Wednesday, December 30, 2009
The article raises a good question -- if Congress couldn't fix this mess of a law this year, what makes us think they'll get the job done in 2010? Only time will tell.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Taxes are a certainty, but how the play out appears not to be. Stay tuned for more updates.
There is yet another wrinkle. When they scheduled the demise of the estate tax for 2009, the authors of the 2001 tax measure replaced it with a capital gains tax of 15 percent on inherited property that is later sold.
The threshold for being subject to those taxes is set lower, with the first $1.3 million in capital gains exempted for general heirs and $3 million for spouses. Democrats argue that thousands of estates that would not have been subject to taxes under the current law could get hit in 2010 even as those at the higher end of inheritance scale escape the 45 percent tax bite.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Growing old has never been easy. But in isolated, rural spots like this, it is harder still, especially as the battering ram of recession and budget cuts to programs for the elderly sweep through many local and state governments.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Still no firm answers on the estate tax, and the clock is ticking.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
“Giving for 29 days is not suggested as a cure for anything,” Ms. Walker said. “It’s simply a coping mechanism and a simple tool you can use that can help you change your thinking about whatever is going on. If you change your thinking, you change your experience.”The concept and book sound intriguing....I'll have to give the book a read and the concept a try.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
What does this mean for you? Well, if you are a farmer or small business owner it makes estate planning a bit tricky....we're not certain what the new exemption level will be. There are several bills floating around DC, and the prevailing thought is the higher the exemption level, the better.
Why is the estate tax so troublesome? Well, it applies on liquid and illiquid assets. Horror stories about of small business owners or farmers dying, leaving behind an estate worth more than the exemption, but little cash to pay the IRS...often leading to a fire sale to generate cash quickly.
As the year ticks to an end, keep your eyes on Washington for movement on this issue.
This is a Hollywood story, but carries important lessons for all. First, legal papers are not binding until they are signed. This is true for estate plans, not until they are signed to the carry and legal weight....so don't delay in putting your date and signature on the forms. Second, if you have a blended family you really, really need to give some thought to what will happen to the assets when the first spouse dies. If you don't, State statutes will control and may differ from what you would have wanted.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
- full name,
- date of birth,
- date of death,
- place of birth (if different),
- relationship status (married, partnered, widowed),
- name of surviving family (parents, spouse/partner, children, etc.),
- preceded in death by (list family who has died),
- educational and vocational background,
- memorial or funeral service date, time, and location,
- whether there is a public burial,
- organization if "in lieu of flowers" is being used, and
- a personal touch (nickname, family memory, adjectives, poem, spiritual verse).
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Remember, until the legislation is signed, it is just a proposal. There is no definitive change yet.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Any of a limited series of U.S. government bonds that may be used at par to pay federal estate taxes. The bond is unique because there is no minimum time for which it must be held; further, its holder does not have to wait until maturity to use it at par for paying the tax. Flower bonds have not been issued since 1971.
Monday, October 26, 2009
The will bequeaths Mr. Cronkite’s personal papers to the university, a process that started before his death on July 17 but will now end with the release of materials he had held onto at his office and homes in Manhattan and on Martha’s Vineyard.
Much of the newsman’s other assets will be divided among his three children: Walter Leland III, known as Chip; Mary Kathleen, known as Kate; and Nancy Elizabeth. Chip Cronkite said the family was happy that so many of his father’s papers would be kept by the university.I have often encouraged clients to consider leaving photos and other heirlooms to a museum or culture center where they can be enjoyed by many. My own family is considering doing this with some items my father had inherited from his Swedish ancestors.
At issue is the "step-up in cost basis" that all assets receive when an owner dies. The way the law is currently written, if the estate tax goes away, so does the step-up in cost basis. That's where the problem lies.
Step-up means that the property heirs receive is valued as of the date of death. So if Grandma leaves a grandchild stock selling for $75 a share that was bought in 1970 for $2 per share, the heir's "cost basis" in the stock is $75. If the grandchild then sells the stock for $80, the taxable gain is $5 per share. The same holds true for both real estate and personal property, like an heirloom ring or art.
