We have a bone chilling post for you this Halloween!
It can be terrifying when an estate plan doesn't work the way it is supposed to.
If you're up for a little scare this Halloween, keep reading about the true tale of the DIY Will and the Aldrich vs Basile court case.
In 2004, Ms. Ann Aldrich of Florida used "Do It Yourself" legal forms and painstakingly listed all of her assets including accounts and account numbers stating everything should all go to her sister Mary Jane Eaton.
Ann noted “If Mary Jane Eaton dies before I do, I leave all listed to James Michael Aldrich (her brother)...” This will was duly signed and witnessed.
In a twist of fate Ann's sister Mary Jane dies in 2007 leaving her property and assets to Ann.
Ann opened a new Fidelity account to deposit the inheritance of cash from her sister and attached a hand written note to her original DIY will that read: “This is an addendum to my will dated April 5, 2004. Since my sister Mary Jean Eaton has passed away, I reiterate that all my worldly possessions pass to my brother James Michael Aldrich.”
In 2009, Ms. Ann Aldrich passes away.
The DIY will now begins to haunt the living in the form of a lawsuit between Ann's brother James and niece Lauri Basile with appeals lasting through March of 2014 - nearly 5 years!
In March of 2014 Supreme Court Justice Barbara J. Pariente made this concurring statement:
Unfortunately, I surmise that, although this is the correct result under Florida’s probate law, this result does not effectuate Ms. Aldrich’s true intent. While we are unable to legally consider Ms. Aldrich’s unenforceable handwritten note that was found attached to her previously drafted will, this note clearly demonstrates that Ms. Aldrich’s true intent was to pass all of her “worldly possessions” to her brother, James Michael Aldrich. As the majority - 17 - states, however, although this note may represent Ms. Aldrich’s true intent, it was not her stated intent in the will to which this Court is confined in determining Ms. Aldrich’s testamentary intent. Thus, Florida probate law dictates that Ms. Aldrich’s after-acquired property pass by intestacy, and in this case, ultimately be inherited by two nieces to whom she made no specific or general bequests…
This unfortunate result stems not from this Court’s interpretation of Florida’s probate law, but from the fact that Ms. Aldrich wrote her will using a commercially available form, an “E-Z Legal Form,” which did not adequately address her specific needs—apparently without obtaining any legal assistance.
This form, which is in the record, did not have space to include a residuary clause or pre-printed language that would allow a testator to elect to use such a clause.
Because Ms. Aldrich’s will devised all of her currently held property, this omission was not initially problematic. However, when Ms. Aldrich later acquired property from her sister, who pre-deceased her, the absence of a residuary clause frustrated Ms. Aldrich’s testamentary intent because, without such a clause, Ms. Aldrich’s self-drafted will expressed no intent as to this after-acquired property.”
What we can can learn from this tale:
Avoid drafting your own estate planning documents. Do It Yourself estate documents tend to be the most expensive in the end.
Remember life brings continual change. Beneficiaries may pass away, new assets may be acquired, new family members may be born and the list of possible change goes on.
Routine updates, continual funding of trusts and a caring relationship with your estate attorney helps ensure your true intent and your legacy is properly carried out at the time of your passing.
Has it been a while since you had your estate plan reviewed, updated or revised?
What life changes have you experienced in the past 2 years alone?
Sundvick Legacy Center is proud of the long lasting relationships we form with our clients. Our goal is to help them take care of family and one day see their legacy unfold to their design.
Call us at 702-384-3767 for an appointment to review, update or review new estate planning opportunities for you and your family!
Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday of mine. It's a time to reflect on the people and things in life we are grateful for. It's a time when family gathers and delicious holiday foods are eaten in large quantities – topped off with pumpkin pie! So, while we may be thankful for the people and the wealth in our lives, many of us have not done the proper planning to protect our loved ones and assets.
CBC News in Toronto recently cited a survey that 40% of Canadians aged 65 and older felt unprepared about their estate plan. It seems that our good friends to the north are unfortunately much like those of us here in the States.
What about your family? Is it always fun and laughter or are there a few of Homer's Doh!'s mixed in?
