Tag Archives: will

How do you have that difficult discussion about what’s in your will?

last-willThe information in this article so important that we’re copying it verbatim from a Yahoo news story.

Remember, if you die without a will, the state will determine who inherits.

People make a lot of excuses to put off planning for the inevitable. You may be fearful about your own mortality, or think you don’t have enough assets to need an estate plan — or perhaps you just think that things will change so much before your death that you and your spouse can delay making a plan.

But dying without a will or more extensive plan only brings further grief to your family. “You leave heirs in a lurch and risk changing the family dynamic” — and not for the better, says Anchorage, Alaska, financial planner Michael Branham.

Do I Need a Will?

If you want to plan out where your things go after you die, a will is probably a good idea.

Without a will, decisions about who will administer your estate, who will be the guardian of your minor children and who will inherit your money fall to a local probate court, which is bound by state laws, says Cincinnati estate planning attorney David Bross. Start now by talking to your spouse about your intentions.

PREP WORK

It’s impossible to have a detailed conversation about bequeathing assets before you’ve itemized all the property you possess as a couple. “In many houses, one person takes the reins as the family CFO and the other partner is less informed or engaged with the financial picture,” says Raleigh, N.C., financial planner Mike Palmer. “But both spouses need to have familiarity.” Make a list of each of your investment, retirement and savings accounts, as well as all property and other goods like art or collectibles. (For the latter, you may need to bring in an appraiser to help you understand which pieces have monetary value.)

Next, learn which of those assets fall outside the scope of a will. Typically, this includes anything payable to a named beneficiary — such as a life insurance policy, 401(k) account, or IRA balance — as well as assets held jointly. You need to assign beneficiaries for as many accounts as possible, even before putting together the actual will. It’s worth revisiting beneficiary assignments, too, especially for older accounts — you don’t want your ex-spouse to get your 401(k) just because you forgot to change the designation.

OPENING LINE: “I saw what happened to Jill’s family when she died without a will, and I don’t want our kids to go through the same thing.”

Use a friend’s or even a celebrity’s passing without a will to ease into the conversation while providing some emotional distance. Talking about your own or your spouse’s death is hard, so stay focused on the reason you’re really discussing this: your loved ones.

Decide whom you want to include as an heir. Remember, if you die without a will, the state will determine who inherits — likely your spouse or kids. If you want friends, a pet, more distant relations, or a charity to receive part of your estate, you’ll need to clearly spell that out.

Estate Planning

If you have minor children, your estate planning conversation should also include a discussion of who’ll care for them. Then think about whom you trust to carry out your wishes. A will requires that you name an executor, someone who will be in charge of collecting the estate’s assets, inventorying the property, paying claims against the estate (including taxes), and distributing assets to beneficiaries. The job should go to a financially responsible relative or close friend, or a financial institution.

TALKING POINTS: “Kara is old enough to support herself, but what about Jason? Who would look after him if something happens to us in the next five years?”

For couples with young children, the biggest challenge is often assigning custody of the kids, says Bross. “You have two families coming together and two spouses who may have very different ideas about who would be best,” he says. Factor in not only the personal bond between the child and potential guardian, but this person’s location, other dependents (their own children, or an aging parent), age, and other financial obligations. Even if you disagree, there’s strong incentive to come to a decision: If you don’t make a selection, the court will make its own choice.

One couple took four months to decide between their siblings, Bross recalls, ultimately deciding that the sibling who had no children would be in a better position to care for their kids. Don’t make a choice before talking with any potential guardians about their willingness and any concerns you have.

“I don’t feel comfortable letting the children get their inheritance all at once. They are still so young — if they get a bunch of money at 18, who knows what they’ll spend it on?”

Particularly if your kids are still young, think about how you want them to receive their inheritance. Unless you set up a trust to outline who will receive how much property (and under what circumstances), minor children will get a share of the assets for care through the probate court, even with a will, and at 18 receive the remainder, says Bross. Heirs over the age of 18 simply get their inheritance all at once.

If you want to influence either the timing of the inheritance or the way it gets spent, you’ll need to use a trust. Two common kinds are incentive trusts — which might say, for instance, that an heir must earn a degree or pass a drug test before inheriting — or staggered trusts, which let your estate be paid out over a certain time span. Such arrangements can ease concern about young or reckless heirs.

