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.
Discovery at pet cemetery results in accusations against cemetery and crematorium in Illinois.
A family was apparently given the ashes from a different animal after they brought their pet’s remains to a cemetery and crematorium in Illinois, according to the Daily Mail in "Pet cemetery is accused of giving the ashes of random animals to grieving owners after dozens of decomposing carcasses were found in a freezer."
The accusations surfaced, when an animal rescue volunteer was searching for a missing dog at an Illinois pet cemetery that also had an attached animal shelter. He noticed a smell coming from a refrigerator on the property. Upon opening the door, the volunteer discovered the bodies of three dead animals.
One of the animals was a cat that had been implanted with a microchip.
The data on the microchip was read by local authorities. It was discovered that the cat belonged to a family whose pet had died three years previously.
It is not clear why the family was given the incorrect ashes or why the cat was never cremated at all.
Unfortunately, the owner of the cemetery committed suicide shortly after the police started their investigation. Therefore, the answers as to why, may never be known.
It is still possible that his estate could be sued and his family will have to be the ones to face legal consequences, instead of him.
Reference: Daily Mail (July 30, 2017) "Pet cemetery is accused of giving the ashes of random animals to grieving owners after dozens of decomposing carcasses were found in a freezer."
Your estate plan may not be effective, if it is not updated to account for changing circumstances.
People sometimes think that if they have an estate plan, their work is done. They put the plan on the shelf and do not consider changes in their lives that will affect the plan, according to Market Watch in "There's no time like the present to update your estate plan."
The biggest issue is that you might not have as much time to update your estate plan as you think. Even the most cautious person, with the healthiest habits in the world, can never know what might happen to him.
You do not have time to wait to update your estate plan to take changing circumstances into account. It is important to make changes to your estate plan, when those changes first become necessary.
If you do not continuously update your estate plan, then you risk leaving your family in a bad position when you pass away. They are the ones who will have to deal with anything that might have made sense once, but that no longer does.
An estate planning attorney can guide you in creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances as well as guide you through necessary updates as circumstances change.
Reference: Market Watch (August 7, 2017) "There's no time like the present to update your estate plan."
Fairly dividing an estate among the children can be difficult with remarriages.
Resolving the issue of dividing an estate with a blended family, sparked a recent letter to Market Watch in "How do I split my estate between my two stepdaughters and biological son?"
Among the issues in the letter were people remarried with children from a previous relationship and then the remarried couple had a son of their own. With the ownership of three houses, it got really confusing.
Among the answers to the letter were that there is no single perfect solution to the situation that will work in all cases.
It depends on how much the woman brought into the marriage and how old her step-daughters were at the time.
What will work for one family, will not work for another.
If the women brought few assets into the marriage, then the fair thing to do might be to give her a life estate in the property, but then divide that property up equally between all three children when she passes away.
An estate planning attorney can guide you in creating an estate plan that meets your unique circumstances, which could be the challenge of a blended family.
Reference: Market Watch (August 8, 2017) "How do I split my estate between my two stepdaughters and biological son?"
A will may be cheaper than a trust now. However, that may not be the case in the long run.
Many people decide on wills instead of trusts to save time and money. The problem with that thinking is that a will is more expensive overall than a trust, according to the Times Herald-Record in "Trusts will cost you less at settlement time."
When someone passes away, someone must then administer either the will or the trust to make sure that property is distributed as the deceased directed.
Using a will requires going to probate court and having an executor, who can charge for the service to go through the process of administering the estate.
On the other hand, using a trust means that a trustee, who can also charge for the service, is required to distribute everything.
The trustee normally does not have to go to court, which makes it a much faster process. The speed means that the trustee may charge much less overall.
In the end, the trustee may be a lot cheaper than any money that might have been saved by getting a will instead of a trust.
An estate planning attorney can guide you in creating an estate plan that meets your unique circumstances.
Reference: Times Herald-Record (August 2, 2017) "Trusts will cost you less at settlement time."
Now is the time to think about a happy future. However, it is also time to prepare your spouse for handling any future estate challenges.
You have decided to marry and focus on the good times. However, it may also be wise to think about the importance of protecting your new spouse with some new or upgraded estate planning, according to Cary Citizen in "I'm Getting Married. How Could Marriage Affect My Finances?"
With an estate plan, you can make sure your spouse has the financial assets he or she will need after you are gone.
If you have children from a previous marriage, then an estate plan is a way to take care of those children and your future spouse. Even if your potential spouse is independently wealthy, you will want to do some estate planning, just in case anything should ever happen to that wealth.
