Category Archives: Wills and Living Trusts

Wills versus living trusts. What is the difference between a will and a living trust?

Can a will be kept private?

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In most cases, the answer is no.  When a person’s estate is being settled thru the will they prepared, it is usually public record.  To keep estate plans secret, they need to be contained in a trust document, not just a will.

However, in the case of Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, an exception has been made.  A probate judge in Alabama where she died signed an order for the will to be sealed after a request from attorneys for Miss Lee’s personal representative.  Her family agreed to the request.

She died in February 2016 at the age of 89 and had always been a person who highly valued her privacy.

The release if the ruling from the judge came after there was a “threat of public intrusion and harassment for Lee’s heirs”.

You are probably not a famous author and will not be granted an exception by a probate judge.  Therefore, you need to carefully consider whether it is important to you to keep your estate plans within your family or whether it’s okay for them to be public record.

Regardless of what you decide, go to our website www.diesmart.com to get helpful tips about estate planning and other things related to end of life matters.

 

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.

Probate – More public than ever!

ancestry  Ancestry.com just announced that they’ve made a new addition to their site.  When you search for someone, you will not only see facts about their life but may see a copy of their will and probate records.  Ancestry claims that “probate records often document family relationships over multiple generations. Wills can also give insights into your ancestor’s lifestyle and personality: J.P. Morgan left large bequests to his librarians; Louisa May Alcott asked that her papers be burned.”

Do you want everyone to see the details of your estate?  If not, you should think about meeting with an attorney and preparing a trust.  That way, everything will be confidential.

For more information about wills, trusts, probate and estate planning, go to www.diesmart.com.

What happens to your casino rewards when you die?

If you’re a member of a casino loyalty program, there may be a great deal of money or comps in your account. When you die, does the account die with you?

An article by Mr. A.C. Casino explains that every Atlantic City casino handles the transaction differently. For example, Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s Resort and Showboat Casino-Hotel will transfer any reward credit balance to a surviving spouse or domestic partner. That spouse or partner will have to provide your reward’s card, your personal identification and proof of your death. Any reward credits will still expire on their preset expiration date; it will not be extended.

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa has a similar policy but all of their comp dollars expire six months after they are earned.

The Tropicana Casino and Resort also has a similar policy but spouses need to link their accounts. Once that’s done, with proper documentation, any remaining dollar balance will be transferred to the surviving spouse’s account.

Golden Nugget, Resorts Casino Hotel, Revel Casino Hotel, Trump Plaza and Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort consider the account closed when someone dies and the balance in not transferable.

If you don’t know what the policy is for your casino of choice, and you maintain a high balance in your loyalty account, you might want to contact that casino and ask. Don’t leave money on the table if you can avoid it.

And be sure to keep your loyalty card account number, PIN and casino host’s name and contact information with your access codes in a place where your spouse or next of kin can find them.

For more information about estate planning or keeping track of your assets, go to www.diesmart.com.

Another actor did it wrong. Do you have your plans in place?

Julie Garber, in her weekly blog, wrote about another person who did it wrong.  When actor Paul Walker died in a terrible car crash on November 30th, 2013, he left an estate estimated to be worth at least $45 million.  However, he had done no estate planning and left no will.  He was only 40 years old and probably thought he had plenty of time to get his affairs in order.  His parents, ex-wife and girl friend of seven years are now fighting over who should inherit.

According to California intestate laws, the entire estate should be inherited by his daughter, Meadow.  Since she is only 15, someone needs to be responsible for managing to estate until she turns 18.  Her mother is her guardian but is not necessarily the one who will control the money on her behalf.  Since her parents believe they should manage the estate, the case will have to go to probate court.

And what about his long term girlfriend, Jasmine?  She won’t see a penny.

Have you done estate planning?  Is all of your paperwork in order?  Or are you, like Paul Walker, leaving a mess for  your loved ones?

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