“I know we always talked about splitting the money evenly between the kids, but what if one of them is earning a lot more than the other?”

Deciding how much money should go to each of your heirs can be one of the biggest issues for families, says Seattle financial planner Stacy Gallagher Ployhar. “You need to consider, if the distribution of assets is not equal among the children, how is that compensated for?” she says.

Among the issues to discuss: Did you make a generous gift to one child — say, for a home purchase or advanced degree — that the others didn’t receive? If you have a blended family with “yours, mine, and ours” kids, will biological and stepchildren get treated differently? Families that have a low-earning child and a high-earning one sometimes want to divide assets differently because they believe one needs the support more than the other. “Everyone’s default when planning is to treat heirs equally — but fair isn’t always equal,” says Palmer.

Ultimately, you don’t want heirs to feel hurt or confused by the size of their inheritance. If you are having difficulty agreeing on a plan for the division, consider speaking with your heirs directly about what fair would look like to them. You don’t have to abide by their wishes, of course, but their input could help you and your spouse find common ground.

NEXT STEPS

Once the two of you have agreed to a plan, hire a lawyer to execute it. A will drafted by an attorney averages about $375, according to LegalZoom. Need help finding an attorney? Many bar associations offer lawyer referral services, in which participating lawyers agree to provide half-hour consultations for less than $50.

This is also a good time to put two other estate planning documents in place: a health care proxy, a living will, and a durable power of attorney for finances.

Call a family meeting and tell your children about your general estate plan. You don’t need to spell out how much they’ll inherit or read them a copy, but you should talk about big decisions you’ve made — for instance, if you’re not splitting assets equally among your children, or giving a large portion to charity. “Having this conversation will give you confidence, says Cincinnati financial planner David Nienaber. “People are afraid to tell heirs for fear they will piss someone off, but people are more upset when you die and they’re left to figure out with their siblings why you did what you did.”

ONE FAMILY’S SOLUTION

“I had a client tell me once (without his wife present) that he didn’t want “six-pack abs man” spending his money,” says Palmer. The client was worried that if the estate went outright to the wife, then she could leave it all to someone besides their daughter — and that if his wife remarried, her new spouse would get all the money. “Eventually I was able to get him to share that concern openly with his wife and we addressed that in his estate plan by placing the assets in a trust for their daughter,” Palmer continues. “The wife was unhappy at first that her spouse didn’t seem to trust her, but after listening to his concerns and the benefits of a trust, she decided to go along with the plan because ultimately the two wanted the same thing: their daughter to be the heir.”

This story was originally seen on money.com: Half of Americans Don’t Have a Will. Here’s How to Fix That for Your Family

For more information about estate planning and writing a will, go to www.diesmart.com.

Do I Really Need a Will?

last-willYes, you do.  A will is a legal document which ensures that your property is transferred according to your wishes after your death.

If you don’t have a will, here are five things that can happen.  We found this list at nerdwallet.com.

  • Spendthrift heirs – If you have heirs who aren’t equipped to handle a large sum of money, receiving it may cause damage.  Perhaps these heirs are bad at handling money or, maybe, they’re drug or alcohol addicts.
  • Unexpected or contested heirs –  There may be confusion about who the beneficiaries really are.  Sonny Bono, musician and politician, died without a will.  His ex-wife, Cher, and a man who said he was Bono’s son tried to claim part of his estate, which his wife, Mary, contested in court.  Prince’s estate is another classic example.  Many people came out of the woodwork claiming to be relatives, entitled to a piece of his assets.
  • Property (and probate) in multiple states – If you own property in more than one state, your estate will have to go thru the probate process more than one.  Probate is a costly and timely process, even if you just go through it once.  Image if you own property in four states and your heirs have to hire four attorneys and go through the whole process four times.
  • Fabricated wills – If you don’t have a real will in place, it’s possible for someone to create a fake one – especially if your estate is large.  A famous case involved the estate of tycoon Howard Hughes.  When he died, several supposed wills surfaced, and his estate spent millions of dollars defending against the false documents.
  • Beneficiaries don’t like the court appointed executor – If there’s no will, the probate court will appoint one.  It may likely be an experienced attorney but not necessarily one the family knows.  It may take a great deal of time for this person to take inventory, appraise assets and distribute the estate.  If you have a will and name a family member as executor, that person will usually do a much faster job, possibly because that person is also a beneficiary.

