Estate Planning Law Articles
Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide
discussing legal aspects related to Estate Planning.
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.
Attorneys use many different terms in estate planning and they sometimes use terms without thoroughly explaining what everything means. For example, if you have a revocable living trust, an estate attorney might also suggest that you create a pour over Will. If you do not know what a pour over Will is, you are not alone.
No one wants to go through the probate process after a spouse dies, but there is an important reason that you shouldn't delay it. If you do not probate your deceased spouse's estate, then your children might have to after you pass away. In fact, they might need to probate both you and your spouse's estates at the same time.
Some people recommend payable on death or transfer on death accounts as a way to transfer assets to your loved ones after you pass away. You can open payable on death accounts at banks, savings and loans, and at some brokerages. While it is true that these accounts can achieve direct asset transfers, it is important to understand their limitations.
Though it may not be the most pleasant topic to bring up in casual conversation, we all will face the eventuality of a final resting place. In the past, there were few options available to us when considering our final resting place, but today there are many more from which to choose. Here are a few of the more unique options you have when it comes to burial.
A recent article discussed retirees and some common regrets they share. Though their answers are often not surprising they can be helpful if you are developing your estate plan and are trying to develop long-term goals for yourself. Much of their advice is aimed at pre-retirement-aged people, although anyone can use it as the basis for making both long-term and immediate plans.
You may have recently heard the news out of Australia about the nation's richest woman, Gina Reinhart and her legal fight with her children over her decision to disinherit them from the family fortune. Ms. Reinhart is the heir to her father's iron ore business estimated to be worth about $18 billion.
It is good to go through life staying positive, but at the same time you have to be aware of certain dangers that exist and take precautions to protect yourself. This can become even more important as you consider the eventualities of aging.
Many people have an estate planning goal that includes avoiding Probate at all costs. Unfortunately, for many people, this includes avoiding the services of an estate planning attorney because they have the mistaken belief that the attorney will intentionally use Probate methods so the attorney can make money by representing the estate in Probate.
Estate planning focuses on what you're going to leave behind after you die. If you're retired, how you spend your money now will significantly impact what options you have when deciding how to give your property away. It's important that if you're living off your retirement savings, or pension, that you don't fall victim to some common money pitfalls that can significantly deplete your estate.
Senior citizens and elders are increasingly victims of scams. Abuses by attorneys in fact are among the worst. Elder Financial Abuse: Power of Attorney Scams - How to protect seniors from abuse of a power of attorney by family or friends, and how to spot this type of financial abuse.
There are two primary advantages to utilizing gift giving as a part of your inheritance planning strategy. For one thing you get to enjoy the simple pleasure of doing something nice for a loved one while you are still alive. This is good for you emotionally, but it is good for your heir as well because he or she doesn't have to juggle the grief/happiness conundrum that goes along with receiving an inheritance.
It is useful to recognize the fact that estate planning is just one aspect of elder law, and as elder law attorneys it is our job to stay apprised of all of the issues of the day that affect our seniors. One matter that has been getting a lot of attention recently is that of elder financial abuse, and it is something to keep in mind when you are engaged in planning for your twilight years.
As we watch the countdown on New Year's Eve it is a heady time indeed. Another year beckons, full of change and pregnant with possibility. Before you know it, that fateful time arrives and champagne corks take flight, people break into heartfelt song, and anything seems possible. But when you wake up the next morning and make it to work a day or two later, you tend to find the world looking pretty much the same as it did before all of that change that went down on New Year's Eve.
No one likes to think about what would happen to them if they were injured or became ill and could no longer make medical decisions for themselves. But it happens to people of all ages, every day. If you don’t tell your doctors and your family what your wishes would be in a situation like this, then they’re left to try to figure things out for themselves.
Choosing an estate planning attorney isn’t as simple as picking one out of the phone book. There are a number of questions you should be asking first to ensure that the attorney you choose can help you create the right estate plan for you.
Whether you realize it or not, you’re surrounded by fiduciaries. Your banker, your real estate agent, accountants, brokers… the list just goes on and on. So, what do fiduciaries have to do with estate planning?
Distinct differences between a simple Will and a Living Trust will dictate which option is best for your estate planning situation.
Probate can have a significant effect on how your estate is handled after your death. It can mean the difference between a smooth transition and a draining legal process for your loved ones. What is probate? Probate is essentially when the government steps in to make sure your assets are allocated properly after you die.
When an individual dies without having a will in place, they have died intestate from a legal perspective. So what happens when a person dies intestate, or without recording any of their final wishes? The answer is that the property will be distributed by default according to the laws of the state where they lived. The probate court will appoint someone to administer the estate, and this is sometimes an individual who is nominated by a majority of those who have interest in the estate.
One of the primary reasons why it is advisable to retain the services of an experienced estate planning attorney rather than trying to piece a plan together on your own is the matter of asset retention. The objective is to pass along the contents of your estate to your heirs quickly and efficiently without incurring a lot of expense while doing so.
Choosing your trustee is an important choice. The ideal trustee is trustworthy, good with money, and cares about you. If you don’t have a family member helper who fits this description, you may want to name a corporate fiduciary (a bank or trust company) to serve as a co-trustee with a family member or as the sole trustee.
There are valid reasons to consider probate avoidance strategies, and the top two would involve time and money. Depending on the specific jurisdiction, how complex the estate is and how well the interested parties are getting along the process can take anywhere from several months to multiple years in some complicated cases. And of course the heirs to the estate will not receive their inheritances until probate has run its course and the estate has been closed.
Many people are confused by the term "probate" and what it means. That is ok. It's complicated. Ask a group of estate planning lawyers what "probate" is and you will probably get a different answer on what the term "probate" means to each of them. To me, it is a broad term which means the process of administering a Will through the legal system after a person's death.
It may be safe to say that most people realize the need for an estate plan. It is also safe to say that the majority of people put off creating one until long after one should have been created. Although each person’s needs are unique to the individual, the general rule when it comes to estate planning is the early the better.
One thing to consider when contemplating the contingencies of reaching an advanced age, is the possibility of being unable to handle your day-to-day needs on your own. The likelihood of a stay in a nursing home or assisted living community may be the first thing that comes to mind. These options exist, but there are some pitfalls that go along with these types of facilities.
You might have heard that you can give some of your money to your heirs before you pass away without any tax consequences. While this is sometimes the case, if you do not speak to an estate planning attorney before you give your money away, you might be making a big mistake. A well-intentioned, but improperly given, gift can cause more problems and greater financial burdens than anyone wants deal with.
An important goal of many estate plans is to make sure that your heirs can quickly and easily get their inheritance and wrap up your affairs. In today's computer-based society, making sure that your heirs have access to your online accounts is an important, but often overlooked, part of this process. Your estate plan should include some way for someone to access your online accounts.
Once you've begun the estate planning process and start looking towards practical concerns such as funeral planning, you may want to consider some new options that are currently available. No longer are people only limited to a choice between a burial and cremation. Today there are several alternatives you can consider when trying to decide what you wish to do with your earthly remains.