Tag Archives: Living Trust

Why you need a living will & healthcare power of attorney

terri schiavo

Most people don’t like to think about what will happen if they’re in an accident or come down with a catastrophic illness.  They don’t decide who they want to speak for them if they are unable to communicate their wishes themselves.  They don’t tell anyone what kind of care they want….or don’t want.  Once they are hurt or incapacitated, it may be too late.

These are three reasons why you need a living will and a healthcare power of attorney:

1) You name the person you want to speak for you when you can’t.  It should be someone  you trust to make decisions on your behalf and to carry out your wishes.

2) You decide whether you want heroic measures performed to prolong your life if there’s no chance of recovery.

3) You outline the type of treatment you want to receive.

If you don’t have these documents, a relative you don’t know very well and don’t trust or possibly the courts will speak for you and decide what will happen.

For example, they may decide to put you on life support and prolong your life even though there is no chance of recovery and you may not have wanted heroic measures.  They may choose to perform a surgical procedure that you don’t want or they may decide to do something that is against your religious beliefs.

A living will enables you to describe the kind of care you want.

A healthcare power of attorney (It may be called something else in your state or it may be combined with a living will) allows you to name the person you want to be your healthcare agent who can speak for you when you can’t.

Unfortunately, a life threatening accident or a catastrophic illness can occur at any time.  There’s no age that is exempt.  Think of Terri Schiavo.  She was a 26 year-old that had a tragic fall, went into a coma and remained alive, hooked up to a feeding tube, in a vegetative state for more than 15 years because her husband and her parents couldn’t agree on her treatment and she hadn’t legally stated her wishes.

Don’t let others decide for you.  If you don’t have a living will and a healthcare power of attorney, get them drawn up right away so your wishes will be carried out and you will be able to speak for yourself….even when you really can’t.

For more information on this important subject, go to www.diesmart.com.

Bad mistake made by heiress Huguette Clark

Huguette Clark was an heiress who died in 2011 at age 104.  She left behind a $300 million estate.  The bulk of the money was inherited from her father, a copper tycoon in Montana.   She owned a 23-acre estate near Santa Barbara valued at $100 million, a $24 million house in Connecticut and a $100 million coop on Fifth Ave. in New York.  She was a painter and a collector of rare French and Japanese dolls.  She had no children, no close relatives and only limited contact with any of her distant relations.

She spent the last 20 years of her life living at Beth Israel Medical Center as a recluse, closer to her doctors and nurses than any family.

When she died, the only people who attended her burial were funeral home employees.

What did she do wrong?  She left behind two wills, written just six weeks apart.

The first one left  $5 million to her nurses and the balance of the estate to her distant relatives, even though 14 of the 19 involved said that they had never even met Huguette.

The second will left nothing to the relatives.  It specifically said” I intentionally make no provision…for  any members of my family…having had minimal contact with them over the years.”  Instead, charities are the largest beneficiaries, receiving over 80% of the estate.  Also named was her registered nurse, Hadassah Peri, who would receive $15.3 million after taxes, and a goddaughter who would get $7.9 million.  Lesser beneficiaries included Beth Israel Medical Center, her attorney, her personal assistant, her accountant, property managers and one of her doctors.

In addition to what she was given in the will, her registered nurse received more than $31 million in gifts before Clark died and the estate administrator is asking that the $31 million be returned to the estate.

Family members are claiming that the second will was written under duress when she was mentally ill and incompetent and the victim of fraud by her nurse, attorney and accountant.

Negotiations have been going on for a few years, with 60 attorneys involved in the case.  However, the chance of a settlement is not certain and a jury trial is scheduled to begin in Surrogate’s Court in Manhattan on September 17th.

Huguette Clark should have had better legal counsel when she decided what to do with her sizeable estate.  She should have prepared a trust, including directions on who had the right to make decisions on her behalf when she was unable to do so.  And she probably should have destroyed the first will.

It will be interesting to see what the probate court decides if a settled hasn’t been reached prior to September 17th.

For more information about Hugette Clark and her reclusive life, look for a book being released on September 10th titled “Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune.”

To learn more about how to plan for the end of your life, go to www.diesmart.com.

Authentic document

An authentic document is one that you state considers to be a legal representation of your wishes.

A Last Will and Testament

  • If you have a will, most states require your estate representative to file the original copy with the probate court.
  • If the original copy cannot be found, some states will consider you to have died intestate.

A Living Trust

  • If you have a living trust, copies of your living trust are considered authentic, binding documents.

Inheritance control

Your will and your trust are both important in determining what will happen to your assets after your death and the death of your beneficiaries.

A last will and testament

When you die:

  • A will generally describes who inherits certain assets after your death.
  • If you leave property outright to someone in a will, they become the owners at the conclusion of probate .
  • The executor may not be able to take control of probate assets without approval of the probate court, which may take some period of time.
  • The intended time frame of probate is actually as short as possible; the process is not intended to allow an executor to spend years managing the assets in the estate.

When your beneficiary dies:

  • When your beneficiary dies, their will or state intestate succession rules determine who will inherit the property you gave them, assuming they have not transferred or sold it prior to that time.

A living trust or a testamentary trust

When you die:

  • A trust can include instructions giving someone the right to income and the use of the property during their lifetime.
  • A trust agreement may include elaborate directions regarding the management of certain trust assets and may contemplate an administration that lasts a very long time.
    A trustee can take immediate control of trust assets.

When a beneficiary dies:

Your trust can leave instructions on who has the right to income and the use of the property when the first beneficiary dies.  There are many situations in which you may want to control the second instance of inheritance:

  • You want to provide your children with income but you want the assets to go to your grandchildren.  If your children marry, your grandchildren’s inheritance cannot be je0pardized by a possible divorce.
  • You have been married before.  You want to provide income for your surviving spouse but also want to be sure your children from your prior marriage inherit some portion of your assets when your surviving spouse dies.
  • You want to be sure your children inherit your separate assets if you die first, eliminating the opportunity for a spouse or step children to claim rights to your separate property.
  • You have minor or disabled children and you want to  provide for their support and choose when or if they inherit the principal.



A will is a written document, signed by the author and witnesses, that meet the requirements of the state in which the author resides.

  • The author can document the beneficiaries whom he or she wants to get his probate estate.
  • The author can designate a personal representative to administer the estate and follow out the author’s wishes.
  • In many states, parents must name a guardian of minor children in a Last Will and Testament.
  • The author can request the probate court waive the requirement for a surety bond for his or her estate representative.
  • The author can include instructions to set up a testamentary trust to manage beneficiary assets rather than giving assets directly to the beneficiary.

Wills usually require a probate process assuring the instructions in the will are carried.

Q.   How does the probate court determine the will is authentic?

A.  In many states, the estate representative must be able to show the original will.   If the original will cannot be found, some states will consider the author to have die intestate.

Some states require the witnesses who originally signed the will to attest they watched the author sign the Last Will and Testament.


Q. What is the difference between a Will and a Trust?

A. Both a Will and a Trust allow you to name someone to manage and distribute your property to your beneficaries when you die.     You can find out the difference here.


Q.   How do you make a Last Will and Testament?

A.   You can visit an attorney who specializes in estate planning.   Some people prefer to do it themself and use web-based or PC-based software to create their last will and testament.