A Common Estate Planning Myth

People who do not have a large amount of assets, think that they do not really need an estate plan. They are wrong.

Not everyone is wealthy. Not everyone has billions, or even millions, of dollars that need to be divided up between their relatives after they pass away. In fact, most people do not have that kind of fortune and never will.

Many of the people who are not wealthy, think that means they do not need estate plans. They reason that if there is little to divide up, then there is little to fight over. Consequently, they believe everything will go smoothly.

Unfortunately, that is a myth.

Even people who do not have a large estate need an estate plan, as the Pauls Valley Daily Democrat explains in “More on estate planning myths.”

You never know when family members will decide to fight over an estate and exactly what they will fight over. While it is true that a large amount of money often leads to a fight, it does not always do so.

Sometimes the most bitter of estate battles are actually over little things. Some estates have even been known to easily settle large fortunes, but have long and bitter feuds over small personal items that are not worth very much.

This means families might choose to argue over estates that do not have anything of value, if there are sentimental items wanted by more than one family member.

It happens a lot more often than you think.

No matter how much money you have, you need to see an estate planning attorney and get an estate plan.

Reference: Pauls Valley Daily Democrat (March 1, 2017) “More on estate planning myths.”

Delaware Trusts in Doubt

For decades, Delaware trusts were considered the gold standard for asset protection. A recent case has called that into doubt and many people now prefer Nevada trusts.

When people set up dynasty trusts, one of their goals is to keep assets in the family. That is the primary reason for the trusts. People would rather have their assets go to their children and grandchildren, instead of an ex-spouse of one of the children getting the assets, for example.

For a long time, the preferred way of accomplishing this was to create a Delaware dynasty trust. It was believed that Delaware offered the best asset protection.

A 2014 court decision, however, has led many people to question whether Delaware is still the best option, according to Kiplinger in “Delaware Trust? You May Want to Consider Nevada Instead.”

The case is truly only remarkable because the decision came as a surprise.

The facts themselves are simple.

A man created a Delaware dynasty trust for the benefit of his son, his son’s spouse and his grandchildren. Over the years, the trust assets grew to hundreds of millions of dollars. The son and his wife got divorced.

The court ruled that the now ex-spouse was entitled to a portion of the dynasty trust, so the assets were not kept in the family as desired.

This decision has caused many to look for other states in which to create trusts that better preserve assets in the family. Nevada is the most popular choice, since it allows trusts to be created that shield assets from ex-spouses, even for child support purposes.

Reference: Kiplinger (March 2017) “Delaware Trust? You May Want to Consider Nevada Instead.”

The Aging Wealthy are Making Plans

Much of the world’s wealth is in the hands of a relatively small number of super wealthy individuals. Many of them are now elderly and making plans about what will happen to their wealth, after they pass away.

Over the past few years, you may have heard reports about income and wealth inequality in the U.S. Economic data shows that the country’s wealth is rapidly being concentrated into fewer and fewer hands, at the top of the socioeconomic scale.

As a result, many politicians like to talk about the top 1%. However, the data shows that wealth is even far more concentrated than that. Actually, it is in the top 0.1%.

This same phenomenon is not just occurring in the U.S. It is happening all over the world.

What will happen to all of that concentrated wealth when the current holders pass away, is a burning question as they continue to get older and older and eventually die?

This was the subject of a recent Private Wealth article “The World’s Aging Rich Are Plotting What’s Next.”

The article provides many examples of what various wealthy people are planning. They naturally wish to keep their wealth away from waiting governments and do not want their families to fight over it.

This has led to various legal methods to avoid estate taxation and other problems.

Some are choosing to transfer the bulk of their assets to family members now. Others are planning to give a large portion of their wealth away to charities, so their families have nothing to fight over.

Since much of the world’s wealth is in complicated trusts and other entities, it will be interesting to see how it all gets sorted out when the current holders continue to age and do pass away.

Reference: Private Wealth (March 3, 2017) “The World’s Aging Rich Are Plotting What’s Next.”

Absolute Minimal Estate Planning

Even if you do not think that you need an estate plan, there are a couple things that you absolutely must do.

You need to do some estate planning. Even if you think that you do not, you do.

Your possessions will not just magically go to whomever you want after you pass away, if you do not make some sort of estate plan.

