Estate Planning Law Articles
Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide
discussing legal aspects related to Estate Planning.
Every family dynamic is unique and the level of communication that exists among family members is going to vary on a case-by-case basis. Some families have very frank and open lines of communication and this can be helpful when you are considering the implications of the aging of a family member.
You may hear about payable on death accounts and walk away thinking that these accounts are an ideal estate planning solution. After all, simply adding a beneficiary who would assume ownership of resources left in the account after you die is a pretty efficient solution.
Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz are two young men who are in possession of some extraordinary wealth. The Facebook founders are in a position where they have to look for ways to preserve considerable financial resources beyond their own lives. There can be significant tax consequences that go along with gift giving and asset transfers after death, so careful planning is key.
Far too many people go through life without executing the appropriate estate planning documents. The reasons why they procrastinate vary but one reason is the misconception that it is a very simple matter that can be handled at any given time. You simply jot down your final wishes, call it a last will, and the matter is closed.
The probate process governs what happens to all the property a person owned after that person dies. Each county usually has a probate court that is set up to deal with these property questions. Though each state and even each county, has a slightly different procedure for probate cases, all of them require the same basic process. To begin, someone has to go before the court and file a petition.
Probate law is often one of the more misunderstood, and even feared, areas of the legal system. Not to worry. The probate process itself is based on some very simple ideas. Let’s take a look at how a case begins.
Whether you are a newly married couple, a couple with young children, or a blended family with children from a previous relationship it's important for you to begin your estate planning efforts immediately. While many people believe that estate plans are only for the elderly, parents with young children are in a much greater need to develop a plan because the children rely on you so much. Here are two key parts to your estate plan you need to address soon.
Millions of Americans have not taken the time to sit down and create a comprehensive estate plan. In addition, a shocking number of Americans have also not sat down and discussed their funeral and/or burial wishes with loved ones. If you are one of those people, stop and consider the consequences of not doing these things now, before it’s too late.
As part of your legacy planning efforts, you may wish to consider digital tombstones. What are digital tombstones? Essentially they are websites that allow you to assemble your personal information in one place, so your family and friends can visit it when they wish. If you're considering using such a service, there are several issues you will want to consider.
Answer: Maybe. In order to challenge a Will you must have “standing,” the legal right to challenge a will in court. In order to have standing you must typically have stood to receive more from the deceased person either through a previous Will or if that person had died without leaving any Will at all. Essentially, in order to have standing you must stand to receive more if you win the Will challenge and a court declares the Will invalid.
People like to do things for themselves. We all think that we know what we need to do and what is in our best interests. However, if you try to make your own estate plan instead of seeking the advice of an experienced attorney, you are likely to make some serious mistakes.
According to recent survey data, less than half of Americans 18 and older are married. For unmarried or cohabiting couples, estate planning is significantly different than it is for married couples. Whether you've been living together for years and have no intention of getting married, or simply want to take precautions in case the unthinkable should happen, here are three tips you can use if you are a cohabitating couple with concerns about estate planning.
If you've experienced the death of a close family member, you may have to soon confront the prospect of beginning the probate process. Though the process is slightly different depending on where you live, beginning a probate case involves several key steps and requirements.
For any adult child who is facing the decision whether or not to petition to become his parent’s legal guardian, feelings of conflict are normal. Being appointed as your parent’s guardian is the ultimate in role reversal. Many adult children feel as though seeking guardianship means taking away your parent’s independence. Concerns that you may be over-reacting are also common.
Creating a comprehensive estate plan is a complicated undertaking and requires a thorough understanding of all the myriad tax laws that will impact your plan. This can be difficult under normal circumstances. In an election year, it becomes increasingly difficult as the fate of many tax laws is uncertain. This is not, however, the time to become complacent. Doing nothing could cost you a substantial amount in taxes.
In recent years, the rate at which technology has developed is mind boggling. Just a generation ago, the internet was virtually non-existent. Today almost anything can be located and viewed on the internet, giving rise to privacy concerns for many people. Are your estate documents public information?
If you recently received a letter or a telephone call telling you that you just inherited a small fortune from a long lost relative you probably feel as though you just hit the lottery. The next thought is likely “What do I do with the money? If you are already financially secure, then you can probably answer that question yourself.
