Estate Planning Law Articles
Articles written by lawyers and expert witnesses worldwide
explaining the different aspects of Estate Planning.
Everyone needs an estate plan. If you are smart, you know that you need an attorney to draft your estate plan. Estate plans have legal consequences, so it only makes sense to hire a legal expert to create your plan. You wouldn't hire a roofer to fix a cavity. You would go to the dentist for that.
When you are enjoying your prime earning years you have a certain amount of financial power. Once you retire you may find yourself living on a fixed income with little flexibility available to you. As a result you must look ahead toward the future when you are still working and plan ahead intelligently so that you can enjoy your retirement years to the fullest without any financial concerns.
In a small majority of states, adult children of elderly parents may be required to pay for the parent's long-term care expenses if the parent is not able to. Thirty states have what are called filial responsibility laws. These laws require the children to pay for their parent's nursing home expenses. Though they have rarely been enforced, they apply if an elderly parent is considered indigent and the adult children are able to pay.
Moving to a new home probably means making long lists of Things to Do. If you’re moving across state lines, be sure to add an Estate Plan Review high on the list. Even though each state must honor legal documents made in other states, each state makes its own laws for the formalities and substance of wills, trusts ,powers of attorney, and health care directives. This can lead to some confusing consequences.
Although you may not know the name, you have probably read the novel or seen the movie based on the novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which was written by Larsson. Larsson was a lifelong journalist -- often authoring controversial political pieces. As do many writers, Larsson had a novel in his head that had to be put down on paper.
Death is not a popular topic for obvious reasons. Most of us prefer not to spend much time thinking about the possibility of dying, at least not anytime soon. It can happen though, and being financially and practically prepared is important.
If you have worked hard all of your life, and are at the point where you are starting to think about your golden years you are probably counting on Social Security retirement benefits to fund at least a portion of your golden years.
If you have recently lost a parent, you are undoubtedly going through the grieving process that follows such a deep loss. The loss of a parent is never easy. If you are also concerned that something is not right about her Last Will and Testament, your grief is likely also joined by worry.
Marriage in the United States is much more than an emotional commitment between two people--it is an official status that comes with numerous financial and legal benefits to the partners. Anyone who is in a same sex relationship is all too aware of this fact.
If you are one of America’s farmers or ranchers, estate planning includes some significant hurdles for you that it does not include for other types of businesses. Although estate planning is always important, for a farmer or rancher it often takes on a heightened importance to ensure that the farm or ranch assets are not lost to estate taxes upon your death.
Losing a parent can be one of the most emotionally difficult times you will ever have to face during your lifetime. Sitting down to hear the terms of your mother’s or father’s Last Will and Testament is often one of the most difficult parts of the loss.
As you are thinking about the quality of life that you will lead as a senior citizen, you must be pragmatic about your present-day actions. Social Security alone is probably not going to be enough to provide you with a truly comfortable retirement, and Medicare does not pay for everything. So, to be able to realize your ideal retirement vision, you are going to have to engage in some intelligent long-term planning.
Once you have drawn up your Last Will you have taken an important first step, but things are not going to simply take care of themselves when the time comes. After you pass away your estate is going to have to be probated before the rightful heirs to the estate receive their inheritances.
A revocable trust can minimize or eliminate the supervision of probate courts; increase privacy, reduce expenses and costs; and simplify the administration process at death. However, a failure to fund can result in costly probate proceedings or worse—a transfer of your estate to the wrong beneficiaries. Rather than undermining the very purposes of the trust by failing to fund, individuals should take concrete steps in order to ensure complete trust funding.
If you have been appointed to be the Executor of a Will, you have a lot of work to do. The Executor needs to gather all of the assets of the estate and distribute them according to the terms of the Will. That's the easy part.
Some would have you believe that Scots law allows anyone to be the Lord of, if not all he surveys, at least a square foot of the Scottish Highlands. One site advertises souvenir plots “from just £29.99” and claims that, in return, you can use a clan crest, coat-of-arms and tartan. By “Scottish tradition”, it says, ownership of the plot “legally allows” you to use the courtesy title of Laird, Lord or Lady. But what is the legal truth behind these offers of instant ennoblement?
