Filing a Claim Against an Estate

When a person passes away owing debts, it is important that creditors follow the proper procedures to make their claims against the estate.

Most types of debt do not die with the debtor. If there are any assets in the estate, then the estate is responsible to pay those debts.

The executor of the estate is required to notify any known creditors that the debtor has passed away and then to pay the debt, if possible.

However, no creditor should ever rely on an executor doing so. The debt might not be known or the executor might not know what his responsibilities are.

Creditors who learn that a debtor has passed away, should take affirmative steps to file a claim against the estate, which must be done following proper procedures. Things can get even more complicated, if the deceased put all of his or her assets in a trust, leaving nothing in an estate.

Under such circumstances the creditor needs to file against the trust, as the NWI Times points out in “Filing claims against a trust.”

Filing a claim against a trust, can be even more complicated than filing against an estate, or maybe not.

It depends on the state. Every state has its own laws and procedures that need to be followed for a creditor to properly file a claim to receive the debt of a debtor who has passed away.

For this reason, it is extremely important for creditors to contact a local estate attorney to help them with the process. This is something that must be done without delay, since the statutes of limitations for these claims are often very short, again depending on the state.

Reference: NWI Times (July 2, 2017) “Filing claims against a trust.”

Yes, Estate Planning Is for You

No matter who you are, how much money you have, or any other factor, estate planning is something you should do.

Everyone who has ever worked in an estate planning attorney’s office, has experienced the following scenario at least once. It is likely they have experienced it dozens and even hundreds of times.

The phone rings and the person who works in the estate planning attorney’s office picks it up. The person on the other end of the line immediately launches into a very long story about their life situation. They talk about their family, their job, their bank accounts and perhaps what their retirement plans are.

All of this information the employee dutifully tries to jot down on a notepad. However, the reality is that the employee does not need to do that, because the employee knows the question that is eventually coming and the answer to that question.

The question is “Do I need to have an estate plan?”

The answer, as the Casper Star Tribune recently pointed out in “Estate planning is for everyone,” is “Yes.”

Indeed, the answer to that question is always “Yes.” It’s not just “Yes” because the estate planning attorney’s office is a business that needs people to get estate plans to stay open.

Everyone really does need an estate plan.

It does not matter how much money a person has. It does not matter whether a person has any other family members. It does not matter if the only thing the caller has is the proverbial dime to put in a pay phone to make the call. The answer is “Yes”, because everyone deserves to have a say in how anything they do have, will be distributed to others after they pass away.

The way to do that is by getting an estate plan
.
Reference: Casper Star Tribune (June 30, 2017) “Estate planning is for everyone.”

Burial for the Indigent

The high costs of funeral services creates a problem, because many people pass away without having the means for their own burials. Their remains still have to go somewhere.

Every year, thousands of people with very little money pass away. Sometimes, it is not even known who these deceased people were in life.

While this might seem like a minor issue and something that has always been the case, it creates an increasing burden on local governments. They must determine what to do with the bodies of deceased people, who either cannot be identified or whose families do not have the money to afford burial or cremation.

It is not a minor expense, since the costs of disposing of a deceased body continue to rise.

One county in Florida had such a significant problem that they purchased a cemetery, as the Tallahassee Democrat reports in “A priceless burden: Indigent burials at Leon County’s ‘pauper’s cemetery’.”

The cemetery previously belonged to a hospital, but the county purchased it to dispose of the remains of the indigent as cheaply as possible. Graves are marked with the most basic of markers and no actual funeral services are allowed at the cemetery.

The deceased are buried as quickly and with as little fuss as possible.

This is an issue that could get worse before it gets better.

Elderly people are living longer and in greater numbers. That makes it likely that many more elderly will pass away in the future, after they have run out of their own money.

The burden to bury them will be on the government. Elder law advocates may need to address this problem in the near future.

Reference: Tallahassee Democrat (June 24, 2017) “A priceless burden: Indigent burials at Leon County’s ‘pauper’s cemetery’.”

Pet Cremation

You now have the option to have your pet cremated and keep the ashes in an urn at home.

A recent trend is for people to treat their pets just like any other member of their family. It is no longer just a dog or a cat. Your pet is a beloved member of your family, due the same consideration as any other member of your family.