We all hope never to need to know the answer to that question; however, if you do find yourself in the position of trying to figure out what practical steps need to be taken after the death of a loved one. It is good to know where to start. Often, the emotional impact of a death prevents us from thinking clearly. While each death may require unique steps, there are some universal steps that most people find must be taken.
It is generally true that you might be able to use the services of a non-attorney for your important estate planning documents and end-of-life plans. But is it wise to do so? Absolutely not. Not only are people and companies who offer these services often breaking the law, they are also often not serving your best interests.
How many people not named Britney does it take to manage Britney Spears' affairs? It turns out that the answer might be two. Recently, a court approved her fiancé as a co-conservator in charge of her day-to-day affairs. Her father has been her conservator since 2008 and will also continue in that capacity.
When most people make an appointment to sit down with their estate planning attorney, they have given some very serious thought to how they want their assets to be distributed upon their death. If you are like most, you have done this as well as thought about the need to provide for your family in the event you die an untimely death. These are the things that most people think about when it comes to estate planning.
It may be human nature to avoid subjects that are not especially pleasant, and this is one of the reasons why people often procrastinate when it comes to incapacity planning. Though it is not hard to understand why someone may prefer to avoid the topic, if you do you are putting yourself and your family members in a vulnerable position.
Most people have watched an episode of 60 Minutes at some point in their lives and are familiar with Mike Wallace who recently passed away at the age of 93. Wallace's son recently stated that his father suffered from dementia before he passed away. It’s never easy watching a family member who has dementia. It’s particularly hard when the proper planning has not been done before the family member gets dementia.
If you are afraid of your family fighting over your estate in Probate Court, an estate planning attorney has ways to help alleviate that concern. The most important way for many people is to use a Revocable Living Trust, because the assets in the Trust do not have to go through the Probate process. However, you should be aware that a Revocable Living Trust does not stop all interfamily legal fights.
Receiving an unexpected inheritance can sometimes feel a lot like winning the lottery. Suddenly, you have assets that you did not plan on having. Before making plans to spend any of the inheritance, there are several reasons that you should visit with a probate attorney.
Estate plans can have many different goals. At a minimum, an estate plan sets out what will happen to your assets after you pass away. One thing you should consider when creating your estate plan is the potential for conflicts between your family members over your estate and how you can minimize that potential. Hiring an estate planning attorney can lessen the potential for conflict.
Most people are aware that they should have some legal documents that state what happens to their property when they pass away. You probably know that you can state who gets your property in a Will. However, you may not know that a Will might not be the best tool to use to dispose of all of your property and that it is just one document out of many that you might want to use.
One of the remarkable changes to the 2010 tax law increases the amount a taxpayer may gift on a tax-free basis from $1 million to $5,120,000 ($10,240,000 per couple) for 2012, more than five times greater than any gift tax exclusion previously offered.
Anyone who welcomes a new child should always update his or her estate plan as soon as possible. Not only will you want to make provisions in your plan to care for your child financially if you should die prematurely, but you should also name a guardian. Also, if you created an estate plan when your child was first born and the child has since grown older, you will probably want to review the plan to make sure your choice of guardian is still appropriate.
A pet owner who creates a pet trust ensures that his or her pet will be cared for after the owner dies. A pet trust is a legal entity that owns property for the benefit of your pet. You create this trust by detailing what you want to trust to do after you die and include those terms in your last will and testament or living trust, or by creating the trust to take effect while you are still alive.
With the recent changes to the estate tax, many people have become confused about estate planning. Unfortunately, a lot of the confusion is because people have misinterpreted the changes to the tax. It has some people thinking that the increase in the estate tax exclusion limit means that they do not need to plan for their estate at all. Nothing could be further than truth.
When you lose a loved one, the grief is immeasurable. If you lost a loved one and you believe that someone else was at fault, it can add anger to the flood of emotions you are likely already feeling. It can also require you to do a number of legal things at the same time following the death.
Have you ever considered what might happen to your assets if you have to go into a nursing home for a long term stay? Nursing home care is extremely expensive.The time to plan for it is long before you will ever possibly need it. Waiting until you are sick is too late. Medicaid will pay for long term care in a nursing home.
