Written by Jill Roamer, J.D.
There has been a lot of heated debate on the topic of traveling with emotional support animals (ESA), psychiatric service animals (PSA), and traditional service animals. To resolve some of the conflict, the Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a Final Statementelaborating on the department’s expectations and priorities regarding the treatment of passengers traveling with animals.
It is well established that individuals with disabilities are permitted to bring their service animals to most places they choose to go. Businesses are prohibited from refusing entry or service to an individual with a service animal, unless particular concerns are present. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is probably the law that comes to mind in these situations. It is certainly one law that protects those with disabilities from ill-treatment. But, did you know that the ADA does not apply to the skies? The ADA does not apply to airlines, their facilities, or services – that is where the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) swoops in.
Some Basic Comparisons
While the two Acts are quite similar, there are notable differences worth investigation. The DOT oversees the ACAA, which applies to airlines, their facilities, and services. The Department of Justice (DOJ) oversees the ADA, which applies to airports, their facilities, and services.
The DOT regards “any individual who has a physical or mental impairment that, on a permanent or temporary basis, substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment” as an individual with a disability. Correspondingly, according to the DOJ, “[t]he term "disability" means, with respect to an individual[,] (A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual; (B) a record of such an impairment; or (C) being regarded as having such an impairment […].”
In recent years, airplane cabins have started to look like menageries – passengers taking full advantage, and sometimes abusing, the ability to take certain animals along for the ride. With the uprising of sketchy online businesses “certifying” run-of-the-mill pets as service animals, or worse, providing doctor’s letters prescribing support animals, airlines began cracking down on the abuse. Airline restrictions became tighter and created questions of disability rights violations. Passengers flooded the DOT with complaints of unfairness and illegality.
In response to the rise of animal-toting airline-passenger complaints about unreasonable airline regulations, the DOT issued a Final Statement elaborating on its expectations and priorities under the ACAA. The statement provides clarification on the permissible and prohibited actions that airlines may take in regulating the in-cabin presence of various types of animals.
There are four general categories of animals when it comes to disability laws: pets, Emotional Support Animals (ESAs), Psychiatric Support Animals (PSAs), and service animals. In the aerial context, pets are often stored in the cargo hold of the aircraft and require an additional fee to the owner. ESAs and PSAs, are generally permitted in the cabin if certain criteria are met. Service animals are heavily protected and taken very seriously under both laws. Under the ADA, only service animals and some PSAs are protected.
Each Act provides guidance on various service animals, their legitimacy, and limitations. The ACAA establishes what animals are permitted in the cabins of aircrafts, and the ADA established what animals are permitted nearly anywhere else. Both Acts consider dogs and miniature horses to be “common” service animals, where the ACAA expanded the group to include cats as well. The ADA does not recognize any other species of service animal.
“Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog [or miniature horse] that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog [or miniature horse] must be directly related to the person's disability.” The ACAA does not have a technical definition within the text of the Act, but the departmentinformally explained, in 2018, that the “DOT considers a service animal to be any animal that is individually trained to assist [sic] a qualified person with a disability or any animal necessary for the emotional well-being of a passenger.” (Note, however, that back-end of this statement contradicts some other provisions of the ACAA on the differentiation between service animals and emotional support animals.)
Both Acts give the highest protection to service animals. The text of the ACAA specifically categorizes service animals separately from ESAs and PSAs, which are lumped together. The ADA considers specifically trained PSAs to be genuine service dogs. The ADA explicitly does not recognize ESAs under the Act, where the ACAA provides them protection. Both Acts recognize the potential need for an individual to require the assistance of more than one service animal; but, the ACAA also permits a disabled passenger one ESA in addition to (up to) two non-ESAs.
Additional ACAA Clarifications
With the exception of snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders, airlines cannot categorically prohibit the use of species that are not dogs, cats, or miniature horses. An airline could determine that the particular animal compromises the health or safety of others, and therefore prohibit its entry onto the aircraft, but on a case-by-case basis only. Further, airlines are prohibited from breed bans as well.