With even the President of the United States openly supporting the rights of same-sex couples to marry the future looks brighter than ever for gay couples who want to enter into a legal marriage. For now, however, statistics tell us that as many as one million same-sex couples in America continue to struggle with providing similar rights and protections to their partner that a traditional marriage provides when it comes to estate planning.
Many people are unaware of probate courts and what they do. If you've begun your estate planning efforts you may know that probate courts are responsible for supervising the estate administration process, even though they also do a lot more. Though each state court has different responsibilities, let’s take a look at some of the more common matters that probate courts handle.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlights how Medicaid, especially after the passing of the Affordable Care Act is changing the way many Americans look at healthcare and retirement planning. Though originally enacted as a plan to provide health insurance to the needy, Medicaid is becoming more widely available to those who previously had been ineligible.
People like to make money. Estate planning attorneys are not any different. Most people, however, like to make money in ways that are not headache inducing. Estate planning attorneys are not any different in that respect either.
Family farms and ranches face some of the same estate planning obstacles as any other business; however, there are some aspects of estate planning that are unique to the family farm or ranch. If you own a family farm or ranch, and plan to pass it down to future generations, careful estate planning is critical to avoid losing your farm or ranch to estate taxes.
Many people wonder how much control they should retain over the assets they leave to their heirs. Some people want to just give them everything away and let their heirs do with it what they will. Other people want to dictate everything that their heirs can do with their inheritances. Both of those are extremes. Most people will find themselves somewhere in the middle.
As you are making preparations for the future you are going to want to discuss all of the possibilities with an experienced local Indianapolis estate planning lawyer. Out of a lack of information there are those who go forward assuming that a last will is the best and only choice, but this is a mistake.
For many people, creating an estate plan so that your estate can avoid having to go through probate is one of the main goals of beginning the planning process. However, probate courts do not simply exist to delay the estate settlement process. These courts exist in all states and are responsible for hearing numerous important legal issues. Let's take a look at some of the common issues probate courts handle.
There is an old saying about "things taking care of themselves," but do things really work that way? Perhaps some matters can fall into place organically from time to time but this is certainly not the case when it comes to estate planning.
Summary of the process for obtaining UK probate if a non UK resident dies dies with a bank account, shares or other assets in the UK. Non UK residents who travel regularly to the UK may have UK assets such as a bank account or shares. Unless the amount in the account is very small the banks won’t release the money in the account to the executors without UK Probate. The shares can’t be sold.
How Anticipating Future Problems with Powerful Estate Planning Documents Can Save You Time and Money
This article discusses ways to beef up your California estate planning documents in order to minimize costs. Want to save money with wills, trusts, and estate? The best way is to plan for changed circumstances with estate planning documents that anticipate future changes in the law. Special emphasis on: special needs trusts; IRA accounts and retirement accounts; divorce protection; beneficiary-controlled trusts; asset protection; medi-cal planning; and generation skipping transfer tax.
Once you start to get serious about exploring your options regarding vehicles of asset transfer, you may recognize the value of revocable living trusts. As the name suggests, these vehicles are revocable so you can change things or even dissolve the trust should you choose to do so.
Anyone over the age of about 40 should be aware that the Social Security retirement system has problems. We have all heard the warnings. Unless you are a financial analyst, you likely don’t know what to make of all the warnings. Will the system disappear entirely before I retire? Will the benefits decrease? Are the warnings unfounded?
With President Obama’s recent public announcement in support of the right for same sex couples to marry, the tide may finally be turning for same sex couples. Until there is universal acceptance for the right of same sex couples to marry though, partners must take advantage of all the estate planning tools that are now available to protect each other.
Making a Will is not typically a difficult process, though it can require a little bit of study to make the process go more smoothly. There are a lot of uncommon words and terminology used in the will making process that you should be aware of before you begin making your own will. Let's take a look at some of the more important terms you may encounter.
Married couples planning on divorcing sometimes under estimate the extent to which the divorce will impact their estate plans. Not only will you have to change key documents such as your will and your advance directive, but you may also have to create additional estate planning tools to protect your property and ensure the divorce will not cause problems with your estate plan later.
