Estate Planning Law Articles
Articles written by lawyers and expert witnesses worldwide
explaining the different aspects of Estate Planning.
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.
How to prevent foreign inheritance laws from affecting your summer villa. Owning holiday homes abroad has become increasingly common amongst English people. The idea of purchasing a second property in places like Tuscany, the French Riviera or Spain is undeniably appealing, and also represents in many cases a good investment.
First, don't panic. It is often common to find a mistake or error in your estate plan, especially when you've created your plan yourself or used a website or self-help product. Second, the kind of changes you can make will depend upon the kind of mistake that was made and what you want to change. Let’s look at some common scenarios.
As more and more Americans reach retirement age every day, many often find that their new lives can lead to some regrets. If you have yet to reach retirement age and are creating your estate plan there are several issues associated with retirement you may want to consider as you make your planning choices.
If you have had children with multiple spouses during your lifetime, your estate planning can get complicated. You will want to make sure that all of your children are provided for in your estate after you pass away. A simple Will from a legal document service is not a good option. Instead, you should speak to an estate planning attorney about how to divide your estate.
By Tila Legal
Will and testaments give you a chance to divide your property according to your own free wish without any ones interference from some external body; on the other hand if you die without a will, your property, land and other physical assets are divided by the government based on pre-decided rules and regulations.
Everyone should have an attorney draft a general durable power of attorney for them as part of their estate plan. If you do not have one, your loved ones may have to scramble to make sure that your interests are protected if you are incapacitated. This can cause needless delays and frustrations for you and your loved ones.
Planning for what will happen to your assets and property after you pass away is one of the most complicated and confusing legal decisions that most people ever have to make. The number of different estate plan options and documents can be overwhelming. Attorneys who specialize in estate planning can alleviate problems that you have in understanding all of the different options.
In 2011, there was a poll conducted by the Associated Press and LifeGoesStrong.com. The purpose of the probe was to get an idea about how prepared baby boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) are for retirement. The baby boomer generation is reaching retirement age and massive numbers of people are involved.
It would be logical to consider giving gifts to people that you would otherwise be leaving inheritances to while you are still alive in an effort to gain estate tax efficiency. However, the powers that be are well aware of this logic as well. Therefore, there is a gift tax in place that is unified with the estate tax.
Like a muscle, a good estate plan is one you regularly use and maintain. It's especially important to change or update a plan if you go through major life event, such as a divorce, the birth of a grandchild, or a substantial increase or decrease in wealth.
The typical layperson is usually going to equate estate planning with drawing up a last Will and in fact there are entities out there that will sell you a blank last Will document. They tell you that you just have to fill in the blanks and everything will be set in the event of your death.
Do I Need a Will – The short answer to that question is yes; everyone should have a will. Although all states have laws that dictate who the people are that are your beneficiaries if you don’t have a will, having one will let you, and not the court, determine who will inherit your assets.
There was a 60 Minutes segment that aired in '09 that was entitled "The Cost Of Dying," and this report was very relevant to anyone who is wondering why estate planning lawyers recommend advance health care directives like living wills and durable medical powers of attorney.
The Successor Trustee of a Revocable Living Trust is the lifeline between the affairs of a decedent’s estate and the beneficiaries. If beneficiaries have no idea what is happening with the estate settlement process, they may feel like they have no control and may begin to protest the actions of the Trustee. As Trustee, you must always keep the lines of communication open.
If you have a Last Will and Testament, Revocable Living Trust or an Irrevocable Trust, you have the option to include a No Contest Clause in your document. So what is a “No Contest” clause? It is a statement that says any beneficiary who challenges your estate document will be completely disinherited.
Federal estate taxes are taxes that will be owed upon your estate after you pass away. Your estate will owe taxes if your assets are worth more than a certain amount. The maximum estate tax rate is quite high, so finding ways to decrease your taxable estate is vital.
During this time of economic woes, more people are turning to their retirement accounts for extra funds. So, is this a safe option to help you get through a job loss or financial crisis? Before you withdraw your funds early you should consider the costs you may incur, if your situation may avoid some of those costs, and if there is an alternative to provide you with the same financial relief.
When you start a business, you should not only consider how your business will thrive; you should also think about what will happen to it when you are no longer available to run daily activities. You may have an unspoken plan to hand the business down to your children, but you must evaluate whether this will really work.
Trusts, both revocable and irrevocable, offer a variety of options that allow you to tailor your estate plan to your specific needs and desires. If you have an estate that extends beyond a basic Last Will and Testament, you should understand the differences between these two types of Trusts.
A fiduciary is someone who monitors assets for you, with your best interests in mind. This may be a financial institution, a property management company or a trustee. Fiduciaries are not only an important part of life; they are also essential during your disability and after your death. During the estate planning process, you must take care when choosing your attorney-in-fact, health care agent, successor trustee, or estate executor.
