Tag Archives: Living Will

What is the most important part of estate planning?

When you do your estate planning, you probably think the most important part of this planning is your Living Will or your Last Will and Testament.  They are very important but they are not the most important thing.

I recently read an article by Julie Garber on about.com and she said the most important part is to select the right person to do each of the jobs your estate plan will require.”  After thinking about it, I agree.

When selecting a person to be your healthcare agent or guardian for your minor children or personal representative, be sure that this is a person who has your best interests at heart.  Also, verify that this person has the time as well as the skills to perform the needed tasks.  And, finally, select someone who you think can make wise decisions.

If you have name someone who declines to accept this position, and the backup person you’ve named also declines, a judge will make all of the decisions for you and your family or will find someone who is willing to do so; this person may not be someone you would have chosen and may not do things the way you would have wanted them done.

Think about it carefully and choose wisely.

For more information about estate planning, 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.

25 Documents You Need Before You Die

Recently, the Wall Street Journal weekend edition had a very interesting article titled “25 Documents You Need Before You Die.”

Basically, it says that you should make sure that the originals of all of your valuable papers are put somewhere safe and that a loved one knows where that safe place is. Otherwise, when you become incapacitated or after you die there may be a great deal of frustration and unnecessary work as your heir or estate representative tries to figure out what you’ve done and how to prove it.

Check out this article and also check out Die Smart for more information on what to do.

National Healthcare Decisions Day – April 16, 2011

National, state and local organizations have joined together to ensure that all adults have the opportunity to communicate and document their healthcare decisions. Too often, someone’s wishes are not known and steps are taken during a critical medical situation that he or she would not have wanted.

Have you done any advance healthcare planning? Do you even know what your choices are? Have you prepared an advance healthcare directive and shared its contents with your loved ones?

The objectives of the National Healthcare Decisions Day are to provide information to the public and improve the ability of healthcare facilities and providers to offer guidance about advance healthcare planning to their patients.

Don’t force your family to make end of life decisions for you. Tell them what you want and confirm your choices in writing with a living will or other advance directive document. Make April 16th the day you have a discussion with your family, convey your wishes and sign the necessary paperwork.

For further information, go to http://diesmart.com/elder-law/living-wills/ or http://diesmart.com/elder-law/health-care-power-of-attorney/ or http://diesmart.com/elder-law/other-advanced-health-care-directives/

Plan for Old Age

Planning makes many things possible....

Planning makes many things possible....

WHY IS PLANNING FOR OLD AGE IMPORTANT?

Consider the following facts contained in a government study called “The Dilemma of An Aging Society.”

In 1900, the usual place of death was at home; in 2000, it was in the hospital.

In 1900, most people died in accidents or as a result of acute infections and they rarely endured long periods of disability.  In 2000, people spent, on average, two years severely disabled on the way to death.  Acute causes of death (such as pneumonia, influenza and septicemia) are in decline, whereas deaths from age-related, chronic, degenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and emphysema) are on the rise.

A 2006 Rand study funded by the government tried to envision the future needs of elderly people who are terminally ill and classified them into four groups:

  • The first group will die after a short period of sharp decline.  This is the typical course of death from cancer. Roughly 20 percent of all deaths are of this type.  This type of death peaks around the age of 65.
  • The second group will die following several years of increasing physical limitations, punctuated by intermittent acute life-threatening episodes.  This is the typical course of death from chronic cardiac or respiratory failure. Roughly 20 percent of all deaths are of this type.  This type of death peaks around the age of 75.
  • The third – and largest – group will only die after prolonged dwindling, usually lasting many years.  This is the typical course of death from dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease) and disabling stroke.  The trajectory towards death is gradual but unrelenting, with steady decline, enfeeblement and growing dependency, often lasting a decade or longer.  Roughly 40 percent of all deaths are projected to be of this type.  If you live past the age of 75, it is common for someone to die from dementia or a disabling stroke.
  • The other 20 percent will die as a result of some sudden and acute event, like an accident.

These statistics are astonishing.  Eighty percent of us need to make planning for incapacity from both a legal and a financial perspective just as important as planning for death.

Elder Law

Planning for old age is about “Elder Law.”  Elder law is a term describing a set of legal and financial rules and practices we will encounter as we grow old, or as our parents grow old.  In fact, many of the topics considered to be “elder law” relate to anyone who becomes unable to manage their financial affairs or make their own health care choices, no matter whether they are young or old.

Advance Directives

Planning for old age involves the creation of various legal documents referred to as advance directives.   If your mental capacity becomes compromised as you age, or if you suffer an unexpected accident or illness, your spouse or your children may need to help manage your finances or your health care.  Sounds simple.  It’s not.

The fact is incapacity, like dying, is an event in your life where laws decide who has the authority to manage your affairs for you when you can’t.  These are the laws your family, physicians and friends will be required to follow if you become unable to make decisions on your own behalf.   Your family will find they need multiple documents signed by you to act on your behalf, each one serving a different purposes.

Long Term Care

Planning for old age also requires an understanding of what long term care will cost and how your and your family will pay for long term care if it becomes necessary.   According to the Congressional Budget office, the U.S. will spend $393 billion in 2008 for long term care, not including unpaid services provided by famiy and friends.

Many older people and their children are surprised to find they have no personal insurance to cover the cost of long term care.

If the only insurance you have is Medicare and Medigap, the cost of long term care must be paid from your personal assets unless you have Long Term Care Insurance.

These resources are useful when planning for old age:

FACT : Incapacity can happen to any one
Although planning for death is important, planning for mental or physical incapacity is just as important.  A recent government study stated “eighty percent of people over the age of 65 will spend one to ten years under the care of a caregiver”.  In less than two decades it is expected that some 30 million people will suffer from some form of dementia.  If this happens to you, someone must manage your health care and your money.

Planning is not just for the elderly.  Terri Schiavo was 26 years old when she had a heart attack and slipped into a “permanent vegetative” condition.  She then lived for fourteen years until she was allowed to die following enormous expenses to her family while incapacitated.