It is easy for emotions to run high during estate planning. Siblings can feel slighted, or the trust-level between siblings or even the executor can erode. That is why it is so very important to entertain these types of conversations early and often. After all, as the original article asks, who do you want deciding what is best for your family: you, or a stranger?
Unexpected events happen, and it is smart to start your early planning now to alleviate headaches and heartaches in the future. Discussions about your estate may be a bit uncomfortable, but it is important and necessary.
So, how does one bring up such topics?
1. Break the ice with a recent celebrity estate story from the headlines.
2. Bring the family together for the purpose of estate planning discussions.
3. Discuss specific personal items which may have specific sentimental value for certain family members.
At Sundvick Legacy Center we offer a Family Meeting as part of our innovative estate planning process. Years of experience in the area of family estate planning communications, peacekeeping and personal discovery is what we offer to each client that comes through our doors.
Call 702-384-3767 to schedule your complimentary estate planning consultation and start the conversation about dividing the family pie!
Wherever you are in North America … north of the border or south, do not put this off. Speak to an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney and start making your plans today.
The Internet is a wonderful tool for so many areas of life. However, drafting legal documents is not necessarily one of them. While it may sound enticing to use that website form to draft your will, here are three reasons to reconsider that decision.
Online forms may or may not work. These forms typically are not state-specific, which means your will may or may not be valid. Just like your house being "up to code," the code may differ from one location to the next. And just like doing the job right with a home improvement project, if you are investing the time to draft a will or any other estate planning document (which you should!), you want to make sure it is valid. An experienced estate planning attorney in your state can help make certain your will is valid and properly executed and your interests are protected.
2. You are missing out on valuable legal advice.
Do you ever start an unfamiliar project on your home without doing any homework? Just run to the hardware store, grab some supplies and get going?
That probably has a low chance of success. Websites may say that wills and other estate planning documents are quick and easy to create. However, you are missing out on valuable legal advice and experience. When you talk to an experienced estate planning attorney, you will become informed and educated on the details of your plan. You and your attorney will discuss if a will or a trust is better for you (or perhaps both), and how to apply these to your specific circumstances (e.g., step-children, special needs, college savings, or aging parents). The original article reminds us that an attorney does much more than draft the documents—he or she gives you legal advice on why you should have your document drafted in a certain way.
3. Websites don’t inform you of changes in the law in the future.
What? There's a new tool that saves me time or a product that makes my house safer?
A website will not call you when an important law changes that impacts the provisions of your will, but an experienced relationship-oriented attorney will. You can be sure that the laws are always being amended, updated, and repealed. A competent estate planning attorney keeps up-to-date on those changes and communicates them to his or her clients. Many individuals ask their attorneys to contact them annually to see if there are changes to the laws and to be certain their wills are valid and still reflect their wishes and their circumstances.
The original closes with the reminder that you get what you pay for—whether that is a weekend warrior fixing the plumbing or an experienced professional who is educated in estate planning. Using a form you discover on the Internet will most undoubtedly be less expensive and perhaps less time consuming than partnering with an attorney to draft your will or other estate planning documents—but is it worth it? Remember, these are important issues concerning you and your loved ones. You want to make sure that everything is legal and you have the best strategies in place.
Think about it? Do you really want to take on this important project alone?
Sundvick Legacy Center is here to help. Call our office at 702-384-3767 and let us help navigate you and your loved ones through the often complex world of estate planning.
Dealing with aging parents is not only tough emotionally, but financially. A Caring.com report found that nearly half of family caregivers spend more than $5,000 a year on caregiving, and 30 percent spend more than $10,000. Your parents may need help. Are you ready?
A recent Newsday article, titled"Money Fix: The cost of caregiving," tackled this tough issue and offered some financial and non-financial advice to help with providing care for aging parents.
Here are the pointers Newsday recommends implementing:
Sounds too simple? Speak with your parents. You may need to ask some hard questions: Do they have a strategy in place to pay for long-term care expenses? The answer could be as easy as purchasing long-term care insurance or devising a Medicaid plan.