Though the recession officially ended in 2009, states are still struggling to cope with the massive increase in Medicaid expenses associated with the recent economic downturn. Between 2007 and 2009, Medicaid expenses rose by an average of 6.6 percent per year, according to a new study from the Kaiser Foundation, a nonprofit organization.
If you were to decide to use a revocable living trust rather than a last Will to facilitate the transfer of your assets after your passing you would find that there are three primary participants. The creator of the trust is of course one of them, and this individual is known as the grantor or settlor of the trust.
Many people would rather draft their own Wills by using forms provided by online legal service companies instead of hiring an estate planning attorney. Sometimes, those forms are not legally valid. Leaving that issue aside, a big problem with using forms is that the people who do so do not often hear about all of their options.
Some of the most contentious fights between family members after a parent dies are not over the big items or the amount of inheritance but rather over the smaller family heirlooms that tend to have more sentimental value than anything else. Avoiding such conflicts should be at least one goal of any good estate plan. Here are several tips you can use to ensure no conflicts arise over family heirlooms.
In some situations, a married couple may decide to separate legally, instead of divorcing. While a legal separation contains very similar provisions to a divorce there are certain estate planning concerns that legally separated couples have that a divorced couple does not. It's important to speak to your estate planning attorney if you plan on getting a legal separation.
When you first start to think about what you want to happen to your property after you pass away it is very easy to get confused. In estate planning there are so many different options and legal instruments that to lay people it often seems like the only choice is to throw up their hands and forget about it. Estate planning methods often seem like this, that, and the other thing.
If you let the chips fall as they may with regard to funeral arrangements they are not going to fall into a void. The responsibility is going to land squarely in the laps of your family members, and this is something to keep in mind if you have made no final plans on your own.
One out of every five adults, or about 50 million Americans, have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis. Though many of these people are elderly, about half of all arthritis sufferers are under the age of 65. If you begin noticing any of the typical warning signs associated with arthritis, you should speak to your doctor so you can start a treatment regimen. Early detection is always better than catching it too late.
To be comprehensively prepared for the inevitable you must consider all of the basic hand to mouth details. One of these would be funeral arrangements. There are those who assume that this is something that family members should take care of, but in fact there are a lot of choices that must be made and it may be best to make them yourself.
A person’s Last Will and Testament may be the most important legal document that he or she ever creates. As such, it should be created after careful contemplation and consideration, while the person is of sound mind, and with the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney.
The lingering effects of the recent economic downturn are still being felt as states continue to struggle with their Medicaid budgets. A new study released in early May from the nonprofit Kaiser Foundation reports that the number of Americans seeking healthcare through the Medicaid program increased dramatically between 2007 and 2009.
People who do not have a lot of money often dream about what they would do if they suddenly received a windfall. They think about how they would spend the money, that is and not about how they would manage it. There is a reason the old question is "What would you buy if you won the lottery," and not, "How would you manage your money if you won the lottery?"
It can be challenging to wrap your head around the possibility that a time may come when you may be in a much different mental and physical state than you are at present. Different stages of life bring certain eventualities along with them, and it is far easier to face them if you are properly prepared.
There have been precious few individuals in the history of the entertainment industry who have had the type of impact that Dick Clark had over his long and illustrious career. The professional legacy of Dick Clark will live on for generations to come, and he really laid the groundwork for the merger of music and television that is so commonplace today.
Let's say you've gone through the trouble of writing your will, readying your powers of attorney, and have developed an estate plan that meets all of your needs. What happens if you suddenly need to move into a nursing home? Will your estate plan be able to protect you and your assets from the often extreme costs associated with extended care living?
Even the best drafted estate plan in the world cannot guarantee your family will get along after you pass away. Sometimes, family fights over an estate plan are unavoidable. However, a well-crafted estate plan can lessen the possibilities of disputes and discourage challenges to your estate plan.
None of us can avoid life’s eventual certainty of death, but you can avoid substantial problems arising on death by making a Will. One of the most important things you can do for your loved ones in relation to your assets is to make a Will - and to ensure your Will is properly drawn up. You will, of course, want to ensure your money and assets pass to your chosen beneficiaries; and you will need to adequately provide for your loved ones such as your spouse and children on your death.