Airlines are permitted to require travelers with ESAs and PSAs to: check-in early; provide advanced notice; provide a recent doctor’s note from their treating physician verifying that the individual suffers from a recognized emotional or mental disability, that the presence of the animal is necessary, and lists the provider’s credentials. Airlines are absolutely prohibited from requiring traditional service animal users to check in early, provide advance notice, or provide additional documentation, on flights less than eight hours.
Limited questions are permitted by both Acts when a disability is not obvious or clear. The ACAA permits airline personnel to ask “how does your animal assist you with your disability?” For service animals, this verbal assurance by the handler, in addition to any ID cards, harnesses, etc. must be accepted as evidence that the animal is a service animal. For ESAs and PSAs, the airlines may ask for documentation of vaccination, training, behavior, etc., for the purpose of determining the potential threat to the health or safety of others – but, generally, if the individual has complied with the advanced notice and check-in rules, has their doctor’s note, and does not have an unruly or unusual animal companion, the airline must permit its attendance.
The Long and the Short of It
The ADA protects the disabled on the ground; the ACAA protects the disabled in the skies. The DOJ controls the ADA; the DOT controls the ACAA. The ACAA has carved out additional service animal protections for Emotional Support Animals and Psychiatric Service Animals; the ADA only recognizes traditional service dogs (and miniature horses), including PSAs that have been specifically trained to complete a task for its disabled handler.
Traditional service animals are a familiar and, generally, accepted tool for many disabled people. However, the influx of psychiatric and emotional support critters exposed grey areas that the public was happy to explore. Prior to official guidance from the DOT, airlines and passengers were left without mutually understood limits for the presence and use of these creatures. As passengers pushed the bounds, airlines feverishly fought back with restrictions and refusals. The DOT has now offered airlines and passengers a better understanding of the department’s priorities, permissions, and definitive prohibitions. Both sides now have the explanation needed to better protect their specific interests and rights under the ACAA.
Written by Jill Roamer J.D.
Ms. Irving, a blind woman, lives in San Francisco. In 2018, she filed a Complaint against ride-share giant, Uber, alleging that she was discriminated against during various encounters with Uber drivers. Ms. Irving alleged that drivers refused to pick her up at least fourteen different times, and as such she was late for work on a few occasions and eventually lost her job. The reason that the drivers refused to let her in their car was that she had a guide dog with her. She also alleged that drivers employed by Uber left her in unsafe places at late hours, spoke to her in an abusive way, cut trips short before Ms. Irving had reached her destination, and on at least one occasion falsely claimed that Ms. Irving was at her destination when in fact, she was not.
Ms. Irving filed suit against Uber, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA gives various protections to folks with disabilities, but it only applies to companies with 15 or more employees. Uber claimed that it was not subject to ADA requirements because drivers were independent contractors and not employees.
The arbitrator disagreed with Uber, finding that it is irrelevant if the drivers are independent contractors. Uber had a contractual relationship with drivers and Uber failed to prevent such discrimination via proper driver training.
Indeed, Uber wasn’t oblivious to the problem of individuals with disabilities being denied rider services. In May 2017, the National Federation of the Blind resolved certain allegations of discrimination with Uber. A settlement agreement was reach whereas Uber would revise their policies and training procedures so that drivers would be educated on non-discrimination rules. Drivers would be terminated if they were known to deny rides to those riding with a service animal. (A similar settlement agreement was reached with Lyft.)
Those with disabilities that limit or preclude driving would obviously benefit from ride-sharing services. And this recent case in California shows that Uber has responsibilities to ensure these folks have access to their services. The National Federation of the Blind would like to hear from anyone who is in a similar circumstance and would like to test Uber’s commitment to their legal obligations.
The Law Offices of Jeffrey C. Nickerson can ensure that your disabled family member will remain in good hands. We can help prepare a special needs trust that'll put your mind in ease. Click on the button below to contact us for more information.
Written by Robert T. Nickerson
Within the past week, a lot of the news cycles have covered the reaction to the death of Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth’s long-time husband who recently passed at the age of 99. Some have felt a loss similar to a family member. Others have celebrated it. But regardless of how people saw him, losing a member of the royal family, whose been in the public eye for over seventy years, is a big deal. The next step is seeing what the royal family is going to do when he’s laid to rest.
It should come as no surprise, but Prince Philip had already presented his wishes on what was going to be done in the event of his death. This is also a requirement among state figures in England. As of April 13, 2021, the family is planning a small funeral with no public attendance allowed. This is quite the opposite of the situation involving Princess Diana back in 1997. Even though the circumstances surrounding their memorials are different, he wanted something more intimate than a large-scale event.
Being able to plan out your end of life wishes seems like something only available to royalty or super wealthy. The truth of the matter is that anyone can do. These terms can be legally bound within an estate plan document. This is what a health care directive can help accomplish. Along with funerals and memorial services, their also capable of stating which family member would be in charge of legal decisions and even the ability to terminate one’s life based on the medical issue.
But I bet your wondering; what is a health care directive? It’s a legal contract that names a person (typically a close family member or friend) to make decisions in your name should you not be able to (like if you slipped into a coma or became a vegetable). Upon your death, it also gives the selected individual to manage the affairs regarding the body.
What does this have to do with Prince Philip. He was able to add in more specific details into his own health care directive. He had wished to die at home in Windsor Castle, even if the hospital advised against that. This is what a healthcare directive can do. It just so happens he was able to get that into the document before it was too late.
Again, you don’t need to be a member of the royal family to accomplish this. Many people don’t want to have their end of days in a hospital. Most would rather do so in the comfort of their home. I’ll admit it may not be a guarantee, as there’s the chance it may not be doable (transportation or other medical issues) but having a health care directive stating your wishes at least makes it so that they at least have to try.
Also, according to his wishes, Prince Philip had asked for a light funeral ceremony. Funeral arraignments have been around forever, but most people have usually chosen to be buried or to be cremated. Modern people have been more specific in what they want in a funeral. They may want a definite religious ceremony, a list of speakers, and even the kind of parties that are held.
The grieving process is already going to be hard for the family. Having these kinds of instructions in a health care directive should help them through the struggle and give them a guide on what their loved ones would have liked.
If the recent pandemic hasn’t been a reminder enough, then the constant news of Prince Philip should be a wakeup call if you haven’t anything set up. We at the Law Offices of Jeffrey C. Nickerson can help out. Don’t be afraid to contact us for more information about setting up a health care directive or even an entire real estate. We’ll be able to make you feel like royalty when you won’t have to worry about this situation in the long run.
We all know what happened on October 24, 1929, just eight days after Professor Fisher’s bullish prediction, when the Wall Street Crash ushered in the Great Depression, ruining the great economist’s reputation. In hindsight, it is easy to spot the irrational exuberance exhibited in the run up to the greatest economic crisis in modern times. However, the fact remains that Professor Fisher was far from the only economist who expressed this opinion.
Market volatility did not end in 1929. On February 12, 2020, the Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 29,551.42, an all-time high. Less than a month later, on March 9, 2020, the Dow had fallen 5,700.4 points to end the day at 23,851.02, finally bottoming out on March 11, 2020, at 23,553.22, down more than 20 percent from the February 12 high roughly a month earlier.
Flash forward ten months, however, and the market has rebounded, with an all-time market high of 31,385.76 on February 8, 2021. Along the way, fortunes were made and lost and made again. These fluctuations have humbled pedigreed economists, and retail investors have brazenly rushed in to capitalize wherever possible (GameStop, anyone?). Perhaps with the lesson of Professor Fisher in mind, we may be hard pressed to find any economists willing to make bold public predictions regarding the future performance of the current market.
This unprecedented volatility has created not only enormous opportunities but also immense risks, particularly for those who act in a fiduciary capacity. Volatility places the typical trustee, confronted with duties to both principal and income beneficiaries, in the difficult position of needing to balance growth and income while still mitigating risk. So what are the best practices for trustees acting in this seesaw economy? What legal standards should trustees follow? How should trustees react with care and prudence in a market seemingly untethered to any historical sense of value and predictability?
Courts have confronted these questions since 1830, when Justice Samuel Putnam articulated what eventually became known as the “prudent man standard”:
All that can be required of a trustee to invest, is, that he shall conduct himself faithfully and exercise a sound discretion. He is to observe how men of prudence, discretion and intelligence manage their own affairs, not in regard to speculation, but in regard to the permanent disposition of their funds, considering the probable income, as well as the probable safety of the capital invested.
