Estate Planning Blog

Even a Late Start toward Retirement is Better than None at All

Even a Late Start toward Retirement Planning is Better than None at All

“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes

“The trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off.” Abe Lemons

There are also people who wait until they become senior citizens to begin planning for retirement. That’s a little on the late side, but the important thing, says the article “Retirement Planning: Start now to help Social Security, Medicare” from Martinsville Bulletin, is to get started. That’s better than doing nothing.

It’s easier if you start earlier. Let’s consider the high school student who diligently puts away 10% of a $7.25 per hour gross minimum wage earning for a year on an average 20-hour work week. That’s $750 into a retirement plan after one year. If that student never went to college, never learned a trade, got a raise or a promotion, they would still have $34,500 in personal savings in 46 years. And since minimum wage increased those number swell to $1,560.00 for one year and $71,760.00. It’s not a lot, as retirement savings go, but it’s better than nothing.

If the same high school student put those savings into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), more would have been saved. The more time your money has to grow through compounding, the more money you’ll have.

Saving a little money every month could make a big difference later on. This year, the average monthly Social Security benefit rounds out at about $1,460 per person, calculated by combining a worker’s highest paid years in the workplace. That’s not enough for retirement. The answer? Start saving early.

It is not as easy to build a nest egg in a few years, but it’s possible.

Many people don’t wake up to the reality of retirement, until they reach age 62. There’s still time to plan. They can put money into IRA accounts, and at age 62 they can save as much as $7,000. Those IRA contributions count as tax deductions. 

Roth IRAs are a little more flexible, but there are no tax deductions with contributions. On the plus side, when money is withdrawn, you’re not paying taxes on the withdrawals.

Another important planning point for seniors: if you’ve had health issues, it’s a good idea to keep working to maintain your employee health insurance. The healthier you are, the lower your health insurance costs will be during retirement. However, health costs do tend to increase with age, so that has to be factored into your retirement planning.

For people who take a lot of medication to control chronic conditions, they’ll need to look into health insurance outside of the workplace. That usually means Medicare. Most seniors are eligible for free Medicare hospital insurance, which is Part A of a four-part option, if they have worked and paid Medicare taxes.

Part A helps pay for inpatient care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility after a hospital stay, some home health care and hospice care. Part B helps to pay for doctors and a variety of other services. Part C allows HMO, PPO and other health care organizations to offer health insurance plans for Medicare beneficiaries. Part D provides prescription drug benefits through private insurance companies.

The Social Security Administration advises people to apply for Medicare three months before they celebrate their 65th birthday, regardless of whether they plan to start receiving retirement benefits right away. 

Whether you’re 27 or 57, you need to plan for retirement. You also need to have an estate plan, and that means making the time to meet with an experienced estate planning professional to discuss your life and your retirement plans. You’ll need their guidance to create a will and other documents.

Advance planning will always be better than waiting until the last minute, for retirement and estate planning.

Reference: Martinsville Bulletin (May 17, 2019) “Retirement Planning: Start now to help Social Security, Medicare”

Predatory Marriage: What Can Be Done?

Predatory Marriage and What Can Be Done about It?

“A bad marriage is worse than no marriage at all.” Neil Clark Warren

“A sociopath, on the other hand, has the same regard for financial obligations as he does to personal ones: no remorse, no conscience. Get what you want now, and damn the consequences later.”  Mary Jo Buttafuoco, Getting It Through My Thick Skull: Why I Stayed, What I Learned, and What Millions of People Involved with Sociopaths Need to Know

Here’s a recent case that best illustrates a predatory marriage: a 47-year-old caregiver is riding in a car to the funeral home with the sons of the man she has been taking care of, until he died at age 100. She announces that she and the man were married in secret a year ago. This is another kind of elder financial abuse, says the New York Law Journal in the article “Predatory Marriages and the Elderly: A Legislative Solution” and is increasing in number.

