Family Fights over Personal Items or Artwork
How to avoid conflict when leaving personal items

Family Fights over Personal Items or Artwork

A few years after her death in 2014, Joan Rivers’ family put hundreds of her personal items up for auction at Christie’s in New York.

As The Financial Times reported in “Why an art collector’s estate needs tight planning,” a silver Tiffany bowl, engraved with her dog’s name, Spike, made headlines when it sold for thirty times its estimated price.

This shows how an auction house can generate a buzz around the estate of a late collector, creating demand for items that, had they been sold separately, might have failed to attract as much attention.

A problem for some art and collectible owners is that their heirs may feel much less passionately about the works, than the person who collected them.

A collector can either gift, donate or sell in their lifetime. He or she can also wait until they pass away and then gift, donate, or sell posthumously.

The way a collector can make certain his or her wishes are carried out or eliminate family conflicts after their death, is to take the decision out of the hands of the family, by placing an art collection in trust. Read more about trusts here.

The trust will have the collector’s wishes added into the agreement, and the trustees are appointed from the family and from independent advisers with no interest in a transaction taking place.

Many collectors like to seal their legacy, by making a permanent loan or gift of art works to a museum.However, their children can renege on these agreements, if they’re not adequately protected by trusts or other legal safeguards after a collector’s death.

Even with a trust or other legal structure put in place to preserve a legacy, the key to avoiding a fight over personal items after the death of the collector, is to have frank discussions about estate planning with the family well before the reading of the will. This can ensure that their wishes are respected.

Reference: Financial Times (June 20, 2019) “Why an art collector’s estate needs tight planning”

 

Leaving a Legacy Is Not Just about Money
Love locks as symbol for everlasting love

Leaving a Legacy Is Not Just about Money

A legacy is not necessarily about money, says a survey that was conducted by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch Ave Wave. More than 3,000 adults (2,600 of them were 50 and older) were surveyed and focus groups were asked about end-of-life planning and leaving a legacy. The article, “How to leave a legacy no matter how much money you have” from The Voice, shared a number of the participant’s responses.

A total of 94% of those surveyed said that a life well-lived, is about “having friends and family that love me.” 75% said that a life well-lived is about having a positive impact on society. A mere 10% said that a life well-lived is about accumulating a lot of wealth.

People want to be remembered for how they lived, not what they did at work or how much money they saved. Nearly 70% said they most wanted to be remembered for the memories they shared with loved ones. And only nine percent said career success was something they wanted to be remembered for.

While everyone needs to have their affairs in order, especially people over age 55, only 55% of those surveyed reported having a will. Only 18% have what are considered the three key essentials for legacy planning: a will, a health care directive and a durable power of attorney.

The will addresses how property is to be distributed, names an executor of the estate and, if there are minor children, names who should be their guardian. The health care directive gives specific directions as to end-of-life preferences and designates someone to make health care decisions for you, if you can’t. A power of attorney designates someone to make financial decisions on your behalf when you can’t do so, because of illness or incapacity.

An estate plan is often only considered when a trigger event occurs, like a loved one dying without an estate plan. That is a wake-up call for the family, once they see how difficult it is when there is no estate plan. What does an estate plan include? Read more here.

Parents age 55 and older had interesting views on leaving inheritances and who should receive their estate. Only about a third of boomers surveyed and 44% of Gen Xers said that it’s a parent’s duty to leave some kind of inheritance to their children. A higher percentage of millennials surveyed—55%–said that this was a duty of parents to their children.

The biggest surprise of the survey: 65% of people 55 and older reported that they would prefer to give away some of their money, while they are still alive. A mere 8% wanted to give away all their assets, before they died. Only 27% wanted to give away all their money after they died.

Reference: The Voice (June 16, 2019) “How to leave a legacy no matter how much money you have”

 

Arizona Funeral Homes And Potential Financial Abuse
Arizona Funeral Home

Arizona Funeral Homes And Potential Financial Abuse

U.S. Navy veteran Robert Heiskell was a quiet and reclusive man, whose wife had died years before. A concerned neighbor called the police, who on March 22, 2017, discovered the 80-year-old dead in his home.

AZ Central’s recent article, “Phoenix funeral home took control of dead people’s estates, then charged them excessive fees, complaints say,” reports that Heiskell didn’t have will, and no one claimed his body. A Phoenix area funeral home, Abel Funeral Services—under a contract with Maricopa County for indigent burial—retrieved his body and placed it in refrigeration, while they looked for the next of kin. That meant a meter began running on Heiskell’s funeral expenses.

