Tag Archives: inheritance

What happened to Ernie Ulrich’s estate?

ErnieWho, you might ask, was Ernie Ulrich. 

Ernie was just an average blue collar guy who served in the army during World War II and died in Chicago at age 85 on December 21, 1999.  He never married and had no children.  His two sisters were his only family.  One sister, Margaret, died three months before him and his other sister, Lillian, died one month after him.

What he did have was a $1.5 million estate.  In his will, which was prepared in 1992, he specified that if his sister, Margaret, predeceased him, the entire estate was to go to charity.  He didn’t leave anything to Lillian because he felt that she was well provided for.

Late last year, more than 17 years after his death, it was discovered that his $1.5 million had never been distributed as he specified.  The lawyer who was supposed to be his executor never carried out his wishes and, since the lawyer died in 2007, there’s no way to find out why.

Most of the money was in investment accounts which were eventually declared inactive.  Once that happened, his assets went to the Illinois state treasurer as unclaimed property.  That included 155 unclaimed properties such as 5,344 shares of Exxon Mobil stock and 6,460 shares of AT&T.

In November 2014, Michael Frerichs became the new state treasurer and he made it a priority to try to resolve high dollar unclaimed accounts.  Ulrich’s was one of these.  Using information from Ulrich’s financial records, the treasurer looked for rightful heirs and, eventually, located the will.

A new executor was named and she finally was able to fulfill Ulrich’s last bequests.  He bequeathed  one third of his estate to the Salvation Army; the remained was to be split among five other charities.

This is definitely a case of better late than never.

I know you can’t guarantee that your executor won’t make a mistake.  However, you should take steps to ensure that more than one person knows where your will is located so that, hopefully, it won’t take 17 years for your estate to be distributed after you die.

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

 

Are you making celebrity estate planning mistakes?

Prin eThis article appeared in the September 17, 2016 edition of cnbc.com.  It contains some important information you should review.

“Celebrities, they’re just like us. At least, they are when it comes to estate-planning mistakes.

You’d think that high-profile individuals with substantial and varied assets, often-complex family lives and a team of high-powered advisors at their disposal would have this locked down, more so than your average American. But that’s not so, attorney John Scroggin, a partner with Scroggin & Company in Roswell, Georgia, told advisors Thursday at the Financial Planning Association’s annual conference in Baltimore.

“Celebrities make the same mistakes,” he said. “It’s just that the nature of their celebrity exaggerates and balloons the impact of what the mistake was.”

Mistake #1: Not having a will

Nearly two-thirds of Americans don’t have a will, according to a July survey by Harris Poll for Rocket Lawyer, which queried 2,000 consumers. Famous individuals who have died without a will, include Abraham Lincoln, Prince, Sonny Bono, Jimi Hendrix and Pablo Picasso, according to Scroggin.

Not having a will can result in a number of potentially disastrous consequences, notably that assets may not be distributed in the manner in which you would have liked — or even intra-family battles. State intestacy laws will apply, and dictate who gets what share of the estate. (State law often cuts out stepkids, for example.)

Without specific instructions from the deceased, an estate may also be subject to drawn-out court battles as family members fight for what they perceive as their fair share.

“A lack of a will for any individual increases the conflict and increases the cost,” Scroggin said.

Mistake #2: Not having a current will

Signing a will is the beginning of the process, not the end, Scroggin said. Regularly update estate planning documents and beneficiaries as your financial and personal situation changes.

He points to the estate of singer Barry White, who was separated but not divorced from his second wife at the time of his death. His wife got everything, Scroggin said, while White’s live-in girlfriend of several years got nothing.

Mistake #3: Not planning for taxes

Even if your wealth falls under the federal estate tax threshold — in 2016, up to $5.45 million per person is exempt — it may be subject to state estate taxes, which often have lower caps.

