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.
Medical researchers and students create demand for cadavers.
People can give the remains of their loved ones to companies that will cremate a small portion to give to the families and sell the rest to researchers. However, that market is poorly regulated, according to Reuters in "In the market for human bodies, almost anyone can sell the dead."
There is a large demand for human bodies. Medical researchers and students need them for a wide variety of purposes.
Because of medical research, there is a demand for human bodies and there are willing donors to give up human remains for research purposes, since many families cannot afford to pay funeral expenses.
Investigators have found many troubling problems with some of these companies.
The article details what was found at one company. Investigators discovered that the company was thawing a dead body outside using a garden hose. They also found cardboard boxes that had once held human remains stacked in a dumpster.
The ideal solution is to plan for your funeral and how to pay for it, at the same time that you create an estate plan.
Doing this, takes the burden off of your family.
Reference: Reuters (Oct. 24, 2017) "In the market for human bodies, almost anyone can sell the dead."
Knowing the basic concepts is enough to get you started on the right track.
You don’t have to have an estate plan. However, if you don’t, the courts will decide where your assets go using statutes written by your state government.
Getting started in planning can be a challenge, if you don’t have the basic information needed, according to Cincinnati.com in "Now is the time to consider the basics of estate planning."
The biggest things people need to know are what is involved with wills and trusts and how they differ.
A will is a formal written document you can use to establish how your property should be distributed after you pass away. Your will is submitted to court after your death and the court appoints someone to make sure what you want done is actually carried out. A will has no effect until after you pass away.
A “living” trust is different. It does take affect before you pass away. Trust documents create a legal entity into which you transfer your assets. After you pass away, the assets are then managed or distributed according to the directions given in the trust document.
A trust does not ordinarily need to be submitted to court. If you have a will, you do not necessarily need a trust. However, if you have a trust you still need a will.
There is a lot more to estate planning, including additional basic information that you should know.
An estate planning can easily get you started on creating an estate plan that meets your unique circumstances.
Reference: Cincinnati.com (Nov. 2, 2017) "Now is the time to consider the basics of estate planning."
If you are an older citizen considering remarriage, it would be wise to explore what you need to know about finances and estate planning.
The trend in American to remarry in later years can lead to consequences down the road, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in "Late-life marriages can be complicated by money matters."
The first problem is with retirement savings.
People who are newly married do not usually want to sit at home and be frugal. They would prefer to have fun with their new spouses, which often means going out for dinner more often and going on more vacations.
Having more fun in retirement is a good thing. However, people need to plan for it. They need to make sure they have enough funds to continue to support themselves in retirement.
The second problem is with estate planning.
In grey marriages, the new spouses often have children and even grandchildren from previous marriages.
It is important to craft estate plans that take care of families from prior marriages, while at the same time making sure the new spouse has adequate means of support.
Working with an estate planning attorney and cooperation between spouses on the needs of their blended family, can avoid some estate problems in later years.
Reference: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Nov. 6, 2017) "Late-life marriages can be complicated by money matters."
If you make a mistake in estate planning, it is unlikely that you will be the first to make that error.
If you want to know some of the errors that have been make in the estate planning world, take a look at a recent video presented by The Motley Fool in "Haunt Your Heirs From Beyond the Grave -- With These Horrifying Estate Planning Errors and Oddities."
The stories include such things as a will being written on the bumper of a tractor which had to be removed and submitted to the court, so the will could be administered. That is probably not even the most unusual place wills have been written.
Another story includes a request to freeze the head of the deceased.
Most estate planning mistakes are not quite that strange. They are mundane.
The biggest mistake is just not planning at all.
If you would like to avoid repeating the mistakes people have made in the past, then you can easily do so by contacting an estate planning attorney for advice on creating an estate plan that meets your unique circumstances.
Reference: The Motley Fool (Nov. 3, 2017) "Haunt Your Heirs From Beyond the Grave -- With These Horrifying Estate Planning Errors and Oddities."
If you are planning on retirement, you might consider possible upcoming challenges.
Some fundamental legal documents need to be drafted as you look toward retirement and the golden years, according to Gambit in "The legal needs of aging parents."
Among the key challenges for people planning on retirement is the need to save money, learn about Social Security and Medicare and plan on where they want to live.
However, planning for retirement is not quite done until an estate planning attorney is consulted.
Parents need to think about the legal ability of their children to take over for them, when necessary.
For example, the children need to be able to handle the parents' finances and make medical decisions for the parents, if necessary.
Preparing for that goes beyond just making sure a child has the knowledge to do those things. The child also needs the legal authority.
That is where a visit to an estate planning attorney comes in with a general durable power of attorney and a health care power of attorney to give your children the legal authority to handle your finances and make medical decisions.
Reference: Gambit (Oct. 30, 2017) "The legal needs of aging parents."
Mediation can reduce hard feelings between family members and may prevent a permanent rift.
