Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Holiday Gathering

As the holiday season approaches many people find themselves spending an increased amount of time with their loved ones. Maybe you are spending a week in the home you were raised in or your parents are flying in to spend the holiday with you and your family. During these extended visits you may notice changes in your parents’ health that you had not noticed before. If so, it is likely that you’ll have questions about whether they have completed any estate planning documents. Broaching the topic of money, illness, and death is never an easy one, but is important. One idea I offer to clients of mine who struggle with how to raise this issue is to share a news article or story with them; you can start taking about the general topic and move into specifics if the conversation goes well. For more ideas on talking with your aging parents about estate planning, take a look at AARP’s web site -- they offer five moves to make the conversation a bit easier.

Have a happy, healthy and safe holiday.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Unconventional Use of a Harley Davidson

I read an interesting story about a women who had some of her last husband's ashes painted on to his Harley Davidson motorcycle. Do you have specific wishes about your funeral or burial? If so, remember that Wisconsin now has a legal form that you can complete that allows you to designate a specific person to carry out your funeral wishes. And if they are unconventional (and you live in Wisconsin), you might want to complete the form to make sure other loved ones understand that this is really what you wanted to happen. The Authorization for Final Disposition form is located on the Department of Health Services web site.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Twist on Holiday Gift Giving

Yesterday a new client called to put herself on my calendar, and then she asked something I had not yet heard in my practice...could she give my legal services to her sister as a holiday gift? Apparently both women had attended a seminar of mine and wanted to work with me. So, for a holiday gift my client is giving her sister a “gift certificate” towards an estate plan. This unique gift has an underlying principle not that uncommon in the legal field – someone else paying for a person’s legal representation. One important fact I had to educate the client on was that even though she was paying the bill, her sister would be my client. That means attorney client privilege would prevent me from disclosing any information to the sister paying the bill. My client understood and was thrilled to have finished her holiday shopping without having to make a trip to the mall.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pet Trusts Continued...

This evening I spoke to the Waunakee Lions club about general estate planning concepts. Afterward the presentation a gentleman asked a great question, one I have not been asked before. “What happens to the assets in a pet trust once the pet dies?” Great question. And the answer is, it depends. The money would be distributed according to how the grantors, the people who created the trust, specified. Most of my clients leave any unused funds to the pet’s caretaker. Another option would be to leave unused funds to an animal rescue organization or similar non-profit.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Paying for the Funeral

Recently, I made a post about a new form in Wisconsin that allows a person to designate someone to act as his or her representative for funeral and burial arrangements. In addition to thinking about who should act for you and what type of funeral or memorial service you may want, it is also a good idea to think about how it will be paid for. Over the past few days there has been a lot of discussion on the Elderlaw listserve about funeral homes requiring a loved one to sign personally for the costs of the funeral instead of waiting an billing the deceased's estate. For people low on cash or with poor credit, this can cause a crisis. Here are a few ideas for making sure your final arrangements are covered:
  • complete a POD (pay on death) card for a checking or savings account, payable to the person making your arrangements;
  • list the person making your arrangements on your life insurance;
  • work with a funeral home that agrees to bill your estate;
  • pre-pay for a funeral.