This is not an easy case to deal with, because of a defect in the law. In New York, there is a “right of election” statute that permits a surviving spouse to claim a share in the estate of a deceased spouse, even if he or she was left nothing, as long as they were married on the date of the decedent’s death. Originally meant to shield a surviving spouse from being left nothing, this law is now being used by unscrupulous people to take financial advantage of the elderly.

Dishonest individuals marry mentally incapacitated seniors and then claim their right of election share.

These sham marriages can still result in the person receiving a share of the estate because there’s a flaw in this law. The elective share can only be barred, if there was a judgment declaring that the marriage was annulled in effect at the time of death of the spouse. If the predatory marriage is detected before death and a court order voids the marriage, only then can the elective share be denied. If the judgment of nullification is made after death, the surviving spouse can make a claim.

Like most scams, the person pursuing the predatory marriage will work hard to ensure that no one learns about the marriage, until after the person dies.

In contrast, there is a Mental Hygiene Law in New York State that authorizes the court to revoke any previously executed contract, if the court finds that the contract was made while the person was incapacitated. Marriage is treated as a contract under Mental Hygiene Law and a judgment declaring a marriage void can be issued even after death.

In the case of the 47-year-old woman who hoodwinked the elderly man, the family fought back in court and her claim was denied. Based on the evidence, the court found that she knew the man was mentally incapacitated and entered into the marriage to obtain monetary benefits.

A bill has been introduced in the New York Assembly and Senate that would amend the law to allow the courts to declare a judgment of annulment before or after the death of the spouse, thereby voiding the marriage and disqualifying the surviving spouse from claiming the elective share.

The best prevention of elder financial abuse is to have the family involved in preparing the needed legal documents, before a predator can act. That includes power of attorney for financial matters, a will, and trusts to safeguard assets. Talk with an estate planning attorney today to learn how to protect your family against predatory marriages or asset protection generally. 

Reference: New York Law Journal (May 16, 2019) “Predatory Marriages and the Elderly: A Legislative Solution”

Stan Lee Victim of Elder Abuse
Picture of Stan Lee as a cartoon, he is creator and writer of Spiderman and is smiling is smiling

Stan Lee Victim of Elder Abuse

Legendary writer Stan Lee was the victim of elder abuse.

“…with great power there must also come — great responsibility!” Stan Lee

“Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” David Bruce Banner

“Excelsior!”

District Attorney of Los Angeles County Jackie Lacey has leveled elder abuse charges against Stan Lee’s former business manager, Keya Morgan.

MSN’s recent article, “Stan Lee’s Ex-Manager Hit With Elder Abuse Charges; Arrest Warrant Issued” reports that Morgan is facing one felony count of false imprisonment of an elder adult, three felony counts of theft, embezzlement, and forgery or fraud against an elder adult, as well as the initial elder abuse misdemeanor count.

Morgan took control of Lee’s business affairs and personal life in February 2018. Lee, the creator of Spiderman, the Black Panther, and other comic book heroes, had assets of more than $50 million in the last years of his life. Lee passed away on November 12, 2018. Morgan is said to have isolated his client from family and friends. Morgan also embezzled or misappropriated $5 million of assets, according to documents filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in 2018.

The five counts of elder abuse filed on May 10 could put Morgan in prison for 10 years, if he’s found guilty.

The public first learned of the troublesome relationship between Morgan and Lee last summer, when the then 95-year old Marvel comic book legend sought a restraining order against his ex-aide over elder abuse. The request was made just three days after Lee put out a June 10, 2018 video on social media insisting that he and Morgan were working “together and are conquering the world side-by-side.”

Because of the video and the elder abuse filing, Lee’s financial advisor was arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department on suspicion of filing a false police report, allegedly concerning a supposed break-in incident at Lee’s residence.

A three-year restraining order against Morgan was granted by a county judge last August. He was found guilty of the false police report misdemeanor charge in April 2019 and was ordered to stay away from Lee’s family and residence among other conditions.