Poor planning could force your heirs to sell valuable or sentimental items because they don’t have the liquid assets to pay those taxes, said Scroggin. He used the example of Joe Robbie’s family, which sold its stake in the Miami Dolphins and Joe Robbie Stadium to pay estate taxes. 
Mistake #4: Not mentioning for personal property

Robin Williams’s family has engaged in a legal battle over the late actor’s film memorabilia, Scroggin said, while Martin Luther King Jr.’s children fought over his Bible and Nobel medal.

Individuals often fail to account for personal property in their estate planning, which can generate plenty of fights (legal and otherwise) over the future of family heirlooms, collectibles and other items of sentimental value.

Even when such items are mentioned, Scroggin said, it can be difficult for heirs to prove provenance if another party disputes the claim — that this is mom’s vase, for example, and not a newer one the deceased gifted to his second wife.

Scroggin also had some advice on this point for clients untangling the estate of someone recently deceased: “Change the friggin’ locks.”

It’s not unusual for family, friends and neighbors to help themselves to items they say the deceased told them they could have, he said.”

For more information about estate planning and how to get your affairs in order, check out our website www.diesmart.com.

Can it happen here?

thDN8XDHBYA recent story from the United Kingdom talked about the rise of family feuds related to inheritance.  The number of cases – 116 – reaching the High Court in 2015 broke all past records.

According to a British law firm, the rise in cases is due to the “intricacies of modern family life and rising property prices.”  This increased complexity means that there is a larger pool of potential claimants for every estate.  There is a big risk that someone will feel left out and bring a claim.

In addition, people living together outside of marriage may be left out in the cold if their significant other dies without a will.  The estate will most likely go to their blood relatives, not to their partner.  A claim might be the only way to possibly address this issue.

Furthermore, people may marry more than once and if there are children or stepchildren involved, there’s a good chance that someone will feel wronged.  A spouse may intend for their own blood children to inherit their assets, but they die first and, eventually, everything goes to surviving spouse’s children.  The blood children of the first to go spouse get nothing.

One famous British case involved an estranged daughter who successfully battled her mother’s decision to leave money to animal charities.  In the end, she received about one third of her mother’s estate.

Can this type of inheritance feud happen in the United States?  Absolutely.  If you don’t want it to happen to you or your loved ones, make sure you have a will and have clearly, legally documented your wishes while you’re still alive to do so.

For more information about planning for the end of your life, check out our website www.diesmart.com.

 

Does anybody want your parents’ stuff?

thN5NI330OWhen my father died (my mother had predeceased him), I was charged with cleaning out his condo.  There were all sorts of things stuffed in drawers and closets that I’m sure had value…but I didn’t want.  Ditto for my brother.  There was also a lot of antique furniture – probably worth some money but definitely not fitted to our life styles.  Dad never asked if we wanted him to save all of those “heirlooms” for us.  He just did.  It took weeks before I was able to dispose of everything.

I read a blog by Richard Eisenberg – Next Avenue Blogger - a few days ago that really hit home and wished I had read it before dad died.  It could have saved me a lot of difficulty and anguish.  I’m reprinting it here in its entirety in the hope that it may help someone else.

“Sometimes, if you’re a lucky journalist, something you write strikes a chord. I’m grateful to say that just happened with my Next Avenue blog post, “Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff,” about challenges boomers and Gen X’ers are facing finding homes for their late parents’ heirlooms (as I experienced after my father died last fall).

This post about a heartbreaking, pervasive problem struck a minor chord in a major way: It was the most viewed article in Next Avenue’s history, garnering more than 1.5 million views, 32,000 Facebook shares and 5,500 comments, and was printed over 3,100 times.

I want to share some of the poignant, funny, helpful and angry comments Next Avenue received (shortened for brevity in some instances), as well as a few suggestions readers offered for selling, donating or passing on parents’ possessions.

The Facebook comments mostly fell into one of five camps: “I so relate,” “This is so sad and difficult,” “I feel guilty about what I had to do,” “I won’t let this happen to my kids” and “You’re wrong! People want  these possessions.” A few plaintively seemed to ask if anyone wanted the particular items they needed to unload. For instance, Nina Mizrahi posted: Does anyone know of folks who collect old crystal set “radios?” Model Steam engines? Colleen Ferguson queried: Anyone want a 1980s soft-sided waterbed?

