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

Princess Diana“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

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.

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.

Why You Need an Estate Planning Attorney

Why You Need an Estate Planning Attorney

MP900400337You might think that you do not need professional assistance for your estate plan because you know who you want to get what. There is more to estate planning than that.

It is actually easy to create an estate plan for yourself. You can simply write your own will, directing who should get what pieces of property.  If you execute that will properly with witnesses and signatures, your will can be probated.

If you are not certain that is the best idea and would like a little bit more help, download some prepared forms to fill out from an online service at a low cost. The ease of doing that might make you think that an estate planning attorney is not necessary.  However, there are other reasons to see an attorney, as the Huntsville Item points out in "Do you really need an estate planning attorney?"

Those other reasons include:

  • The estate planning attorney knows about property law and how different types of property are handled differently by courts. If you do not get this correct in your will, your estate can face difficulties.
  • There are different types of estate planning documents that do different things. Estate planning attorneys can help you pick the right ones for your unique circumstances.
  • Estate taxes are still a concern at the federal level for many people and in several states. A professional is needed to properly plan around them.
  • The attorney can also help craft your estate plan in a way that compliments your other financial goals, often including paying less in taxes.

Reference: The Huntsville Item (May 21, 2018) "Do you really need an estate planning attorney?"

 

Your Executor Is Important

One of the simplest things that you can do to help prevent your estate from facing difficulties, is to make the right choice about who your executor should be. MP900309139

People who get wills, normally put a lot of thought into how they would like their property to be distributed after they pass away. It is very important to them, that their wishes are carried out and everything goes to the appropriate heirs. However, often relatively little thought is put into who should make sure it all happens.

The person in charge is the executor. Instead of thinking about whether the person they are choosing is the right person, many people just pick a close friend or relative. This can be a very big mistake, if the person does not know what they are doing, as Forbes points out in "Choosing an Executor for Your Estate."

The executor of your estate will have a lot of work to do. There are often important tax decisions that need to be made quickly. The executor needs to determine what assets you have at the time you pass away.  However, they cannot just give those assets to the people you want to have them.

First, they need to go to probate court and be officially appointed to administer the estate. They will then need to determine, if you had any debt when you passed away. That debt normally needs to be paid out of your assets, before any property can be distributed.

Your executor needs to be someone who not only has the time to serve in the capacity, but also can handle administrative and financial tasks well. Put some thought into this important decision.

Reference: Forbes (May 16, 2018) "Choosing an Executor for Your Estate."

 

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

The Challenge of Digital Wills

Many legal documents can now be digitally created, signed and stored. Wills could be next.  However, there are some things that will need to be worked out. Bigstock-Young-man-holding-a-trash-bin--26453660

The basics of executing a proper will have not changed very much over time. To be certain that a will is valid, it must be a written document. It must be signed by the testator in front of witnesses, who also must sign the will. The original and not a copy of the signed will must be presented to the court at the appropriate time.

These rules were developed because when a will is presented to the court, the deceased cannot come forward and testify that the will is valid. The witnesses can testify that they did see the deceased sign the will, while he or she was competent and not under any duress.

Most writing is now done digitally, and many people would also like to make wills digital. That presents some challenges, as the New York Law Journal explains in "Wills in the Digital Age."

The first thing that must be figured out, is what counts as a digital signature for the purposes of a will. Digital signatures are allowed for things like contracts and taxes.  However, the signer of those documents can be asked if anyone needs to question whether the signature is valid.

That is not possible for a will, so it is likely that witnesses are still necessary. That leads to the question as to what constitutes witnessing a digital signature. If signing is the click of a button, must the witnesses just be present to see the button clicked?

Finally, it will need to be determined how the digital wills should be stored to make sure they are not edited after the fact.

Because of those difficulties, the introduction of digital wills is likely to be uneven in the different states.  The states will most likely have different answers for the challenges presented by digital wills.

Reference: New York Law Journal (March 6, 2018) "Wills in the Digital Age."