If Congress fails to extend the current system for 2010, then at the owner's death all assets would retain their original cost, called "carry-over basis." Under this system the heir's stock would have a cost basis of the original $2 per share rather than $75. If he then sells the stock at $80, the taxable gain would be $78 instead of $5—a huge difference.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Remember, in Wisconsin a person can complete a Authorization for Final Disposition form, which allows you to appoint someone to be in charge of your funeral and to leave specific instructions. Webcasting might be something you'd want to mention on such a form.
I'd be curious to hear from those who have experienced this type of service. And thanks to my husband who spotted this article.
If you seen an article or have a topic you'd like to know more about, please leave a comment.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
- who is comfortable dealing with doctors and other medical staff;
- who will be able to handle seeing you in a very ill state;
- who will speak for you, based on wishes you communicated earlier, and not simply state what they want; and
- who has the time to be at the hospital or long-term care facility.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
I knew it was like Hospice, but I was not able to give a good, concise definition. We met with palliative care team, and the decision was made to transfer my father to their unit. What did it mean? Palliative care does not mean "non-medical" or "non-treatment". Instead, the medical treatment is for comfort rather than curative measures. Comfort, not a cure -- that was the goal. Hospice, the term I was much more familiar with, is a brand of palliative care, a company name essentially.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Restoring Hope Transplant House will be a “home away from home” for patients who are in the Madison area for organ, bone marrow or other transplants. A transplant house is not a medical facility. It is a caring environment that offers high quality, affordable accommodations for patients and their adult family members/caregivers. In addition to physical housing, the House offers hospitality, compassion and hope to support the healing journey for the patient and family. The support is provided by a small core staff, many volunteers and through interaction between other families facing the same challenges.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
Yes, often people will designate one child to be "in charge". That is appropriate with a will because the Personal Representative distributes assets according to the will - they don't inherit it all. But, when only one child is named as a beneficiary, that child inherits everything. And if the share that they want to pass along to their siblings is greater than the gift tax exemption ($13,000 in 2009), then the child is responsible for the gift tax. If they inherit it, they own it, and are now giving it away.
This can be avoided if beneficiary forms list ALL for the people who are intended to inherit. This means if you have 4 children and they should all receive 25%, then all 4 need to be listed on the beneficiary form.
Estate planning is a complex and ever changing area of the law. It is always best to seek the counsel of a skilled attorney.
Spotting a Help Wanted ad featuring the word “departures,” he is excited about the prospect of trying a new career in the travel industry. He arrives for the interview, curiously eyeing the coffins lining the back wall of the office. The company owner, Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki), hires him on the spot, with only a cursory glance at his resume. Daigo finally ventures to ask what is involved, exactly, and is stunned to learn what he has gotten himself into: the ceremonial “encoffination” of corpses prior to cremation. Sasaki urges him to take the job, proffering large amounts of cash. He’s getting older, and needs someone to carry on the tradition.Hopefully I'll get a chance to see the film while it is playing at Sundance Cinemas in Madison.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Would her will allow her to do this? No, because the deed stated "joint tenancy" -- if any one of the joint tenants dies, the remainder of the property is transferred to the survivors. What she needed to do was have the property titled a "tenants in common" -- each party has the right to alienate, or transfer the ownership of, her ownership interest. This can be done by deed, will, or other conveyance.
As always, when dealing with legal issues it is always best to consult a legal expert for advice on your specific situation. Laws vary state by state, and from year to year depending on legislation.