While not everyone sees their pets in this way, more and more people do.

That has implications not just for how pets are treated in life, but also how they are treated in death.

For example, there is now a growing trend for funeral homes to offer cremation for pets as PA reports in “Pet Cremation Industry Gains Popularity.”

For the relative small price of a few hundred dollars, people can have their pets cremated. The price normally includes an urn to hold the ashes, which people can take home with them.

Perhaps more important than what will be done with your pet when it passes away, is what will be done with your pet when you pass away.

Your pet cannot get a job to support itself. You might treat it like any other human family member, but it is not that human.

Therefore, if you want to make sure that your pet is taken care of, you need to make plans. There are several different ways that you can do so in an estate plan.

You can designate someone to take care of your pet and set money aside for that purpose. You can even create a pet trust with your pet as the beneficiary.

If you want to make sure your beloved pet is taken care of after you pass away, then talk to an estate planning attorney about how to do that.

Reference: PA (June 23, 2017) “Pet Cremation Industry Gains Popularity.”

Electronic Wills in Florida Vetoed

The Florida legislature recently passed a bill that would allow for electronic wills in the state. It has been vetoed by the governor.

Creating legal documents online is increasingly common. Many people today, for example, work under contracts that are created online and digitally signed.

Taxes can now be done online, that require nothing more than a digital signature. There are some people who would like for this trend of creating legal documents online to reach one of the legal documents that has the most formal requirements of them all: wills.

For wills to be valid, they must be executed and witnessed in a specific way.

The Florida legislature recently passed a bill that would allow wills to be created electronically.

The law would even allow the wills to be signed and witnessed electronically.

The governor, however, decided to veto the bill, as the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog reports in “Florida Governor Scott Vetoes Landmark Electronic Will Legislation.”

The governor had several concerns about the proposal and the ability to ensure security.

However, one of the biggest concerns is that the bill would have allowed electronic wills that were not created in Florida to be probated in Florida. The governor was concerned that would allow people to use the law, when there was no actual connection with the state.

Although this particular proposal did not become law, it is likely that in the not too distant future, electronic wills will become legal in some states.

Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (June 28, 2017) “Florida Governor Scott Vetoes Landmark Electronic Will Legislation.”

Going on a Last Ride

Motorcycle riders in Lubbock, Texas now have the opportunity to incorporate going on a final ride into their funeral services.

The basic design of hearses has not changed very much over the years. They are somber looking vehicles, usually black, that most closely resemble a limousine.

At least, that is what almost everyone would imagine, when they hear the word “hearse.”

However, Derek Dunn of Lubbock, Texas had a different idea.

Dunn created a hearse that resembles a motorcycle and painted it red.

The hearse pulls a platform behind it that carries the casket, which is in the open air.

Different graphics can be displayed on the platform for groups, such as firefighters and police.

Dunn even created the hearse to appeal to motorcycle enthusiasts who want to go on one last ride.

Everything Lubbock reported this story in “A Unique ‘Last Ride’.”

This is a continuation of the larger trend to personalize funerals and memorials. More and more people are choosing to have more personal touches in their funerals, instead of sticking with just the traditional ceremony.

If the trend continues, more stories like the motorcycle hearse can be expected.

Elderly people should be aware of this trend for two reasons. First, if they want to have a non-traditional personalized funeral service, then they should make pre-arranged plans. There are many options available.

Second, and just as important, elderly people who do not want a traditional service, need to let that be known, in case their families might decide to do it on their own.

Reference: Everything Lubbock (June 27, 2017) “A Unique ‘Last Ride’.”

Physician Assisted Suicide in California

Last year, the State of California enacted a controversial new law that allows doctors to prescribe medicine to terminally ill patients that will let patients decide when to end their lives. The state has recently issued its first report on how the law is being used.

Elder law advocates have been paying a lot of attention to California’s new law allowing terminally ill people to seek physician assisted suicide. The law was extremely controversial and remains so.

If it is deemed successful, then its advocates think the law can be used as a model for other states to follow. Those who are opposed to the law, are watching it closely to see if there are any problems with it that they can use to bolster their arguments.

The State of California recently issued a report about usage of the law in the first six months after it was enacted, The New York Times reports in “State: 111 Terminally Ill End Lives Under New California Law.”