With the current Federal estate tax limit being at a higher than normal level, some people think that a Revocable Living Trust is no longer a necessary part of a good estate plan. They argue that a Will is all you need. Unfortunately, those people are also often interested in selling you a simple Will form and they are not looking after your interests.
For many people, how you are remembered after you die it as an important part of your estate plan as ensuring your property will pass to your heirs with as few problems and costs as possible. Today, there are several companies that offer the ability to create a “digital tombstone” or other form of digital remembrance. Here are several questions about Internet legacy planning.
As you get older, different laws have a greater or lesser effect on your life. Elder law is simply a phrase used to describe all the legal issues that affect people as they age, retire, and die. Let's take a look at some of the more common issues that elder law attorneys deal with.
If you have more money than you're going to be able to spend during your lifetime you have to consider tax efficient asset transfers. Clearly Facebook founders Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz are in this situation. And, they are also in possession of shares that are going to increase in value dramatically when the company goes public.
You have to be extremely careful about giving gifts of significant value in light of the looming threat of the federal gift tax. Right now this tax carries a 35% rate, and if this was not high enough it is scheduled to rise to 55% at the beginning of 2013.
A pet trust is a legal entity you create by creating a document that includes specific and legally required terms. If you use your Will to establish the trust, it will be created after you die, though you can also create a trust outside of a Will that becomes effective immediately. Once created, the trust owns property and uses it for the benefit of your pets.
If you have spent your life providing for your family and making sure they are well cared for, the thought of having to ask your family for a loan can be incredibly difficult to bear. Surveys have shown that people fear becoming a financial burden far more than they do dying, at a rate of more than 5 to 1.
With all the tools that online life allows us, more companies are offering “Digital Tombstones” that offer the promise to keep your legacy online. Here are some tips you should consider if you want to use one of these services.
A good estate plan is one that takes into consideration all of your major life events, including a planned retirement and the money you'll need once you stop working. However, whether you have already retired or have yet to, you may wish to reconsider your decision to stop working. For many people, choosing not to retire is one of the best decisions they make. Here are several reasons why it may be right for you.
When you are making your estate plan you may hear the phrase “elder law” but not really know what it means. Elder law is simply the collection of legal issues and topics that most often impacts the elderly. Creating an estate plan, for example, is one aspect of elder law, though the topic includes numerous other legal issues. Let’s take a look at some of the most common elder law issues.
There was speculation regarding the Amy Winehouse estate shortly after she passed away last summer. Sources were saying that they had reason to believe that the troubled singer had taken the time to put a solid estate plan in place after she got divorced from her ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil.
If you find yourself in a position where you have more than ample resources to last throughout your lifetime you have to start to consider how you will be preserving your wealth. Two individuals who certainly are in this category would be Facebook founders Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz.
If you are previously married and have children, you'll want to pay special attention to your estate plan if you're planning on remarrying. In some situations you may leave your children less than you had intended because of your new spouse's rights to inherit at least some of your property.
When you create a pet trust, the trust becomes the owner of some of your property. Animals cannot own property, but if you can create a trust, the pet can benefit from the property the trust owns. After you die the trust will be responsible for caring for your pet. It will use the property it owns to pay for the pets medical care and living expenses.
When you create your estate plan, you are required to make decisions that are extremely personal and highly confidential. Given the growth of the internet, and the ease with which information can be located with just a few clicks of your mouse, you may be concerned that your estate planning documents will be available to the public at some point in time.
In previous issues of this magazine, I covered the use of a Power of Attorney (a “POA”) in real estate transactions for those situations in which a party (the “Principal”) is not available to sign documents at a closing and appoints a third person, known as the Attorney-in-fact (“AIF”), to sign on his or her behalf.
What is an AB Trust and how can it maximize the federal estate tax exemption? An AB Trust is an estate planning tool used by married couples that capitalizes on the federal estate tax exemption of each spouse. It essentially sets up two trusts – Trust A and Trust B, so when a spouse dies, the assets are divided with the current federal tax exempt amount to be placed in a ‘subtrust’ (Trust B) with the remaining amount placed into another subtrust (Trust A).
