Tag Archives: inheritance

Don’t bury your head in the sand!

So you donbury head in the sand’t think you need a will?

Don’t bury your head in the sand like more than half of all Americans.  That’s the percentage of people who don’t have a will…and probably don’t think they need one.

Maybe you think you don’t have enough assets to make it worthwhile.  Perhaps you think your spouse will automatically get everything.  Or you know your children will do what’s right so you don’t have to worry about it.

Do you know who actually decides who gets what when you die if you don’t have a will?  It’s the government!  Yes, every state has laws that determine who will inherit your things if you die intestate (without a will).  Your spouse and children will have no choice and will not be part of the process.  In some states, it’s simple.  Your spouse gets everything.  In others, your spouse splits the estate with your children.  If you aren’t married or don’t have children, your parents or siblings may be the ones who get it all.  You may not want your siblings to get anything or, perhaps, you don’t want your parents to inherit.  Maybe you’d prefer that the bulk of your estate goes to charity.  Whatever your wishes, without a will, they won’t be carried out.

It’s very easy to draw up a simple will.  There are many templates on the web or forms you can fill out for less than $100.  If you have a complex estate and need to sit down with an attorney, it will cost more.  However, for less than $100, you have no excuse.

Get a will drawn up today.  Don’t let the government make the decision for you.  You decide who inherits what when you die.

For more information about wills, go to diesmart.com.

3 tips when making estate planning decisions

I came across this blog that was written by Julie Ann Garber, J.D. last year.  It had such good information that I decided to re-post and share it with you.

Many people struggle with all of the decisions that they have to make when putting together their estate plan: Who should get what? When should they get it? Who shouldn’t get anything? Who should be the executor? Who should be the trustee?

All of these decisions can be overwhelming, even for someone who has what is considered a “normal” family, but they don’t have to be.  In the wise words of Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains, it’s your decision.

If you’re stressed out about how to plan your estate, then don’t despair.  Here are three tips for making your estate plan your way:

Tip #1 – Don’t be afraid to disinherit someone.  It’s your money, so you can choose to leave it, or not leave it, to whomever you want. But beware – being bullied into making your estate plan a certain way by a certain individual and not the way you really want it (for instance, leaving everything to one child to the exclusion of others at the insistence of that one child) will result in family discord.  If you really want to disinherit someone, then that’s your prerogative, but if someone bullies you into disinheriting someone else, then in extreme cases this could amount to “undue influence” and lead to an ugly will or trust contest. If you truly want to disinherit someone, then work closely with your estate planning attorney to insure that not only will your final wishes be carried out, but your plan will be bullet proof from challenges.

Tip #2 – Choose your executor and trustee wisely.  Here are the traits you should look for in your executor and trustee:  loyal, fair, practical, trustworthy, organized and tough.  If you choose a person who has most of these traits, then your final wishes will be fulfilled, but if you choose a person who has only one or two of these traits, then your final wishes will take a back seat to their own agenda.  Better yet, choose a corporate trustee, such as a bank or trust company, to put these important jobs in the hands of professionals.  Otherwise it may be way too easy for Uncle Bob to skim some off of the top or for your loved ones to convince Uncle Bob to disregard your wishes.

Tip #3 – Listen to your estate planning attorney.  While a good estate planning attorney will listen intently so that he or she can learn about your greatest concerns and challenges when it comes to planning your estate, you should also listen to your estate planning attorney because he or she can offer some good advice and solutions to ease those concerns and overcome the challenges. And while sometimes what your estate planning attorney says may not be what you want to hear, your attorney’s advice, which comes from years of experience in similar situations, may very well head off a family feud or a will or trust contest.

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

Bobbi Kristina had no will – what happens now?

Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina, died on Sunday, 7/26/2015.  She was only 22 years old and probably had no plans to die so young.  She had done nothing to prepare for death and had no will.