In this paper, I seek to reclaim this lost history of estate and gift taxation. While the ensuing analysis certainly will enable us to more fully appreciate the events of 1932 and evaluate the actions Congress took in that fateful year, my inquiry is not of mere historical interest. Rather, the choices made in 1932 have helped shape the fundamental structure of U.S. estate and gift taxation for nearly eight decades, including our modern estate and gift tax code. As such, understanding the events of 1932 can help us to understand why our estate and gift taxes operate the way they do as well as help inform future debate about the optimal structure of our wealth transfer tax system.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
The designation may be canceled or changed at any time by the sole owner or all then surviving owners, without the consent of the beneficiary, by executing and recording another deed that designates a different beneficiary or no beneficiary. The recording of a deed that designates a TOD beneficiary or no beneficiary revokes any designation made in a previously recorded deed relating to the same property interest.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Advocates say the number of home funerals, where everything from caring for the dead to the visiting hours to the building of the coffin is done at home, has soared in the last five years, putting the funerals “where home births were 30 years ago,” according to Chuck Lakin, a home funeral proponent and coffin builder in Waterville, Me.While the average American funeral costs $6,000, those who went with a "home burial" paid as little as $250. While not all of us live on a tract of land suitable for burial, how many of us would want a coffin that doubles as a bookcase until we need it? Apparently quite a few.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
As Ms. Connelly learned, an entire service industry is slowly taking shape around the goal of letting people age in place. If you want to make your own home or an older relative or friend’s home a safer, more supportive place to live, here are basic guidelines to the most efficient and cost-effective approaches.The article provides a nice overview of issues to consider when attempting to improve the safety conditions of a seniors home. If you live in Wisconsin, one resource to contact would be the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
- US Industry Revenue in 2006 - $11 billion;
- No. of US Funeral Homes in 2006 - 21,080;
- US Death Rate in 2007 - 8 per thousand;
- Projected US Death Rate in 2020 - 9.3 per thousand
"people will always die. It's a matter of how much they'll spend."The average Wisconsin funeral costs between $8,000 and $9,000, and a cremation costs between $3,600 and $5,000. It is probably wise to give some thought now to what you do and do not want when the time comes, rather than a time of grief.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
“We approach our living and our dying in the same way, with discernment,” said Sister Mary Lou Mitchell, the congregation president. “Maybe this is one of the messages we can send to society, by modeling it.”I found the article, and the views presented to be thoughtful an interesting. It shows that the debate on end of life issues need not be so polarized -- there may be a common ground for us all.
Just like in human hospice, veterinarians feel that the final days for the pet should be spent in comfort among familiar surroundings and loving family. According to Dr. Alice Villalobos, director of Pawspice in California, the goal of pet hospice is help pet owners determine the quality of life for their pets. “If the pet owners and veterinary staff can meet the basic desires at a satisfactory level,” says Villalobos, “there is justification for preserving the lives of the pets.” At Pawspice, the five “H’s” of hunger, hurt, happiness, hydration and hygiene, along with the pet’s mobility are rated each day. Of course, the goal is that the pet is having more good days than bad ones.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Domestic partnership in Wisconsin is a legal status that provides same sex couples who register as domestic partners with certain limited legal protections.One aspect of this law that I notice is that it does NOT apply to heterosexual partnered couples; if a man and women are partnered, but not married, then there is no right to inherit under Wisconsin law. This would only occur if the parties completed a will.
Under the law, domestic partners will have inheritance rights that did not exist before (partners could inherit if one completed a will, but if there was no will, there was no right to inherit):
Inheritance and Survivor Protections - A surviving domestic partner:
• inherits from the estate of domestic partner who dies without a will;
• can be awarded the couple’s home and vehicles that are titled in the name of the deceased partner, as well as personal and household items of the deceased partner, by a probate court;
• may have certain protections against creditors;
• can transfer a deceased partner’s assets to the surviving partner without probate if the total value is less than $50,000;
• can receive death benefits if the deceased partner was killed in a workplace accident, with special benefits if the partner was a police officer or firefighters killed in the line of duty;
• can get victim compensation if the deceased partner was injured or killed while trying to prevent a crime or assist a law enforcement officer;
• can sue for a partner’s wrongful death.