We will not leave a mountain of stuff for our daughter to deal with. Period.

— Deborah Laister Wagge

I So Relate

Many people said things like “This is spot on!” and “Living it.” Others, like these, got personal:

Merilee Campbell Bridgeman: My children have already told me they don’t want any of our antiques because they don’t care for ‘brown furniture.’ Drives me crazy that they prefer cheap furniture made of pressed sawdust and glue, but what’s a mom to do?

Julie Cranford: That’s why my mother’s beautiful and very valuable antique furniture is still in storage. Unfortunately, I brought home my mother’s, grandmother’s and even great grandmother’s silver, china and glassware. With three boys, I’m sure it will all end up in a dump somewhere.

Annice Laws: My mother… amassed an unbelievable amount of stuff over her lifetime and always preached to me the “value” of this or that…. Well, I’ve learned that nothing is worth anything if no one wants it. My siblings and I kept the select items we were personally interested in, and for the rest of it I’ve held yard sales, put things on consignment, gone to pawn shops, posted on Craigslist and eBay, so on and so forth, but have never made more than a few dollars. I couldn’t even find buyers for her genuine gold and gem stone jewelry and had to liquidate it for pennies at one of those “we buy gold” places. I still have a storage unit full of stuff 20 years after her death because in her memory I can’t bring myself to just give it away.

This Is So Sad and Difficult

Connie Guerrera Maida: Purging my parent’s home of all their possessions was the most daunting task I ever had to do!!

Amy Kelley Warth: It is so overwhelming. Piles and piles of boxes in our basement that are completely random/disorganized… But 95 percent of it is “junk” — nobody wants it. So frustrating and stressful…Just when we got our house settled and had a minimalist lifestyle we were comfortable with, we inherited all this STUFF!

Ellen Schrader Stutts: Just went through this with my 91-year-old mother’s things. Gorgeous refinished furniture that went for fire sale prices at an estate sale… We ended up donating truckloads of stuff to the local shelter and thrift store. Heartbreaking.

Craig Unruh:. I know of three old men who were liquidating their collections and were sadly disappointed in the lack of interest. They collected French Art Posters, Royal Doulton Jugs, and rare Lladros. All their lives they saw the value of these things go up and up, and figured they were building an inflation-proof collection. So did a lot of other collectors of this stuff, but they all need to sell around the same time and not nearly as many buyers as there used to be.

Amy Stoopack Zipkin: In my experience, good luck involving a parent while they are still alive. Perhaps more productive to confer with sibling(s) to begin to establish realistic expectations for the inheritance.

Sofia Dakos: I am afraid we will destroy MANY items that will be sought after in future years and we will be moaning “why did I ever get rid of …”

Nancy Shire: What do you do with the hundreds of pictures of the grandkids taken when they were babies, of which there are probably dozens of duplicates? Who wants my Santa Claus collection? What about all the books? What about my daughter’s Girl Scout awards and sash — how can I throw them away? I guess they’ll all have the joy of plowing through everything when the time comes.

Soosi Day: In the future there will be no personal history … only ‘in the moment’ … no graves, no personal letters, no hard copies of long-lasting photographs, no heirlooms …. no footprints in the sand.

Marie Stout Newlin: It’s a good thing our deceased loved ones can’t see what’s happening to their prized possessions. Many of them struggled through financial woes and “made do” during hard times. To see their things pitched and tossed would be heartbreaking for them.

I Feel Guilty About What I Had to Do

Darlene Davies: My mother made me promise to never get rid of certain items so now they sit in the basement because I would feel guilty selling or giving them away.

Donna Reis: My mother was a serious collector of imported English Victorian antique furniture and spent her weekends throughout my life polishing it to an inch of its life … I cried when her table and chairs were loaded onto a trailer- I hated them but I loved them as well!

I Won’t Let This Happen to My Kids

Cindy Farnsworth Munoz: After having to get rid of my parents “stuff” twice when I lived in another state, I am more determined than ever not to leave that job for my daughter. I live minimally and continually purge. Something new comes in the house, something old goes out … Then when it’s me, her job won’t be insurmountable.