After years of making cameos in all the Marvel blockbuster movies, Lee’s last appearance was in the record smashing Avengers: Endgame, which was released last month.

Reference: MSN (May 15, 2019) “Stan Lee’s Ex-Manager Hit With Elder Abuse Charges; Arrest Warrant Issued”

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was launched on June 15, 2006, by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations.

New York in 1995, through state legislation established the Elderly Abuse Education and Outreach Program to provide education and outreach to the general public, including elderly persons and their families and caregivers, in order to identify and prevent elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

Will A No-Contest Clause Really Mean No fight?
Two Cartoon lawyers pointing and yelling at each other across a desk

Will A No-Contest Clause Really Mean No fight?

Will A No-Contest Clause Really Mean No Contest?

“No one fights dirtier or more brutally than blood; only family knows it’s own weaknesses, the exact placement of the heart. The tragedy is that one can still live with the force of hatred, feel infuriated that once you are born to another, that kinship lasts through life and death, immutable, unchanging, no matter how great the misdeed or betrayal. Blood cannot be denied, and perhaps that’s why we fight tooth and claw, because we cannot—being only human—put asunder what God has joined together.”  Whitney Otto, How to Make an American Quilt

“In a way fighting was just like using magic. You said the words, and they altered the universe. By merely speaking you could create damage and pain, cause tears to fall, drive people away, make yourself feel better, make your life worse.”  Lev Grossman, The Magicians

It’s impossible to know what is in the heart and mind of the deceased, except to consult their last will and testament. However, when there is a suspicion that the last will and testament has been changed through undue influence, the care that went into the will might be undone cautions the Santa Cruz Sentinel in “No-contest clause throws kink into trust plan.”

The example given is of a woman whose mother was in the care of her niece, who was also the trustee of her mother’s trust. The mother modified the trust to give the niece her home, which is estimated to be worth about a twenty percent of the total estate value. The daughter notes that at the time these changes were made to the will, her mother was in hospice care and being given morphine. It does sound as if it could be influence because changes made to a will during a critical illness, especially in the presence of strong pain medication, are questionable.https://www.frankbrunolaw.com/estate-planning/

Since the trust included a no-contest clause, the daughter wonders if it’s worth challenging the will for one-fifth of the estate to charge the niece with undue influence?

An undue influence claim needs to have three points:

  • A confidential relationship — that between the grandmother and the grandchild;
  • Active procurement — the granddaughter got her grandmother to amend the trust;
  • Unjust enrichment — the granddaughter’s inheritance was increased to more than she would have otherwise received.

If all three elements are met, then the burden of proof shifts to the niece to show that she was not doing anything wrong.

There may also be a lack of capacity claim, based on the medication. It may be that the grandmother was too medicated to understand what she was doing.

The no-contest clause does present a problem. If the will is challenged, the daughter is disinherited — but only if she loses. If she wins, that no-contest amendment is invalid, and the trust returns to what it was before the changes were made.

At one point, no contest clauses were so powerful that there was consideration given to not allowing them to be used in wills. In California, as of Jan. 1, 2010, a person may file a contest and if the judge determines that they had probable cause, they are not automatically disinherited. New York state does not have this law.

In this case, if the facts would lead a reasonable person to conclude that there was undue influence, it’s likely that the daughter in this example would win. It would be up to the court to determine whether she should be disinherited. No-contest clauses are strictly construed by the courts, so unless the no-contest clause says that it applies to amendments, she may be okay.

There is one fact that she needs to ascertain, before moving forward. If the estate planning attorney met with the mother and prepared the amendment, then the attorney will be a neutral witness who will be able to testify to her mother’s mental capacity and her wishes.

It is not uncommon for people to change their wills to favor the person who spends their last weeks or days with them, as they prepare to die. One must wonder in this case, as to why the niece and not the daughter was with the grandmother at this time. Perhaps the two were very close, or perhaps the granddaughter was manipulating her grandmother. However, no one will ever truly know, except for the granddaughter and the deceased.

