Friday, February 27, 2009

Assisted Suicide

Debate over assisted suicide is taking shape once again in this country, this time in Atlanta, Georgia. This case involves the head of Final Exit Network, a group that serves organization dedicated to serving people who are suffering from an intolerable condition. The article also mentions the other side of the coin, Not Dead Yet is a group that opposes legal assisted suicide. As our population continues to age, the debate over assisted suicide is likely to continue on.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ledger Wins, Oscar to be Held in Trust

Here is a quick update on my last post -- Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for his performance in the movie Dark Knight. It appears that the statuette will be held in a trust, for his daughter, until she is 18. At that point she'll be old enough to sign a contract with the Academy promising to sell it back to them first, for $1, before selling it elsewhere.

Thanks to the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof. Blog for this update.

Friday, February 20, 2009

And the Oscar Goes to.....Matilda's Trust?

The news surrounding the untimely death of actor Heath Ledger is sad, and contains a powerful reminder. When a child is born, update your will.

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

Treating Children Unequally in Your Will

More often than one may predict, I find myself advising clients on how to handle their desire to treat children unequally in a will. Whether it be because one child received extra assistance (i.e. money to start a business) or if a child has provided significant care to the parent without compensation - it is not that uncommon for parents to vary the distribution to children in a will.

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

To Give or Not to Give - - Evalute a Charity First

Even in these dismal economic times, many people are still donating to charities. Or, people are thinking about making a planned gift, one that is realized upon death and is written into a will or beneficiary form. With so many good causes and organizations to support them, a person can be overwhelmed in deciding where to donate. One option would be to assess the charity in mind; does it spend a large proportion of its budget on administrative costs? A newspaper article alerted me to a web site that allows people to evaluate a charity's financial health -- it is called Charity Navigator and rates organizations based on the IRS 990 forms (similar to an income tax return).

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

Workshop on Natural Passings

Earlier this week I received the Winter Newsletter from the Trust for Natural Legacies, where I serve on the Board of Advisors. One upcoming event seemed appropriated to mention on this blog:

Natural Passings: Reclaiming the End of Life. An ongoing conversation
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.

Held at:
McKay Center Auditorium
UW Arboretum
1207 Seminole Hwy, Madison, Wisconsin.
Click here for more details.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rent After Death

Earlier I wrote a post titled Renting Fact, which discussed how a person is still responsible for paying rent after death. Sadly, a news story out of California shows how that fact plays out in reality. If you are working to close out a relatives estate, don't overlook the rent that might be owed. Hopefully the landlord involved would be more forgiving and cooperative than the one involved in this story.

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

Estate Planning On-Line Tools

Earlier this week a client shared with me an article he'd clipped out of the New York Times in the fall of 2007. Entitled Online, a Way to Say What You Wouldn't Put in a Will, the article profiles three internet companies that allow customers to store passwords and other data as well as send a letter of final instruction.

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:
I'm curious to hear about people's experiences with these sites or others. The world is increasingly moving into the cyberspace, and it will be interesting to see how estate planning and probate are impacted.