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.

Creating An Effective Will

Melinda-gimpel-699368-unsplashWhat is a will? How can I create one that is effective? These two questions are very common when creating a will. A will does play a vital part in how the money or any personal property is distributed amongst future heirs. By creating an effective will, it can be helpful with planning the future. In fact, there are eight simple steps in order to create an effective will that will save you time when planning the money distribution.

  1. Decide what personal property to include in your will
  2. Decide who will inherit your estate
  3. Choose the right executor to handle your estate
  4. Choose the right guardian for your children
  5. Choose a guardian who will take care of your children’s personal property
  6. Make your will
  7. Sign your will in front of the witnesses
  8. Store your will in a safe place

With these steps, you can avoid the troubles that many celebrities like Prince and Aretha Franklin had with their estates. By having a will, you will also avoid the troubles and litigation in probate court. Create your will 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.

 

 

 

Mistakes That Aretha Franklin Made In Her Estate Plan

Aretha Franklin, just like her fellow performer Prince, was undoubtedly talented beyond her years. Unfortunately, she did not have a will set up that would enable her loved ones to get what they deserved, including her child Clarence, who is 63 years old, that has special needs that require attention. If you follow in this path just like Franklin, the disbursements of money could be delayed, very detrimental family disputes may arouse, your estate as a whole may require extra taxes, and ultimately, your financial life could become a public record! If you have a child that requires special attention and you don’t have a will, your child will not receive any government benefits. If you don’t have a will or a trust, get one written up before it is too late! If you don’t follow through like Aretha did, your estate and probate deal will become public, not private.

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.

Estate Planning with Blended Families Requires a Balance

Generational family smiling

“If you say “I do” a second time and have children, your partnership acquires new stakeholders—not necessarily willing ones. Adult children have expectations about how much they’ll inherit and how soon. A new spouse scrambles that calculus.

When you marry, you’re entering a partnership that is emotional and financial. When you marry again and when there are children from prior marriages, you are all entering a brave new world. The number one reason that stepparents and stepchildren fight is over money, according to the article “Don’t Split Heirs With Your Estate” from AARP.

If you and your spouse are each financially independent and leave your assets to your heirs, you’ll be less likely to run into the big money issues.  However, if one spouse depends on the other for support, assets will be needed for the other spouse’s lifetime. When there’s a big age difference, the children of the older spouse may end up waiting 10 to 15 years for their inheritance.

The couple’s first responsibility should be to their spouses. You can do this through your will, or a prenuptial or a postnuptial agreement. The goal is to make sure that the other spouse has enough money to live on. A surviving spouse does have the right to make a claim to a certain amount of the late spouse’s assets, in the absence of a will or a proper prenup. However, by taking care of this in the will, you can spare each other and your blended family from the time and delay that a claim will take. The award may be large or small, depending upon the laws in your state.

One way to head off some of the anger that may follow a first spouse’s death in a second or subsequent marriage, is to distribute at least a little bit of cash to all of the adult children in equal amounts. It’s not about the amount, but it is a signal that you are aware of them and their needs.

In blended families with good relationships, it would be ideal for children and stepchildren to be treated equally. If there’s a rational reason not to, like younger children who need college education funds, make it clear to all what the thoughts are behind the distribution.

Personal property is another source of conflict within blended families. If first-family heirlooms are claimed by second-family children, the whole family could be headed to court. Create a document that makes your wishes clear about which child should get what possessions and attach it to your will with the help of your estate planning attorney.

If you leave everything to your spouse, there’s no way to be sure your own children will inherit anything. There is a chance that after your death, the ties between children and stepparents could weaken. You may need to leave money for your children in a trust that provides income to the spouse for life.

Discuss your options with an estate planning attorney.

Reference: AARP (July/August 2018)

“Don’t Split Heirs With Your Estate”

Now Is a Good Time to Revisit Your Estate Plan

Bigstock-Vintage-brass-telescope-on-ant-44347372“There still are many sound nontax reasons to revisit estate planning and possibly update your prior documents.”

Even with the doubling of the individual estate gift and GST tax exemptions to about $11.2 million per person (and double the amount for married couples), you still need a will, says Forbes in a useful article titled “7 Reasons to Revisit Your Estate Plan, Trump Tax Law Aside.”

A will serves as the primary vehicle to convey your intentions for your assets and explain your legacy. The provisions of the will can be used to designate how assets will be transferred, whether outright to beneficiaries, to existing trusts or into a new trust that is created under the provisions of the will. If you use the will to create a testamentary trust, the will is where you specify the age for distributions to the beneficiaries and other important details. The will is also how you convey your wishes to make a gift to specific institutions and who should receive family heirlooms.

The executor or personal representative of the estate is the person or institution in charge of managing your affairs, after you have passed. The executor gathers all the information about your estate, including assets and debts, filing taxes and administrative tasks. That person is named in the will.