Life ending drugs were prescribed to 191 terminally ill patients. A total of 21 of them passed away before taking the drugs, and 111 used them to end their lives.

The fates of the remainder were not known at the time that the report was issued.

The typical patient was a terminally ill elderly person diagnosed with cancer who was receiving hospice or palliative care. In total, 173 different doctors prescribed the drug to patients.

One thing the data shows, is that the median age of the patients was 73 and the majority were over 60.

Reference: New York Times (June 27, 2017) “State: 111 Terminally Ill End Lives Under New California Law.”

Train Your Heirs

If you want your wealth to last and be available for future generations of your family, then you need to make sure that your heirs are ready to handle the responsibility of maintaining your wealth.

The ability to manage and preserve a large amount of wealth is not something most people are born with. If it were, then there would be few stories about big lottery winners ending up with less money after a few years, than they had before they won millions.

There are many stories like that.

There are also numerous stories about families that once had a lot of wealth that was lost over the generations.

These stories are actually so common that the few families who successfully preserve wealth for generations, are considered the exceptions to the rule.

Recently, the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog discussed ways to make sure your family might be one of the exceptions in “Preparing Heirs for Successful Wealth Stewardship.”

The key to such success actually seems relatively simple. In practice, however, it can be difficult.

Heirs need to be trained to handle the wealth.

They need to know how to make good investments and how to avoid bad ones. They also need to learn what good uses for the money are and what type of spending would be wasteful.

Perhaps, most importantly, heirs need to know who to turn to for advice.

A good estate plan is also vital to preserving family wealth.

The wealth cannot be maintained without the proper legal instruments, but estate planning is not enough by itself.

Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (June 29, 2017) “Preparing Heirs for Successful Wealth Stewardship.”

Life Insurance Is Simple and Can Benefit Estate Plan

Estate and capital gains taxes can be avoided.

Wall Street has an enhanced life insurance method that benefits wealthy people and is becoming increasingly popular, according to Barron’s in “New-ish Tax Planning Instrument Gathering Billions.”

Life insurance is a popular estate planning tool used as a relatively simple way to even out inheritances between heirs or to provide needed cash for family members, after the policy holder passes away.

A policy is purchased, premiums paid and upon the death of the policy holder, cash is distributed to the beneficiary.

Since life insurance is a death benefit, the beneficiary does not have to pay income taxes on it when it is paid out as a lump sum.

Wall Street has an insurance dedicated fund as a complicated investment tool that gets treated for tax purposes in the same way as life insurance.

It allows people to invest money that is then managed by hedge funds, without paying any capital gains tax on the investment. When the investor passes away, the accumulated funds in the account are distributed to beneficiaries and have the same tax benefits as life insurance.

Insurance dedicated funds are not new, but they have recently started becoming more popular.

An estate planning attorney can advise you on whether an insurance dedicated fund will fit your unique circumstances.

Reference: Barron’s (June 28, 2017) “New-ish Tax Planning Instrument Gathering Billions.”

Do You Need a Trust?

One of the biggest questions in estate planning today, is whether a trust is the best option for your family.

If you were to conduct a representative poll of middle class Americans about the best way to plan for your estate, it is almost certain that the majority of respondents would suggest getting a living trust.

It is the first piece of advice you will find almost anywhere you look for estate planning information. The reason for that is complex.

One reason is that many internet companies who sell trust creation documents have been very active in pushing the benefits of trusts to get more customers. Trusts are also often the best estate planning option for people.

Nevertheless, the key is to determine what the best estate planning option is for you personally, not for society generally, as Madison.com points out in “Is a Living Trust Right for You and Your Family?.”

Trusts do have many benefits over wills.

Trusts do not have to go through probate and, therefore, are not subject to the commonly cited costs and delays associated with probate.

Trust provisions do not have to be made public, as most wills do. Trusts are also a great way to control what your heirs might do with their inheritances, but “testamentary trusts” under wills do so as well.

If you really want to know whether you should get a trust, the best thing to do is to ask an estate planning attorney. Tell the attorney what your needs are and let the attorney suggest the best ways to meet those needs.

Reference: Madison.com (June 27, 2017) “Is a Living Trust Right for You and Your Family?.”