Tag Archives: beneficiary

Want to avoid probate?

estateplanningYou may think that if you have a will and in it you name the person who should inherit your home, that’s all you have to do.  Yes, it is if you’re willing to have the home go through a probate process.  That probate process will cost the beneficiary a lot of money as well as time and will be a public record.

However, there’s now a way that many can avoid the whole probate process and that’s thru the use of a transfer on death (beneficiary) deed.

There are several states that have a similar law and California just joined their ranks in January of this year.

If you live in one of these states, you now have the option to complete a Revocable Transfer On Death Beneficiary deed and name a beneficiary for your home.    After your death, the beneficiary can directly claim ownership rights to the property without involving the probate court and paying probate fees.

The deed can be completed and filed without hiring a lawyer or paying a third party to record the deed with the county recorder.

For some homeowners, a TOD Deed can be a cost effective way to avoid probate on the death of the last owner.   If you own a home and have it listed in your will, you might want to consider this new option.

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

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, 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.

No power in the house – a digital death problem!

51j2ST20YwL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_A Sad but True Story from Access Denied illustrates a major problem that many survivors face when trying to deal with their loved one’s death.

“Marsha’s husband, Greg, went bike riding with some friends, something he did most Sunday mornings. A car careened down the street and hit him; he was killed instantly.

“Greg was the main breadwinner and his income paid for their living expenses. His salary checks were automatically deposited into his bank account. Their bills, including mortgage, utility bills and insurance premiums, were automatically paid from this account.

“When he was killed, Marsha was distraught. The death was totally unexpected. Greg was 46 and in great health. She spent the first few months after his death just grieving and wringing her hands. She could cope with very little and wasn’t thinking clearly. She never thought about the practicalities of how digital death were affecting her life.

“Because Greg was gone, paychecks were no longer being deposited into his bank account, so money to pay the bills quickly ran out. The checking account and the online utility accounts were set up with Greg’s name and email address. Past due notices and notices of returned checks were being sent to Greg’s email account, and Marsha knew nothing about them.

“Then, one day she came home to find she had no power. When she called the power company to find out what was wrong, they informed her that the bill for her address had not been paid. They had cut off the power and Marsha was in the dark with no heat and no electricity.

“Here’s how the call went:

PG&E answering machine: Hello, how can I help you? Press 3 if you are calling for help with billing.
Marsha: Pressed 3
PG&E answering machine: Please enter your account number so we can help you.
Marsha: Thinking to herself: I have no idea what the account number is. We haven’t received a paper bill in ages. Why don’t they ask me for Greg’s email? I know that.
PG&E answering machine: I’m sorry. Let’s try again. Please enter the account number. We’ll need that before we can help you.
Marsha: Clicking 0, 0, and 0 looking for a way to get connected to a real person.
PG&E (a real person): Hello, this is PG&E. How may we help you?
Marsha: The electricity at our house has been disconnected. I need to make a payment.
PG&E (a real person): Do you know the account number?
Marsha: No. My husband paid all of our bills.
PG&E (a real person): What is your husband’s name?
Marsha: Greg Thomas.
PG&E: What is your relationship with Greg?
Marsha: I’m his wife.
PG&E: Is Greg there? We can’t take a payment from anyone but Greg.
Marsha: No. Greg died several months ago.
PG&E: We are very sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, we can’t take a payment or transfer service to your name without you being here in person and providing proof of your relationship to Greg.
Marsha: You’re kidding right! It’s 20 degrees outside, and I don’t have any heat.
PG&E: I’m sorry. There is nothing we can do at this time. Please visit your PG&E office Monday morning with the right documentation, and they will be able to help you.
Marsha: (In one last effort for help) Can’t you just give me Greg’s password? I could log in and pay the bill electronically.
PG&E: Do you have documentation from Greg authorizing access to his account?
Marsha: No (thinking to herself: I have no idea what she is talking about).
PG&E: Sorry, there’s nothing else we can do.”

Don’t let this happen to you.  Makes plans for what will happen to your digital estate when you die and protect your family.  For more information and help on this critical topic, get a copy of Access Denied today.