2. Create a strategy.
A PNC Financial Services Group survey found that 30% of pre-retirees who plan to care for a parent or another loved one will work longer to afford such care.
Build a cash reserve. The original article says that experts really do not recommend using your retirement funds to pay for this care. However, if needed, Roth IRA contributions can be withdrawn tax and penalty free.
3. "Unearth all possibilities."
That is the descriptive phrase the original article uses for the type of creativity and imagination one should have when thinking about the budgeting and affording the added expense of a loved one's care. For example, if your father passed away and was in the military—even if it was a long time ago—your mom might have a claim to some veteran's benefits.
Another key point is that if your parent or loved one needs to be placed in a nursing home, Medicaid will "look back" five years for any gift made in an attempt to reduce assets to become Medicaid eligible. Gifts of that sort, the original article cautions, can trigger a waiting period before Medicaid would pay for nursing home care.
We are talking about a lot of money—$5K to over $10K a year to provide care for your parent or parents. Start to think about this sooner rather than later. Talk to your siblings and get them involved. Make the right moves to develop a strategy for this possibility. Sundvick Legacy Center can help. Call our office at 702-384-3767 to come in with your family for a free consultation.
Elder abuse is a term that means someone is knowingly, intentionally or negligently causing harm or a serious risk to a senior. When Michael Casler contacted “8 on Your Side,” he was confident his 91-year-old brother-in law Benny Goo was a victim.
Benny Goo is a World War II veteran who fought in the Battle of Normandy. At one time, he was very affluent with a gorgeous home in Hawaii. But not anymore. Mr. Goo says that a woman named “Barbara” stole $2 million from him, which forced him to sell his home.
According to a KLAS TV(Las Vegas) news report posted on the station’s website, titled "Veteran claims elderly abuse by ex-wife," Benny believes that “Barbara”—the woman who took advantage of him—was his second wife. Mr. Goo said that when he had a stroke, Barbara placed him in a nursing home. He never saw her again. However, Barbara was busy cleaning out his bank account and switching his Social Security and pension checks to be deposited directly into her accounts.
After five years in a nursing home, Benny started to request contact with his family. His care providers found Benny's sister and brother-in-law. Once the two discovered what had happened, they asked KLAS TV's "8 on Your Side" for help, but there was little that the investigative team of reporters, law enforcement, or anyone else could do to help him.
You see when a spouse spends communal money or opens additional bank accounts, it is not deemed "elder abuse" under the law. It is what is called spousal privilege. Benny's wife did not break any laws and was within her rights as his spouse to spend and transfer the money. Unfortunately, the only recourse Benny had was to divorce his wife and get his Social Security and pension checks redirected to his accounts. Unless, Barbara has a change of heart and returns the money to Benny, it is gone.
This short but dramatic tale shows how our elderly can so easily be abused and used. If you have an elderly relative, be sure to keep an eye on new friends that suddenly enter their lives. As you can see, the only protection in some instances from unscrupulous individuals is diligence.
Talk with an experienced elder law attorney before this happens to your family member or loved one. He or she will have a wealth of information and some effective strategies to guard against this type of treatment.
The Top 5 Basics of Estate Planning Not To Be Overlooked!
Too often, the need for the most basic estate-planning documents is overlooked or misunderstood. While many people would admit they should have a will, 50 percent of Americans with children and 41 percent of baby boomers age 55 to 64 don't have one, according to a survey from online legal services company RocketLawyer.com. If you want to stay in control of your money and medical decisions until the end, here are the five most important estate-planning documents you need to have.
It does not get any more basic in estate planning than drafting a will. A will states who will receive your estate assets and care for your minor children upon your death. As you may recall from previous posts, without a will, the state where you live gets to decide who gets your assets. The court will typically disburse shares based on their degree of family relationship to the decedent (you). Commonly, this degree moves from your spouse, then to children, then to your parents, and next to your brothers and sisters. If you do not have anyone in this line-up, other relatives you may never have known will make their claims. If there is still no one to claim the money as a relative, then the state will just keep it!
Why give gifts to people you hardly know or forfeit your estate to the state when you can avoid it simply by creating a will to tell everyone in writing who gets what?