Reference: Santa Cruz Sentinel (March 3, 2019) “No-contest clause throws kink into trust plan”

 

Real Property ownership and names on title.
Happy Family walking up the path to their house

Real Property ownership and names on title.

Real Property ownership and names on title.

“Home is a shelter from storms-all sorts of storms.” William J. Bennett

“Home is where one starts from.”  T.S. Eliot

“There’s no place like home” Dorothy Gale

Title to real property must be transferred, when the asset is sold and must be cleared (free of liens or encumbrances) for the transfer to occur. Unlike other real property assets, real estate ownership can take several forms. Each of these forms has implications on how ownership can be transferred and can affect how they can be financed, improved or used as collateral.

Investopedia’s article, “5 Common Methods of Holding Titles on Real Property,” looks at the ways in which to hold title to real estate property.

Joint Tenancy. This is when two or more people hold title to real estate jointly, with equal rights to enjoy the property during their lives. When one dies, their rights of ownership pass to the surviving joint owner. The parties in the ownership need not be married or related, but any financing or use of the property for financial gain must be approved by all parties and cannot be transferred by will after one passes. Another disadvantage is that a creditor with a legal judgment to collect a debt from one of the owners, can also petition the court to divide the property and force a sale in order to collect on the judgment. That’s the type of real property transfer that we want to protect against.

Tenancy In Common. In this situation, two or more persons hold title to real estate jointly with equal rights to enjoy the property during their lives. However, unlike joint tenancy, tenants in common hold title individually for their respective part of the property and can dispose of or encumber as they chose. Ownership can be willed to other parties, and in the event of death, ownership will transfer to that owner’s heirs undivided. An owner can use the wealth created by their portion of the property, as collateral for financial transactions, and creditors can place liens only against one owner’s specific portion of the property. Any liens must be cleared for a total transfer of ownership to take place.

Tenants by the Entirety. This can only be used, when the owners are legally married. This is ownership in real estate under the assumption that the couple is one person for legal purposes. The title transfers to the other in entirety, if one of the couple dies. The advantage is that no legal action is required at the death of a spouse. There’s no need for a will, and probate or other legal action isn’t necessary. Conveyance of the property must be done in total, and the property can’t be subdivided. In the case of divorce, the property converts to a tenancy in common, and one owner can transfer ownership of their respective part of the property to whomever they want.

Sole Ownership. This is ownership by an individual or entity legally capable of holding title. The main advantage to holding title as a sole owner, is the ease with which transactions can be accomplished, since no other party needs to authorize the transaction. The disadvantage is the potential for legal issues regarding the transfer of ownership, if the sole owner dies or become incapacitated. Unless there’s a will, the transfer of ownership upon death can be an issue.

Community Property. This form of ownership is by husband and wife during their marriage for property they intend to own together. New York does not have community property. Under community property, either spouse has the right to dispose of one half of the property or will it to another party. Anyone who’s lived with another person as a common-law spouse and doesn’t specifically change title to the property as sole ownership (which is legally transacted with approval by the significant other) takes the risk of having to share ownership of the property, in the absence of a legal marriage. This type of real property ownership and names on title takes place in states other than New York..

Community Property With the Right of Survivorship. This is a way for married couples to hold title to property in some states. However, it is only available in Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas, and Wisconsin. It lets one spouse’s interest in community-property assets pass probate-free to the surviving spouse, in the event of death.

Entities other than individuals can hold title to real estate in its entirety. Ownership in real estate can be done as a corporation. The legal entity is a company owned by shareholders but regarded under the law as having an existence separate from those shareholders. Real estate can also be owned as a partnership, which is an association of two or more people to carry on business for profit as co-owners. Real estate also can be owned by a trust. These legal entities own the properties and are managed by a trustee on behalf of the beneficiaries. There are many benefits, such as managerial influence, financial and legal liability and tax considerations.

