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.

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

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 Fundamentals You Need to Know

Fortune cookie broken open

“It’s easy to put off because it can be morbid and often doesn’t kick in until late in our lives, but it’s an important piece to be thinking about for those of us who want to make sure our families are provided for.”

A well-prepared estate plan can help you and your family reach many different goals. You may know that your estate plan provides for your spouse and children, including what should happen to them, if they are minors and need someone other than you and your spouse to rear them. In addition, says the Brainerd Dispatch in its article “Wealth Column: Estate Planning Basics,” an estate plan can also be used to dispose of the family business, minimize tax liability and empower an executor and trustees to act on your behalf.

First, you’ll need a will, which is the basic tool for estate planning. It prevents two very expensive and stressful issues: managing your wishes for your estate and possibly losing hefty sums through unnecessary taxes. However, that’s just the start.

You may also need trusts, depending on your family’s situation. You’ll want to have life insurance policies with beneficiaries. Life insurance proceeds are not governed by the will, so your heirs will receive any funds directly. Benefits from retirement funds fall into this same category. That’s why making sure that your beneficiary designations are up-to-date, is so important.

Working with a team of trusted advisors, is productive for most people. Remember that your estate plan touches on taxes and investments as well as your will, power of attorney and medical directive. Consider these steps to get your entire estate plan in order:

  • Gather personal data about yourself and your family,
  • Create a balance sheet of your assets and liabilities,
  • Review your will and any existing trusts,
  • Evaluate all estate tax options, such as the best method of disposing of your share of community property—considering the unlimited marital deduction and the use of tax-sheltered trusts,
  • Consider the optimal way to distribute your retirement plan benefits,
  • Calculate potential estate, gift and income tax liabilities,
  • Determine the availability of liquid assets to meet potential estate expenses and taxes.

Once you have all this information together, you and your estate planning attorney can begin to put together a plan that will serve you and your family. Remember that an estate plan is not a one-and-done document. Over time, as your life and tax laws change, you’ll need to review the estate plan,  which includes beneficiary designations.

Resource: Brainerd Dispatch (Aug. 3, 2018) “Wealth Column: Estate Planning Basics”

Will SAFE Act Really Make Seniors Safe?

Elderly woman looking serious

“In an attempt to take a step toward countering some of the negative impact of elder financial abuse, the government recently passed the Senior Safe Act in May 2018, as part of a bipartisan banking reform set of laws. “

Elder abuse costs millions of Americans an estimated $2.9 billion annually. The expectation is that these numbers are only going to increase, as the scams targeting the elderly become more and more sophisticated. This is according to Forbes in ““After SAFE Act Passage, The Battle Against Elder Financial Abuse Remains Far From Over.”

The aim of the Senior Safe Act is to encourage financial institutions of all kinds to play a larger role in fighting against elder financial abuse. The law, which was modeled after the Senior$afe program created in Maine, requires financial institutions to train employees on detecting activities that may indicate elder abuse is occurring. If the employees are trained, the Senior Safe Act also provides a reporting process and liability protection for those who report the possible abuse.  It is thought that the liability protection would make those individuals reporting the possible abuse more proactive.  However, there are still some problems with this.

Some advisors report being reluctant to report any client who seems to be suffering from mental deficiencies or elder abuse. The problem, advisors say, is that they are not trained and won’t feel confident in making a judgement about competency. Some court cases have put the onus on the advisor, when selling certain products or strategies but advisors lack both the training and the ability to make a medical diagnosis of senior clients. Without the ability to identify competency, it is very likely that any reporting will only take place well after the elder financial abuse has taken place.

Another issue is that family members or friends are typically the ones who commit elder financial abuse. The victim usually does not want to press charges, fearing that the person will become angry with them and withdraw their emotional support. Being dependent upon the same person who may have perpetrated financial abuse, puts the elderly person in a no-win situation.

Elder abuse prevention, financial and otherwise, should start years in advance, at the first signs of declining physical and mental health. It should begin with a plan for managing financial assets and having the proper legal documents in place, including a will, power of attorney, general durable power of attorney, healthcare directive and other estate planning documents.

By being proactive while the individual is still relatively well and healthy, it may be possible to create protections that will be crucial later in life. Speak with your estate planning attorney now, to make sure that your estate plan is in place, so you and your family are protected.

Reference: Forbes (July 23, 2018) “After SAFE Act Passage, The Battle Against Elder Financial Abuse Remains Far From Over”

 

The Process of Getting a Will

Bigstock-Extended-Family-Relaxing-On-So-13907567If 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."

 

When a Relative Passes Away Without a Will

MP900442417[1]If a close loved one has recently passed away without having a will, you need to know what to do so that the estate can be properly distributed.

Every day people in the U.S. pass away without any form of estate plan. Surveys show that approximately half of Americans do not even have a will when they pass away.

When one of those decedents is a close relative of yours, you might be the person the family thinks should be in charge of handling everything and making sure the decedent’s assets are distributed to other family members.

However, that is not a simple process, as the Napa Valley Register discussed in "Mom died with no will. Now what?"

You cannot just start handing property out to other people. This is especially true if the property in question is something like real estate or a car. You need the necessary legal authority to transfer those assets.

For that authority you will need to go to probate court and ask a judge to appoint you as the personal representative of the estate. Once you secure that designation, you have the legal authority to determine what assets comprise the decedent’s estate and then distribute them.

 However, you cannot distribute assets anyway you wish. Your state's laws of intestate succession will determine to whom the assets should be distributed.

That sounds complicated and it is. The first step you should take if you find yourself in this position, is to hire an estate attorney who can assist you.

Reference: Napa Valley Register (Feb. 1, 2018) "Mom died with no will. Now what?"