While you should visit an estate planning attorney and get the most comprehensive estate plan that you can get, you might wonder what the absolute minimal amount of estate planning you can do to make sure that you have everything done that is absolutely necessary.

Recently, Fidelity discussed that in “Estate planning must dos.”

There are really two things that must be done at a minimum.

First, you need to check beneficiaries on documents such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts. These beneficiaries are legally entitled to the proceeds of the accounts after you pass away.

The second thing you absolutely must do is to title any real property you have appropriately. Of course, what is appropriate titling, depends on your individual family situation and is something you should discuss with an attorney.

Those are the two absolute basic minimal estate planning requirements.

If you do not want to do just the minimum and would prefer to do more, talk to an estate planning attorney about what more you can do.

Reference: Fidelity (March 27, 2017) “Estate planning must dos.”

The Trumps and Trusts

Trusts might be more of a topic of political conversation today, thanks to the Trump family, than at any other time since President Theodore Roosevelt waged war against the trusts of the Gilded Age. That could be a good thing.

Trusts are not often a subject of much public discussion. They are important to estate planners, but as a matter of pressing national concern they rarely register.

The last time they were considered to be a matter of nightly discussion on the national news was during the first Roosevelt administration, when President Theodore Roosevelt resolved to bring the trusts to heel.

Today, trusts are back in the news because of the Trump administration and how members of President Trump’s family are using trusts to hold their assets.

A lot of digital ink has been spilled over whether the President’s family is using trusts in ethically appropriate ways.

One of the more recent examples of that comes from a New York Times article on Ivanka Trump’s trust titled “Despite a Trust, Ivanka Trump Still Wields Power Over Her Brand.”

While the press reporting has been mostly over the concerns about the ethical considerations of the Trump family trusts, there is another possible story.

What the Trumps are teaching us is that trusts can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They can be created for different purposes and give different people various levels of control over the assets in the trusts.

Whether or not you care about the ethical considerations of the Trump trusts, pay attention to the different things they do with their trusts. It might give you some ideas about what you can do with trusts that you can make part of your estate plan.

Reference: New York Times (March 20, 2017) “Despite a Trust, Ivanka Trump Still Wields Power Over Her Brand.”

The Mars Problem

Humans have long dreamed of visiting the planet Mars. However, to do so would cause aging problems for astronauts. However, we might be on the cusp of overcoming that by reversing the aging process itself.

One of the basic facts of human existence is that throughout our lives, our cells continuously divide.

Some cells die, but the division process ensures that new cells take the place of the dead ones. The division process is not perfect, however.

Each instance of cell division causes a small bit of deterioration in the cell and in the DNA of the cell. Over time, these bits of deterioration add up and the result is what we know as the aging process that we can see with our own eyes.

While not exactly constant, this deterioration from cell division occurs at a fixed enough rate that the maximum lifespan is the same for all humans. Scientists have been unable to change this rate of deterioration until now.

A way to reverse it might have been found, reported by the Daily Mail in “Would YOU choose to live forever? Age-reversing pill that NASA wants to give to astronauts on Mars will begin trials within six months.”

If the report is true and trials bear out, then scientists have found a drug that can reverse the deterioration from cell division that causes aging.

This would have potential benefits for astronauts because space travel is extremely dangerous.
Astronauts are exposed to radiation that causes the cell deterioration to increase.

NASA is interested in this drug as a possible way to protect astronauts on a trip to Mars.

If this drug actually works, it has profound implications for more than just space travelers. It would cause great changes for all elderly people and for all estate planners.

Reference: Daily Mail (March 23, 2017) “Would YOU choose to live forever? Age-reversing pill that NASA wants to give to astronauts on Mars will begin trials within six months.”

Finding the Right Nursing Home

Going into a nursing home can be a frightening experience. It can be made less scary by asking questions and choosing the right nursing home for your family.

No one wants to go into a nursing home.

When we think about what happens in them, we usually imagine nursing homes to be sterile places where people are sent off to be isolated and alone. That stereotype comes to us from the distant past. It is a bad caricature of what nursing homes are like today.

However, nursing homes do come in all sorts of different varieties with many different levels of care and interactions between staff and residents. It is important that the nursing home you choose is the right one for you.

That can be accomplished by asking appropriate questions before deciding on a nursing home, as Next Avenue points out in “18 Questions to Ask Any Nursing Home.”