Since you do not know what age your children will be when you pass away, it is best to plan their inheritance as if they have not reached adulthood at that time. You can always update your plan after your children are grown. There are several ways to leave an inheritance for your minor children.
The standard image of a family as a mother and father with two children is becoming less frequent. In the current age, families include a variety of situations divorces, single parents, unmarried couples living together, same-sex parents, second marriages and beyond. So how do you ensure that your blended family receives the inheritance you wish to leave upon your death? A valid Last Will and Testament is one way to safeguard your final wishes.
Your pets are an important part of your family, so it is vital that you include them in your estate plan. Like naming a guardian for your children you can name a guardian for your pets. You should do so to avoid family disagreements if more than one person should want to care for your furry loved ones. A worst case scenario is if no family member is willing to step forward and take your pet into their home.
For many, the idea of creating an estate plan is something they’ll do “later.” As in when they’re older, when they have more “stuff” or whenever they have some time to actually sit down and do it. But putting off creating your estate plan isn’t a good idea, and I’ll tell you why.
The decision to seek long term care for a loved one is a difficult one to make. Perhaps you are afraid of hurting your family member’s feelings by suggesting they are no longer capable. Or maybe your family member isn’t ready to admit the need for help. Despite the difficulty of broaching this touchy subject, you must do so for the health and safety of your loved one. The good news is you don’t have to do it alone.
Most people like to believe that they will be able to retire years before they reach full retirement age. Although this is a nice thought, it’s not very realistic unless you commit to solid planning early on. One of the first things you should decide is at what age you would like to retire. The second thing you’ll need to know is how much financial security you expect to have.
If, like Sabina and me, you have a loved one who is disabled, then you know how important government assistance programs can be to their well-being. But to qualify for these programs, your dependent must have limited finances. So, any inheritance you leave him or her could potentially put their eligibility for government assistance at risk.
Because so many families have children from more than one marriage, estate planning for blended families has become a common challenge in the estate planning world. How, for example, do you ensure that your children from a previous marriage will benefit from your assets if you die first?
Estate planning is a complicated and on-going process. It can seem tiring because you need to frequently update your plan based on changes in your personal circumstances, as well as changes in the tax laws. Although there is no way out of the frequent reviewing of your estate plan, you can simplify the entire process by following a few do’s and don’ts.
Choosing an executor for your will or estate is necessary to make sure your wishes are carried out after your death. Not only should your executor be responsible, but they should also know how you think. Sometimes, we overlook certain parts of our estate, either because they seem insignificant to us or because they simply slipped our mind. Should this happen, your executor will be expected to provide a resolution.
Most people look forward to coming up with an estate plan about as much as they look forward to going in for a root canal. However, with the right help, having an effective estate plan in place does not have to be difficult, and it’s a necessary part of taking care of your family. Here are a few simple errors to avoid:
If you’re familiar with living trusts, then you know that one of the big benefits of a trust is the ability to avoid probate. This is possible because the trust holds title to your property and assets, with you in control as the Trustee. When you pass on, your Successor Trustee steps in and maintains control over the trust and the assets it holds but the title to those assets never actually changes hands.
Funding your living trust is an important part of estate planning, especially if your goal is to avoid probate. Here are some tips for how and with what to fund your living trust. A living trust offers a variety of benefits and is an essential component of any good estate plan. With it, you can minimize estate taxes, protect your property from creditors and lawsuits and even avoid the costly process of probate.
You can withdraw money from your IRA at any time, but there are sometimes penalties or income tax associated. The rules vary depending on whether you have a Roth or a traditional IRA and, as with a 401(k), the “magic” age is 59 ½.
Everyone gets older – that’s just a fact of life. And while we can’t avoid aging, we can take steps to ensure that our loved ones are properly cared for when they become elderly and can no longer take care of themselves. It’s a sad fact that abuse of the elderly in nursing homes and medical facilities is an ongoing concern. Not in every facility of course, but it does happen. And unfortunately, the victims frequently suffer in silence.
When it comes to financial matters we need several people we can trust to act in our best interest. These people include friends, relatives and professionals. In legal language, such people are called fiduciaries. A fiduciary can be a person or institution that you trust would act in your best interest when you need help. Fiduciaries can include attorneys, bankers, business advisers, mortgage brokers, real estate agents etc.
An advance medical directive can actually consist of two different legal documents, both designed to protect you medically in the event you can no longer speak on your own behalf. The first is commonly called a Healthcare Power of Attorney or Health Care Proxy and it allows you to specify who will make decisions on your behalf in case of a medical emergency.
A Living Will is a legal document that alerts your healthcare providers to your wishes and preferences regarding medical treatments and life-support measures. Living Wills are used when a person becomes incapacitated by illness, accident or old age and is unable to speak on their own behalf.