When selecting a burial location it is important to research your choices. Each state may differ, but all will have some office that regulates the industry. And a consumer protection office may have a records of complaints filed against a cemetery.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Colorado-based Ecoffins USA, sister company of The SAWD Partnership, which helped fuel the eco-conscious funeral movement in the United Kingdom, uses banana sheaves and bamboo in the construction of their coffins – materials long noted for their abundance and ability to rapidly biodegrade. The caskets, which take six months to two years to decompose, are made in a Fairtrade certified factory in China and shipped to the United Kingdom and United States, perhaps the most environmentally taxing part of the process. Interestingly, according to the company’s UK site, the caskets are “transported by sea to the UK ‘Russian-doll-style’ - inside each other, maximizing space and minimizing fuel costs” and, of course, fuel emissions.
- call a variety of lawyers and ask about pricing. Some charge by the hour, others charge a flat-fee;
- work with an attorney who specializes in estate planning and probate -- they should be more knowledgeable and more efficient;
- hire someone you feel comfortable talking with, it is important that you tell this person about your family structure and financial situation -- no matter how difficult either situation is;
- get recommendations from friends and family who have completed a will, or from a trusted professional you already use (accountant, financial planner, insurance person); and
- doing a basic will can take between 4 and 6 weeks, depending on how organized you are and if you know who you want to do what (guardian, personal rep, trustee).
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Thursday, July 2, 2009
An icon of the music world, but his will is simple at to the point. Naming an executor, distributing his property, and nominating guardians for minor children. His will really is no different than the typical American.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Along with the recognition come dozens of legal protections that previously were only granted to married couples, including the right to take family leave to care for a sick or dying partner, the ability to access a partner's medical records and the right to inherit a partner's property.I'd like to clarify the article's language; under the current law a partner could inherit, but to do so the other person needed to have completed a will. Without a will, the property would have passed according to state statute, which would go to children, if none, parents, etc. The current statutory distribution did not recognize domestic partners.....it now will under the new legislation.
Since Wisconsin has constitutional language barring same-sex marriage, some have questioned the legal validity of the new law. However, the article reports:
the Wisconsin Legislative Council, foreseeing a potential legal battle, issued an opinion on May 6 that said the constitutional amendment did not preclude the legality of domestic partnerships. The opinion stated, in part, that "it is reasonable to conclude that the domestic partnerships proposed … do not confer a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals."The new law goes into effect August 1, 2009.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
One valuable lesson from his early death is that the only valid way for a parent to name a guardian for minor children is in a will. Through proper planning, parents can nominate the person(s) who should raise children, and who should manage the finances. This is an issue that can rip families apart. Take the time to think through the decision now, and hopefully it will never come to pass.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Why Angel's Wish? Our two cats were both adopted through the organization, and it is one way in which I give back to a wonderful non-profit.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
Saturday, June 13, 2009
If you are thinking about advance directives, good for you. Just make sure you are investing your time and money into something that will hold up if needed.
Interesting idea. We'll have to see what comes out of Washington when all is said and done.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Monday, June 1, 2009
I'm a frugal person, and this is not common practice...or at least it hasn't been. My advice, shop around for another broker. If they are charging for this, what else are they charging for?
Thursday, May 28, 2009
This raises a question I don't know the answer to -- who is responsible for paying to replace the headstone? To answer the question I would want to see the contract, but who would have it? Might there be one on file in the cemetery's business office? Or possibly the personal representative kept the contract. That is one think I really enjoy about the practice of law, new questions are always emerging, and discovering the answer is a great way to learn something new.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Many clients think that a trust is a trouble-free way to leave possessions to family. As this story shows, trusts can't prevent family feuds.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
This story is quite troubling, and will be one that I follow. Reading it, the one thought I have is that if you are in a relationship that is not traditionally recognized (same-sex couple or partnered but not married), you might want to have the documents in hand when you travel. Maybe it wouldn't have made a difference in this case, but time can be of the essence.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
I listened as I drove to client meetings and found the show to be interesting....and I plan to read at least one or two of the books mentioned.