When the county saw that Heiskell had too much money to qualify for indigent burial, funeral home owner Spencer McBride got court approval to become the personal representative of Heiskell’s estate and settle Heiskell’s financial affairs. The funeral home owner had done this many times for other estates.

By the time he was finished, McBride had racked up costs of more than $30,000 from Heiskell’s estate to his funeral home, according to court records. Compare that to the average cost of a funeral and burial of $7,360, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.

While state law permits funeral home owners to act as both executors and creditors of an estate, many don’t care for the headaches. Now the Arizona Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers, which regulates the profession, is looking into several other complaints that McBride assumed control of estates and charged excessive fees for funeral services.

Three complaints in the past year claim that McBride did not exert a sufficient effort in locating the next of kin, while his funeral home charged estates excessive fees for funeral services. Another complaint didn’t dispute fees, but the family of an Air Force veteran was upset over a delay in burial.

Heiskell’s closest living relative, a cousin, questioned the bill and alleged that all but about $8,000 of the charges were “excessive.” This included fees to refrigerate Heiskell’s body for 115 days. The matter was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. In statements to the funeral board, McBride has denied using his position as personal representative for profit.

Even if you believe you have no heirs, it is important that you speak with a qualified estate planning attorney to create a mindful plan that tells people what you want to happen to your assets and personal belongings. Book a call today. 

Reference: AZ Central (June 21, 2019) “Phoenix funeral home took control of dead people’s estates, then charged them excessive fees, complaints say”

 

What Debts Must Be Paid During Probate?
Which debts do I pay during probate?

What Debts Must Be Paid During Probate?

Everything that must be addressed in settling an estate becomes more complicated, when there is no will and no estate planning has taken place before the person dies. Debts are a particular area of concern for the estate and the executor. What has to be paid, and who gets paid first? These are explained in the article “Dealing with Debts and Mortgages in Probate” from The Balance.

Probate is the process of gaining court approval of the estate and paying off final bills and expenses, before property can be transferred to beneficiaries. Dealing with the debts of a deceased person can be started, before probate officially begins.

Start by making a list of all of the decedent’s liabilities and look for the following bills or statements:

  • Mortgages
  • Reverse mortgages
  • Home equity loans
  • Lines of credit
  • Condo fees
  • Property taxes
  • Federal and state income taxes
  • Car and boat loans
  • Personal loans
  • Loans against life insurance policies
  • Loans against retirement accounts
  • Credit card bills
  • Utility bills
  • Cell phone bills

Next, divide those items into two categories: those that will be ongoing during probate—consider them administrative expenses—and those that can be paid off after the probate estate is opened. These are considered “final bills.” Administrative bills include things like mortgages, condo fees, property taxes and utility bills. They must be kept current. Final bills include income taxes, personal loans, credit card bills, cell phone bills and loans against retirement accounts and/or life insurance policies.

The executors and heirs should not pay any bills out of their own pockets. The executor deals with all of these liabilities in the process of settling the estate.

For some of the liabilities, heirs may have a decision to make about whether to keep the assets with loans. If the beneficiary wants to keep the house or a car, they may, but they have to keep paying down the debt. Otherwise, these payments should be made only by the estate.

The executor decides what bills to pay and which assets should be liquidated to pay final bills.

A far better plan for your beneficiaries, is to create a comprehensive estate plan that includes a will that details how you want your assets distributed and addresses what your wishes are. If you want to leave a house to a loved one, your estate planning attorney will be able to explain how to make that happen, while minimizing taxes on your estate.

Reference: The Balance (March 21, 2019) “Dealing with Debts and Mortgages in Probate”

 

So You Want To Retire In Arizona
Retirement in Arizona.

So You Want To Retire In Arizona

Arizona’s population increases in the winter months, which is just one thing it has in common with Florida, says Kiplinger in the article “9 Things You Must Know About Retiring to Arizona.” Many retirees have settled in Arizona year-round. The nation’s first active adult retirement community was in Youngtown, Arizona in 1954. Now 17% of the state’s 7.2 million residents are 65 and older. Let’s look at the Grand Canyon State as a retirement destination.

You’ll have lots of company. Between 2010 and mid-2018, Arizona’s population grew by 12.2%. By comparison, the population of New York (state, not city) only grew 0.8%. In 2018, Arizona ranked number five (behind Vermont, Oregon, Idaho, and Nevada) among states with the most inbound movers. Retirement was the reason for the relocation cited by 37% of the Arizona newcomers in a United Van Lines survey. Arizona has more than 100 age-restricted retirement communities.