While the questions to ask are too numerous to list here, it is important to understand that the most fundamental questions are not about cost, although that is important. Instead, the most important questions to ask are about how patients live, what activities are available to patients and how staff helps patients with those activities.

The answers to those questions are what truly determine what quality of life will be like in a nursing home and how happy you might be there as a resident.

Before deciding on a nursing home, take a look at the questions to ask and actually ask them of the nursing homes you are considering. That way you can make sure that you are choosing the right place for you.

Reference: Next Avenue (March 15, 2017) “18 Questions to Ask Any Nursing Home.”

Assisted Living Facilities

Senior citizens who no longer feel safe or comfortable at home alone, have options other than going to a nursing home. Moving to an assisted living facility is one of them.

If you ask any elderly person who is not currently living in a nursing home what they think about moving to one, you are likely to get a negative response. People do not want to move into nursing homes. Most only do so, when they have no other options.

Nevertheless, there are many elderly people living at home who are not able to handle their own day to day needs. They need help which can be hard to come by due to a lack of good caretaker options or because it is not practical to move in with younger family members.

These senior citizens do have an option available, short of prematurely going into a nursing home, as Yorktown News points out in “What Is an Assisted Living Facility and Is It the Right Place for You?”

An assisted living facility is just what it says it is.

It is a facility that assists an elderly person with daily functions, but not to the extent that a nursing home does. In an assisted living facility, residents will get help with laundry, cleaning, transportation, medication management etc.. Facilities also usually offer community meals for residents.

While an assisted living facility is not right for all seniors, it is a great option for some. Most will find such an arrangement more enjoyable than a nursing home.

Reference: Yorktown News (March 2, 2017) “What Is an Assisted Living Facility and Is It the Right Place for You?”

Millennials Also Need Estate Plans

Many articles are written about what the Millennial generation wants and needs. Not enough articles are written about their need for estate plans.

Whatever field you are in, you have undoubtedly heard a lot of talk about how it relates to the Millennial generation. No one hears about it more than Millennials themselves. They like to discuss what their generation needs and their elders like to tell them about what they think they need.

With all of the talk about how Millennials live, behave and even vote, there is not much room left for talk about what will happen if they pass away.

It might seem premature to have those discussions, because Millennials are young and expect to live for a long time. However, many of them will pass away long before they think they will.

That means they need to think about their mortality and get estate plans established, as the Christian Science Monitor points out in “Millennials, don’t forget estate planning.”

One of the most important things estate planning can do for Millennials is to get them to think about what happens to their belongings and their children after they pass away. Estate planning focuses the mind on how the decisions we make, can have a long-term impact on our loved ones.

If done properly, estate planning also gets young people to think about their need to save money for retirement, emergencies and the possibility they might pass away while they have minor children.
If you are a Millennial, then seek out an estate planning attorney.

You should go ahead and get your first estate plan, just in case something does happen. That will get you started on making important plans, which is a good habit to get into.

Reference: Christian Science Monitor (March 7, 2017) “Millennials, don’t forget estate planning.”

Hire the Right Attorney for Your Estate Plan

Most attorneys are specialists in their particular practice areas. For your estate planning, you should hire an attorney who is a specialist in estate planning.

Human beings can only become truly knowledgeable in a limited number of areas. We cannot all be experts on everything. This is true even within disciplines.

For example, if you wanted to learn something about the history of 16th century Britain, you would be unlikely to learn very much by asking a historian who specializes in the Roman Empire. You would want to ask a historian who specializes in English history. Even better would be asking someone who only studies 16th century Britain.

A similar need for specialization is even more obvious, when you think about your health.

If you need heart surgery, you would not seek the services of an ear, nose and throat specialist. You would not even want a neurosurgeon. You would want a cardiac surgeon.

The same thing is true with legal matters and estate planning, as the Norman Transcript points out in “The right attorney is needed for wills and estate planning.”

Estate planning is a complicated and specialized legal field.

Only attorneys who have dedicated their lives to studying the field can be guaranteed to give you the services that you need. You might know someone who is excellent in criminal law or who excels at writing contracts.

While he or she might even be willing to help you with your estate planning, you would be better off going to an estate planning expert.

Many avoidable mistakes are made when people do not seek out the services of attorneys who specialize in estate planning. Do not let those mistakes happen with your estate plan.

Reference: Norman Transcript (March 5, 2017) “The right attorney is needed for wills and estate planning.”