In This Issue:
What We Can Learn from the Rich & Famous
Helpful Websites for Caregivers
My Kids Won't Fight After My Death... Or Will They?
What We Can Learn from the Rich & Famous
If you want to keep some things private, do a trust. If you only do a will, a will is a public document. James Gandolini (Tony Soprano) had only a will for a majority of his 70 million estate. In addition to making his estate plan accessible to the public, his failure to have a trust exposed 80% of his estate to the Estate tax. Not a good plan.
Wills can be important. Amy Winehouse didn’t have a Will, so her $6.7 million went to her parents, which is what the law dictated. Did she want all of her assets to go to her parents? What about her brother? What about a charity? We will never know. Without a Will, the law of the State where you live decides the distribution of any asset that isn’t jointly owned, doesn’t have a beneficiary designation, or isn’t in a trust.
Update or at least review your documents every three (3) to five (5) years. Philip Seymour Hoffman died at 46. He did have a trust, which benefited his son and his long-time girlfriend. However, he never updated his estate plan to account for his two children that were born after his son. In addition, the terms of his son’s trust distributed millions to him outright at the age of 30. This brings up another question. At what age is a person responsible for handling a significant amount of money? The answer to this question of course, depends on the individual, but this question should be considered in your estate plan.
|Helpful Websites for Caregivers
Caregiving can be an overwhelming task, but educating yourself and knowing what resources are available to you, can help alleviate some of the stress.
We have found that the following websites to be helpful:
Make sure your trust is funded. Paul W. Walker IV the actor from the “Fast and Furious” had a trust, but it didn’t have anything in it. Because his trust was not funded during his life, his estate became public, and also included the unintended consequences of the costly probate process. Going back to our last lesson, he also failed to update his estate plan for twelve (12) years. That being the case, did his trust even reflect his current intent? We don’t know.
The importance of estate planning when dementia is diagnosed. Casey Kasem, Marlon Brando, Peter Falk and Glen Campbell are just a few notable examples of ugly court battles involving someone with dementia. To minimize future conflict, a diagnosis of dementia should also equate to an immediate review of a person’s estate planning documents to ensure that they are in order and that the person’s intentions are clearly stated. If a person has yet to execute estate planning documents, it is imperative to meet with an elder law attorney and get them done. This is also an appropriate time to discuss with loved ones about how they will handle caregiving needs when the person deteriorates. Doing proper planning before a person becomes incompetent to execute legal documents or communicate wishes is crucial. Waiting greatly increases the chances that someone in the family may contest the documents or disagree with the care decisions that are being made. The stress of dementia is difficult enough for families without the added burden of fighting over care, money and other matters.
We are ending this article on a positive note about a famous person. Gene Wilder, who played one of my favorite movie roles as Willy Wonka, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, struggled for years with Alzheimer’s disease. However, when Gene Wilder died 2016, despite leaving an estate of $20 million and having been married 4 times, there have been no rumblings of family contention, will contests, or estate disputes. We can be hopeful that Gene Wilder and his family understood the potential for conflict and accordingly, established an estate and care plan to avoid it.
One of the most common statements we hear is “my kids get along great, they will never fight about my end of life care or about the distribution of assets when I pass away.” If only this was true in all cases. Unfortunately, after a disability or death, it can be difficult and stressful and people can become emotional and may react to situations differently than you may think.
You can minimize conflict amongst family members. We have found that some of the best practices to avoid disputes amongst family members in the event of disability or death are:
- To the extent it is possible, communicate with all of your loved ones about how you want your end of life planning handled and how you want your estate distributed.
- Create an estate plan when you are healthy.
- Avoid court involvement by having a revocable trust.
- Make advance arrangements for your burial and funeral arrangements.
- Choose your trustee/executor carefully.
- Explain your reasons for treating beneficiaries differently.
- Address how you want your tangibles distributed.
- Address the issue of loans or gifts during your lifetime.
- Know the potential consequences of joint ownership.
- Understand that joint ownership and beneficiary designations trump anything you may designate in your will or trust.
- Review and update your estate plan regularly.