If you don’t have a will, you should prepare one now.  Otherwise, your assets may not be distributed the way you want them to and a lot of extra money will go to attorneys and the probate court and not to your heirs.

For more information about wills, trusts and other estate planning documents, go to www.diesmart.com.

Do celebrities make money after they die?

michael jackson

In one word “yes”.  Following is the article recently released by Forbes that lists the highest paid celebrities who died this year.

While the Pearly Gates seemed to welcome an unusual amount of celebrities in the past year (David Bowie, Prince and Arnold Palmer, to name just three), the long-departed King of Pop had the time of his afterlife.

The March sale of Michael Jackson’s half of the Sony/ATV music publishing catalog, famous for its library of Beatles tunes, for $750 million puts him at the top of our annual ranking of the top-earning dead celebrities, an ironic finish given that many critics and even advisors once derided the catalog as a badly overpriced investment. Jackson’s total pretax payday of $825 million ranks as the biggest annual haul by any celeb dead or alive.

“He was always doing stuff that was the best, the greatest, the biggest,” says Jeff Jampol, who manages the estates of Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and others. “That was a big fight when he wanted to buy that catalog … it turned out to be one of the greatest investments ever.”

In 1985, Jackson paid $47.5 million ($140 million in 2016 dollars) to buy the Beatles-packed ATV publishing catalog. Ten years later, Sony paid him $115 million to form a 50/50 joint venture, then purchased his remaining half in March. In all, the sales (and accompanying distributions) gave Jackson’s estate, which is overseen by lawyer John Branca and music exec John McClain, a 30% annualized return on investment.

Peanuts creator Charles Schulz claims the second spot with $48 million. The cartoonist died of colon cancer 16 years ago, but lives on through the franchise—and its licensing revenue, boosted by last year’s well-received 3-D Peanuts movie. Golf legend Arnold Palmer rounds out the top three with earnings of $40 million, most of which was accumulated in the mortal realm, as he passed away just days before our cutoff.

Our set of 13 Halloween-spooky estimates are for pretax income from October 1, 2015, through October 1, 2016, before deducting expenses for agents, managers and lawyers. Sources include Nielsen SoundScan, Nielsen BookScan, PollstarPro, IMDB and interviews with estate experts.

Michael Jackson: The King Of Pop–and celeb earnings–dead or alive (Photo: Mike Powell /Allsport).

Recently deceased superstars Prince and David Bowie also rank high on the list. The Purple One passed away while still at the top of his touring game (grossing nearly $2 million per show) and sold more than 2.5 million albums over the past year, more than any other dead musician. Bowie, meanwhile, released his final album, Blackstar, just two days before his death; the ensuing sales spike helped him outsell Jackson and Elvis Presley (No. 4, $27 million) in the last year.

Presley’s total represents a 50% drop from last year’s figure (a change in how we accounted for Graceland ticket sales, not plummeting demand, accounts for the change). The King of Rock n’ Roll still moved more than 1 million albums on the year—most of them physical, not digital—remarkable for someone who’s been gone for nearly 40 years.

As for Jackson, the Sony/ATV payday gives him the last laugh over doubters. But a decade ago, he already knew what a good deal he’d made, as detailed in my book Michael Jackson, Inc. On a 2007 conference call, the King of Pop reminded Sony/ATV chief Marty Bandier of the acumen that had earned him a nine-figure return on paper by that point.

“See,” he told Bandier. “I told you I knew the music publishing business.”

13. Elizabeth Taylor ($8 million)
12. Steve McQueen ($9 million)
11. David Bowie ($10.5 million)
10. Bettie Page ($11 million)
9. Albert Einstein ($11.5 million)
8. John Lennon ($12 million)
7. Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel ($20 million)
6. Bob Marley ($21 million)
5. Prince ($25 million)
4. Elvis Presley ($27 million)
3. Arnold Palmer ($40 million)
2. Charles Schulz ($48 million)
1. Michael Jackson ($825 million)

You may not be a celebrity and you may not have an estate worth millions of dollars but you still need to do some planning for what you want to have happen to the assets you do have.  For more information about this topic, check our our website www.diesmart.com.