It’s a dry heat. You’ve heard it before, and it’s true. The dry heat is more tolerable for most people than the humidity and heat of Florida. Annual precipitation ranges from 3 inches in the arid southwest to 40 inches in the mountains of east central Arizona, according to the Arizona State University’s climate office.

There are plenty of great places to retire. The state isn’t one big arid desert. There are a variety of climates that offer seasonal changes. If health care is important, look at Mesa, one of 10 U.S. cities celebrated by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance in 2018 as great places to retire for your health. Mesa received high scores for its proximity to top-rated hospitals, a cost of living that’s lower than the national average and a variety of activities.

Snowbirds and rental property. Planning to rent before you buy to look at different communities? In most spots, January through March or April is peak snowbird season. Migrators often book the same place for the coming year, before they leave in the spring. Others start booking their rentals as early as August. Early birds get the biggest blocks of time and the most-desirable properties. Expect to pay monthly rent (excluding fees and taxes) of $2,500 to $3,500 for a standard condo (two-bedroom, two-bath) or $3,000 to $9,000 for a single-family home (three-bedroom, two-bath) from January through March.

It’s a seller’s market in late spring. The best time to buy a home in Arizona is usually in the late spring, when the competition from snowbirds ends. In summer and fall, you’ll have fewer options to buy.  However, the remaining sellers may be more motivated and willing to deal. Thinking of buying? Read more about trust planning for your real estate.

Arizona’s income tax for retirees is mixed. Your state tax bill in Arizona will depend a lot on your retirement income sources. Arizona doesn’t tax Social Security benefits, and on most other income that is taxed, rates are low—from 2.59% (for married filers with as much as $20,690 of taxable income) to 4.54% (for married filers with more than $310,317 of taxable income). However, private pensions are fully taxed at ordinary income tax rates. The same is true for government pensions from other states. For those with military, civil service and Arizona state and local government pensions, only the first $2,500 in this income is exempt from Arizona state taxes.

Sales taxes vary. Arizona’s state sales tax is 5.6%. However, localities can add their own sales taxes. As a result, you could pay as much as 5.3% more in sales tax, depending on where you live (and shop).

You don’t need to reset your clocks. Arizona is one of only two states (with Hawaii) that don’t have daylight saving time. Arizona aligns with Pacific Daylight Time in spring, summer, and part of fall. However, they are on Mountain Standard Time during most of the fall and winter.

Reference: Kiplinger (April 19, 2019) “9 Things You Must Know About Retiring to Arizona”

 

Is An Online Will A Good Idea?

Sure, many of us would prefer to fill in the blanks in private, than have to talk to anyone about our questions. However, it’s better to get professional advice.

MarketWatch’s recent article, “Online wills may save you money, but they can lay these estate-planning traps,” says that if you prepare your taxes yourself and you make a mistake, you may need to meet with the IRS. However, you may never know the results of your work when it comes to an online will. Who will be the ones to find out if you made any mistakes, and need to pay the price? Your family.

You can find many DIY options for completing your own estate plan. With the ease and availability of these programs, along with lower prices, one would think more of us would have an up-to-date estate plan. According to the AARP article, Haven’t Done a Will Yet?, only 4 in 10 American adults have a will or living trust.

The four basic estate planning documents are a will, a trust, power of attorney for financial matters and an advance health care directive. If you try to produce any or all of them through a DIY site, expect to be offered a fill-in-the-blank approach. However, each state has its own probate code and the program you use may have different names for the documents. They also may not address state-specific questions.

Some DIY sites have all these documents, but you must buy their higher-end packages to access them. Others offer what they call a “limited attorney consultation” in the form of a drop-down menu of questions with pre-written responses, not an actual conversation with an attorney.

The range of DIY services also has a range of prices. Some claim it’s $69 for just an online will, and others charge hundreds of dollars for what may be described as a “complete plan.” Some sites have more information than others about their options, so you must dig through the website to be certain you’re getting a legally binding will or other estate planning document. It is important to read the fine print with care.

Most of these websites presume you already know what you want, but most people have no idea what they want or need. When you get into the complexities of family dynamics and trust language specific to your state and situation, these DIY estate planning packages can cause more challenges than working with a qualified estate planning attorney.

Remember: you don’t know what you don’t know. You may not know the case law and legislation that have evolved into your state’s probate code.

Play it safe and schedule a call with us today. Your family will be grateful that you did.

Reference: MarketWatch (May 3, 2019) “Online wills may save you money, but they can lay these estate-planning traps”

 

Estate Planning For Singles

 

A woman is shopping, when suddenly she is struck by abdominal pains that are so severe she passes out in the store. When she comes to, an EMT is asking her questions. One of those questions is “Do you have a living will or a medical power of attorney?” That was a wake-up call for her and should be for other singles also, says Morningstar in the article “2 Estate-Planning Tools That Singles Should Consider.”

People who don’t have children or a married spouse, often think they don’t need any kind of estate plan. However, the truth is, they do. Estate planning when you are single, or have no beneficiaries, can be more important than estate planning as a married individual with children. For singles, power of attorney, medical power of attorney and a living will are especially important.

What is a Living Will? A living will is sometimes called an advance medical directive. It details your wishes, if you are in a situation where life-sustaining treatment is the only way to keep you alive. Would you want to remain on a respirator, have a feeding tube or have other extreme measures used? It’s not pleasant to think about. However, this is an opportunity for you to make this decision on your own behalf, for a possible future date when you won’t be able to convey your wishes. Some people want to stay alive, no matter what. Others would prefer to turn off any artificial means of life support.

This spares your loved ones from having to guess about what you might like to have happen.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare? This is a legal document that gives a person you name the ability to make decisions about healthcare for you, if you can’t. To some people, this matters more than a living will, because the durable power of attorney for healthcare can convey your wishes in situations, where you are not terminally ill, but incapacitated.

Find someone you trust, whose judgment you respect and have a long, serious talk with them. Talk about your preferences for blood transfusions, organ transplants, disclosure about your medical records and more. Doctors have a hard time when a group of relatives and friends are all trying to help, if there is no one person who has been named as your power of attorney for healthcare.  Read more about Healthcare Power of Attorneys here: https://www.elisabethpicklelaw.com/health-care-decisions-in-2019-require-a-medical-power-of-attorney/

What else does a single person need? The documents listed above are just part of an estate plan, not the whole thing. A single person should have a will or a trust, so that they can determine who they want to receive their assets upon death. They should also check on their beneficiary designations from time to time, so any insurance policies, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and any other assets that allow beneficiary designations are going to the correct person. Some accounts also do not permit non-spouses as beneficiaries. As unfair as this is, it does exist.

The takeaway here is that to protect yourself in a health care emergency situation, you should have these documents in place. Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney. This is not a complicated matter, but it is an important one.

Reference: Morningstar (April 23, 2019) “2 Estate-Planning Tools That Singles Should Consider”

The Family Business: Tips On Passing To The Next Generation
Smooth transition of the family business

The Family Business: Tips On Passing To The Next Generation

Creating a succession plan for a family business needs awareness of more than just spreadsheets, says the article “How to plan for a smooth transition of your family business” from North Bay Business Journal. Family owned vineyards or farms face challenges, when one or two children have chosen to work in the family business. Sometimes there is preferential treatment, either with economics or voting and control of the business.

Estate planning attorneys can serve as sounding boards in creating a balance between what will be best for the family business and what will work to maintain peace and cohesiveness in the family. With experience in guiding families through this process, they are able to provide an unbiased view and can be helpful, when hard decisions need to be made.

Another part of the plan is having the family and the estate planning attorney meet with other professionals, such as a wealth manager and CPAs. This is especially helpful when the owners are reluctant to talk about what is happening in the family business with their children, before clarifying their own thoughts about the business.

Taking time to step back and gain some perspective before holding a family meeting where decisions are made, will give the owners more clarity.

A succession plan often starts a business plan. Once there is a plan for the future of the business, it’s an easier transition to financial and estate planning. Taking these steps, can help the business’ success. Any family business will run better when the numbers and projections for future growth are in place. Banks and other lenders look favorably on a company that has its financial reports in place.

This also permits tax planning to be done properly. In some cases, transferring a family business or other asset, while the owner is still living, can be beneficial in the long run, even with today’s higher federal estate tax exemptions.

Lifetime gifts can be a way to reduce estate taxes because making a gift today before there has been substantial appreciation, is one way to leverage the gift and estate tax exemption. Let’s say an asset is valued at $1 million, but at the time of your death it may be valued at $8 million. By giving it today, you can use less of your lifetime exemption.

To transfer the family business to one or more children and give them an opportunity to succeed on their own, through their own efforts, consider bringing them in as a responsible manager with some ownership.

A gradual approach in transferring control of a family business is a wise move, say experts. One family put their real estate holdings into an entity that gave some ownership interests to each of their children, but one of them was appointed as the manager.

Reference: North Bay Business Journal (April 9, 2019) “How to plan for a smooth transition of your family business”