A common way to prevent the chances of a permanent rift in a family over an estate disagreement, is for the court to send the parties involved to mediation, according to the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog in "Court Rejects Effort to Avoid Settlement Agreement."
When family members start fighting there is almost no way for there to be a civil intra-family estate dispute, unless the case goes to trial before a judge.
When family members start testifying against each other, it is extremely difficult for the wounds to heal. To avoid this problem, many courts prefer that families try to solve their disputes through other methods before a case goes to trial.
In mediation a trained, neutral third party attempts to facilitate an agreement between the parties to the dispute. A mediator will often try to get the parties to see the other person's side and to compromise.
Even when mediation does not instantly help the parties to reach an agreement, it often helps to clarify the issues. Many feuding family members do decide to reach post-mediation settlements.
Mediation does not always work. Some people feel that they are pressured into settling during mediation.
If estate litigation does it occur, it is wise to seek legal representation.
Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (Oct. 25, 2017) "Court Rejects Effort to Avoid Settlement Agreement."
Laws on common law marriage vary from state to state.
Not all states recognize common law marriage and its impact on an estate, according to the Wills, Trusts & Estate Prof Blog in "Why Common Law Couples Need an Estate Plan (New York)."
In most states, the idea of common law marriage has been abolished for a long time. Only a small number of states recognized the concept until recently.
The concept of common law marriages has only been recognized by a small number of states until recently. However, more some states are now beginning to recognize these marriages again.
The reason behind the renewed recognition is probably because more couples are choosing to live together for long periods of time. They are acting like married couples despite never making it “official” through the process of formally getting married.
By recognizing the existence of a common law marriage, the courts are then able to treat the couple as they saw themselves when it comes to divorcing or settling an estate.
What makes a valid common law marriage varies from state to state.
Normally, if the couple holds itself out to the public as married or tells a government agency that they are married, then a common law marriage exists. For example, if the couple files a joint tax return with the IRS, then the existence of a common law marriage will be recognized in those states that allow them and the couple will be in trouble with the IRS in other states.
Since not all states recognize common law marriages, it is important that you understand you will still need an estate plan to protect your common law spouse's interests in some states.
Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (Oct. 25, 2017) "Why Common Law Couples Need an Estate Plan (New York)."
While parents often avoid discussing their finances with their children, it may make things easier in the future if they do.
Suddenly not being able to handle your own finances can lead to big problems. This is why parents should talk to the adult children about finances, according to TC Palm in "Acquaint grown children with your financial affairs."
Parents can sometimes make a pretty big mistake when it comes to assuming the children will be able to step in immediately and take over, if the parents can no longer handle their own finances. The transition can be quite difficult, unless the children have some knowledge and details beforehand.
You do not need to tell your adult children every last little detail about your finances.
Nevertheless, they need to know enough so that they can take over with few problems.
They certainly need to know where to look for details regarding your assets. While you are at it, make sure your children are familiar with financial concepts that they might not know.
What do they know about basic “financial planning”?
An estate planning attorney can guide you in creating an estate plan that fits your unique situation, including education the children might need.
Reference: TC Palm (Oct. 30, 2017) "Acquaint grown children with your financial affairs."
Family members may have grievances with each other, but an executor can’t just even things out.
An executor does not have the authority to make things even between family members, unless it is strictly within the law, according to the Napa Valley Register in "Can mom make son pay debt?"
The article was about an executor who was the child of the deceased and charged with distributing equal shares.
However, one of the siblings had borrowed money from the deceased over the years and never paid any of it back. Unless there is documentation of the loans, there is little chance the executor can take that information into consideration.
There are several problems with what the executor might want to do.
Among them is that loans to children are often more gifts than they are loans. The mother may have “loaned” the money to the sibling, knowing that it would never be paid back. That makes it a gift.
If the loans are undocumented, there is no way to prove they happened short of a court battle. If they were considered loans and not gifts, they could be well outside the statute of limitations.
It can be tempting for executors to want to redress past wrongs. However, they should be careful before doing so.
An estate planning attorney can advise an executor on their powers.
Reference: Napa Valley Register (Oct. 26, 2017) "Can mom make son pay debt?"
The status of a will that is written prior to life changing events varies across the nation.
Significant life events, such as having more children, should be included in an update of a will, but if not the impact varies from state to state.
In Georgia the will gets revoked, according to the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog in "State Law on After-born Children Leads to Revocation of a Will."
In a recent court case, a Georgia man created a will in 1989. He later had three children out-of-wedlock, but he never updated his will to include the children.
The Georgia court decided that the will was, therefore, invalid and revoked it.
The man's estate would thus be distributed according to the state's laws of intestacy, as if the will never existed at all.
Every state treats these after-born children (who are not mentioned in wills) differently.
An estate planning attorney can advise you on creating a will that fits your unique circumstances, according to the laws of your state of residence, as well as updating your will as needed.
Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (Oct. 17, 2017) "State Law on After-born Children Leads to Revocation of a Will."