Kent Larsson writes about the proper use of wills, advance directives, trusts, and other estate planning tools, and how how they play a vital role in you receiving proper medical care and helping you to preserve and pass on your assets to your loved ones.
The cremated remains of an Arizona woman's father were stolen off her porch, after the package containing them was left there by a postal worker.
Every December the major news outlets can be counted on to run three specific stories at least once.
The first one is that carriers are having problems delivering a high volume of packages during the Christmas season. The second story is that carriers are leaving packages at people's doors without knocking, even when the packages require signatures for delivery. The third inevitable story is that thieves are stealing the hastily delivered packages from people's porches.
These three stories have combined this year into a very unusual story reported by Fox News and titled "Ashes of woman's father stolen from front porch of Arizona home, reward offered."
A thief in Arizona stole a package that contained the cremated remains of an Arizona woman's father rather than a Christmas present. The package was left there by a postal worker, even though a signature was required.
The postal service is investigating the incident and has offered a $10,000 reward for information. The woman would just like the ashes back, so she can take them to her brother in California.
If this unusual story has any sort of lesson, it might be that it is not a good idea to ship a loved one's ashes at this time of year, if at all possible.
Reference: Fox News (Dec. 18, 2017) "Ashes of woman's father stolen from front porch of Arizona home, reward offered."
Can a Wisconsin family be brought back to life in the future?
A man in Wisconsin has signed up for himself, his wife and their three sons to all be cryogenically frozen after they pass away, according to the Daily Mail in "Father spends $140,000 to sign his whole family up to be frozen in cooling chambers when they die, in the hope they can be woken up in the future, to have a 'second chance at life'."
Their hope is that someday scientists will be able to unfreeze them, bring them back to life and cure whatever it was they died from.
Most experts would say this is an impossibility because the freezing process damages the brain. However, those who support cryogenics have faith that future scientists can fix that.
Whatever your opinion of cryogenics and its potential effectiveness, you probably should think of death as still inevitable. You are going to pass away and perhaps your family can benefit from an estate plan now.
Reference: Daily Mail (Dec.18, 2017) "Father spends $140,000 to sign his whole family up to be frozen in cooling chambers when they die, in the hope they can be woken up in the future, to have a 'second chance at life'."
Some attorneys take advantage of their elderly clients. One of those who did so, will serve 16 to 40 years in prison.
There is a popular image of attorneys as shifty liars who will do or say anything. It is not an accurate portrayal of most lawyers.
Almost all attorneys know they have responsibilities to their clients. Attorneys are also aware they have more legal knowledge than their clients and cannot use that knowledge for their own benefit at the expense of their clients.
When clients give their money to attorneys to handle, the attorneys must act as faithful fiduciaries. This is especially true when the clients are vulnerable, such as is often the case with the disabled and the elderly.
When an attorney violates these principles, it damages the reputations of everyone in the profession.
It is good to see that justice has been served on one such violator, as Las Vegas Now reports in "Disgraced Las Vegas lawyer sentenced to the maximum."
Robert Graham was accused of stealing $16 million from his clients. His excuse was that he needed the money to pay his staff but the judge was not amused with that idea.
Graham was convicted on two counts of theft and three counts of exploitation of an older/vulnerable person. The judge sentenced Graham to the maximum sentence, which is 16 to 40 years in prison.
If you know an elderly person who you think is being taken advantage of, then report it to the appropriate authorities.
Reference: Las Vegas Now (Dec. 8, 2017) "Disgraced Las Vegas lawyer sentenced to the maximum."
Special needs trust may be answer to new tax reforms.
Some of the people who were concerned about the new tax reform law were people with disabilities, according to The Hill in "Restructured tax code would unduly burden people with disabilities."
However, the concerns raised in that article did not materialize. Not only will they see benefits from the doubling of the standard deduction in the plan, but their taxes might actually decrease due to another provision. The plan includes a provision to make the itemized deduction for health care expenses even better for them for tax years 2017 and 2018. The new tax law lowers the deductibility threshold from 10% to 7.5% of adjusted gross income.
Only in 2019 will the deductibility threshold revert to the former 10% of 2016.
There is something parents and grandparents of the disabled, as well as the disabled themselves, can do and that is create a special needs trust. These trusts do not ease anyone's tax burden but do allow people with special needs to have more income to help cover any increased taxes.
If you would like to learn more about special needs trusts, then talk to an estate planning attorney for the details about setting one up.
Reference: The Hill (Nov. 24, 2017) "Restructured tax code would unduly burden people with disabilities."
What is next, as Republicans look to reform programs?
It appears that Republicans may be prepared to propose cuts to some of the most popular government programs, according to Financial Advisor in "GOP Laying Groundwork To Cut Future Social Security, Medicare, Welfare Outlays."