The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 is scheduled to expire, or sunset, at the end of the year. If you do not take the necessary steps to gain tax efficiency, you could be missing out on a window of opportunity and lose a great deal of money in the process.
Warning people about the possible consequences of bad estate planning is akin to warning people about the dangers of smoking -- they know it’s true, but without a real life example the point often does not hit home. Unfortunately, if the real life example turns out to be you, then your loved ones may be the ones paying the price for your bad estate planning.
An estimated one out of every five American adults, or about 50 million people, will experience arthritis at some point. Though it's commonly believed that arthritis only affects the elderly, about half of all arthritis sufferers are under the age of 65. Early arthritis warning signs are often key in developing appropriate preventative measures, so if you notice any of these arthritis red flags you should speak to your doctor as soon as possible.
Although not a new story, the story of Larry Hillblom bears repeating as an example of why estate planning is so important and why updating that plan is essential. Larry Hillblom was an eccentric multi-millionaire living on the island of Saipan. He died when his plane went down during a Micronesian island hop in 1995. As one of the founders of the international shipping giant DHL, Hillblom’s estate was valued at close to $600 million at the time of his death.
When you make a will as part of your estate plan there is a portion that is reserved for specific bequests or items that you want to give to a person. Instead of listing all of your personal property one by one in your will there is a manner that will allow you to give items away to specific people in a much easier way.
Anyone who spends any amount of time in estate planning circles knows that some of the most bitter family disputes that arise after a parent die do so because of a conflict over a family heirloom or cherished piece of personal property.
Dementia is a symptom of Alzheimer's disease, though it can also occur as a result of other medical conditions. Alzheimer's and dementia produce memory loss and a general cognitive impairment. Here are three common warning signs that Alzheimer's patients typically show. If you notice any of these in yourself or in a family member or loved one, you should consult a physician as soon as possible.
Estate planning affords you a myriad of choices and opportunities. This includes the opportunity to protect your assets so they stay in your family line. Here’s how your family can benefit from your estate planning.
Estate planning for blended families adds a layer of complexity. Each estate plan will differ based upon personal and financial goals as well as the age of and relationship with the children involved. Below are some issues to consider during the process of estate planning for blended families.
An Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT) is a Trust used to hold your life insurance policy. Upon your death, your life insurance policy can pay into this Trust instead of directly to a beneficiary. Your ILIT Trustee will then use your Trust to pass funds out to your loved ones for a pre-determined amount of time. You must take special consideration when placing a life insurance policy into an Irrevocable Trust.
If you are the parent of young children, the last thing you want to think about is what would happen to your child if you were not there to raise them. You may in fact be thinking that it would never happen to you. Unfortunately, it happens frequently and your failure to plan could have results you never intended.
Estate planning is sometimes an uncomfortable topic of conversation when one is referring to probate law, and when speaking about probate at all you begin to refer to the estates of either those who are recently deceased or those who are unable to handle their own assets while still yet considered living.
Most people when they think of long-term care think of care in a nursing home. The majority of people only enter a nursing home when their needs can no longer be met outside of a treatment facility. Home based and community services are a range of services that allow people to remain in their homes and retain their independence for as long as possible.
India and Vance had been married for 27 years at his death. When she turned 62 she applied for widows benefits. Social Security requires as part of the application for Widows benefits that she show proof of marriage. India could not find her marriage certificate. She requested a copy from the Bureau of Vital Statistics in the state where she and Vance were married and was told they had no record of her marriage. What does she do now?
When you are planning your estate it is important to address all of the matters that are relevant to people who are entering their twilight years. While it is true that the financial aspects of estate planning are important, the health care component is key as well, and since people here in American are living longer than ever it is logical to be prepared to live into our late eighties and beyond.
It really doesn’t matter if you are divorced or married, naming someone to act as the guardian for your children is probably the most important part of your estate plan. People that are divorced naturally assume that the other parent will automatically get custody of the children if something should happen to them. This is true in most cases, but there are some situations to where it would be helpful if you have named a guardian for your children.