Reference: Investopedia (April 10, 2018) “5 Common Methods of Holding Titles on Real Property”

The focus of this post was Real Property ownership and names on title.

 

Rapper Nipsey Hussle Estate Plan or Not?
Cartoon version of rapper Nipsy Hussle

Rapper Nipsey Hussle Estate Plan or Not?

Rapper Nipsey Hussle Estate Plan or Not?

“The best thing you can do for a person is to inspire them. That’s the best currency you can offer: inspiration. So, when a person can rely on you for that, that empowers them in every realm of their life. Being inspired. It empowers them in their relationships, in their business, in their art, in their creativity. It empowers them because without inspiration, you’re dry.” Nipsey Hussle 

“Even the sun goes down, heroes eventually die/Horoscopes often lie, and sometimes ‘y’/Nothin’ is for sure, nothin’ is for certain, nothin’ lasts forever” Outkast

This raises significant issues, because minors can’t own more than a certain amount of assets, explains Rolling Out in the recent article, “RIP Nipsey Hussle: 5 reasons you need an estate plan.”

This means that a guardian or trustee must be appointed to manage the funds for them, until they reach the age of majority. If the deceased doesn’t have a will that instructs who that guardian shall be, they will be chosen by the court. In this case, Nipsey’s longtime girlfriend Lauren London would get nothing from Hussle’s estate (even though that may not have been his intention), because it looks like she wasn’t his spouse or an heir.

Consider these important reasons for an estate plan:

Property transfer wishes. This is the primary objective of estate planning. Your estate consists of all your property (real, personal, and intellectual) minus your debts. Your estate plan will determine who gets what and when. Create clear goals, as to who should inherit your property and alternative beneficiaries, in case someone predeceases you.

Transfer costs and taxes. Another goal of estate planning is maximizing any available tax benefits. You can limit estate taxes by creating trusts, making charitable donations and by establishing a family limited partnership for a business.

More net assets to heirs. An estate plan will help avoid the expense and delays of probate.

Liquidity at death. Funds need to be available to satisfy the immediate needs of the family. This can be accomplished with life insurance policies, IRAs, stocks and bonds. If all of your property is being transferred by will or intestate succession, no one gets anything, until the estate is probated.

Personal wishes surrounding death. Write down all of your preferences concerning burial, cremation, and organ donation to help your family.

Hopefully Hussle created an estate plan, so his family doesn’t have to grieve his death, while figuring out his personal, business and family matters.

Reference: Rolling Out (April 1, 2019) “RIP Nipsey Hussle: 5 reasons you need an estate plan”

 

What If My Beneficiary Isn’t Ready to Handle an Inheritance?
What If My Beneficiary Isn’t Ready to Handle an Inheritance?

What If My Beneficiary Isn’t Ready to Handle an Inheritance?

What If My Beneficiary Isn’t Ready to Handle an Inheritance?

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein

“The old who have died live on in the young ones. Don’t you feel this now in your bereavement, when you look at your children?” Albert Einstein

A recent Kiplinger article asks: “Is Your Beneficiary Ready to Receive Money?” In fact, not everyone will be mentally or emotionally prepared for the money you wish to leave them.

What If My Beneficiary Isn’t Ready to Handle an Inheritance? Here are some things to consider:

The Beneficiary’s Age. Children under 18 years old cannot sign legal contracts. Without some planning, the court will take custody of the funds on the child’s behalf. This could occur via custody accounts, protective orders or conservatorships. If this happens, there’s little control over how the money will be used. The conservatorship will usually end and the funds be paid to the child, when they become an adult. Giving significant financial resources to a young adult who’s not ready for the responsibility, often ends in disaster. Work with an estate planning attorney to find a solution to avoid this result.

