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.
Written by Robert T. Nickerson
Gather around kids! It's time to let you all in on a little secret…your no longer children. In fact, a lot of Millennials are almost about to hit the forty year old mark. This means that mom and dad, who are most likely boomers, will want to have a chat with you. It'll definitely involve the future, but more importantly, it'll involve some difficult topics. No one wants to think about their mortality, but this is why I have to stress the eminent of an estate plan.
To make it clear, an estate plan is NOT something that designates in which assets will be inherited by whom. That is the responsibility of a will. What the real goal of an estate plan does is that it sets in stone with who will be the one to make decisions in the matter of something happening to mom or dad that makes them incapable of doing so. This is done so that in case of a medical emergency, the adult child can focus more time on making medical choices instead of fighting with the rest of the family over whose in charge. With no estate plan, the court usually has to get involved, which only becomes a complicated and expensive process.
Which documents do I need?
So I'm sure you've heard of a will. That’s the piece of paper that specifies how your loved one's assets are distributed to everyone. That’s a necessary part of an estate plan, but there's a lot more to it that makes it a big deal. Documents that are a part of estate plans include a power of attorney, a healthcare proxy and a living will. All of these things are key to set someone up do not only make the medical decisions, but also handle the financial choices. This means the person can pay bills, deal with insurance and make necessary purchases. This is something needed, especially if a parent or loved one has a family history of dementia or Alzheimer's.
You are also going to need to know where a lot of these things are. Chances are, your parents will have them in physical format, but a lot more are being placed in digital format. For the latter, I recommend having a master document that has all the passwords to important websites or cloud servers where the documents are stored. Digital records are gonna be a major help in the most dire of situations.
How do we have this conversation?
Now is the time to not mess around and wait. I understand that this is a topic that be sensitive and even upsetting. The key is to bring up the topic that doesn't avoid anxiety, but eases it. So my first piece of advice is how you approach it.
Rather then saying,
"Your getting old, we need to set up an estate plan so that were ready when you die"
Try saying something like.
"Nothing lasts forever. I want us to be ready for anything. By getting an estate plan prepared, it'll be less stressful in the long run. We won't have to think about it for a while"
Another way to approach it is to make it something you want for you more then they'll want it.
Rather then saying,
"I'm concerned for you and think you need this."
"My girlfriend and I have looked into getting an estate plan and think its something you should have too. It'll ensure my own piece of mind and prepare me for my own."
While I don't recommend scare tactics to encourage anyone to get an estate plan, it might not hurt towards the end of the conversation, like an exclamation point, to exemplify an importance because of _________________. A family history of dementia? A car accident that’s caused medical issues? Save those for the end, not the beginning of the conversation.
What if they won't listen?
I've seen this a lot. An adult or two will go to their parents and ask about an estate plan. And the only response is, "We don't talk about that yet!" or "Don't worry, your father and I aren’t going anywhere". There isn't a lot you can do. Pressing about it is something I don't recommend. It'll only create more anger and resentment. My best advice is to lay off it…for a little bit. Try approaching them again after a couple of months and ease into the talk. It just so happens that even if only a little progress can be made, it's still progress. Groundwork always leads to building.
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Written by Robert Nickerson
When we get to that point of creating an estate plan, we tend to figure out the collective feeling. What I mean exactly is the overall emotion everyone has about the situation. We might feel happy, sad, or even angry at the person whose estate is being represented. Usually the feeling is going to be mutual with everyone else. The circumstance on wealth and relationships are going to be a factor when thinking about the future. Though it's one thing to get an understanding on how everyone as a whole feels, its another when an individual has another opinion.
Every family is bound to have one person whose personal situation is questionable. Are they mentally capable of making their own decisions? Are they in a financially secure place? Do they have a substance abuse problem? Are they irresponsible with money? The good news is that all of these factors can be acknowledged within an estate plan.
I'll bet before you clicked on this link to read the article, you've already done a web search about those issues and might have even come across statements that you weren’t sure were fact or a hundred percent true. I'm going to go through a couple of myths surrounding "black sheep" family members and estate plans.
Myth 1: You have to divide your estate plan equally amongst your beneficiaries
This is NOT true. In fact, this is something I encourage depending on the family. Just because your want more of your assets to go to someone over the other doesn't mean your don't love that other person. A good example would be if you have someone in the family who is mentally disabled. They may require a larger share if they need a more secure position with their medical and caregiver expenses covered. Or there may be a situation you want to disinherit a beneficiary. That doesn't mean you don't agree with their choices. But perhaps someone in the family is starting a new business and needs the extra assets to get things moving.
Regardless of the reason for anything, dividing assets unequally should be explained before anything is set in motion. Though it also helps to have a documents that explains your decision.
This is also why I highly recommend checking your estate plan sporadically to see if you still want you beneficiaries to receive assets as you planned when the document was laid out.
Myth 2: I can't change my mind once I set up to have a beneficiary disinherited
This is NOT true. Like I said before, I recommend going back to your estate plan every couple of yours and thinking about everyone's position. Are they in a better place? Has something come up? Life is full of surprises and one of them may force a chance in how things are distributed.
Myth 3: You can't control things once your dead
This is NOT true….sort of. Once You've passed on, unless there's a new way to resurrect the dead, you yourself are gone from direct control. However, your estate plan gives the ability to see your wishes carried out. Does someone in the family need an incentive before they receive their distributed assets? You have the ability to create a distribution contingent (a clause that says they can receive something after they done something). This can range from unlocking funds after finishing college, and allowance if proven to be in rehab.
This goes back to the idea that not all distribution has to be equal. What this does do, is ensure that something needs to be done in order to receive an asset.
Myth 4: Trusts are complicated and a pain to control
As long as you have everything set with a good lawyer…then this is NOT true. Let's say that someone in your family has special needs and requires someone to look after his well being. A special trust can be created with someone being appointed a trustee that'll take charge of the responsibility. But if naming someone is too much of a burden, then naming a professional trustee is also an option. Yes, there are costs to a corporate trustee, but you also have to debate at what cost are you willing to stick to with that family member.
Though let's be honest, making these kinds of decisions are never easy. Just the thought of speaking to a lawyer about the future of someone's passing can make you uneasy and even depressed. But I can tell you now that its better to do this as soon as possible then wait until it's too late. Our law office can help guide you through this subject with ease and determine what action is best for your family. Click on the button below for more information or to contact us.
Jeffrey C. Nickerson - Estate Planning Attorney - My Passion is Special Needs Planning!