Written by Robert T. Nickerson
Estate planning is not a process where one style will do for anyone. It's very personal that requires each one to be customized. Perhaps with the exception of a significant other, it can become intimidating to figure out those tough decisions when there are no close family members. It's more common then people realize, which makes a lot of people put off their strategy to finish their estate plan or not even at all. If your having trouble, here are some ideas that can put you at ease.
Plan for Incapacity
Everyone should have someone ready to direct their decisions for health care and a power of attorney. This is best done through an advanced directive for healthcare document. This be able to legally determine how your demands are carried through, in the event where something bad (car crash, coma, etc…) prevents you from making those decisions. Without this piece of paper, not even your wife can make legal choices for you. Without it, your relatives with be dealt with a bureaucratic court proceeding to plan out a guardianship or conservatorship to appoint someone to make these decisions (which could end up as someone you don't know)
Consider a Trust
This is a legal document that can used to manage your assets and help carry out your decisions in the event of your death. Its has two elements in your favor. A trust will avoid a probate issue and it allows you to give out an inheritance in a protected manner.
Probate is a court development that figures out who is entitled to an asset in your name when your dead. The American court system will send out notice to your closed relatives, known as heirs. If your not married or ever had children, then your closest would be your parents. Don't have parents? Then your sibling get control. No brother or sister? Then it's be your grandparents, then great aunts, uncles, and cousins. It’s a possibility that your closest relative on paper could be someone you've never met or don't want in charge.
If you don't have at least a will, the "state determined closest relative" will be the one to inherit your stuff. Though even with the will, they still have a chance to interrupt, find out about the worth of your assets and go to court to try and change that.
The best strategy is to have a trust created. You should plan to have your assets own within the trust, thus avoiding a potential probate issue.
Whose is Charge?
Each trust needs someone to be the leader once your gone, which is called a "trustee". A trustee can either be a real person or a business like a financial institution. A trustee ensures your assets are distributed to the guidelines you’ve set into place. This is why it's important to chose someone or something that is responsible and trusting.
If there isn't anyone one you trust, then your best bet is to select a professional, such as an attorney, accountant, or a trust company. These people will charge you for their services, but it’s often worth it to know that your assets are in good hands.
What to Do with Your Assets
Let's say you have parents you want to be sure are taken care of. Or someone else in the family or even a friend. It can be difficult to figure out just how one is benefited from your assets. Your attorney can review the best way to be carried out. Again, a trust may be the best way.
Charities can also be included in estate plan. If the gift to the charity is…generous, then the organization can be contacted before to ensure that the contribution is going to the area you desire.
Don't Forget the Animals
We don't want to keep Rover or Lassie out of your plan. Of course we want to make sure that your pets will be cared for after your gone. This can be done by leaving them with someone who can be a good owner. Or a pet trust can also be set up. It's just important to plan out for your pet, just as a parent would for a
Written by Jeff Pack
Fraud prevention experts provided insight Saturday, Jan. 26, to a room of roughly two dozen attendees at Wildomar Library at an event sponsored by the Friends of the Wildomar Library.
Attorney Jeffrey C. Nickerson, who specializes in estate planning with a focus on special needs trusts spoke at length about elder abuse and fraud.
He told the crowd that $40 billion is lost in telemarketing fraud each year.
He said, worldwide, nearly 35.6 million people live with dementia and that the number of people suffering from the disease will double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050, according to the World Health Organization.
A person in the U.S. develops Alzheimer's disease every 66 seconds.
"That's because people are living longer," he said. "So it's important to recognize that those elderly people are vulnerable to things like fraud and abuse."
Nickerson said that according to the National Council on Aging – 1 in 10 Americans aged 60 and older have experienced some form of elder abuse.
The National Center of Elder Abuse said that in 2010 there were 5,961,568 elder abuse cases brought in the United States.
"But this is a really underreported crime," Nickerson said. "Most of the time, if a family member is suspected of doing something like this, the victim mostly just wants someone to go in and make the family member stop abusing them. They don't want their son or grandson arrested."
Nickerson said that California has the highest number of reports of elder abuse and that Riverside County had 71 cases last year.
"Although I think that number is relatively low," he said.
First, Nickerson said, the most important way to minimize the chances of an elderly person in the family suffering from abuse or fraud is to visit them often and consistently.
Nickerson identified "anyone" as a perpetrator of fraud, but said more often than not, people that take advantage of the elderly are caretakers, friends and most often, relatives.
He shared stories generated from his office that surrounded family members "making up stories" to get money from parents or grandparents.
"They call and say they forgot to make a mortgage payment and they are going to lose the house," Nickerson said. "If they don't get $3,000 or $4,000 today, the bank is going to take it."
Obviously, Nickerson said, that parent or grandparent doesn't want to see their grandkids without a place to live, so they get the money to them.
He said one indicator of fraud and abuse is exploitation and suggested that family members pay attention to sudden changes in their loved one's financial situation and changes to their personality and mood.
"They may seem uneasy or almost scared," he said.
He said another big indicator is the behavior of the caretaker.
"Sometimes you will go to visit a loved one in a care facility and the caretaker says the family member is asleep or isn't feeling well," Nickerson said. "Isolation is a big one. These people will isolate the victim from family members that could discover the crime."
Nickerson shared resources and information for people that suspect that a loved one is being taken advantage of and abused.
Adult Protective Services can be reached at (951) 791-3250, and the Riverside County Office on Aging and Disability Resource Center is available at (951) 867-3800.
Jeffrey C. Nickerson - Estate Planning Attorney - My Passion is Special Needs Planning!