During incapacity planning you may use a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and a Durable Financial Power of Attorney to handle your personal and financial matters in the event that you become disabled. Through each of these documents, you may name an agent to make decisions for you. So, wouldn’t it be simpler to make just one document for both purposes? It might seem so, but really it is best to state these needs in separate documents.
A Medical Power of Attorney (POA) or Durable POA for Health Care is a legal document that allows you to provide a plan for your medical care when you can no longer manage decisions on your own. The basic purpose of a health care POA is to name a health care agent and list his or her duties.
Acts of generosity are beautiful things for the most part, but there is a reason to proceed with caution when you are planning your estate for the good of your loved ones. In some cases, a gift or inheritance can be detrimental, causing more problems than providing benefits to your loved ones.
When an estate has a Last Will and Testament or a Revocable Living Trust, that document will determine which heirs inherit which assets. If there is no Will or Living Trust, an estate is considered intestate. In this case, state laws will decide the rightful heirs.
You should be saving funds for your retirement each month. To determine how much to set-aside from your paycheck, calculate the total amount you will need for your later years. You can do so by estimating about 60 to 80% of your current income. This rough figure may not, however, take into account your true retirement expenses.
Estate taxes are federal taxes placed upon any estate above a certain net worth. The net worth of an estate is the value of all property and financial assets minus the total of debts that are owed.
The chance that a person will develop Alzheimer's disease increases significantly after the age of 65. Almost one out of every eight people will develop Alzheimer's disease. Though there is currently no treatment for this condition, you can look out for the common warning signs associated with Alzheimer’s. The following are a few examples:
Stieg Larsson, for those of you who can’t place the name offhand, was a Swedish journalist and right wing political activist for most of his life. He will be remembered though as the author of the novel turned blockbuster movie, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. As is the case with many writers, Larsson lived a modest life without acquiring a significant estate up to the time of his death.
We have all heard the warning for years now about the Social Security retirement system. Some analysts issue warnings that are dire predictions of doom while others tell us that the problem can be fixed. So do you need to be worried and if so what can you do about it?
Now that we are getting well into the year it is important to recognize the fact that there are some significant changes to the tax laws scheduled to kick in at the end of 2012. These alterations may make it necessary for you to make changes to your estate plan and perhaps your long-term financial plan as well.
Every new survey has a different percentage of Americans that do not have a Will or any other type of estate plan. The latest survey from Rocket Lawyer puts the number at 50% of Americans without a Will. If you are one of them, you should take some time to consider what will happen to your property after you pass away.
At the present time the details regarding the way that the late TV icon Dick Clark planned his estate have not yet been made public. One thing is for sure though: If Clark did not take steps to gain tax efficiency his heirs will be faced with an enormous estate tax bill.
An irrevocable trust by its nature is not one that is easily changed, which is why it's referred to as “irrevocable.” However, there are some situations in which a trustee can take action that will for all intents and purposes, change the terms of an irrevocable trust. This is known as decanting, and it involves transferring the trust property from one trust to another.
Issue 1: Making medical decisions If you and your partner have been living together for years and one of you should suddenly fall ill, the other automatically has the legal right to make health care choices on that person's behalf
None of us really like the idea of sitting down and planning for our death, yet as the old saying goes “the only things that are certain in life are death and taxes. Interestingly, the two go hand in hand in many cases. If you do not plan for your death, your estate will likely owe more taxes than had you taken the time to plan ahead.
As you are inventorying your assets in order to execute your estate plan, you may find that you have the ability to make an impact well after your passing. This may be true within your family, but your legacy may also extend beyond those that you know personally.
While the situation is getting better, the law still makes things more difficult for LGBT couples than for others. In many places an LGBT couple cannot get the legal recognition they need to properly care for each other as they get older and to leave their estate to their partner. Sometimes, it is not the law that stands in the way, but individuals who are opposed to same-sex relationships.
We have all heard how important it is to create an estate plan. Despite this, many people put off creating one. We all also know how important it is to discuss funeral plans or burial wishes without loved ones, yet many people also fail to do so. The best way for people to understand the consequences of not preparing properly is often to provide an example of what happens absent preparation. Imagine the following scenario.
