Category Archives: Estate Planning

Estate Planning Facts. Last Will and Testaments versus Living Trusts. Estate Taxes. Gift Taxes. Inherited IRAs. Guardians for minor children. Pet Trusts. Funeral Agents. Avoiding Probate. Get Your Affairs In Order.

Many states join the UFADAA bandwagon

ULCLogoEarlier this year, we wrote about the first state to adopt the new, revised UFADAA (Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act) recommended statute.  This statute makes clearer the ways which an estate executor and others can deal with your digital assets when you die.

Indiana, this week, joined the ranks of states that have decided to pass a “law that addresses the rights of a fiduciary, such as a personal representative, trustee, attorney-in-fact or guardian, to access digital property, such as online financial accounts, emails, texts, social media accounts and online document and picture storage.”

Since digital assets are a large part of many people’s estates, this new act has become more important.  States are recognizing this and, as of this date, many have either adopted the act or are in the process of considering it.

For information about whether your state has adopted this important act yet, click here.

For more information about digital estate planning, check out our book “Access Denied: Why Passwords Are Now As Important As Your Will” or go to our website www.diesmart.com.

If the will is fake, what happens next?

Fake willIn August 2013, Lynn Day Arsenault was shot to death by a man she didn’t know.  A few months later, her surviving spouse and fourth husband, Donald Arsenault, showed up with a supposed will that left him all of her assets and left nothing to her three adult sons.

Her sons doubted that this could actually be her last will and testament.  After all, she had been very generous, caring and helpful to them thorough out their lives.

After a two-day trial which included testimony by a handwriting expert, the Waldo County Probate Judge found that the document presented by Arsenault was fraudulent and the signature forged.  She therefore decreed that Lynn Day Arsenault had died intestate and that her sons are her true heirs.

The spouse had already sold a house she owned without court approval and the location of her other assets has not yet been determined.  Whatever they are, the spouse will receive nothing.

Whether he will be prosecuted for attempting to pass off a fake will as real is still up in the air.

More than 50% of people in the United States die with no will and, in actuality, Lynn Day Arsenault was one of them.

Don’t leave your estate in a mess; be sure that you have a legally executed will and if you think there may be disputes between a spouse and children from another marriage, tell your legal representative where that will is located.  That way, there will be no dispute when you die and no question of whether your will is real or not.

For more information about end of life planning and will preparation, go to our website www.diesmart.com.

Who Pays Your Debts When You Die?

According tk15365456o a U.S. News and World Report story out this week, most probably your unpaid bills will be subtracted from any inheritance you leave to your loved ones.

In 2013, more than 61% of senior households had an average of $40,900 in debt.  And it’s likely that many will die with those debts unpaid.

If you don’t have any assets, your debts may die with you.  However, if you have assets, your creditors may be able to collect what they’re owed from those assets and the amounts subtracted from what your heirs will inherit.

How debt is handled depends largely on the state in which you are living at the time of your death.  Nine states are “community property” states.  That means your spouse is responsible for any debt incurred during the marriage.  In other states, a spouse is not responsible for bills that are solely in the other spouse’s name.  And some types of assets, such as retirement accounts and life insurance payouts, usually can’t be claimed by creditors.

The story goes on to list six things to do if someone you love has debt when they die:

1)      Consult a probate attorney.

2)      Notify creditors of the death.  Once this is done, those accounts are frozen.

3)      Catalog your loved one’s assets.

4)      Determine what your loved one owes.  That will help determine what, if anything, needs to be sold to pay the debt.

5)      Have beneficiaries file for assets that pass without probate.

6)      File tax returns.  Even after death, tax returns need to be filed on time.

For more information about estate planning and helpful hints on what to do when settling a loved one’s estates, check out our website www.diesmart.com.

Are your beneficiary designations up to date?

k8758525Do you have a bank account?  What about a brokerage account or life insurance policy?  Have you set up an annuity  or a retirement plan?

You probably have a least one or two of these types of accounts.  When you set them up, you were asked to name a beneficiary for each.  At the time, the person you named was someone you wanted to receive these assets when you died.  It might have been a spouse or significant other.

It’s been several years since you named that person.  Have your circumstances changed?  Are you now divorced or no longer involved with him or her?  Have you remarried or had children you want to be sure are protected?

Most people name a beneficiary and then forget about it.  They never go back and update the information provided so it reflects their current wishes.   They figure it doesn’t matter because they have a current will that designates who should inherit what.  However, it does matter.  Whoever is named as a beneficiary receives that asset when you die, regardless of what it says in your will.   So your ex-husband or former girlfriend may receive a large sum of money that you didn’t want them to have.

Don’t let this happen.  Review your beneficiary designations whenever your circumstances change and be sure that your assets will go where you want them to when you die.

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

You need a will. Why shouldn’t you write your own?

blended familyMost blank will forms are based on the assumption that you are part of a traditional nuclear family with a husband, a wife and a common set of children.  It will further assume that you wish to follow the traditional path of inheritance:  The surviving spouse will inherit the deceased’s assets and they will they pass to the children upon the second spouse’s death.

Instead, as is very often the case today, you may be part of a blended family.  If so, you should definitely see an attorney and prepare a will that will protect every member of that new family.

Let’s look at an example of what might happen if you don’t have a well written will.

John and Susan had both been married previously.  John had two children from his first marriage and Susan had three.   When they got married, all was well for several years.  Then John died suddenly.  Susan inherited all of John’s estate (which included assets he had brought into the marriage).

When Susan died, her three children inherited her assets; John’s children got nothing.  Why, because they were not Susan’s legal children and neither John or Susan’s will legally protected them.  A lengthy legal battle ensued with the biggest winner being the attorneys.

Although this blog is based on an article from the Sydney Morning Herald, it is critical for everyone in a blended family to take heed.

Make sure your legal paperwork protects your family and distributes your assets the way you want them allocated.  Don’t take a shortcut now that may result in unnecessary pain and suffering at a later date.

For more information about estate planning, check out our website www.diesmart.com.