Of course, prudence presents much more of a guideline than a bright line, and courts (and trustees) have struggled ever since to define the standard in a manner that both protects beneficiaries and remains achievable by trustees living in the real, and messy, world of modern capital markets.
For example, for many years following the 1929 Wall Street Crash, trustees understandably placed their focus squarely on risk avoidance, and capital preservation was the name of the game. Large baskets of safe corporate and municipal bonds, and “legal lists” of acceptable investments, ensured that trustees could follow reasonably well-defined standards and avoid the dreaded surcharge resulting from “abuse of the trust.”
Advances in economics in the 1970s significantly changed the understanding of market mechanisms and presented the first big change in trust administration in nearly 150 years. Modern portfolio theory moved the focus from the “prudent person” (as the standard eventually became known) to the “prudent investor.” This subtle yet important change in nomenclature signified a fundamental shift from a focus on safety in individual investments to a more holistic approach aimed at managing risk throughout the entire investment portfolio. Gone were the days of 100 percent bond allocations, and a new era of quantitative risk management dawned.
Inevitably, by the early 1990s this change had found its way to the uniform law movement, and the Uniform Prudent Investor Act was born. As described by the Uniform Law Commission:
The Uniform Prudent Investor Act (UPIA) provides rules to govern the actions of trustees with respect to investment of trust property. Trustees are required to take into account such factors as risk and return, needs of the beneficiaries, the effect of inflation or deflation, general economic conditions, potential tax consequences, and the beneficiaries’ need for liquidity, income, or preservation of capital.
Although the “prudent person” standard received a much-needed facelift in the 1990s, the fact remains that the UPIA retained the “prudence” standard, and courts still struggle from time to time to apply that standard to the facts on the ground. For example, in recent years, some trustees have been found liable for being too conservative. Other times, trustees have been found liable for not being conservative enough. It seems that modern markets have sometimes created an impossible environment for trustees to operate in at a time when trust planning is more important than ever before.
Written by Jill Roamer, JD
In a recent case out of Ohio, a court of appeals analyzed whether the state could recover child support arrears from the estate of a Medicaid recipient. Here, Betty was the legal guardian of her grandchildren, Emily and Bradley. Their father was under court order to pay child support, with Betty as obligee. After both children reached the age of majority, Betty died intestate.
In the probate case, the state filed to recover the amount expended upon Betty during her life. The only asset of the estate was the intangible personal property of the child support arrears. Emily filed an Exception to the Inventory, claiming that the child support arrearages were her personal property and not an asset of the estate. After a hearing on the matter, the trial court ruled that since Betty was the obligee and the amount owed was reduced to a judgement, the arrearages were a party of Betty’s estate.
Emily appealed, arguing that the arrearages were not reduced to judgment before Betty’s death and that she had a superior claim to the money. Emily’s arguments relied heavily on In re Estate of Antkowiak, 95 Ohio App. 3d 546 (6th Dist. 1994). In that case, the court ruled “the existence of a child support arrearage upon the beneficiary’s emancipation and the death of a custodial parent establishes a prima facie case that the emancipated child has been denied the standard of living to which he or she was entitled…he or she has a superior claim to the arrearages. * * * [T]he right to collect support arrearages passes directly to the emancipated beneficiary upon the death of the custodial parent.” However, in that case, the court was clear that this ruling applied only to child support arrearages that had not been reduced to judgment prior to the obligee’s death.
The appeals court here held that Antkowiak was a narrow ruling and most courts do not rely on that precedence. Instead, most courts rely on the general rule that the child was not denied the standard of living to which she was entitled. Rather, the obligee assumed an additional burden when child support wasn’t received, and so that money is owed to them, and subsequently, their estate.
The state argued that since Ohio has expanded estate recovery, whether the arrearages are included in Betty’s probate estate is inconsequential. The court agreed, citing the definition of “estate” in R.C. 5162.21(A)(1):
“(a) All real and personal property and other asserts to be administered under Title XXI of the Revised Code and property that would be administered under that title if not for section 2113.03 or 2113.031 of the Revised Code; (b) Any other real and personal property and other assets in which an individual had any legal title or interest at the time of death(to the extent of the interest), including assets conveyed to a survivor, heir, or assign of the individual through joint tenancy, tenancy in common, survivorship, life estate, living trust, or other arrangement.” (emphasis added)
In the end, the court confirmed that the trial court was correct when it declined to apply the Antkowiak ruling to the case. The arrearages were Betty’s property and not Emily’s property. And because the state has expanded estate recovery, it was not determinate to decide whether the arrearages were a part of the estate or not. The judgment was affirmed.