Moving can be an incredibly stressful time. Even if you've planned well and the move goes without a hitch there are a lot of potential legal issues involved with your estate plan that you may need to address if you move to a new state. While moving within the same state usually doesn't require any significant changes to an estate plan, moving across state lines can sometimes be problematic.
When you create your Last Will and Testament you want to make sure the document addresses all the “big questions” about your estate such as who receives your real estate and how you divide your large assets. For the small stuff, the personal items such as your family heirlooms and photographs, you can often address this transfer by creating a personal property distribution letter. Here are three tips to help you create such a letter.
As people continue to live longer and medical science continues to make improvements, elderly people often face a range of legal topics that younger people typically do not have to deal with. Elder law attorneys are lawyers who specialize in knowing how specific areas of the law impact their clients and what people can do to protect themselves as they get older. Let’s take a look at some of the most common areas that elder law attorneys deal with.
A pet trust is a trust you create specifically to provide for the care of your pets after you die. The trust is typically created when you include specific trust creating provisions in your last will and testament though you can also create one that will take effect when you are still alive.
Even those who have no experience with estate planning issues may have heard of probate court and the probate process. Probate is simply the legal method involved in transferring property from a deceased owner to a new owner. The popular notion that probate is a bureaucratic nightmare is often overblown, though there is a kernel of truth to it.
Reason 1: Your children will need a guardian. - In the event that both you and your spouse should suddenly be killed or injured so severely that you can no longer care for your children, a guardian will need to step in to take on your parenting duties. If you do not have an estate plan in which you name your choice for guardian, it will be up to a court to make the choice for you.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, there are a variety of warning signs and symptoms that may indicate the onset of Alzheimer's disease. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should contact a doctor right away. Though many of these symptoms mimic age-related problems that almost all elderly people experience, Alzheimer’s disease symptoms are typically more significant than the common ailments associated with growing older.
Property settlement agreements are a great way for parties who are separating or divorcing to settle property issues amicably and to their mutual satisfaction. Without proper legal representation, however, these agreements can lock people into settlements that are detrimental. Following are five of the pitfalls people should avoid when working on such agreements:
Medicaid is the federal program that provides healthcare benefits to a wide variety of people including uninsured individuals with low income, pregnant women, certain children and disabled individuals, and senior citizens who need nursing home care. However, in order to receive Medicaid benefits individuals must meet financial eligibility requirements.
The prepaid funeral plan is basically a plan that allows someone to prepay for their final arrangements, as well as plan them in advance. The money is either held in trust until it is needed, or will be taken from an insurance policy. Due to the rising costs of funerals and burials, the prepaid funeral plan has become very popular in recent years.
Planning for when you may become incapacitated is critical for everyone, but especially so for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons as GLBT couples do not always have the same rights as heterosexual married couples under the law. It is very important for GLBT people to think through what they want to happen if they cannot take care of themselves and their finances.
Saving for a child's college education ranks right up there with paying off your mortgage and saving for retirement in terms of major money concerns. It can be especially hard for the sandwich generation--those not only having to paying for college but helping out their elderly parents.
If you are even thinking about this question, the answer is probably NOW. You need to start the process of estate planning now. Especially if you have a house and mortgage, children, and other assets, you need to start getting a plan in place.
A friend or family member has become incapacitated, physically or mentally, and cannot take care of themselves and their finances. You want to step up to help. What can you do to become their guardian? First, get an attorney to help you with the process. Have a complete understanding of the health, living conditions, and finances of the person you want to help.
One of the most common mistakes that people make with estate planning is in thinking that if they are not wealthy, they don’t need a living trust. If you consider the value of everything you own, such as you home, vehicles, bank accounts, art collection, jewelry, and life insurance, you will likely find that your estate is worth much more than what you think.
When we die, our property typically goes through probate – a process where the courts read our Will (if we have one), appoint an executor of our estate and determine how our assets should be distributed. This is known as “death probate.” Living probate works much the same way except that it occurs while we are still living.
When we’re planning for our future, we want to be sure we choose the best plans, the best programs and the best instruments for the job. But so many options can make it difficult to decide where to put your money. Do you focus on your 401(k) or go after the popular Roth IRA? Here’s a quick way to simplify your decision: