Thursday, August 27, 2009

Signatures on a Will

I'm type A, most attorneys are. When I coordinate a will signing for a client I have them sign and date at the end, but I also have them sign the bottom of each page. Occasionally I hear some grumbling, mainly from witnesses who sign each page as well. But, when I read about cases where will challenges were based on the fact the will only had one signature line, I'm glad I'm thorough. Certainty, to the extent anything can be "certain", is a large component of what I provide to my clients.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Seeking to Comfort

Recently I heard of an on-line company that sells unique gifts to express words of comfort to someone who is grieving. The Comfort Company offers different kinds of gifts, from memory trees to jewelry. It is an interesting concept. Another option to express sympathy is to make a donation to a charity that was important to the person you are memorializing or are seeking to comfort.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Inspiring Story - Ida Fischer's Estate

Ida Fischer is not a name most Americans know, but she is featured in a profile on CNN's web site. Famous among her New York City neighbors for her frugality, she stunned everyone at her death in 2007 by leaving an estate of more than $300,000 -- half of which she donated to a University in Israel. Her story is inspiring; I too am frugal, but not to the extent she was. Here is an example of how one person can make a difference in the life of a non-profit.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Seminar - Estate Planning

This Saturday, August 15th, I will be participating in the 9th Annual Asset Builders' Money Conference. For the 3rd year, I will be speaking on the topic of wills and other important documents. This event is open to the public. Learn more from the Asset Builders' web site.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Unintentionally Triggering the Gift Tax

Yet another client who was named as the solo beneficiary on a parents retirement account, with the understanding that the child would "take care of his siblings".

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.

Movie - Departures

It is wonderful when work and pastimes combine. I am a movie fan, especially of "art films" and recently learned abut the movie Departures. It won an Academy Award for best foreign language film, and is set in Japan. Here is a summary from the films web site:

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

Joint Tenancy vs. Tennants in Common

A recent client needed a bit of advice -- she owned a piece of property with some other family members, and she wanted her share to go to a different family member than the one she owned the property with.

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.

History of the Estate and Gift Tax

1932 was the year Congress created the federal estate and gift tax. Ever wonder about it's history? If so, here is an social science article, the abstract technically, that offers the answer.

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

New Blog by a Hospice Doctor

Found a new blog kept by a hospice physician. Enjoyed the first posts, a bit long, but thoughtfully written.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Summary of Wisconsin Domestic Partnership Law

The Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau has published a 30-page summary of the new Domestic Partnership law in Wisconsin. The law contains several provisions related to the area of estate planning, which I addressed in a previous post Wisconsin Domestic Partnership Guide. This is an evolving issue, watch for future posts and articles.

Hospice Discussion Group for Caregivers

The Hospice Center in Fitchburg is offering a discussion group for Caregivers, that will be discussing Fears About Caregiving on August 18th at 6:30p.m. Details are available on the HospiceCare website.