Marriage is a happy time, but you need to also think about the possible bad times that could come ahead and plan for them just in case.
An estate planning attorney can guide you in creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances, which may include a marriage.
Reference: Cary Citizen (July 28, 2017) "I'm Getting Married. How Could Marriage Affect My Finances?"
Medicaid is designed to pay for long-term care in nursing homes for Americans who cannot afford it.
The New York Times recently discussed the debate over the ethics of hiding your assets to qualify for the government payment of long-term nursing care in its article "The Ethics of Adjusting Your Assets to Qualify for Medicaid."
On one side of the debate are people who point out that those who can plan for Medicaid are wealthy enough to hire attorneys. Therefore, they should not hide assets to take advantage of a program designed to help the poor.
On the other, side people point out that nursing home care is extremely expensive. They believe that it is not fair for people to have to exhaust all of their assets, leaving nothing for their children to inherit, in order to have some of that care paid for by a program they fund with their taxes.
Whichever side you are on, it is important to know that if you do want to plan for Medicaid, then you need to see an elder law attorney about doing so and you need to do that long before you will ever need nursing home care.
Reference: New York Times (July 21, 2017) "The Ethics of Adjusting Your Assets to Qualify for Medicaid."
Perhaps it would be wise to visit an estate planning attorney before traveling to other countries.
It might be prudent to consider the worst case scenarios and speak with an estate planning attorney before traveling to foreign nations, according to the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog in "So You're Going on a Trip."
In all likelihood, nothing bad will happen to you while you are in a foreign country.
The odds are in your favor.
However, the world can be a dangerous place and it is important to make sure you have your general affairs in order, just in case.
At a minimum, you will want to get a general durable power of attorney and a health care power of attorney, so if you are injured or get sick on your trip someone else has the legal authority to handle your day to day needs.
It is also a good idea to get a full estate plan, so your family is taken care of, just in case the worst happens.
You should not be afraid to go to a foreign country on vacation, but you should prepare as if you are.
An estate planning attorney can advise you on creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances, which may include foreign travel.
Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (July 31, 2017) "So You're Going on a Trip."
The document may be well written but is your spouse prepared to handle it>?
You should speak with your spouse and prepare them to handle your estate plan when the time comes, according to Forbes in "5 Questions You Should Ask Your Spouse Today."
Your spouse needs to know what to do, if you ever become incapacitated. Your spouse needs to know what to do, if something happens to you and you pass away before your spouse.
At the very minimum, your spouse needs to know where to find the documents and who to call.
This is important, even if your spouse has no responsibilities in your plans. Your spouse is going to be one of the first to learn that something happened to you, so your spouse must know who to contact.
An estate planning attorney can advise you in creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances and then it might be wise to bring your spouse into the loop.
Reference: Forbes (July 26, 2017) "5 Questions You Should Ask Your Spouse Today."
“Gray divorces” can present some challenging legal situations.
Divorces by senior citizens can create challenges of dividing up a lifetime of accumulated marital property as well as the likely requirement of a new estate plan, according to the Indiana Lawyer in "Rise in divorces among older couples presents unique family law issues."
The big issue in estate planning is that plans are often already in place for the couple's estates.
These plans are normally drafted in unison with the understanding that when the first spouse passes away, the surviving spouse will receive the bulk of the estate. When the second spouse passes away, then the estate will go to the agreed upon heirs.
These plans need to be undone when the couple divorces. This can be difficult to do, unless estate planning attorneys are hired who have the expertise to wrap up legal entities that are no longer needed and might be a hindrance.
An estate planning attorney can guide you in creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances, which may include a divorce.
Reference: Indiana Lawyer (July 26, 2017) "Rise in divorces among older couples presents unique family law issues."
Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to fill out an online form and take the risk of future problems.
There is no actual advantage to creating an online will, because you might save now but in the long run the bill could get very high, according to MoneySense in "Danger of DIY Wills."
The one advantage people think these online wills have, is that they are cheaper than going to an estate planning attorney. However, that is not really the case.
It is true that you might be able to save a few hundred dollars now by doing things yourself. However, if there are any problems with the documents you purchased after you pass away, then your estate is going to pay a lot more money to attorneys to sort out the problems than you might save now.
There are almost always problems with form wills.
The source of the problems is always the same.
You are not an expert.
You might think you know what the best legal options are for your estate, but you are almost certainly wrong.
Do not be offended by that.
It is unlikely you are an expert on law, but an estate planning attorney is when it comes to guiding you in creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances.
Reference: MoneySense (July 14, 2017) "Danger of DIY Wills."