Written by Robert T. Nickerson
Don't be afraid to admit that despite hearing about Bitcoin millionaires and Cryptocurrency trailers, you don't understand a lot about this kind of new market. Digital currencies are an intangible, electronic form of cash that only exists on computers. Compared to physical currencies like dollars and coins that are physical, digital currencies are still very new and are in the "wild west" era of regulation in the United States. Congress is even in the middle of "digitizing the dollar" to keep up with China in what appears to be a new kind of economic war. But that’s a conversation for another day. I wanted to focus on the personal ownership of cryptocurrencies and how they apply to your estate plan.
As stated before, Cryptocurrency is so new that there have been stories of people throwing out old computers…forgetting that they have hard drives of Bitcoin still stored, and ultimately neglecting potential thousands and even millions of dollars in real world value. We don't want anybody making the same mistake, especially if their heirs might have a better understanding of how to utilize Bitcoin to their advantage. So how do we integrate Cryptocurrency into an estate plan?
First, we have to have a way for beneficiaries to have access to their digital assets. Bitcoin and other digital currencies are already quite secure, but it'll mean nothing if their stored on a computer that someone can't get into because of a lost password. It's important to state in a will where they can find that information. It'll be interesting as like real money, Cryptocurrency can't be traced. Unless if the transfer is done on a platform like a bank or an online store, then there is no electronic or paper trail that can tack a link between two people who make a transfer. But there's an advantage. Because Bitcoin is digital, a transfer could be make in a moment. Documents need to be created to provide legality and proof of ownership.
Second, we have to look into the risks of Cryptocurrency. It can't be studied and exchange like regular money. Because its market is volatile and can fluctuate at different points throughout the day, it needs to be analyzed more like a stock in a private company. Because Cryptocurrency operates outside of United States regulation (as of 2021), neither federal nor state is liable for any losses due to scam or theft. Security options seem to be forming and we can expect even more to come soon, similar to bankruptcy protection.
As for taxes, the current rule by the IRS is that Cryptocurrency is filed as Property rather then currency. This means that the fair market value is set by conversion into U.S. dollars at “a reasonable exchange rate” and transactions involving Cryptocurrency are subject to the capital gains tax regulations. While that doesn't make sense at all, this is all likely to change beyond 2021. This also means that for trusts, writing in cryptocurrencies needs to have very specific language otherwise the wrong names or terms could create problems.
Our office is one of the few in the area that has experience with wills, trusts, estate plans, and the addition of complex assets. Click on the button below to learn more about how we can make the estate planning process simple.
Written by Jill Roamer J.D.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a program that is overseen by the Social Security Administration (SSA). SSDI is funded through payroll taxes, and a recipient is considered “insured” because that individual has a certain amount of work credits to receive benefits. Those work credits are earned by working for a certain number of years and paying into the Social Security trust fund via taxes paid.
After establishing the onset of a total disability, there is a five-month waiting period before the insured individual can receive SSDI benefits. However, there are a few exceptions to this waiting period. The first exception is for benefits for dependents of the disabled individual.
The second exception is for folks who are reinstating prior SSDI benefits. Meaning, the individual received benefits in the past but then went back to work and stopped receiving benefits. If benefits were once again needed due to the same disability, there wouldn’t be the five-month waiting period and the entire application process would not have to be redone.
There is now a third exception to the five-month waiting period for folks with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is a fast-moving neurodegenerative disease that causes the loss of muscle movements and bodily control. Individuals with ALS lose their motor-function abilities, to the point they can no longer breathe on their own.
The legislation allowing for this additional exception to the five-month waiting period was passed late in Trump’s presidency, and was driven by U.S. Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. Senator Whitehouse said “This represents a simple act of humanity for Americans battling a disease that often moves too quickly for the current system. Allowing patients and their families to immediately access the benefits they’ve earned will offer comfort as they confront a difficult diagnosis. Thank you to the tireless advocates and allies all over the country who joined our fight to get this done.”