2. Beneficiary designations.
This seems like a pretty insignificant little form, but it can be huge when it comes time to disbursing your life insurance policy or any retirement account. Chances are you probably completed and sent in a beneficiary designation form when you took out the policy or opened the account. That form identifies who gets this money when you die. This form—not your will—says who gets the money. The original article suggests that you check your list of beneficiaries when there were any life changes, like getting married or divorced, having a child, or having more children.
3. Financial power of attorney.
A financial power of attorney (financial POA) is another very critical piece of paper. It gives a trusted individual the authority to resolve your financial issues on your behalf if you become incapacitated or unable to make those decisions for yourself. A financial POA provides you with more control over your financial affairs and a better chance that your wishes will be followed. If you do not have a financial POA, the court selects someone to take care of these decisions—this can be a very lengthy and expensive process. The court usually appoints a close family member, but that person might not be the one you would have chosen. The original article also stresses that a financial POA is critical if you have a non-spouse partner: if you designate your financial POA, you have control over the scope of powers to grant your "agent," which can encompass accessing your financial accounts and managing all your financial affairs.
4. Medical power of attorney.
A Medical power of attorney allows you to select who will make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so for yourself. Your chosen designee will be able to access to your medical records, speak with your medical caregivers, and deal with other important issues. Your designee will also make sure that your "advanced medical directive" is carried out.
5. Advanced medical directive.
Deciding if you want tube feeding or to be put on a ventilator can be a really hard decision for loved ones to make if you have not put your wishes in writing. An advanced medical directive should clearly define what you want and what you do not want. This takes the decisions out of the hands of your family and improves the odds that your final instructions are followed.
Once you get these documents set up, we suggest that you review and update them from time to time, especially if you have had any changes in your life. These are just the basics. If you are looking for an estate plannig attorney in Nevada please call our office to schedule your free consultation and we can review all of your estate planning issues.
A living trust has advantages that a will can’t offer, so you may want to keep both. A revocable living trust is similar to a will in that it indicates how you would like your assets to be distributed after your death and can be amended anytime. While you should always have a will, a living trust—which is simply a trust set up during your lifetime as opposed to one created after your death—can be a valuable addition to your estate plan.
The assets in a trust are not required to go through the probate process, which can be lengthy and expensive. Your heirs will be able to zip past any inconvenience of a court-supervised distribution of your estate—and there is no wait for creditors to file claims, which you have to do with a will even when there are no debts. Now some states have some form of expedited probate for estates less than a certain dollar value. This is different in every state, so ask your estate planning attorney about how the law works where you live. New York, for instance, has this type of process if the estate property, not including real estate, is worth less than $20,000. Also, the original article reminds us that when most of the estate is in IRAs or life insurance, you may bypass probate if you have named beneficiaries.
2. You get "back-up investment help".
If you create a trust, you will need to name a trustee. The trustee is tasked with managing the assets, paying any taxes, keeping financial records, and disbursing payments to the beneficiaries. There might also be a successor trustee named in cases where you are managing the trust yourself. If so, you have someone to take over the trust duties in the event you become disabled or incapacitated and cannot manage your money for yourself.
3. You get to set things up for your children.
You should also consider a trust if you have minor children or heirs with special needs. A nice feature of a trust is that you have the option to add terms that detail how and when a child is entitled to receive the assets. And, since a living trust is not a matter of public record (i.e., filed with the probate court), the distributions for your children are protected from prying eyes of outsiders.
Finally, the original article reminds us that you should not transfer (retitle) an IRA to a living trust because it is counted as a withdrawal. This could mean a substantial financial penalty in terms of both income taxes and excise taxes, depending on your age.
If you need assistance creating an estate plan in Nevada, call our office at 702-384-3767 to schedule your comlimnetary consultation. Together, we will review all of the details of your situation and see if a trust will help you and your family.
You may not want to leave any of the money in your estate directly to a relative with special needs, but the fine print in your estate planning documents might cause a catastrophic distribution anyway.
As you probably already know, you should almost never leave an outright bequest of money or property to a person with special needs because the receipt of assets could compromise the individuals government benefits. If you want to leave funds in your estate for the benefit of a person with special needs, your special needs planner will help you to establish and fund a special needs trust that will hold your loved one's inheritance for her benefit, while insuring that her government benefits stay intact. However, in many cases you may not want to leave any money for a relative with special needs, but your previous estate plan (possibly drawn up by a lawyer who doesn't specialize in special needs planning) may have other ideas. Let's take a look at how this might work.
Joanne has three adult children, Sarah, Emily and Doug. Sarah has two children, Emily has three children, and Doug has one child, a son with special needs who lives on his own and receives Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid. Joanne loves her grandchildren dearly but would like to leave her entire estate to her three children, with funds passing to a grandchild only if one of her children dies. Joanne visits a non-special needs planner who draws up a will stating that all of Joanne's property shall pass "in equal shares to my children or, if a child is not living, then to his or her issue." This will seems to fulfill Joanne's wish and, at first glance, it doesn't appear to cause any problems for her grandchild with special needs because Doug is going to receive the inheritance, not his son.
But first glances can be deceiving. If Doug dies before Joanne and she doesn't change her will before her death, Doug's son with special needs will inherit his father's share of Joanne's estate, and that inheritance will wreak havoc on his Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid benefits. A properly drafted estate plan will not rely on generic language and will address Doug's son's special needs by either creating a special needs trust to hold his potential share of the estate (even though it's only a remote share) or by skipping Doug's son altogether, if Joanne believes that this is appropriate. Doug may have already created a special needs trust for his son, in which case it is likely that Joanne could direct Doug's share of her estate right into the trust in case he passes away before her.
The one thing that you should never do is pretend that this isn't going to happen to you. A good estate plan takes into account all possibilities, even those that seem remote. Keeping your fingers crossed and relying on a child to survive you and inherit your estate is not an effective estate planning strategy, despite the fact that the odds are in your favor. If you've prepared your estate plan with a non-special needs planner, there is a good chance that he or she might not have taken your relative with special needs into account when drafting the "remote or contingent beneficiary" provisions of your documents. Schedule a review with your special needs planner today to make sure that your remote or contingent beneficiaries will not lose out in the future because of poor drafting in the past.
To review these beneficiary issues and other estate planning pitfalls to avoid call our office at 702-384-3767 and we can find the right plan for you and your loved ones!
The number of Malaysians making wills has soared following the recent airline tragedies. An estate planning firm here has reported a 40 percent increase in new wills while public trustee AmanahRaya has received more requests from companies to hold talks for their employees on the importance of estate planning. "There is usually a surge (in new wills) whenever a (widely reported) tragedy occurs because it reminds people that life is fragile and it is better to be safe than sorry," Rockwills Trustee Bhd senior general manager Azhar Iskandar Hew said.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing with 239 people aboard in March, and in July Flight MH17 with 298 aboard crashed near the Russia-Ukraine border.
A recent article in Star/Asia News, titled "More Malaysians into estate planning after recent air tragedies," says that AmanahRaya has prepared more than 150,000 wills. Just as interesting, if not more so, is that there was roughly $23.45 billion worth of unclaimed money and assets in Malaysia because the owners did not leave any will when they passed away. Only between five to 10% of Malaysians are believed to have made their wills.
A family law practitioner quoted in the original article noted a "significant increase" in inquiries for will-writing services lately. This could be due to increased public awareness of the critical need to prepare a will against the backdrop of tragic events such as the MH370 airliner disappearance, let alone the recent headlines about will contests over estates involving well-known personalities.
This surge in estate planning interest from diverse news items may be making more people think about what they need to do regarding their own estates. Everyone wants to make sure they have everything in order for their loved ones when they pass away, right?
This may be the case here in the U.S., and like in Malaysia, we see an uptick in estate planning when a disaster strikes. Do not be reactive and only think about this important task in those unfortunate times. Be ahead of the game and proactive when it comes to determining how your estate will be divided. Speak with your estate planning attorney soon, not when you turn on the TV news and hear another tragic story.
So, why should you wait? Take action to get your estate plan in place or updated by calling our office at 702-384-3767. We offer free initial consultations!