You can hear the show by visiting To The Best of Our Knowledge.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
This story show that even if you take steps to put your estate plan in order, infighting can occur. To assure that your wishes are followed be certain to seek legal counsel who specialize in the area of estate planning, and who should be looking to make sure undue influence is not occurring.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Pet trusts are not just for the rich and famous. Whether you need a trust to care for a pet after your death, or not, planning for the care of an animal is very important. Too many shelter animals arrive because of an untimely nursing home admission or death. Please take the time to consider who should take over for you if you cannot conitune on as your pet's guardian.
If your company or organization would like to offer a similar seminar on wills and other documents, please contact my office at 608-274-7192 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
This article illustrates that courts can, and do, get involved with trusts. Often times clients want a trust, saying they want to keep the courts out of their business. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Wisconsin law allows a person, while living, to arrange to donate his or her body to a medical school as long as the donation is for educational purposes. At the UW, once study of the body is completed, the remains are cremated. Ashes may be returned to the family if designated forms are completed. According to the school, it is normally two years before the ashes are returned. Ashes that are not returned to the family are buried in an unmarked grave on University property.
To ask additional questions or obtain a donation form, contact the UW at 608-262-2888.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Check out Dead At Your Age here.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Basic forms are available on the Wisconsin Department of Health Service's web site. As always, I recommend you consult with an attorney specializing in the area of estate planning to ensure that your paperwork is accurate, complete, and compliant with Wisconsin law.
In 1969, as technology was beginning this advance, a lawyer in Chicago had what was then a fairly radical thought: What if a person might want to say “no” to a doctor but can’t speak? The lawyer knew that the law provided a method to dispose of his property when he could no longer speak, when he was dead: a document called a will. He came up with the idea of writing on a piece of paper, “If I’m ever in a coma, I don’t want my life prolonged artificially by machines.” He called the paper a living will and wrote a law review article about the idea, and the societal debate began.Colby continues by pointing out that 100 years ago society did not possess the ability it has now to prolong life. As a result, a new set of questions arise. Here are his thoughts on talking about this issue:
Colby will be debating the Constitutional, legal, and medical impact of the right to die at this year's Wisconsin State Bar Annual Convention, May 7th, in Milwaukee.
So how do lawyers advise clients, family members, and friends who ask, “Hey, what should I do about my living will?” My own solution may not be the gold standard, but I’ve thought a lot about the intersection of law and medical technology. Here are the three steps I’ve taken for myself.
- First, I filled out a legal document, a one-page power of attorney for health care. This document states that my wife (or the listed alternates) will make medical decisions for me if I cannot.
- Second, I’ve armed my wife to act as my advocate if necessary. We’ve talked about Terri Schiavo, and my grandmother’s Alzheimer’s disease, and other situations. My wife knows that I believe the purpose of medical technology is to serve as a bridge to recovery so that I can live life. If it cannot, I want it stopped.
- Third, I’ve talked with my siblings, my doctor, and other people who might be in the room when decisions are made about me. Health-care workers who deal with the dying all can tell a story about the somewhat-estranged adult child who flies in to “save” mom. To avoid conflict later, talk now.
Monday, April 13, 2009
But now some Democrats have joined Republicans to call for setting the threshold even higher, in a rebellion that could have important consequences not just for the future of the death tax but also for Mr. Obama’s efforts to pay for his ambitious policy agenda.The NY Times ran a nice article addressing both sides, and offering some good examples about the real number of individuals/farms/businesses that would likely be impacted by the tax. It seems everyone has an opinion on this issue, but a very tiny fraction of Americans would actually have an estate subject to the tax.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Reading these stories made my legal mind kick into action, knowing that too many people do not have their powers of attorney completed or updated. Accidents happen. We never know when a lazy morning will turn into a life threatening situation. You can never be fully prepared, but you can make sure that you have completed the documents stating who should make your decisions for you if you cannot. If you have questions about this process, be certain to talk with an attorney who focuses on estate planning and related issues.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
What community resources are available to help you help your parents find the assistance they need as they age? If you are struggling with Medicare, housing or healthcare, find out how to access local resources and organizations and discover solutions for family caregivers who are caring for aging parents, relatives or friends. There is no registration for this free seminar.For more information, visit Hospice's web site.