If you have minor children, or a child with a disability, you want to choose a guardian and a successor guardian. If you do not, the court will appoint someone to rear your child(ren), and that may not be the person you would have wanted. Your spouse is always the obvious choice, but there are instances where both parents die unexpectedly, with no plans in place for their children.

There are many different types of trusts used to accomplish different things. They can be used to control assets and their distribution, which is particularly important when minor children are in the family. Trusts should be used when there is an individual in the family with a disability, an addiction or other issues who cannot manage their finances on their own.

Tax planning is a major part of any will. For a long time, estate planning attorneys focused on how assets were titled, so that the first of a married couple to pass would be able to fully use their estate tax credit.  However, the relatively new concept of “portability,” which allows any unused credit from the first spouse to pass to be used for the benefit of the second spouse, eliminates the need for any unused estate tax credit to go into a bypass trust.

Not only do you need a will, but this year you should consider reviewing your will, if you have not done so. The new tax law may have eliminated or reduced some estate tax liability, but it has not eliminated the need for mindful and proactive estate planning.

Reference: Forbes (March 15, 2018) “7 Reasons to Revisit Your Estate Plan, Trump Tax Law Aside”

 

Dodging an Unpopular Tax Provision

MP900442233The recently passed federal tax overhaul limits deductions for state and local taxes to $10,000.  It has not been popular with those affected. Estate planning attorneys might have found a way around it.

The new tax laws that were passed in December of 2017 have been controversial. Some people are very happy with the changes.  However, most people have found something they do not like about them. One of the more controversial changes was that the itemized deduction for state and local taxes was limited to $10,000.

People who own expensive property in high tax states are not happy that as it will increase their taxes, in many cases. Initially, some state governments tried to figure out a way around the limit for their citizens, but the IRS shot most of those down. Some estate planning attorneys might have found a solution though, as Bloomberg reports in "How the Rich Can Dodge Trump's Property Tax Hike."

The idea is to first create an LLC in a non-tax state such as Delaware or Alaska. Real estate ownership is then transferred to the LLC. After that, several non-grantor trusts are created. Ownership of the LLC is then divided up and transferred to the new trusts. When tax time comes around, each non-grantor trust can take a $10,000 deduction for any property taxes that were paid by the LLC. Effectively, the new deduction limit can be rendered moot.  Ask your local estate planning attorney about this practice.

The IRS could issue a new regulation against this practice.  However, estate planners think it will work.

Reference: Bloomberg (June 15, 2018) "How the Rich Can Dodge Trump's Property Tax Hike."

 

Planned Giving

Giving-to-charity2One of the ways that you can leave a good legacy behind, is to provide money to charity in your estate plan.

Your worth is likely more than the sum total of your assets. You have worth that does not have any direct monetary value. Your capacity to like and love your friends and family cannot be given a monetary value, for example. However, in estate planning, it can often seem like the only thing you will have left at the time you pass away, are assets that have monetary value and need to be given to other people.

You cannot give away your capacity to love after death. However, that does not mean your other value has to be left out of your estate plan completely. You can use your estate plan for planned charitable giving, as the Nashua Telegraph discusses in "Planning to give and leaving a lasting legacy."

Planned giving is simply making provisions in your estate plan that a certain amount of money or a percentage of your estate's assets should be given to charity. It is a popular option for people. It is popular not only with the wealthy, but also with people of more modest means who want to leave something behind for good causes.

There are several different ways you can make charitable donations a part of your estate. Some are as simple as a few lines written into a will and others are for more complicated, including setting up special trusts for the purpose. An estate planning attorney can help you choose the best way to do so.

Reference: Nashua Telegraph (May 20, 2018) "Planning to give and leaving a lasting legacy."

Estate Planning, Wills, Trusts

Harper Lee’s Will Unveiled

Harper Lee valued her privacy while she was alive. Her will suggests that she also values it in death. MP900398819[1]

After writing To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee mostly kept out of the public eye. She did not release another book for decades and made very few appearances.

She died in 2016. Journalists and literary historians have been attempting to piece together details of the author's life, but they have met with little success. She was a private person and those who knew her have not been willing to talk very much.

Lee’s will has been unsealed but it does not reveal very much either, as Al.com reports in "Harper Lee's will is unsealed but questions about the legend of American literature remain."

Lee's will directs that all of her assets, including literary property, be put into a previously created trust. Details about the trust are not publicly known. There does not appear to be a way to make them public. The trust's beneficiaries and trustee are not known.

What Lee created is known as a pour-over will. It is a simple way to have assets transferred to a trust, after someone passes away. Since trusts do not have to go through probate and are private, this is a great method to use for people who do not want the details of their estates known to the public, as Lee apparently did not.

Reference: Al.com (Feb. 27, 2018) "Harper Lee's will is unsealed but questions about the legend of American literature remain."

Suggested Key Words: Wills, Trusts

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."