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.
Challenging a will may be easy. However, winning the suit isn’t.
When a will is written that results in granting what someone wants other than the testator, it is known as "undue influence," according to My Prime Time News in "Undue Influence."
Undue influence can happen when someone who benefits from a will encourages the will's testator to create the will for the influencer's benefit. Merely encouraging someone to make a will does not create undue influence.
A common example is one child convincing his parents to leave him more in the will than his siblings. The siblings will be upset and may decide to challenge the will.
If the court does not believe there was a valid reason for the different inheritances, then the court will invalidate it on the grounds of undue influence.
An estate planning attorney can advise you in creating a will that fits your unique circumstances and follows your wishes.
Reference: My Prime Time News (Jan. 18, 2017) "Undue Influence."
Las Vegas killer leaves large estate, but fair compensation for the victims will be a challenge.
Despite a hefty estate of $5 million left behind, it will be difficult to compensate the victims of Las Vegas mass shooter Stephen Paddock, according to The New York Times in "The Las Vegas Gunman Was Rich. Will His Wealth Go to the Victims?"
It still is not known exactly why mass murder Stephen Paddock decided to shoot at Las Vegas concert goers from his hotel window. He was relatively well-off and had not been in trouble as far as anyone knows.
Despite the mystery surrounding his motivations, his victims and their families would like to be compensated for his actions.
His estate is worth approximately $5 million. That money would ordinarily go to his mother, since Paddock is not known to have had an estate plan. However, Paddock's family has indicated they have no interest in his estate.
There are some challenges to making sure that all the money goes to the victims.
The first is that the estate could be rolled into an existing victims' compensation fund that has already raised $22 million. However, all of the victims might not be eligible for compensation under the fund's rules.
The second challenge is that many victims are filing independent claims and lawsuits to the estate.
Reference: New York Times (Dec. 23, 2017) "The Las Vegas Gunman Was Rich. Will His Wealth Go to the Victims?"
Pensions used to be a main portion of the American benefits package, but times have changed.
Many companies in the U.S. did away with pension plans for their employees in the 1970s and switched to 401(k) plans, according to the Washington Post in "'I hope I can quit working in a few years': A preview of the U.S. without pensions."
401(k)s were supposed to make it easier for people to retire.
The idea was that employees could have their own investment account. They could put their money into the accounts and many employers matched the amount put in.
The system was entirely voluntary. That is where the problem came in.
Over the years, most people have not put nearly enough into their accounts. As a result, they do not have enough money to retire.
That leaves many elderly people now working long after they had hoped to leave the workforce, because Social Security does not provide enough money to live on.
Reference: Washington Post (Dec. 23, 2017) "'I hope I can quit working in a few years': A preview of the U.S. without pensions."
It is a good idea to find out how a power of attorney will fit your unique circumstances.
Powers of attorney can be easily obtained online. However, some of the issues they create can be masked, according to MD Magazine in "Five Questions to Ask About Your Financial POA."
The problem is that form documents contain boilerplate language that might not work for everyone's unique situation. If you take care of an elderly parent, you will want to make sure that the general durable power of attorney authorizes the agent (you) to continue paying for ongoing care and to make investment decisions.
These problems can be overcome by hiring an estate planning attorney to craft your general durable power of attorney.
The attorney can assist your elderly parent to create a document that does what he or she needs done and that is not just boilerplate language.
An estate planning attorney can help you create plans that fit your unique circumstances and may include a power of attorney.
Reference: MD Magazine (Dec. 27, 2017) "Five Questions to Ask About Your Financial POA."
A Tennessee woman has given birth to a baby, after the successful implantation of an embryo that was frozen 24 years ago.
The medical world is making advances in many fields, including all kinds of technologically enhanced pregnancy and birthing methods. Eggs, sperm and embryos can all be frozen today and used later to create a child.
A Tennessee woman has recently broken the record for successfully birthing a baby from an embryo that was frozen 24 years ago. That is the longest time on record for a successful birth to occur after an embryo was frozen. The embryo was frozen when the mother was only a year and half old. It came from her.
Why this was done when the woman was so young is not known.
CBS Baltimore reported on this story in "Woman, 26, Has Baby Born From Record Breaking 24-Year-Old Frozen Embryo."
This creates even more challenges for estate law, when it comes to posthumous births.
The length of time from when a person passes away to when the deceased person's biological child can be born keeps increasing. What should be done about previously administered estates, when a new child is born so long after death is not clear.
States that have addressed the issue have not all reached the same conclusions. It is something that will need to be addressed with increasing clarity, in the near future.
People who might have posthumous children should talk to an estate planning attorney about what they would like to happen in case they do have one.
Let the attorney include what you want done in your estate plan.
Reference: CBS Baltimore (Dec. 19, 2017) "Woman, 26, Has Baby Born From Record Breaking 24-Year-Old Frozen Embryo."
A new survey reveals that Americans view nursing homes so negatively, that the majority prefer death to living in one.
Nursing homes do not have a good reputation in the United States. The common perception of them is as cold, uncaring places where people go to pass away, isolated and alone.
It has been known for some time that older Americans prefer to keep living at home or in a family member's home, as long as possible. They would much prefer almost any option, instead of going into a nursing home.
People think that if they go to a nursing home, their loved ones will not visit them as often and that overworked staff might not give them the best treatment possible.
The depths of people's loathing of nursing homes has not been known until now.
A new survey reveals that 61% of Americans would rather pass away, than go to a nursing home as Financial Advisor reports in "Older Americans Would Rather Die Than Live In a Nursing Home."
This creates a lot of potential challenges for stakeholders.
It is an issue for elderly people who might have no choice but to go to a nursing home.
It also creates challenges for family members who act as caregivers for the elderly, since they will want to be even more careful than usual when it is time to suggest that a loved one needs nursing home care.
It also creates a problem for nursing homes, since they need to look for ways to improve their reputation.
That could mean that they need to offer more care, which costs money.
Any increased cost creates challenges for insurance companies and the government that might ultimately bear those costs.
Reference: Financial Advisor (Dec. 20, 2017) "Older Americans Would Rather Die Than Live In a Nursing Home."
It might not be possible at this time to pass away and be brought back to life years later, but it could be some day. That could make estate planning challenging.
A relatively small group of people is determined to prove that human remains can be frozen and brought back to life later by scientists. If they are brought back to life, the theory is that scientists would cure such people of any diseases that led to their deaths.
The process is known as cryogenics.
Most experts say it is impossible. However, that has not stopped the believers. Many have made plans to have their bodies frozen and preserved after they pass away.
It is impossible to determine where medical science will go. Perhaps, it would be possible someday to bring the deceased back to life.
That could create challenges for tax authorities and estate planners as Wealth Management discusses in "Do Zombies Pay Taxes?"
One of the bigger questions is how the estate of a person who dies and is expected to come back to life later, should be taxed and distributed. Government will have to wrestle with whether the estate tax should apply.
For people planning their estates, the challenges are even greater. They will need to decide how much of their assets should be set aside for their own future life and how much should be distributed to their families who will need to survive in the interim.
These challenges are not insurmountable. They are not something most people need to concern themselves at this time. In the future, such estate planning challenges might be something for which people need to plan. Or perhaps not, if the experts are correct.
Reference: Wealth Management (Dec. 20, 2017) "Do Zombies Pay Taxes?"
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."
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."