Friday, April 3, 2009
Not everyone can honor a brother this way, but Garrison's words express the feelings of many:
When your brother dies, your childhood fades, there being one less person to remember it with, and you are left disinherited, unarmed, semiliterate, an exile.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Recently the New York Times ran an article, Smaller Though It May Be, It's Time To Look At The Estate, about the wealthy, who are concerned with estate taxes, who are getting up the nerve to review estate plans following the financial crisis. One sentence jumped out at me, and it is worth sharing:
The primary goal (of estate planning) has always been how to bequeath what you have to the heirs you picked. And if handled wrongly, wills can become a vehicle that destroys families.As the article says, whether you have $50,000 or $5 million -- make sure what you've taken the time to put in writing still makes sense....and is not too vague.
As always, it is best to consult an attorney who specializes in estate planning and probate.
Monday, March 30, 2009
All too often a person's passing is unexpected. One way to ease the shock and burden of an untimely death is to discuss the options that exist for funeral and burial. Discussing it know, and making some plans, will save your loved ones time, money, and grief in the future....hopefully long off in the future.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Thursday, March 12, 2009
There always seems to be a new web site, melding ways of the past with technical savvy. But this web site also serves as a reminder that we do all have some digital presence, some more than others. When doing an estate plan, don't overlook these items.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Lately, there has been a movement to educate consumers of alternative burials. One such movement asks consumers to consider a “green burial.” A green burial is aptly named because it aims to provide ecological soundness.
Green Burials -- what are they and why might you want one? To learn more, I recommend reading Green Burials: What Are They and What Are Their Advantages?
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
The never-before-published story "The Undertaker's Tale" by Mark Twain will finally see print next week, in the pages of the mystery quarterly The Strand Magazine. "Twain uses his razor sharp wit to pen a tongue-in-cheek tale about the funeral industry," says editor Andrew Gulli, "which could easily have been written today."I'm not sure if the story itself is upbeat, but a never read story by Twain is always a treat. Happy Reading!
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Estate plans should be reviewed at least every five years, more often if there’s a change in finances or circumstances — if health or marriage takes a turn for the worse, or if there’s a birth or death in the family.The article also mentions the importance of making sure your beneficiary forms are up-to-date, especially given the recent number of mergers, acquisitions, and failures in the financial sector. Remember, what is listed on a beneficiary forms controls, not a will.
Whether your family would be impacted by federal estate taxes or not, it is truly a gift to leave your loved ones by making sure your papers are in place, up-to-date, and organized.
If you are uncertain about the area of estate planning, I encourage you to seek the counsel of a skilled attorney -- don't rely on blog postings for legal advice, they are merely a place to get discussions started.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
In some instances there may be liability by the survivors, for example in a marital relationship or if someone co-signed on a loan. However, you should research your rights and obligations before paying bills of a loved one who has passed.
This story also underscores the importance of doing a probate, even in small estates. The probate process involves giving notice to known and unknown (via newspaper notice) creditors, giving them a set time frame to seek repayment. Probate is the proper venue to discharge all debts owed by the deceased. Probate is not as difficult as many people fear, and it can be completed with or without the assistance of an attorney -- depending on where you live. In Dane County (Wisconsin), the probate court has all of the forms on-line.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
People must often plan a funeral when they are least prepared to do it—right after the loss of a loved one. You can help your family avoid this by learning about the many decisions involved in a funeral at this free question-and-answer seminar. No registration is necessary, and there is no charge to attend.For more information, click here.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Monday, February 23, 2009
Thanks to the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof. Blog for this update.
