Category Archives: Estate Planning

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Are you among the 63%?

last-willThat’s the percent of Americans who do not have a will, according to a Google Consumer survey by

A recent article talks about some of the horror stories that occur when people die without putting an estate plan in place.

Here are the headings from the real stories:

Death causes sibling in-fighting.

Children get nothing, new wife gets everything.

Life partner left without legal standing.

Life insurance ends up in the wrong hands.

Heirs are left trying to find everything.

Partner owes enormous taxes on property.

Process is time consuming and expensive.

I urge you to read the stories.  You may recognize yourself in some of them.  But you can avoid the terrible consequences that the people encountered if you will just take the time to prepare an estate plan that reflects what you want to have happen to your assets when you die.

For more information about what to do, go to our website,

Did he really just get the lorry?

junkyardAlthough this actually happened in the UK, it could just as easily have happened here.

Fred McGuinness owned a scrap yard.  When he died at age 64 in 1987, he left everything to his wife Edith.

He had four children: David, Freddie, Kevin and Denise.  David claimed that he and his brothers had been promised shares of the business to pay them back for all the years they spent working in the family business.

When Edith died at age 87 in 2013, David fully expected that their time had come to get their reward.  However, Edith left everything she had, including the yard, to Denise.  The only other bequest was a small one to charity.  In a letter Edith wrote to accompany her will, she said that she and Denise had been excluded from the business and “mistreated”.

Although Denise owned a quarter of the business, her bookkeeping role had been eliminated, she never got a bonus and her pension was a “pittance”.

Edith also wrote that “since Mr. McGuinness passed away, she had watched his once-thriving business ‘go to nothing from greed’.”

Edith’s estate was valued for probate at more than £3million after tax and the court heard that a £12million offer had been received for the yard.

Although David had “taken it for granted” that he would inherit part of the yard, the probate judge disagreed.  He said there was never “a cast iron promise” that the yard would be divided among all of the children.

The judge further ruled that the only thing David would inherit was a classic Morris lorry, valued at about £10,000.

You can’t assume that what’s been casually mentioned as what you’ll inherit will stand up in court.  If you feel that something should rightly be yours, be sure to discuss it with your parents while they are still alive and get their commitment put into a legal document.  Otherwise, you may find yourself – like David – without the inheritance you had been expecting…and experiencing friction with any other heirs.

Everyone should have a will that outlines what they wish to happen to their assets when they die and clearly spells out the terms.  If you have assets, don’t delay.  Get a will written today.  You can either find a “do it yourself” version on the web or, if your estate is larger or more complicated, find an estate attorney who will prepare one for you.

For more information about estate planning and will writing, go to our website,

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

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

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