When Whitney Houston died in 2012, she left her entire estate to her daughter.  That estate was worth more than $20 million.  Because of her grandmother’s fear that Bobbi wouldn’t be able to handle so much money at such a young age, she challenged the will and a court ruled that the money could be given to Bobbi in increments.  Although the bulk of her inheritance was not supposed to be given to her until her 30th birthday,  she had received approximately $2 million when she turned 21.

Her father is her next of kin and so, according to the law, will inherit the money she had already received.  However, since he was divorced from her mother, I’m sure Whitney Houston would not have wanted any of her money to go to him.  The balance will probably go to Whitney’s mother, Cissy, who is 81 and her two brothers, Michael 53 and Gary 57 since they are Whitney’s closest living relatives.

Because of the number of people who would like to receive some of these millions, this case will probably go through a long court process before anything is definitively settled.

Is this what Bobbi Kristina would have wanted?  We’ll never know.

Have you written a will, designating what you want to happen to your estate when you die?  Do you want the law to make the decision for you?  You could die suddenly at age 22 from what may or may not be an accident like Bobbi Kristina or at 90 or 95 from a  heart attack or lingering illness.  If the answer to either of these questions is no, you should draft a will immediately and name those people who you want to receive your assets as well as things meaningful to family members like your mother’s jewelry and your dad’s artwork.

You can find a form for a simple will on the web or, for a more sizeable estate, can meet with an attorney to have one drafted soon.  Otherwise, in addition to the law deciding for you, it will make things harder for your surviving heirs.

For more information, 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.

Unclaimed property – Are you a beneficiary but you don’t know it?

Over the last five years or so, a study has been conducted to determine how insurance companies ensured that beneficiaries of life insurance policies were notified that a relative with a life insurance policy had died.

The study was initiated by California Comptroller John Chiang, who used a Connecticut auditing firm to examine the payment practices of 21 life insurance companies nationwide.  The Controller’s investigation “has revealed an industry-wide practice of companies both failing to pay death benefits to the beneficiaries of life insurance policies and ignoring their legal duty to turn the money over to the State for safe keeping.  Instead, companies would draw-down the policies’ cash reserves in order to continue collecting premium payments from the deceased.  Once the cash reserves were depleted, the company would cancel the policy.  Past audits also found that insurers did not routinely cross-check the owners of dormant accounts with government databases listing the deceased.  In other cases, companies had direct knowledge of the policy owner’s death, but still did not notify the beneficiaries.”

When questionable practices were uncovered, lawsuits ensued.  The premise of one of the latest was that insurers used the Social Security Death Master File to determine whether  those insured who had living benefit riders to annuities had died and, if so, they acted promptly to stop payments.  However, the Death Master File and other means weren’t used as often to ensure that beneficiaries of life insurance policies were promptly notified that a relative with a life insurance policy had died, and the funds from that policy paid out.

In the case of one recent lawsuit, the lead plaintiff claimed that he was notified only in 2010, four years after the death of the insured, and then only by the state of Illinois Treasurer’s Office…not by the insurance company.  He received only a small sum, and it wasn’t until June 2012 that a larger sum was paid, without a good explanation.

Earlier this month (June 2013), Mr. Chiang reached a settlement on behalf of the state of California and its residents with 11 insurance companies who had been found to have underpaid life insurance benefits.  The agreements he reached required the 11 companies to do the following:

  • Restore the full value of all impacted accounts dating back to 1995;
  • Fully comply with California’s unclaimed property laws and cooperate with the Controller’s efforts to reunite these death benefits, annuity contracts and retained asset accounts with their owners or, in many cases, the owners’ heirs;
  • Pay the policy beneficiaries 3% compounded interest on the value of the held amounts from 1995, or from the date of the owner’s death, whichever is later.

If the benefits are not paid to the heirs within a specified period of time, the law requires businesses to send the list of abandoned property to the state.  In California, the period of time is three years; it varies by state.  In many states, this has become a large source of revenue.  However, the states’ first goal is to return the money to its rightful owners.

Many other states have followed California’s lead, filed suits against the major insurance companies, and will also benefit from California’s settlement with those 11 companies.

To learn more about beneficiaries and estate related topics, go to www.diesmart.com.