An important aspect of estate planning includes creating a will, and as such, you must choose an Executor to administrate the will. How do you choose someone to play such an important role? An important aspect of estate planning includes creating a will, and as such, you must choose an Executor to carry out the wishes expressed in the will, administer the estate and distribute the remaining assets.
It used to be that your only option for leaving behind a legacy was deciding on a grave marker, hoping for an obituary and leaving it up to your family and friends to remember you through photographs, stories, and other remembrances. Today the Internet has given rise to a host of digital remembrance services that you can use.
One of the most important documents you should have in your estate plan is a Power of Attorney. But do a little research on POAs and you’ll discover there’s more than one type: General, Durable and Springing. So which one do you need?
A durable financial power of attorney (POA) is a document that grants authority to someone of your choosing to handle your financial matters. This can include paying your bills, accessing your bank accounts and even selling or buying assets and negotiating real estate deals.
Contrary to popular opinion, long term care insurance is not health insurance or even disability insurance. Instead it covers the expenses of long term care services, such as those you’d receive from home health care professionals or in a skilled nursing facility.
We’ve all heard of Will contests; long, drawn out battles over whether grandma was in her right mind when she cut Uncle George out of his share of the family fortune. But what if Grandma had established a trust instead? The truth is that it’s possible to contest a trust, although trust challenges are not nearly as common as suits to challenge a Will and one of the reasons may be the privacy factor.
Probate is the legal proceeding of administering the estate of a deceased person. During probate all claims are settled and the deceased person’s assets are distributed according to the valid will. What is probate and are all estates subject to probate in New York? Probate is a legal process that occurs after someone dies. The first step in the process is determining if the will is in fact valid.
You often hear that you should ‘avoid probate’ when doing estate planning, but do you know why you would want property to avoid the probate process? Why does estate planning often involve avoiding probate?
A Supplemental Needs Trust, also known as a Special Needs Trust, is a specific legal Trust designed to benefit an individual who has a disability while retaining their need-based benefits. This can be a powerful estate planning tool for those who have loved ones that may experience a chronic illness or be physically or mentally challenged. We answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Supplemental Needs Trusts.
You often hear about the length and expense of probate, and some aspects of estate planning are aimed at avoiding probate. But why does probate take months, even years, to complete? Probate is the legal process that validates a will, if there is one, and administers the estate of a deceased. You often hear about the length and expense of probate, and some aspects of estate planning are aimed at avoiding probate.
Certainly you have heard about or read the reasons for avoiding probate, which is the legal process of ‘settling’ an estate. But were you aware of any benefits that probate may actually offer to some estates? Certainly you have heard about or read the reasons for avoiding probate, which is the legal process of ‘settling’ an estate.
Although you may not have any problems qualifying for your Social Security benefits once you reach retirement age, there is always a chance that you could be denied. If this happens to you, there’s no need to panic. You can appeal the denial and still stand a good chance of getting approved. In fact, over half of those denied Social Security benefits are approved after they appeal.
Ordinarily, when you have an Individual Retirement Account (IRA),you name a beneficiary and, at your death, the IRA goes to that person. The beneficiary has complete control over the account and can choose a couple of routes. The wisest choice is to maximize the value of the account by “stretching it out” and taking only the required minimum distributions for his lifetime – this also results in minimal income taxes.
A lot of people tend toward procrastination, and of course most of us live busy lives and you do have to prioritize the things that are immediately relevant. Since passing away is firmly entrenched at the bottom of most people's to-do list it is not uncommon for individuals to put estate planning on the back burner.
If you are like a lot of people you may think that planning your estate simply equates to having a last Will drawn up. Of course you can indeed use a last Will to elucidate your final wishes, but it is important to understand the fact that you have choices and the truth is that a last will is not always going to be the best choice.
Definition of adjudication based on Article 1 point 8 of Government Regulation Number 24 of 1997 on Land Registration (“GR No.24/1997″) is “activity which is performed in the process of land registration for the first time, including collection and determination of the fact of the physical data and juridical data concerning one or more objects of land registration for the purposes of its registration”.