If a relative or friend asks you to serve as the executor of their estate – or, more likely, you are choosing an executor for your estate – make sure you know what is involved. In some cases serving as an executor could be quite involved and time-consuming, especially if the estate contains a number of assets and the estate plan is relatively complicated.
Over the last few years Israel has become an attractive jurisdiction for tax planners, the following article will provide information on some of the tax benefits which new immigrants or returning residents can obtain.
After you die, your family will not be able to immediately receive your property until the probate process is completed. Depending on your estate and the nature of your case, this can take months and may even last several years if there are conflicts. If your family needs the property quickly, this lengthy process can cause a lot of stress.
As you embark on your estate planning journey, it's important to keep in mind that your career goals, estate planning desires and your dreams of retirement are all factors you need to carefully weigh.For many people who reached the retirement age and stop working, they often experience regrets that they are unable to correct.
If it's important for most people to have all of their estate planning documents in place before something catastrophic happens. It is even more important for members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. This is because different states have different laws about GLBT life-partnerships. These laws can affect your end-of-life financial and medical directives as well as who will inherit your estate.
Estate planning typically requires a thorough understanding of the tax laws that will directly impact the choices you make for your plan. Unfortunately, in an election year, uncertainty surrounds the fate of many tax laws, making estate planning more difficult. That is not to say that you should be complacent this year -- on the contrary.
The Federal estate tax is considered to be unfair by many observers who are familiar with the details. One of their contentions is that the estate tax is an instance of double taxation.
In years past, family wealth was traditionally passed down from one generation to the next without question. It was rare for a family patriarch or matriarch to disinherit the children without a very good reason. Even the proverbial “black sheep” of the family typically received something when the time came. Passing on the family fortune was done out of tradition, family loyalty and pragmatism.
If you own a family business, you have likely spent your lifetime growing and nurturing the business. You have undoubtedly given considerable thought to the future of your business, including what will happen to it upon your death. If you are like most family business owners, your initial thought is that you wish to pass the business on to your family. But is this really a wise choice?
You are not required to utilize the same vehicle of asset transfer to facilitate the distribution of assets to each of your heirs. This is something to keep in mind, especially if you have someone on your inheritance list who you feel as though may need some guidance.
While the ability to decide who will receive your assets upon your death is certainly an important feature of estate planning, the ability to reduce, or even avoid, the tax consequences of transferring wealth and assets upon your death is an equally important facet of estate planning.
Last Spring, New York heiress Huguette Clark died just shy of her 105th birthday leaving behind what has become a “made for tabloids” battle of the Wills.
For many people in the later years of their lives, pets are their closest family and friends. Your children no longer live with you. Over the years friends have moved or passed away. However, your faithful pets are always therein your will, you leave assets to your other family members, and it only makes sense to make sure that your pets are also provided for by including a trust for them in your will.
As thousands of baby boomers reach retirement age every day, many of them are finding the idea of having a traditional funeral to be less than satisfying. Luckily, boomers—and everyone else—have a wider range of choices instead of the traditional coffin burial. Here is a brief list.
Should firms give a fixed fee for Probate work? If so how much should it be? A lot of solicitors still charge a percentage of the value of the estate plus an hourly rate of around £200 for Probate work. Banks charge an extraordinary 3% of the value of the estate.
After much debate the House of Representatives finally voted into law the new Cyprus International Trust Law. The bill that was enacted on the 9th of March 2012 aims to modernise the framework of international trusts and have positive impact on investment.
When a non UK resident dies owning assets in the UK it is often necessary to get Probate in the UK. This article summarises how to get it.
It is a good idea to work from a checklist when you are trying to make sure that you have all your bases covered when creating an estate plan.
The term probate, in Old English, means “to prove”. Probate can play a huge role in estate planning because a family will be exposed to probate when a family member dies, a family member becomes incompetent or a minor child inherits property. The legal process of probation involves administering the estate of a deceased person by establishing the validity of a will and carrying it out.
There are websites dotting the cyber landscape that want you to think that you can plan your own estate.
Unless you are in a very rarefied financial position you are going to have to plan ahead intelligently to be able to enjoy a comfortable retirement. Just going through life day to day without any plan is probably going to leave you lacking as you start to get near the typical retirement age. Unfortunately, a lot of people find this out when it is too late to get on track.
As the owner of a Worcester family owned small business, you have likely devoted your lifetime to growing the business from the ground up. As a result, you certainly have a stake in the future of the business, including what will happen to it upon your death. You have probably considered passing down the business to your children, but is this a wise choice?
As a Leominster resident, you have probably given considerable thought and consideration to how you wish to structure your estate plan in order to transfer your estate assets to family members and loved ones upon your death.
Home ownership has long been the foundation of wealth building in the United States. If you are like most Americans, your home is your single most valuable possession. As a result, if you were to reduce the taxable value of your home you could go a long way toward mitigating your estate tax exposure.