The theory behind the five-month waiting period for SSDI benefits is that the disability may pass and the individual may be able to return to work. And the SSA only intended SSDI benefits for folks that had a disability that would last longer than one year. However, for many diseases and conditions, there is no cure. A return to work is virtually impossible. In the weeks before the legislation was passed, other Senators sought to broaden the scope of the new law to include other medical conditions. Advocates and leaders are pushing for new legislation that will eliminate the SSDI five-month waiting period for other diseases that have no known cure and have a short life expectancy.
Social security benefits can be a bit of a cakewalk and bureaucratic, especially if your not sure where to begin. Estate plans that involves family members with special needs often requires looking into the current social security laws and if their a part of the program, how that affects the wishes of the rest of the family. The law offices of Jeffrey C. Nickerson can help navigate a complex rulebook to make it easier. Click on the tab below to learn more.
Written by Robert T. Nickerson
As we get older, relationships can change. Sometimes we lose our loved ones. Sometimes we find someone new and want to be with that person. Sometimes we may even get remarried. In fact, grey divorces, which are divorces that happen to people in their sixties, have been more common in the past ten years. Hence, we've been seeing a lot more remarriages among the senior community. The joy of finding love later in life is always beautiful. But that happiness can also cause you to cloud your judgment and become forgetful in areas that need a little attention…such as your estate plan.
One problem is that under a new marriage, an estate plan that might have been good to go ten years ago will suddenly by out of date and could even cause consequences to your offspring from a previous relationship. Like perhaps your getting involved with someone who also has children from another marriage. There's a lot that could go wrong. In fact, here are four common issues I see and what can be done to avoid them.
Failure to protect your current spouse: I see this a lot, especially with those that have had many wives or husbands before (see my previous article on Larry King and the situation with his last wife to know more). In the event that you pass away without having updated your will to include your new spouse, it'll depend on the state your in, but in most cases, all your assets would go directly to your children. Nothing would go to the new wife. It would then be up to the kids to decide if they want to support a stepparent, but they have no legal obligation. It's unfortunate how family dynamics can go south when a patriarch dies.
What needs to be done is to work with an estate-planning attorney to design a plan that distributes your assets to both your spouse and children. Whether you'll want an equal distribution will depend on how you feel.
Not protecting your children from your last marriage: Like in the last statement where you protect your children but not your spouse, this can also swing in the other extreme; where all or most assets are left to the new spouse with only an "assumption" that they'll distribute assets to the children. This is very risky maneuver that I don't recommend as it puts your children in a stressful position. There are a couple of things you can do.
One option is to have a revocable trust that can provide some flexibility to both a spouse and children.
Another option is to have a separate marital trust set up. What this does is it directly crafts an exclusive fund for your spouse. You can even have a clause added that stipulates remaining assets in the trust are automatically passed to the offspring in the event of a spouses death.
Not protecting against depletion of assets: This one is also common. Let’s say you do trust your spouse enough that you do leave everything or a lot to her with the understanding it'll all pass along to the children when she dies. But because of life, something else like an illness happens, forcing most of the assets to go towards paying those kinds of expenses. What about long term care? That’s another thing I see come up all the time but people don't prepare for it in advance.
What I'd recommend is a life insurance policy that can provide for your spouse, which in turn could lead you to leave your assets. This is something that people wait until it's too late to consider.
Failure to protect your estate from your first spouse: I'm sorry to say just because both sides have signed the divorce papers, you still have work to do if you don't want them to play a part in your estate plan. While a legal divorce may automatically disinherit them (the keyword is "may"), you still need to change the names on retirement accounts and company life insurance plans to properly name the beneficiary.
People tend to forget to change names on those kinds of documents, but not doing so can cause a lot of problems for your children and even your current spouse. Not to mention that you need to make sure that a healthcare proxy has the right names for a power of attorney in the event of a medical circumstance.
The Law Offices of Jeffrey C. Nickerson can help you avoid all of these pitfalls. Estate planning can seem complicated, but we strive to ensure it's simple and creates an ease of mind. Click on the tab below to contact us for more information.