When it comes to making sure young children are taken care of in the context of estate planning, parents have two main areas to address the management of their children’s finances, and the upbringing of the children themselves. It’s a possibility that is tough to think about, but who should be in charge of your children and their inheritances in the unlikely event you and your spouse pass away before your children reach adulthood?
When you establish your IRA, you have the opportunity to designate beneficiaries - -people who will receive the funds in your account after you pass away. And most married people name their spouse as beneficiary. But what if you and your spouse pass away in a common accident? Or your spouse passes away and you don’t name a new beneficiary before you pass away?
An Advance Medical Directive is an essential estate planning document that lets you communicate your wishes for end-of-life medical care to your doctors and loved ones. What kinds of situations does an Advance Medical Directive cover? It’s effective when you’re terminally ill or seriously injured and can’t speak for yourself to communicate your decisions and preferences concerning your medical treatment.
As your parents get older, the concern grows that their mental faculties will become impaired, and they’ll no longer be able to handle their own personal or financial affairs. Ailments like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are common and become more likely with age, as does the risk of stroke and other debilitating health issues.
When you have a child with special needs, many areas of your life require additional planning and special arrangements, and your estate plan is no different. If your child receives government benefits, you already know that there’s a cap on the amount of assets he or she is allowed to have and still receive those benefits.
An LPA is a legal document that allows someone (called the Donor) to choose who they want to make decisions on their behalf when they lack mental capacity to make the decisions themselves. The LPA must be completed in advance of the Donor losing mental capacity. It is then kept until needed.
When you’re deciding what type of trust you need, it’s important to understand what’s available to you. Trusts fall into a few basic categories, and two of these categories are Irrevocable and Revocable.
We’ve all heard the stories of wealthy eccentrics leaving millions of dollars – or even their entire estates – to their pets. But it’s important for average, ordinary people to think about what who will care for their pets when they’re no longer around to do so.
When it comes to estate planning, it’s essential for both you and your attorney to know how your property is titled. Knowing how you own your property has an effect on what estate planning methods you use – and whether or not your estate plan is even effective. Here are the basic categories of property ownership:
If you’re looking into putting together an estate plan, you may have heard about Revocable Living Trusts. You might be wondering what all the fuss is about. A Revocable Living Trust is an effective estate planning tool for many people. Here are the main benefits:
A living trust is a powerful estate planning tool, and we discuss four reasons a family should consider using this tool within their estate plan. To review how a living trust works: A living trust is a legal arrangement that manages a person's property during their lifetime and distributes it according to their wishes upon their death.
You don't want to take some type of surface action and go forward with the idea that you have all of your ducks in a row. This is something to carefully consider if you have opened a payable on death or transfer on death account.
Those about to begin the Pennsylvania divorce process often find themselves overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted. For many, meeting with a divorce lawyer can seem like a daunting task, especially if you don’t know where to begin. Below, I’ve listed 4 common major issues that you should discuss with your divorce lawyer.
Your estate plan is not only of the most important things you will ever create in your life, but also one of the most private. In the modern digital age, where it seems as though personal information can be accessed by a few quick clicks of a mouse, it is completely normal to be concerned about what estate documents are public record.
If you were to enjoy extraordinary financial success one of the first things that may cross your mind would be to share the wealth with your loved ones. While generosity is almost universally viewed as a positive trait, you would do well to consider the tax code before you divest yourself of any significant quantity of resources.
There are some rather simple tools that can be utilized to arrange for the transfer of assets to your loved ones, and perhaps the simplest would be payable on death or transfer on death accounts. These accounts are offered at banks or savings and loans and at many brokerages. As the name implies, the accounts become payable or transferable at death.
If you have followed your estate planning attorney's advice, then you have named someone to be your agent in a General Durable Power of Attorney in case a time arises when you are no longer capable of managing your own finances. Now that you have that key piece of your estate plan accomplished, you need to take the next step and speak to the person who will act as your agent. He or she needs to know what to do.
If you are considering how best to plan for your future, estate planning is an option that everyone should take advantage of. In order to ensure that your wishes are upheld and that your loved ones are taken care of, you should meet with a probate attorney to discuss your situation.
