Author Archives: Minna Vallentine

What happened to Ernie Ulrich’s estate?

ErnieWho, you might ask, was Ernie Ulrich. 

Ernie was just an average blue collar guy who served in the army during World War II and died in Chicago at age 85 on December 21, 1999.  He never married and had no children.  His two sisters were his only family.  One sister, Margaret, died three months before him and his other sister, Lillian, died one month after him.

What he did have was a $1.5 million estate.  In his will, which was prepared in 1992, he specified that if his sister, Margaret, predeceased him, the entire estate was to go to charity.  He didn’t leave anything to Lillian because he felt that she was well provided for.

Late last year, more than 17 years after his death, it was discovered that his $1.5 million had never been distributed as he specified.  The lawyer who was supposed to be his executor never carried out his wishes and, since the lawyer died in 2007, there’s no way to find out why.

Most of the money was in investment accounts which were eventually declared inactive.  Once that happened, his assets went to the Illinois state treasurer as unclaimed property.  That included 155 unclaimed properties such as 5,344 shares of Exxon Mobil stock and 6,460 shares of AT&T.

In November 2014, Michael Frerichs became the new state treasurer and he made it a priority to try to resolve high dollar unclaimed accounts.  Ulrich’s was one of these.  Using information from Ulrich’s financial records, the treasurer looked for rightful heirs and, eventually, located the will.

A new executor was named and she finally was able to fulfill Ulrich’s last bequests.  He bequeathed  one third of his estate to the Salvation Army; the remained was to be split among five other charities.

This is definitely a case of better late than never.

I know you can’t guarantee that your executor won’t make a mistake.  However, you should take steps to ensure that more than one person knows where your will is located so that, hopefully, it won’t take 17 years for your estate to be distributed after you die.

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

 

Are you making celebrity estate planning mistakes?

Prin eThis article appeared in the September 17, 2016 edition of cnbc.com.  It contains some important information you should review.

“Celebrities, they’re just like us. At least, they are when it comes to estate-planning mistakes.

You’d think that high-profile individuals with substantial and varied assets, often-complex family lives and a team of high-powered advisors at their disposal would have this locked down, more so than your average American. But that’s not so, attorney John Scroggin, a partner with Scroggin & Company in Roswell, Georgia, told advisors Thursday at the Financial Planning Association’s annual conference in Baltimore.

“Celebrities make the same mistakes,” he said. “It’s just that the nature of their celebrity exaggerates and balloons the impact of what the mistake was.”

Mistake #1: Not having a will

Nearly two-thirds of Americans don’t have a will, according to a July survey by Harris Poll for Rocket Lawyer, which queried 2,000 consumers. Famous individuals who have died without a will, include Abraham Lincoln, Prince, Sonny Bono, Jimi Hendrix and Pablo Picasso, according to Scroggin.

Not having a will can result in a number of potentially disastrous consequences, notably that assets may not be distributed in the manner in which you would have liked — or even intra-family battles. State intestacy laws will apply, and dictate who gets what share of the estate. (State law often cuts out stepkids, for example.)

Without specific instructions from the deceased, an estate may also be subject to drawn-out court battles as family members fight for what they perceive as their fair share.

“A lack of a will for any individual increases the conflict and increases the cost,” Scroggin said.

Mistake #2: Not having a current will

Signing a will is the beginning of the process, not the end, Scroggin said. Regularly update estate planning documents and beneficiaries as your financial and personal situation changes.

He points to the estate of singer Barry White, who was separated but not divorced from his second wife at the time of his death. His wife got everything, Scroggin said, while White’s live-in girlfriend of several years got nothing.

Mistake #3: Not planning for taxes

Even if your wealth falls under the federal estate tax threshold — in 2016, up to $5.45 million per person is exempt — it may be subject to state estate taxes, which often have lower caps.

Poor planning could force your heirs to sell valuable or sentimental items because they don’t have the liquid assets to pay those taxes, said Scroggin. He used the example of Joe Robbie’s family, which sold its stake in the Miami Dolphins and Joe Robbie Stadium to pay estate taxes. 
Mistake #4: Not mentioning for personal property

Robin Williams’s family has engaged in a legal battle over the late actor’s film memorabilia, Scroggin said, while Martin Luther King Jr.’s children fought over his Bible and Nobel medal.

Individuals often fail to account for personal property in their estate planning, which can generate plenty of fights (legal and otherwise) over the future of family heirlooms, collectibles and other items of sentimental value.

Even when such items are mentioned, Scroggin said, it can be difficult for heirs to prove provenance if another party disputes the claim — that this is mom’s vase, for example, and not a newer one the deceased gifted to his second wife.

Scroggin also had some advice on this point for clients untangling the estate of someone recently deceased: “Change the friggin’ locks.”

It’s not unusual for family, friends and neighbors to help themselves to items they say the deceased told them they could have, he said.”

For more information about estate planning and how to get your affairs in order, check out our website www.diesmart.com.

Who’s the owner of a 1958 Corvette convertible?

032317_16bThis story is taken from one published in the Daily Republic.

“A California judge will apparently decide who owns that yellow Corvette in June.

One thing we do know for sure is that 75-year-old George Bristol owned the Corvette, valued at some $97,000, prior to his death in a traffic accident on Dec. 14, 2016.

After that, though, the picture grows murky.