My father left his home to his kids — my stepmother sold it for $1 million

moneyologistWe read this recent column from MarketWatch and found it interesting enough that we are repeating it in its entirety.  If you have step children or step parents, you should be aware of what might happen if proper planning isn’t done.

He made his wishes clear, but his second wife had other ideas

Dear Moneyologist,

My brothers and I are mentioned in our father’s will as what he “wishes to happen” with the house he purchased for his second wife. He put the house in her name, but stated that if he should die first, he would like the wife to live in the house till she dies, but wanted the house to be sold and the proceeds to be split among his children.

After he died, my stepmother has sold the house for $1 million. She bought a new house for $500,000 and kept the difference. She has not put all the children on the ownership of the new house. Also, she has children from her first marriage who might want a percentage of the estate, including the new house. The will was made in Taiwan. I live in Texas.

Where do I and my brothers stand in this situation?

Betrayed Daughter

Dear Daughter,

When it comes to family drama, stepmothers fare about as well as mothers-in-law. That is, they get a hard time. Sometimes, it’s deserved, other times I think they fall victim to negative stereotypes. In one case, the stepmother wanted to cut her husband’s children out of his life insurance policy. And another stepmother obsessed over her husband’s children and what might happen to his credit score should he die. It’s easy to come down hard on stepmothers, mostly because of Grimm Fairytales. This 2009 book “Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do” tries to debunk that myth. On this occasion, the jury is out.

Your father can’t leave his children something that he no longer owns. That’s not how life or the law works.

Your stepmother has downsized and created a nice nest egg. That was her prerogative. Your father can’t leave his children something that he no longer owns. He put his house in your stepmother’s name and, judging by his will, it seems that he wanted her to give it back. That’s not how life or the law works. If you could prove undue influence, you might have a case. You would need to provide evidence that (a) your father was not of sound mind when he signed over the house and/or (b) your stepmother somehow did not have his best interests at heart and tricked him into signing over the home. That would be an expensive and difficult process.

It’s still unclear whether U.S. or Taiwanese law would apply here. According to Taiwanese law, “The making and effect of a will are governed by the national law of the testator [your father, in this case] at the time of the making of the will.” But that may prove fruitless. “If you can prove that the testator was the true owner, you can file a litigation against your father’s second wife,” says Ou Yang, Hung, managing attorney at Brain Trust International Law Firm in Taipei, Taiwan and adjunct assistant professor of law at Soochow University. “It will be very hard to prove that the testator was the true owner of the house.”

Put it in simpler terms: You may have to kiss that $1 million goodbye.

For information about estate planning, check out our website www.diesmart.com.

Will you get a call from a debt collector?

debt-deathDid you know that if someone dies with unpaid bills like a balance on a credit card account, a family member or close friend will get a call or letter from a debt collector.

A few years ago, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) issued new guidelines related to this subject.  The guidelines “widen the universe of people who could receive collection calls or letters”.  This makes it very important that anyone receiving such a call or letter knows his legal rights and obligations.

Debt collectors read the obituaries and then check to see whether the person who just died has any surviving relatives.  If so, they immediately begin sending out letters or making phone calls and harassing them for whatever is owed.

Rules vary from state to state but, in general, here are a few things that usually apply.

  • Family members or friends are not obligated to pay out of their own pockets for debts incurred by a deceased person.
  • If a family member or friend has co-signed a credit card or loan application with the now deceased person, that relative or friend is probably obligated to repay the debt.
  • If the deceased left a will and the estate is in probate, debt collectors can attempt to collect their money from the assets of that estate.
  • Assets that are specifically bequeathed to someone or that were jointly owned by the deceased and another person generally go to that person outside of the estate and are usually not reachable by debt collectors.  In the 10 community property states, assets are generally considered joint property and can’t be touched by a debt collector.

What does this mean for you?  If someone close to you dies and  you are contacted by a debt collector, don’t give that person any information or commit to anything.  See assistance from a local credit counselor or attorney to get guidance on how to proceed.  Otherwise, you may find yourself paying money to a debt collector unnecessarily.

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