Republicans are talking about making cuts to programs for the elderly, such as Social Security and Medicare. It is likely that any proposed cuts would be delayed and not effect current retirees. However, they will still be controversial for Americans who plan to rely on the programs in the future.
Cutting Social Security and Medicare is considered to be like touching the third rail in American politics. These are not popular proposals. Going through with this plan, guarantees that we will not be getting a relief from politics in 2018.
Reference: Financial Advisor (Dec. 6, 2017) "GOP Laying Groundwork To Cut Future Social Security, Medicare, Welfare Outlays."
If you have assets in more than one nation, you need to be sure of the laws for a solid estate plan.
There are people who might need more than one will, if they have assets in more than one country and are a citizen of both countries, according to the Financial Review in "Double trouble for dual nationals."
The problem is that some countries have strict laws about who can inherit certain property. There are laws about how much of an estate must be given to a spouse and to children.
Most countries do not allow deviation from these laws, even for people who do not live there full-time and who have a valid will in another nation.
Even if your will is valid in the U.S., it is possible that another country where you hold assets could invalidate it for the property you hold in that country.
If your estate might be subject to the laws of more than one nation, make sure that your estate plan is valid in all of the nations where you own property. If that does not seem possible, then have separate estate plans for the property in each nation.
An estate planning attorney can advise you on creating an estate plan or plans based on your unique circumstances.
Reference: Financial Review (Sep. 20, 2017) "Double trouble for dual nationals."
David Cassidy leaves small estate of $150,000.
David Cassidy, who starred on the TV show “The Partridge Family” chose to cut his daughter out of his will, so she will not receive an inheritance from him, according to the Los Angeles Times in "David Cassidy cut daughter Katie Cassidy out of his will."
It had previously been acknowledged by David Cassidy that he had never had much of a relationship with his daughter. She was raised by her mother and stepfather and rarely saw her father.
David regretted this and the two reconciled before he passed away. However, Katie was specifically excluded from her father's will.
David's son and brothers will instead inherit his modest estate. We probably do not need to have financial concerns for Katie, because she is famous in her own right as an actress on the TV show "Arrow."
Katie Cassidy likely does not need the inheritance.
This is becoming something of a trend in recent celebrity estates. Many have chosen to disinherit some of their children for various reasons.
Reference: Los Angeles Times (Dec. 7, 2017) "David Cassidy cut daughter Katie Cassidy out of his will."
Grandson takes issue with Manson’s friend and fan who claims he holds killer’s will.
While it would appear that there would be little interest in the estate of cult leader and murderer Charles Manson, a fight is developing, according to TMZ in "Charles Manson Grandson Files Probate Docs Manson's Body Still on Ice."
A fan and friend of Manson's named Michael Channels claims to have a will that Manson drafted designating Channels as the executor of the estate and as Manson's sole heir. Channels has previously vowed to fight anyone who challenges his claim.
Manson grandson Jason Freeman has accepted that challenge.
Freeman filed documents with the probate court requesting that a person of his choosing be appointed to administer Manson's estate. The two are also fighting over how to dispose of Manson's remains. His body remains in storage, until the court can determine which of the two men should be given possession of it for disposal.
Reference: TMZ (Dec. 8, 2017) "Charles Manson Grandson Files Probate Docs Manson's Body Still on Ice."
There will most likely be some discussion before a tax proposal becomes a tax law.
There may be a heavy impact from a new tax law on charities making it less likely that people will donate to them, according to Reuters in "New U.S. law could curb charitable donations."
The Senate and the House of Representatives have both passed their own version of a tax reform bill but they remain far apart and negotiations are likely.
One thing the final bill might do is double the standard tax deduction people can take instead of itemizing their deductions. That would make it less likely that people will give to charities at the end of the year to lower their tax bills.
The other worry for charities is the gradual repeal of the estate tax that has been proposed.
Wealthy people often give to charities as a way to shrink the size of their estates to avoid the tax. If that is the sole motivation for giving, then charities could lose out.
Reference: Reuters (Nov. 30, 2017) "New U.S. law could curb charitable donations."
Doctors pondered the legal strength of a "Do Not Resuscitate" tattoo.
Doctors had to figure out whether to follow the directions of a “Do Not Resuscitate" tattoo, according to CNN in "A man's tattoo left doctors debating whether to save his life."
An unconscious 70-year-old man was brought into a hospital. He had a high blood alcohol level and a tattoo that read "Do Not Resuscitate."
The doctors determined at first that they should ignore the tattoo and try to save the man's life.
Then they discussed the matter with an ethics consultant and reached the opposite conclusion.
The man's written do not resuscitate directive was later found and the problem was cleared up. The man passed away.
This is an interesting case for medical ethicists.
It is also interesting in the sense that doctors will follow the advanced directives of their patients.
An estate planning attorney may be the best place to get a directive, rather than a tattoo parlor.
Reference: CNN (Dec. 12, 2017) "A man's tattoo left doctors debating whether to save his life."