An administrator of the estate, Jared Bristol, says the Corvette is now in the possession of Laura Hazelett, who he claims in his lawsuit was having a relationship with George Bristol before he died late last year in his 2004 Toyota Tacoma, which left the road, went airborne, and crashed into the side of a large drainage canal.

Jared Bristol filed a lawsuit against Hazelett on Wednesday in Fairfield, Calif., claiming that she forged George Bristol’s signature on forms that she filed in January 2017 with the Department of Motor Vehicles saying that George Bristol had given her the car two days before his death.

The lawsuit asks that the DMV not be allowed to transfer ownership of the Corvette to anyone while the estate is in probate.

The Daily Republic reached out to Hazelett for comment on the allegations of the suit but received no response.”

If George Bristol had included his Corvette in his estate planning, this issue would not have arisen.  He could have named Hazelett or anyone else as the owner of the valuable car.  Whoever was named would have inherited it and there would have been no court fight.

Be sure that you have an estate plan and that it includes any valuable assets you own.  That way, you will save your loved ones time, effort and expense…and your wishes will be carried out.

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

Was he really dead?

3A2835D300000578-0-image-a-51_1491259777945Sir Jimmy Young, a radio DJ in the UK, died in November 2016 at age 95.  He left an estate worth more than 2.7 million pounds and a bizarre last request.

In his will, Jimmy requested that his dead body be given a lethal injection before burial because he had a fear of being buried alive.

It’s not know whether the request was carried out though he was really dead before his interment.

Whether you have a weird request or not, be sure to prepare your will and to include any of your special wishes.  If they’re not included, your loved ones may not know about them and may not be able to fulfill those wishes.

For more information about end of life planning, go to www.diesmart.com.

Do you know your spouse’s passwords?

Ann

A recent article in the Huffington Post really emphasized why you need to be sure to learn your spouse’s passwords…while he or she is still alive to tell you what they are.  The article, titled “I’m Still Paying For My Dead Husband’s Cell Phone Because I Don’t Know His Childhood Friend’s Name”, is printed here in its entirety.

The photo is of the author, Ann Brenoff, and her now deceased husband.

“Make a record of your passwords, folks.

Until I became widowed two months ago, I thought death was a finality. After it happened, I would have the time and space to mourn. I’ve since learned that death is actually followed by a long web of subscriptions, billing services and other minutia ? along with a series of arguments with customer service professionals reading from scripts. 

Unraveling my husband’s life has been a complicated problem, primarily for one reason: His passwords were not in his “important papers” file. 

As a result, my access to his personal accounts is limited, and depending on the company with which I’m dealing, the malarky of what passes for customer service is off the charts.

Take for example his cell phone carrier, a global company with 40,000 employees, none of whom apparently work on weekends. They won’t stop billing me for his phone service because I can’t get into his account to cancel it. I don’t know his password.

And I can’t override the password with his account’s security question ? the first name of his first childhood friend. Vic was 81 when he died ? I feel safe suspecting that he probably wouldn’t have remembered this name either.

Recently, a customer service rep offered me this option: Drive to a company store to “authenticate” my husband’s account, bring his driver’s license, Social Security number, death certificate and our marriage license. For real. Oh, and then call him back because I clearly must have plenty of time on my hands. Mind you, they are still billing my credit card while giving me the run-around. 

Death certificates are the key to the universe.

The root of dealing with all post-death matters is having a copy of a certified death certificate. You can do nothing without one. The best advice anyone gave me was to order multiple copies because everyone, including the gas company, wants one.

Getting a death certificate, at least in Los Angeles, is best accomplished by rising before dawn, taking a day off work and going in person with plenty of quarters for the parking meter. And don’t forget to bring your own pen; things are a little tight at our government offices these days.

Once armed with copies of my husband’s death certificate, I set out to move all his accounts into my name and square away the mountain of paperwork that comes with the end of life. And while it’s certainly been a journey of discovery ? we’ve been spending how much on premium cable so he could watch Cubs games from Los Angeles? ? it has pitted me against more than one instance of corporate absurdity.

Customer service is a contradiction of terms.

Take for example the bank that wouldn’t switch our account notifications to my email from his. We have banked with them for decades and all our accounts are jointly held with survivor rights. Even worse, the bank has his cell phone number on file ? yes, the one I hope to get rid of. 

The cable company, usually the boogeyman of the utility companies we deal with, turned out to be not-so-bad. I just had to threaten to not pay them if they didn’t switch the name on the account. Ditto for the propane company. 

Credit cards are generally pretty happy to remove names. The mail-order pharmacy, not so much, especially when automatic refills are involved. Eventually, every automatic refill will outlive its subscriber and medications aren’t returnable. Who wins in this scenario? 

Car insurance, his driver’s license, his Social Security and Medicare, his magazine subscriptions and his airline miles ? flash that death certificate and you are good to go. 

But the ability to cancel his cell phone service? That one remains elusive.

Widowhood is not for the weak. One minute, you’re fine and the next you’re a raving lunatic. You curse your dead spouse when you have a flat tire, when you just don’t have the energy to drive your kid to the school bus stop and no one else is around to help. It can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders and you just want one thing ? just one ? to be easy. Like, you know, canceling a cell phone plan.”

For information about end of life planning, check out our website www.diesmart.com.