Michelle Rafter: We’ve been through this twice in five years, first when my in-laws moved into assisted living and last spring when my parents downsized … The process made me more diligent about cleaning out cupboards and drawers of my own house so my kids don’t have to.

James Massey: Just went through this for a lifelong friend. It was an ordeal to say the least… The experience impressed me enough to go through my own mess and rid the house of all the needless junk, and donate all (or most) of the items I hadn’t used for a year or more … Though, I couldn’t part with more than 10 or so of my books. Sorry kids… you’ll have to disperse them amongst yourselves after I’m gone. Or better yet, read some of them…

Deborah Laister Wagge: My husband and I recently moved to a new city to be close to grandchildren. I purged like crazy before the move. We will not leave a mountain of stuff for our daughter to deal with. Period.

You’re Wrong! People Want These Possessions

Jan Snodgrass: Not true. There is a big market for antiques!

Arlene Toolas-Villeneuve: I have to say, this has not been my experience at all. Ever had a garage sale? It all gets bought up.

Marcia Vande Vusse: The crochet hook my midwife, Irish immigrant great grandmother brought with her from her Irish home … went to my granddaughter age 15 who loves to crochet … count the generations … six and it is cherished again.

Tracy Fennell Sault: I’ve been working in a secondhand store the last two years. I’ve seen Millennials come in searching for retro or vintage furniture. Last fall I had a couple from Ohio come in looking for a sled like the one in Citizen Kane (Rosebud). Generations are looking for ways to reconnect.

Patricia Kane Bahr: I’m part of a vintage group on FB [Facebook] and lots of people love old furniture. They usually paint it and the results are gorgeous and trendy right now.

Bj Shelby: I believe it is the responsibility of the living to “proudly” dispose of their family members’ accrued stuff … Articles like this one are tagging The Parents’ stuff as a problem. SHAME!!

Brigette Cook Jones: I guess I must be the “Nobody” — I love antiques, old books and other older pieces. Most of these things are made better, and will hold up longer, than any of the IKEA crap that a young Millennial may be buying. If I can get it inexpensive, you will bet that I would buy a nice antique over some particleboard piece!

Danielle Hatfield: We DO want these items (Gen X here) but all too often the (boomer) family members in charge of taking care of our elders toss treasured items to the curb because *they* don’t want them or want to be bothered with distribution.

Pat Kohlenberger Ingham: So not true. I loved going through my parents stuff and my grandparents stuff! Found $600+ in silver coins in a suitcase, letters, diaries, pictures, memories, vintage clothes, etc. Sure there were rubber band collections, a lot of 1-inch long pencils, etc. But man, the memories!

Advice for Others With Their Parents’ Stuff

In addition to the tips below from Facebook posters, I heard from three professionals in fields related to this subject.

Ian Hammond, a Portland, Maine assistant manager at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, a nonprofit store and donation center, noted that ReStores accept donations of furniture and many other home furnishings and many offer pickup, usually at no cost.

Barry Gordon, founder of an online auction platform called MaxSold, told me his company comes to a person’s home, photographs and catalogs what’s available to sell and offers everything online through an auction, marketed to local prospects. “Ninety-eight percent of everything we offer is bought, picked up and taken away,” said MaxSold CEO Sushee Perumal. The company charges $10 per lot with a maximum 30 percent commission and a minimum fee of $1,000 ($300 minimum if you do the photography and cataloging). “We’re not the best option for someone with one or three things, but if you have 35 to hundreds of items, we’re a very good fit,” said Gordon.

Pam Pacelli Cooper, president of Verissima Productions, which creates video biographies to “preserve emotional memories for future generations,” recommends asking your parents to tell you about the personal significance of their possessions. “It is always a surprise — the worthless old rubber bathing cap elicits a vibrant story about visits to the local beach as a teenager and the lifelong friendships that were formed there.” Cooper adds: “Even subjects in the early and middle stages of dementia can remember long-forgotten stories, brought into focus by holding an object or looking at a photograph.”