Friday, February 20, 2009
In the Ledger case, he had created a simple 3 page will in Australia before becoming famous...and before becoming a parent. The will left everything to his parents and siblings. News stories indicate that his family has given up the $20 million estate, which went to his 3 year old daughter.
The story continues to evolve though; nominated for an Oscar, the question becomes, what happens to the statue is he wins? Yahoo News has a nice story detailing the plan to have the Oscar held in a trust until his daughter reaches 18 and can legally sign a contract indicating that she won't sell it on the secondary market.
Sunday we'll find out if he wins, and a trust would be created. Enjoy the awards show.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
The New York Times ran an article titled "Learning to Share" by David Cay Johnston in September 2008. He wrote:
Unequal distributions, however sensible they may seem to parents, often dredge up sibling rivalries. Claims that a favored child exercised undue influence over a parent, especially an aged parent, can find their way to the courthouse, where defending the will takes its toll through legal fees.If you are thinking about treating your children unequally in your will, I recommend you read his article and consider his suggestion -- approaching the kids while you are still alive. Especially those with a smaller share.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
I encourage you to visit the site and research an organization you are interested in. The site has list of the 10 organizations that are in the red, those that have sky high adm costs, and those that are doing wonderful.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Natural Passings: Reclaiming the End of Life. An ongoing conversationClick here for more details.
March 27th, 28th and 29th, 2009
A grassroots look at Death, Dying and Burial, in a weekend workshop that will introduce participants to: green burials, consumer rights, ethical wills, home funerals, options for funeral ceremonies and alternative ways of interring our loved ones.
Families and caregivers deserve meaningful participation in and support for handling the end of life. Come join the conversation. Come prepared to be informed, empowered and inspired.
McKay Center Auditorium
1207 Seminole Hwy, Madison, Wisconsin.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
When she died on Christmas Eve with eight members of her family, Alice Ortiz unwittingly broke the lease she held on an apartment in Upland.
Now the landlord, Broadstone Foothill Apartment Homes, wants its money, $2,821.23 in all, according to documents obtained Wednesday.
A Jan. 29, itemized invoice to Ortiz's survivors claims the dead woman's estate owes $1,655 to the apartment complex on North Central Avenue for "insufficient notice to vacate."
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Any way a person can organize his or her affairs, especially financial passwords, is a good idea. For the tech savvy, this might be an option to learn more about. The three companies mentioned were:
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
The case involved the daughter of the decedent, who sued her mother because the mother was listed as the sole beneficiary of the father's 401k account. Even though he had divorced the mother, the mother's name was never removed from the beneficiary form. The daughter claimed that her mother waived her right to the account balance by the terms of the divorce decree, however, the US Supreme Court disagreed.
As I always tell my clients, a will does not trump a beneficiary form. The best practice is to review those forms regularly, making sure they reflect your wishes and are up to date.
The first segment features David Rieff, who wrote an account of his mother's last days. It's called "Swimming in a Sea of Death," and tells how he tried to do the right thing by his mother - Susan Sontag - while also being true to himself. The second segment is described as an interview with David Shields the author of "The Thing about Life is that One Day You'll Be Dead." He talks with Anne Strainchamps about his book, which is a meditation on how our bodies decay and die, and his irrepressible father who is 97 and who doesn't give death the time of day.And the final segment features Pauline Chen, a transplant surgeon and writer. Her book is called "Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality." She talks with Jim Fleming about her medical training and how ill prepared it left her for dealing with issues like grieving families.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
01/16/2009 – DEAR MARGO: My family is at their wits' end with a major upset, courtesy of my grandparents. They have decided to leave everything (down to the dust on the floor) to their church, where my uncle is the pastor. My family is not upset about the money (there really isn't that much). It is more the personal items that have sentimental value. We cannot be 100 percent certain, but we think that my uncle had this planned all along and was just waiting for the right time to manipulate my grandparents. He will receive it all, and he has power of attorney, as well as being the executer. He has yet to face the family and explain why he felt the need to have it all, and my grandparents are so convinced this is the right thing to do that they can't see how this is tearing everyone up. My mother is a wreck, as her parents have left her nothing to remember them by. She was promised personal trinkets (worth nothing to anyone else, but worth the world to her because of the memories). I am only a granddaughter, but I was promised my grandmother's button collection, which will probably be sold at an estate sale for a few bucks. My grandparents refuse to discuss it. I live out of state and am hearing everything by phone, but I'm trying hard to keep it together for my mom. She is not angry but hurt. Is there a way we can still receive these items? Is it wrong to pursue this? Is it wrong to ask for some small mementos?