A comprehensive estate plan typically includes a number of documents that contain highly personal and confidential information. Your estate planning documents may include decisions and choices that you wish to keep private. Given the ease with which information can be gathered and disseminated in the current electronic age, concerns about the privacy of your estate documents are certainly understandable.
The elderly population has always been an easy target for financial fraud by both illegitimate and legitimate companies. During the recent economic recession, reports of fraud against the elderly have been rising. The Federal Trade Commission in conjunction with state attorney generals has been increasing their consumer protection programs to protect elderly consumers.
When it comes to the big decisions about your estate plan, such as deciding how much of your estate to divide amongst your children your will is usually going to focus around the important items. However, if you want to distribute your personal property, your Will is often not the best way to do it.
Tax laws have a direct and significant impact on your estate plan. During an election year, such as this year, the fate of many tax laws is often uncertain. Scheduling a review of your current estate plan with your estate planning attorney is a good way to make sure that your plan takes advantage of the current tax laws and anticipates any scheduled changes.
As you go about creating your estate plan and making choices about who you want to receive your property, you may experience a feeling of relief in knowing that your family will be cared for after your death.However, for many people, including some celebrities, the final choice they make is to disinherit their family or to leave their children and family members out of any inheritance whatsoever. Let’s take a look at a couple of the more famous examples.
Several months ago there was an interesting story that was floating around various Atlanta area news outlets about a challenge that was issued by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Buffet has famously announced his intention to give away most of his wealth to charity and he has, in fact, already donated about $8 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
When you are evaluating your assets and the heirs to whom you intend to make bequests, a lot of thoughts will invariably cross your mind. Money can do a lot, and being able to pass along financial resources to your family members after you pass away certainly provides you with a good bit of peace of mind.
When you are a child you are taught to understand right from wrong. Because so much effort is put into making this point to you, unfairness can seem like a very big deal when you are a youngster. Then, little by little, the landscape of childhood starts to pass away, and you come to understand that the way of the world as we know it is inherently unfair in some ways. But that doesn't mean you lose your ability to see right from wrong.
Surprisingly, many Americans are still counting on a family inheritance to support them during their golden years. This may be a seriously flawed estate plan. For centuries, families passed down the family fortune from one generation to the next. This was often done for pragmatic reasons. In many cases, the family wealth was the result of a family business -- a business that the next generation was expected to continue managing.
Huguette Clark, a New York heiress with an estate valued at more than $400 million, died last year just shy of her 105th birthday. A Last Will and Testament executed by Clark in May of 2005 was entered into probate shortly after her death.
As the name implies, a family owned business is a business that remains in the family under ideal circumstances. If you are the owner of a family owned business, you have likely considered passing down your business to future generations in the event of your death. While the desire to pass down your business to the next generation is certainly understandable, it is not always the wise choice.
If you are one of the millions of people planning to utilize a trust in your estate plan, then you are likely trying to decide which type of trust will best suit your goals and objectives. Only a lengthy consultation with your estate planning attorney can help you to reach a final decision on the issue; however, there are questions that you may wish to answer prior to meeting with your attorney.
Estate planning serves two very important functions. First, it allows you to decide what will happen to your estate assets upon your death. A secondhand corresponding, function is that estate planning allows you to structure those assets in a way that will minimize the tax consequences associated with the transfer of estate assets.
Most people go to great lengths to avoid litigation of any sort; however, they often forget about the possibility of probate litigation, relying on the thought that they will not be around to worry about it. First, probate litigation often results from more than one person seeking control over the assets of, or right to make medical decisions for, someone who is living, but incapacitated, meaning you may very well still be around.
Your Last Will and Testament is your only chance to decide what happens to your estate assets upon your death. It is the cornerstone of your estate plan -- the document from which all other estate planning tools flow. Once you have taken the time and effort to create your Will, don’t make the mistake of failing to update it when necessary.
Anyone with an estate plan should congratulate themselves that they've taken the required steps to adequately prepare for the future. However, just like buying a new car requires you to perform regular maintenance, so too does having an estate plan. If you created a plan and haven't performed regular maintenance on it, you need to review your plan with your estate planning attorney.