The Beneficiary’s Lifestyle. There are many other circumstances for which you need to consider and plan. These include the following:

  • A beneficiary with a substance abuse or gambling problem;
  • A beneficiary and her inheritance winds up in an abusive relationship;
  • A beneficiary is sued;
  • A beneficiary is going through a divorce;
  • A beneficiary has a disability; and
  • A beneficiary who’s unable to manage assets.

All of these issues can be addressed, with the aid of an estate planning attorney. A testamentary trust can be created to make certain that minors (and adults who just may not be ready) don’t get money too soon, while also making sure they have funds available to help with school, health care and life expenses.

Who Will Manage the Trust? Every trust must have a trustee. Find a person who is willing to do the work. You can also engage a professional trust company for larger trusts. The trustee will distribute funds, only in the ways you’ve instructed. Conditions can include getting an education, or using the money for a home or for substance abuse rehab.

Estate Plan Review. Review your estate plan after major life events or every few years. Talk to a qualified estate planning attorney to make the process easier and to be certain that your money goes to the right people at the right time.

Reference: Kiplinger (April 1, 2019) “Is Your Beneficiary Ready to Receive Money?”

 

What if an Unmarried Couple has no Will?
Model Release: Yes Property Release: No Man and woman standing face to face, hands behind back, leaning toward each other, full length, high angle view

What if an Unmarried Couple has no Will?

What if an Unmarried Couple has no Will?

“Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.” Marcus Aurelius

“He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.” Lao Tzu

There can be serious problems when people live together without the benefit of marriage. One is that they don’t have any legal right to make medical decisions for each other. Another is that without any will or estate plan in place, the surviving spouse has no legal right to any of the decedent’s property. That’s just for starters, explains the article “Longtime unmarried couple hasn’t planned for future” from the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

The couple may be pleased with their decision to live on their own terms.  However, by refusing to plan for the inevitable, they are creating an unnecessary difficulty for their loved ones. The children and grandchildren of the couple are likely going to end up having to sort out the mess, after one of the couple dies. They may end up in court, battling over the house or other assets.

If the couple wants their property to end up in the hands of their children when they pass away, having no estate plan is not the way to make that happen. When one spouse dies, any assets they own in joint tenancy will go to the surviving partner. When the surviving partner passes, those assets will go to their children, and nothing will be passed to the other family.

The surviving partner will have no legal right to the assets of the deceased partner, other than any that have been titled to joint tenancy. There is no community property between cohabitating couples, unless they have registered as domestic partners. This is how the law works in California, and every state has its own rules. Assets owned by the deceased partner that are titled in his or her name only, belong to the decedent’s probate estate and will pass to their children. If the gentleman dies first, in this example, will his companion be left homeless?

This is a situation that can be easily remedied with an estate plan, creating wills and trusts that clearly spell out how they want their assets to be distributed upon death. There are many different ways to make this happen, but they will need to work with an estate planning attorney. Where the surviving non-homeowner will live after the homeowner dies is a serious issue, unless other plans have been made. One way to do this is to leave a life estate in the home in his will, or by creating a trust that holds the home for her use. When she dies, the home can then pass to his children. In that case, a series of agreements about how the home will be maintained may need to be created.

Taking the time and making the investment in an estate plan, is for the benefit of the individual and the family. An indifferent attitude about the future is hurtful to those who are left behind.

Reference: Santa Cruz Sentinel (April 7, 2019) “Longtime unmarried couple hasn’t planned for future”

Celebrity Estate Battles Provide Valuable Lessons on Estate Planning
Fight between individuals with swords representing litigation

Celebrity Estate Battles Provide Valuable Lessons on Estate Planning

Celebrity Battle Estate Planning. Celebrity Estate Battles Provide Valuable Lessons on Estate Planning

“I had an inheritance from my father,
It was the moon and the sun.
And though I roam all over the world,
The spending of it’s never done.”
Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a married man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of an heir.”  Julia Quinn, The Duke and I

The biggest issues in inheritance battles stem from Alzheimer’s disease, widowed stepmothers and estate crime. Certain issues, like signs of dementia, questionable asset transfers and sudden changes in investment risk profiles are sure signals that something is going on, reports Think Advisor in the article What the Nastiest Celebrity Estate Battles Can Teach Advisors.”