Written by Robert T. Nickerson
Larry King's wife, who he had been estranged from, has announced that she would be contesting his will.
Both Larry King and his seventh wife, Shawn King, were in the middle of a divorce, as filed back in August 2019. The two were still legally married when Larry died on January 23 from complications involving Covid-19 and sepsis. Apparently, she had recently found out that Larry King had updated his will without her knowing. The result, done in a handwritten document that was done shortly before his passing, left the bulk of his estate to his children…and nothing for her. She's announced her intentions to challenge it in court.
"We had a very watertight family estate plan", she said in an article to the New York Post. She said that the plan "still exists", which had been drawn up in 2015. "And it is the legitimate will. Period. And I fully believe it will hold up, and my attorneys are going to be filing a response…"
It was said that the "handwritten amendment" was written on October 17, 2019, nearly two months after the divorce filing, which left the $2 million estate to his five children, two of them, sons Chance and Cannon, were mothered by Shawn.
When asked why he wrote the amendment to the will, she responded, "It beats me!" and "based on the timeline, it just doesn’t make any sense". She also had claimed that after filing for divorce, she and Larry were talking daily. She's also gone on to claim that she thinks he was influenced by someone to craft an amendment, but would not say who.
Her two sons, Chance and Cannon, have said they were not aware of the amendment and have shown support for their mother. Shawn has said, "They are not happy about this". Even though the amendment had called for the $2 million dollar estate to be split five ways, the estate is said to be further complicated as two of his other children, Andy and Chiara, had died in 2019 from other complications. His other son, Larry Jr, is still alive, though has not commented on the amendment.
Larry had previously married seven other women. Like his other relationships, he and Shawn had their fair share of complications. He had told People in 2020 that, "We had a big age difference that eventually takes its toll. It became an issue. Also, [Shawn] is a very religious Mormon and I'm an agnostic atheist so that eventually causes little problems. We overcame a lot, but eventually, it became a ships-passing-in-the-night situation.
It's hard to see whose right or wrong as we don't have the full story, but we can say that communication is very important when crafting an estate plan. You don't have to end up like Larry King's family. We can make it simple and easy for the family. Click on the button below to contact us for more information.
Written by Robert T. Nickerson
Do you have a child or someone in your family with either physical or mental conditions that would label them special needs? Then chances are your going to face a lot of challenges with their well being and care, especially within the financial side. You also might have other people in the family who'll want to mean well by trying to help. But did you know that you may have to not accept it? Because by accepting their help, this could cause monetary problems for that special needs loved one?
I've got some good news. You can avoid major pitfalls by planning ahead. I'm sure you already know by having a family member with special needs qualifies you for some government benefits. They also can have access to local programs that provides assistance with housing, medial needs, independent living, job training, specialized equipment and other services. One problem that often arises is that in order to be eligible for these programs, you family needs to meet a financial requirement. This is mostly a non-issue if your loved one has little income and few assets.
Though another issue debuts a lot that I see all the time. This is when relatives like grandparents will want to include those with special needs as a beneficiary in their own estate plan. This can include being beneficiaries of insurance policies or retirement assets. This is because if that loved one with special needs receives a large amount of assets or sudden increase in finances, they could be ruled ineligible for important services.
This is where my first tip is to communicate with your relatives with their own plans as well as your own. This is a good chance to see if they decided to be…generous with what they want to give away. If it appears so, then you can use that opportunity to tell them you appreciate the thought, but there are better ways to structure the gift so that it can be more valuable and wont cause problems.
More specifically, they can place the asset or gift into a special needs trust, either one already created in your estate plan or a separate one. What a special needs trust does is that its crafted to help those with special needs to use financial assets or inheritances that can be used for a lot of things while keeping their eligibility for government programs.
There are two types of special needs trusts:
Having an estate plan created for a special needs trust can be a complicated and even scary process. It doesn’t have to be. It just takes some influence with your family and keeping communication channels open. The law offices of Jeffrey C. Nickerson can help with that. Click on the button before to contact us for more information on how we can help your family, your loved one with special needs and the future.
Jeffrey C. Nickerson - Estate Planning Attorney - My Passion is Special Needs Planning!