And some advice from readers:

Beth Shanna Carpenter: My grandparents resell china and crystal professionally. Always check with Replacements, Ltd. — they adjust their rates based on what people are looking for.

Cynthia Broze: My family had large Christmas gatherings every year at my grandparents house. My grandmother used her china, that she saved hard for, at these gatherings. When she died she left it to me and I kept it for 30 years … I emailed to all nieces, her great grandkids, cousins, etc., saying … Hey remember that china? I split it up between many who were happy to take a plate, cup or setting.

Susan Millikin Gorman: We need to teach our children when they are small, what good furniture is. What will last. I took my daughter to a Cherry furniture factory at age 10. She was shown what to look for when buying furniture.

Julie Popovic: Please call your locally owned antique shops or vintage stores first. Small businesses like these often will come in and buy many things you think are worthless.

Diane DiVittorio Strauss: When my mom moved out of her large house into an apartment, I made a quick FREE sign with a board, a pole and stick-on letters. I posted it outside near the road and every day I put a small pile of things that normally would have been discarded. It was so much fun to stand by the window and watch neighbors and passersby “go shopping” in our free pile! Young families took our scrap lumber, guys in pickup trucks took the ladders and handcarts, all the gardening supplies were scooped up, etc, etc. This was much better than hauling it all to the dump.

Marleen Allen Varner: In some communities there are organizations which can use some furniture when setting up homes for formerly homeless folks.

Teresa Rogers: If your family has war letters in its possession, you should consider donating them to the Center for American War Letters at Chapman University, rather than tossing them out.

Does Our Stuff Really Matter?

And I’d like to finish with two comments I especially enjoyed:

Barb Ebert: It doesn’t bother me that my girls are not interested in our stuff. It’s just stuff, really.

Veronica Villano: Personally when I die if someone enjoys something of mine great but it’s not me!! Do whatever you want with my stuff after I die but keep a good memory of me in your heart!!”

For more information about end of life planning, check out our website http://www.diesmart.com.

Ever heard of Charles Millar’s birth derby?

stork-derby-16by9-01Charles Vance Millar, a wealthy Canadian lawyer was known for his practical jokes.  But his biggest prank of all was the one he left in his last will and testament.  When his will was read after he died on October 31, 1926, it was revealed that he had made several unusual bequests.

Millar had no close relatives or heirs but he did have a great deal of cash and properties.  He gave shares in a jockey club to gambling opponents and shares in a brewery to teetotalling religious leaders.  He left his house in Jamaica to three men who hated one another, on the condition that they would own it together.

But his most unusual bequest was made for the balance of his estate – approximately $9 million (in today’s Canadian dollars).  The remainder would be bequeathed a decade later “to the mother who has since my death given birth in Toronto to the greatest number of children as shown by the registrations under the Vital Statistics Act.”  If there was a tie, he wanted his fortune to be divided equally among the winners.

It’s not known how many families decided to try to win this prize.  However, by the deadline in 1936, more than 24 Toronto families had had at least eight babies during the ten year period.

“Ten years after Millar’s death, 32 lawyers showed up to an initial hearing to claim a share of the fortune for the families they represented.  After some quick record scanning, though, the presiding judge, William Middleton, cleared out everyone who didn’t have at least nine kids younger than 10.  That left six families.”

Two of those families settled for about $200,000 each.  Pauline Clark had 10 children during the specified time; however, five were born out of wedlock.  The judge interpreted the bequest to mean “legitimate children”.  Lillian Kenny gave birth to 11 children but three of them were stillborn.  The judge said “A child born dead is not in truth a child.”  Hence the reduced settlement.

Four other families with nine children each – the Timlecks (see photo above), the Nagles, the Smith and the MacLeans – were each awarded the equivalent of about $2 million!

This bequest is probably a lot more unusual than anything you will put in your will.  However, whatever you want to do with your money once your deceased should be well documented so that your wishes will be carried out.

For more information about wills and trusts, check out our website http://www.diesmart.com.