If regular family fights feel like civil wars, then celebrity battles elevate the conflicts into global meltdowns. Showbiz legends like Tony Curtis, Mickey Rooney and Jerry Lee Lewis serve as perfect examples.

Rock and roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis’s seventh wife (yes, seventh) and his third wife’s daughter have been in court for nearly two years. The wife has charged her stepdaughter with financial and physically abusing the singer, who is now 83. The daughter countersued, alleging that her stepmother was drugging her father into an incoherent state. Lewis recently had a stroke, and he was admitted to a rehab facility.

What can families do about elder abuse, which the American Bar Association has called the “crime of the 21st century?”

Pay attention. Over the next 30 years, as much as $30 trillion in Baby Boomer assets will be transferred to the next generation. The number of people getting older is taking a huge leap and so will the number of people who suffer from cognitive-related diseases.

Know what an “estate crime” is. This is the term to describe the unauthorized, unlawful taking of someone’s assets, while they are alive. It’s what happens when a personal representative, such as a trustee, suppresses assets and takes them. It’s more likely to occur when an entrepreneur or business owner keeps a lot of cash in the safe. That money mysteriously vanishes at their death. Therefore, if anyone has a lot of cash around, they need to be able to prove it and give that documentation to someone they trust.

What happens when a person’s family is involved in litigation and they are incapacitated? Attorneys will look for transfers that occurred just prior to the time the person became incapacitated. Would they be the result of undue influence or pressure? What about their estate documents — were they changed near the time the person became seriously ill or when they were near to death? Medical records and doctors’ reports become important in these cases.

What happened to Tony Curtis, romantic and comic leading man? A year before he died, Tony Curtis wrote a new will and revised his trust. He disinherited his five surviving children and left his entire estate worth $46 million to his sixth wife. The children, who include actress Jamie Lee Curtis, filed a suit claiming that their father was mentally impaired, but the case was dropped. It’s possible that the suit was settled confidentially. Any time there’s such a big change before death, expect litigation. Although in this instance an estate battle was avoided.

Why do so many famous people seem to die without a will? People don’t like to think about death, so they procrastinate. It’s that way for celebrities and for regular people. However, we read more about celebrities. Estate planning attorneys are the ones who see what happens, every day, when people don’t have wills and the family is faced with estate battles.

What’s the solution? It’s not that complicated. Find an estate planning attorney that you are comfortable with and draw up an estate plan. Make sure you have a will, power of attorney and health care power of attorney. Talk with your family about your intentions for distribution of your property and make sure that every few years, when events occur in your life or when laws change, you update your estate plan. That would save many people, famous and otherwise, from devoting time and money to cleaning up after their loved ones.

Reference: Think Advisor (March 27, 2019) What the Nastiest Celebrity Estate Battles Can Teach Advisors”

 

Creating an Estate Plan for a Child with Special Needs
Creating an Estate Plan for a Child with Special Needs walking with their special needs child between them

Creating an Estate Plan for a Child with Special Needs

Creating an Estate Plan for a Child with Special Needs

“As special needs parents we don’t have the power to make life “fair,” but we do have the power to make life joyful.” Anonymous

“All kids need is a little help, a little hope, and someone who believes in them” Magic Johnson

Parents want their children to be taken care of after they die. But children with special needs have increased financial and care needs, so ensuring their long-term welfare can be tricky. Proper planning by parents is necessary to benefit the child with a disability, including an adult child, as well as assist any siblings who may be left with the caretaking responsibility.

