Category Archives: Estate Planning

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Don’t let your ex-spouse get your life insurance proceeds

Jackie and Warren Hillman

Jackie & Warren Hillman

When you buy a life insurance policy, you name a beneficiary who will inherit the proceeds when you die.  It’s important to keep that beneficiary designation up to date or the wrong person may benefit.

One such case that went all the way to the Supreme Court was that of Warren Hillman. Hillman died in 2008 shortly after he was diagnosed with leukemia. He was 66. He had been married three times. When he died, his assets included a life insurance policy worth $124,558.03.

But Hillman made an all too common estate planning error. In 1996, while he was working for the federal government, he took out a life insurance policy and named his second wife, Judy Maretta, as his beneficiary. When he and Maretta divorced in 1998, he didn’t change the beneficiary designation on his policy. It was a policy that was part of a life insurance program for all federal employees and the law for that program says that the proceeds on death are paid according to the beneficiary designation.

He married Jacqueline Hillman in 2002 and was with her until he died.

Since his death, his second ex-wife, Judy Maretta, and his widow had been fighting over that money. In June, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court found that Maretta was entitled to all of it because she was still listed as the beneficiary.

If your life circumstances change, be sure to update the beneficiary forms for any policies that you have. Otherwise, your ex-spouse may get your life insurance proceeds.

For further information about beneficiaries, go to www.diesmart.com.

 

 

 

An important holiday gift

present-clipart-Present-Clip-Art-932As we approach the end of another year, it’s a good time to have an important discussion with your family and other loved ones about what will happen when you die. It may be uncomfortable but it’s a gift you should give them before any more time passes.

You should tell them about your estate plan – not necessarily all of the details but where it can be found, that it is up to date and who you have named as your executor. The estate plan should, at a minimum, include your will and your advanced directive; it might also include a trust, a healthcare proxy and a durable power of attorney. You should reassure them that the plan is current and reflects your wishes at the present time. (If it doesn’t, you should get it updated immediately.)

Another critical thing you should discuss is your digital assets. If you pay your bills and conduct other financial transactions online, your executor should be able to access your accounts. The only way to ensure that this is possible is if you leave a list of your passwords for all of them.

You should make sure they know about any accounts that have beneficiary designations and that those designations are up to date. Otherwise, someone who is no longer in your life may inherit from those accounts rather than the person you really want the funds to go to.

Finally, you should discuss with your family and other loved ones your end of life care wishes. It’s not a pleasant topic but you should not burden them with having to make decisions which may not agree with what you would have wanted.

This is an important holiday gift that you should give to your loved ones this year.

For more information about making a digital asset inventory and other end of life decisions, go to www.diesmart.com.

 

5 ideas to consider when doing estate planning

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If you have a spouse and family, you’ll probably leave everything to them.  However, if you don’t have a spouse or kids and you’ve been procrastinating doing your estate planning because you’re not sure what to do about all of your stuff, here are 5 ideas you should think about consider.  We found them in the Rapid City Journal.

  1. Consider leaving something to close friends, caregivers or anyone else who you are close to.
  2. Think about charities that are meaningful to you.  What organizations have goals that match your own?
  3. Think about where a donation could benefit your community.  There are places like libraries, volunteer fire departments, arts organizations that would welcome some extra funds.  What about giving a piece of art to a hospital or buying a park bench?
  4. Build relationships with people who share your interest in collections of antique, tools or other items.  Then you can pass along your collections to people who will appreciate them and remember you.
  5. Don’t wait until you’re gone.  Consider donating collections to museums or giving personal possessions that you value but don’t necessarily use to someone who would appreciate them.

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

Robert Holmes a Court’s big mistake

robert holmes a courtHis mistake is one people continue to make throughout the world.  They don’t make a will and die intestate.  About 50% of people say that they don’t have the time, don’t think they need one, don’t know how to get started, it’s too gruesome a topic to think about, they’re not going to die yet….or offer up many other excuses.

Robert Holmes a Court, who had built a $2 billion empire in Australia in the 1980’s, died suddenly at age 53 without a will.  Legend has it that he carried a will around in his briefcase for years…unsigned.  Regardless of whether this is true or not, what is a fact is that, because he did not have a valid will,  the legal wrangling to settle his estate took almost 20 years to resolve, seriously straining family relations in the process.

Two other blogs we found also discuss some of the problems that can occur if you don’t take the time to make a will.

http://www.trishparr.com/are-you-a-modern-day-scrooge/

http://www.lancasterlawblog.com/2015/10/articles/estate-planning/second-marriage-and-intestacy-dying-without-a-will/

There are two facts you can’t change:

1) You ARE going to die.

2) If you don’t have a will, the government will decide what happens to your estate.

If you have a $2 billion empire like Robert Holmes a Court, it may take you awhile to draft a will and the other documents you will need to protect your assets and ensure that they will be distributed the way you want them to be.  If you have an estate that is a little smaller, a simple will can be drawn up and executed very quickly.

Don’t let the government make important decisions about your estate for you.  Make the time and get your will prepared now.

For more information about dying intestate and will preparation, go to DieSmart.com.

Common mistakes when writing a will

Business ClipartEveryone is going to die; that’s a fact.  And everyone should have a will.  That’s another fact.  If you die without a will, the probate court will decide what happens to  your assets; you won’t.

My father died about 15 years ago.  He left a will he had prepared himself, typed on his old electric typewriter and had a few friends sign as witnesses.  I don’t know how he decided what to put in the will and the wording to use.  All I know is that after he died, when I tried to probate the will, there were some problems with it and it took a while to get them resolved.

If you don’t want to go to an attorney to have a will prepared that you know will be written properly, you should at least be aware of some common mistakes that you should avoid.

I recently came across a blog on findlaw.com that clearly describes 10 of the most common mistakes.  You should definitely read it so you don’t make the same mistakes my dad did.

For further information about wills, trusts, probate and end of life planning go to www.diesmart.com.