Author Archives: Minna Vallentine

Don’t bury your head in the sand!

So you donbury head in the sand’t think you need a will?

Don’t bury your head in the sand like more than half of all Americans.  That’s the percentage of people who don’t have a will…and probably don’t think they need one.

Maybe you think you don’t have enough assets to make it worthwhile.  Perhaps you think your spouse will automatically get everything.  Or you know your children will do what’s right so you don’t have to worry about it.

Do you know who actually decides who gets what when you die if you don’t have a will?  It’s the government!  Yes, every state has laws that determine who will inherit your things if you die intestate (without a will).  Your spouse and children will have no choice and will not be part of the process.  In some states, it’s simple.  Your spouse gets everything.  In others, your spouse splits the estate with your children.  If you aren’t married or don’t have children, your parents or siblings may be the ones who get it all.  You may not want your siblings to get anything or, perhaps, you don’t want your parents to inherit.  Maybe you’d prefer that the bulk of your estate goes to charity.  Whatever your wishes, without a will, they won’t be carried out.

It’s very easy to draw up a simple will.  There are many templates on the web or forms you can fill out for less than $100.  If you have a complex estate and need to sit down with an attorney, it will cost more.  However, for less than $100, you have no excuse.

Get a will drawn up today.  Don’t let the government make the decision for you.  You decide who inherits what when you die.

For more information about wills, go to diesmart.com.

3 tips when making estate planning decisions

I came across this blog that was written by Julie Ann Garber, J.D. last year.  It had such good information that I decided to re-post and share it with you.

Many people struggle with all of the decisions that they have to make when putting together their estate plan: Who should get what? When should they get it? Who shouldn’t get anything? Who should be the executor? Who should be the trustee?

All of these decisions can be overwhelming, even for someone who has what is considered a “normal” family, but they don’t have to be.  In the wise words of Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains, it’s your decision.

If you’re stressed out about how to plan your estate, then don’t despair.  Here are three tips for making your estate plan your way:

Tip #1 – Don’t be afraid to disinherit someone.  It’s your money, so you can choose to leave it, or not leave it, to whomever you want. But beware – being bullied into making your estate plan a certain way by a certain individual and not the way you really want it (for instance, leaving everything to one child to the exclusion of others at the insistence of that one child) will result in family discord.  If you really want to disinherit someone, then that’s your prerogative, but if someone bullies you into disinheriting someone else, then in extreme cases this could amount to “undue influence” and lead to an ugly will or trust contest. If you truly want to disinherit someone, then work closely with your estate planning attorney to insure that not only will your final wishes be carried out, but your plan will be bullet proof from challenges.

Tip #2 – Choose your executor and trustee wisely.  Here are the traits you should look for in your executor and trustee:  loyal, fair, practical, trustworthy, organized and tough.  If you choose a person who has most of these traits, then your final wishes will be fulfilled, but if you choose a person who has only one or two of these traits, then your final wishes will take a back seat to their own agenda.  Better yet, choose a corporate trustee, such as a bank or trust company, to put these important jobs in the hands of professionals.  Otherwise it may be way too easy for Uncle Bob to skim some off of the top or for your loved ones to convince Uncle Bob to disregard your wishes.

Tip #3 – Listen to your estate planning attorney.  While a good estate planning attorney will listen intently so that he or she can learn about your greatest concerns and challenges when it comes to planning your estate, you should also listen to your estate planning attorney because he or she can offer some good advice and solutions to ease those concerns and overcome the challenges. And while sometimes what your estate planning attorney says may not be what you want to hear, your attorney’s advice, which comes from years of experience in similar situations, may very well head off a family feud or a will or trust contest.

For more information about estate planning, go to www.diesmart.com.

Bobbi Kristina had no will – what happens now?

Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina, died on Sunday, 7/26/2015.  She was only 22 years old and probably had no plans to die so young.  She had done nothing to prepare for death and had no will.

When Whitney Houston died in 2012, she left her entire estate to her daughter.  That estate was worth more than $20 million.  Because of her grandmother’s fear that Bobbi wouldn’t be able to handle so much money at such a young age, she challenged the will and a court ruled that the money could be given to Bobbi in increments.  Although the bulk of her inheritance was not supposed to be given to her until her 30th birthday,  she had received approximately $2 million when she turned 21.

Her father is her next of kin and so, according to the law, will inherit the money she had already received.  However, since he was divorced from her mother, I’m sure Whitney Houston would not have wanted any of her money to go to him.  The balance will probably go to Whitney’s mother, Cissy, who is 81 and her two brothers, Michael 53 and Gary 57 since they are Whitney’s closest living relatives.

Because of the number of people who would like to receive some of these millions, this case will probably go through a long court process before anything is definitively settled.

Is this what Bobbi Kristina would have wanted?  We’ll never know.

Have you written a will, designating what you want to happen to your estate when you die?  Do you want the law to make the decision for you?  You could die suddenly at age 22 from what may or may not be an accident like Bobbi Kristina or at 90 or 95 from a  heart attack or lingering illness.  If the answer to either of these questions is no, you should draft a will immediately and name those people who you want to receive your assets as well as things meaningful to family members like your mother’s jewelry and your dad’s artwork.

You can find a form for a simple will on the web or, for a more sizeable estate, can meet with an attorney to have one drafted soon.  Otherwise, in addition to the law deciding for you, it will make things harder for your surviving heirs.

For more information, go to www.diesmart.com.

Medicare to pay for end-of-life care counseling

Effective January 1, 2016, Medicare plans to pay doctors to speak to patients about their end-of-life care. The doctors will provide counseling and discuss options that range from care that’s more focused on comfort than extending life to doing whatever is possible to resuscitate a dying patient. Some doctors are already having conversations about this topic with their patients but are not billing for it.

Medicare payment will ensure that more doctors will have these conversations which many feel are critical to high-quality care.

The Institute of Medicine issued a report last year which found that few people make their wishes known so many deaths “are filled with breathing machines, feeding tubes, powerful drugs and other treatments that fail to extend life and make its final chapter more painful and unpleasant.” The report, “Dying in America” is free as a PDF or can be paid for and ordered as a bound volume.

While most people have given thought to how they would like to die, many have found it difficult to communicate those views and choices to family and loved ones and, in many cases, family and loved ones have their own perceptions and views about death that can influence discussions about dying.  Most people envision their own death as a peaceful and an ideally rapid transition. However, with the exception of accidents or trauma or of a few illnesses that almost invariably result in death weeks or months after diagnosis, death usually comes at the end of a chronic illness or the frailty accompanying old age. Even though death is very much part of the cycle of life, thinking and talking about one’s own death usually remains in the background, at least until its prospect become more probable or imminent.

Thru the new Medicare offering doctors will be able to discuss with their patients how they would like to die, and to encourage them to put their wishes on paper and share those wishes with their family.