--- LONGING FOR BUTTONS
DEAR LONG: In some situations, not all the children pay attention to elderly parents, so the attentive one is favored in the will. I don't get the idea this is the case in your family. Whether or not your clergyman uncle made it his project to inherit everything we do not know. In addition, you don't say whether or not your grandparents are of sound mind. Because the old folks are not interested in discussing this, my only suggestion would be to ask your uncle, when there is an actual estate to be divided, if he'd consider letting various family have mementos that were promised. Perhaps he could be reminded of tthe Good Book's dictum that it's better to give than to receive.After reading this letter and response, I'd like to offer the following:
- One, many people think they don't need a will because they have little money. However, as I tell clients or people attending a seminar, it is often the little personal items that mean the most to family members....and trigger disputes. I encourage them to think about who should have their wedding bands, family photo albums, or Grandpa's hunting rifle.
- Two, this article points out that no one has a right to inherit from another person (with the exception of a spouse in states with marital property laws). The letter and response do not mention the fact that the grandparents may be close to their church or son, and somewhat estranged from the other family members.
- Third, the letter says that the "church gets everything" and that the pastor uncle is the power of attorney and personal representative. It is very common for these two roles to be filled by people who live in the same area, it just makes life easier. And if the church receives everything, that is different from the uncle receiving anything, it is a charitable donation. The idea may be to sell all of their personal items to generate cash for the church.
- Fourth, the family is free to purchase items they would like to keep. Yes, this may seem cold, but it may be the easiest way for the grandparents to distribute items....there would be no obvious favorites.
- And fifth, most likely a lawyer was involved in drafting the will. An attorney should take care to make sure that the grandparents were of sound mind and not being influenced by the pastor uncle.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
I'm a researcher working on a documentary series about people's first-hand experiences with a family will. The project is being produced for a major US broadcaster. The documentary explores various, unexpected family issues surrounding wills. We would like to showcase the powerful, true-life stories of family wills, in an effort to create a deeper awareness of the difficult subjects of legal wrangling, conflict, grief and deep-seeded dynamics that can often arise when the will of a loved one is read. If you're interested in helping others reach closure on their feelings concerning a past will, or want to make sense of your own experience with a will, I would be very interested to hear your personal story. Thank you very much for generously sharing your story with me. You can email me - Katherine - at: email@example.com
Monday, January 12, 2009
The article provides an excellent history of the federal estate tax in the United States. This topic is certain to get continued press coverage, and generate a fierce debate. While only 2 percent of deaths result in the federal estate tax being paid, small business owners, farmers, and wealthy families have an organized effort to eliminate the tax permanently.
And stay tuned for news about whether Wisconsin will bring back its State estate tax. There has been discussion about bringing the State estate tax back as part of the effort to balance Wisconsin's budget.
What does this mean for you? If you have a net worth (and your life insurance may be included in the calculation) over $1 million you should follow developments in Madison and DC. And if you have a net worth over $3.5 million, you may want to review and update your will and or trust.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Monday, January 5, 2009
Click here to listen to the broadcast, and you can click here to contact your representative to share your thoughts on this piece of legislation.
I'll post updates as the legislation progresses.