand out at your expense.

On the other hand, contact an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you form a team of advisors to help guide you to prudent decision-making.

Reference: Financial Advisor (May 23, 2017) "These 5 Mistakes Destroy Generational Wealth."


Making an Inheritance Work

Draft_lens6229982module49470302photo_1249598396business-man[1]If you receive an inheritance, it should not put you in a worse position than you were before. That happens all too often.

A common myth about people who inherit wealth is that it brings them financial security and they no longer need to worry about money. However, as is the case with people who win the lottery, people who suddenly inherit wealth are often soon in a worse financial position than they were previously.

Most of the time, inheritances do not grow a person’s or a family’s wealth.

They end up subtracting from it as Chase News & Stories reports in “How to make sure your inheritance is a boon, not a bust.”

The biggest problem is overspending, especially on unnecessary things. While it might be fine to splurge on one or two things, spending can quickly snowball until there is nothing left. There is always something more that can be purchased and heirs who are not careful, keep purchasing those somethings.

The best way to prevent this is to plan ahead.

Talk to your older relatives about what inheritance you might receive from their estate plans and ask for guidance in wealth management. Your relatives who have wealth, can teach you how they maintained that wealth.

If you do not know ahead of time that you will receive a large inheritance and get one suddenly, then you can still make plans if you are patient. Do not do anything with the inheritance for at least six months. You should take that time to think carefully and to get good financial advice.

Reference: Chase News & Stories (Nov. 23, 2016) “How to make sure your inheritance is a boon, not a bust.”