Special Needs Trusts

The best and most comprehensive option to protect a loved one is to set up a special needs trust (also called a supplemental needs trust). These trusts allow beneficiaries to receive inheritances, gifts, lawsuit settlements, or other funds and yet not lose their eligibility for certain government programs, such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The trusts are drafted so that the funds will not be considered to belong to the beneficiaries in determining their eligibility for public benefits.

There are three main types of special needs trusts:

A first-party trust is designed to hold a beneficiary’s own assets. While the beneficiary is living, the funds in the trust are used for the beneficiary’s benefit, and when the beneficiary dies, any assets remaining in the trust are used to reimburse the government for the cost of medical care. These trusts are especially useful for beneficiaries who are receiving Medicaid, SSI or other needs-based benefits and come into large amounts of money, because the trust allows the beneficiaries to retain their benefits while still being able to use their own funds when necessary.

The third-party special needs trust is most often used by parents and other family members to assist a person with special needs. These trusts can hold any kind of asset imaginable belonging to the family member or other individual, including a house, stocks and bonds, and other types of investments. The third-party trust functions like a first-party special needs trust in that the assets held in the trust do not affect a beneficiary’s access to benefits and the funds can be used to pay for the beneficiary’s supplemental needs beyond those covered by government benefits. The key distinction is that a third-party special needs trust does not contain the “payback” provision found in first-party trusts. This means that when the beneficiary with special needs dies, any funds remaining in the trust can pass to other family members, or to charity, without having to be used to reimburse the government.

A pooled trust is an alternative to the first-party special needs trust.  Essentially, a charity sets up these trusts that allow beneficiaries to pool their resources with those of other trust beneficiaries for investment purposes, while still maintaining separate accounts for each beneficiary’s needs. When the beneficiary dies, the funds remaining in the account reimburse the government for care, but a portion also goes towards the non-profit organization responsible for managing the trust.

Life Insurance

Not everyone has a large chunk of money that can be left to a special needs trust, so life insurance can be an essential tool. If a special needs trust has been created, a life insurance policy can pay directly into it, and it does not have to go through probate or be subject to estate tax. Be sure to review the beneficiary designation to make sure it names the trust, not the child. You should make sure you have enough insurance to pay for your child’s care long after you are gone. Without proper funding, the burden of care may fall on siblings or other family members. Using a life insurance policy will also guarantee future funding for the trust while keeping the parents estate intact for other family members. When looking for life insurance, consider a second-to-die policy. This type of policy only pays out after the second parent dies, and it has the benefit of lower premiums than regular life insurance policies.

ABLE Account

An Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account allows people with disabilities who became disabled before they turned 26 to set aside up to $15,000 a year in tax-free savings accounts without affecting their eligibility for government benefits. This money can come from the individual with the disability or anyone else who may wish to give him money.

Created by Congress in 2014 and modeled on 529 savings plans for higher education, these accounts can be used to pay for qualifying expenses of the account beneficiary, such as the costs of treating the disability or for education, housing and health care, among other things. ABLE account programs have been rolling out on a state-by-state basis, but even if your state does not yet have its own program, many state programs allow out-of-state beneficiaries to open accounts. (For a directory of state programs, click here.)

Although it may be easy to set up an ABLE account, there are many hidden pitfalls associated with spending the funds in the accounts, both for the beneficiary and for her family members. In addition, ABLE accounts cannot hold more than $100,000 without jeopardizing government benefits like Medicaid and SSI. If there are funds remaining in an ABLE account upon the death of the account beneficiary, they must be first used to reimburse the government for Medicaid benefits received by the beneficiary, and then the remaining funds will have to pass through probate in order to be transferred to the beneficiary's heirs.

Get Help With Your desire to Create an Estate Plan for a Child with Special Needs.

Creating an Estate Plan for a Child with Special Needs takes forethought, patience and a willingness to include caregivers in your plan.  you decide to provide for a child with special needs, proper planning is essential. Talk to your attorney to determine the best plan for your family.