Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

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Friday, August 28, 2015

A Few Simple Steps Every Parent Can Take To Protect Minor Children

ChildrenThe parents of minor children are often harried and have little free time to plan for the next week let alone years down the line. When they do plan for the future, their concerns are often about retirement and college not what would happen to their children in the event of one, or both, parents dying. However, failure to plan for such an event could have terrible consequences if something did happen but can be avoided by following a few simple steps:

  • Making a will should be the first step for every parent. Consulting with an attorney is the best way to prepare the document but holographic wills can also serve the same purpose when the parents are short on cash.
  • Guardianship of minor children should always be established. Battles between in-laws over who will take care the children can easily erupt when the wishes of the parents are not established in writing before death or incapacitation.
  • Consult with a reliable agent to determine what type of life insurance would be the best fit. The majority of parents do not have any insurance, or too little, to support children for a long period of time. While the expense might seem unnecessary to many, it will protect children from being impoverished or dependent on the goodwill of others in order to survive.

SeeCatey Hill, Why parents don’t make this simple move to protect their kids, Market Watch, August 27, 2015.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to my attention.

August 28, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Guardianship, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Study Shows Some Women Not Prepared For Death Of Spouse

MarriageOne fact of life is the women have, on average, a longer lifespan than men. However, a new poll suggest that they might suffer a penalty for that longevity based on women stating they would have trouble maintaining their lifestyle if their spouse died first. In addition, more women than men indicated that they did not know the details of their spouses life insurance or had low confidence in being able to find key estate documents. Greater education about the consequences of insufficient estate planning for both spouses would help to solve this gap and should always be stressed to clients seeking estate advice. It is up to both members of the couple to ensure that they are armed with the proper knowledge to manage affairs after the death of the other. In the end, a little communication about savings, insurance, and documentation could save much heartbreak and allow the years left to the survivor to be spent with as little worry as possible.

See Quentin Fottrell, Women may be less prepared for the death of their spouse, Market Watch, August 25, 2015.

August 26, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Few Simple Steps To Help Prevent After Death Identity Theft

ScamIdentity theft is a common problem due to the massive amount of information that is available. This problem is as common for the deceased as it is for the living since the dead cannot protect themselves which could lead to problems down the line for an estate or heirs. However, there are a few simple steps that may be taken that can help prevent the identity of a parted loved one from winding up in the hands of a conman:

  • When preparing an obituary do not include any details that may be useful to an identity thief. Birthday's should not be mentioned since this is information that is required in almost all security checks. In addition, avoid personal details like the maiden name of the deceased mother or even the name of the high school they attended. Both of those pieces of information are often used as security questions and will give a hacker the chance to get into accounts.
  • Send documentation of death to all financial institutions in order to start the process to freeze accounts. In addition, report the death to the credit reporting agencies so they can put an alert on the account for anyone that looks up a credit report. However, follow up on all these acts since the process of proving death can be ponderous and take longer than the time required for a thief to steal the identity.
  • Cancel identification cards especially drivers licenses and passports. Keeping both active is a risk since a thief could request a new copy and, with some minor alterations, get an ironclad ID they can use to commit any sort of crime.
  • The most important step though is to keep an eye on the deceased credit reports and accounts for a period after death. Even with the steps above, a skilled impostor can gain access the an identity so monitoring a credit report a few times a year could save much hassle for an heir or estate administrator.

See David H. Lenok, Protecting Deceased Clients from Identity Theft, Wealth Management, August 19, 2015.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to my attention.

August 21, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Public Support Helps Resurrect California Right To Die Legislation

Article PictureThe California legislature has brought back a right to die bill that had previously been defeated by anti-euthanasia activists in committee. The bill would grant terminally ill California residents the right to end their life with assistance from a doctor. The legislation has tremendous support in the polls, with nearly %70 of respondents saying yes, and follows in the wake of several high profile incidents in which California residents were forced to travel out of state in order to escape their incurable illness. Opposition is expected to be significant due to several Catholic Democrats joining Republican legislators in opposing previous versions. However, bill proponents remain optimistic after several high profile media campaigns by patients seeking right to die legislation that have helped shift public opinion in favor of the legislation.

See Nick Cahill, Calif. Lawmakers Resurrect Right-to-Die Bill, Courthouse News Service, August 18, 2015.


August 19, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 17, 2015

New Video Service Lets People Communicate With Loved Ones From Beyond The Grave

HeavennoteThere is a new pre-death video service that has been inspired by the film ‘PS I Love You’ starring Gerard Butler and Hillary Swank.  The new start-up project will let clients film a pre-death video that will be screened to loved ones after they pass away.  When setting up the service the client will assign a Trustee who will possess a code word that they will tap into a database when the person dies.  The service, which is called Heavenote, was the brainchild of businessman Vincenzo Rusciano.  Heavenote is already popular in the United States and is often used by people in high risk occupations like service members or firefighters. 

See Ruki Sayid, Pre-death video service to send messages from beyond grave to grieving loved ones launched, The Mirror, August 15, 2015.  

August 17, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 14, 2015

Doctors Choose To Die At Home Rather Than Hospitals

HospiceMost Americans express a desire to die in their own home rather than in a hospital but the reality if usually the opposite. Due to the crush of potentially life saving treatments, people will be forced into the hospital to spend their final days hoping for a cure. However, on group bucks this trend, doctors.

MD's have a strong tendency to die at home or in hospice care rather than seek desperate life saving measures that are typically unsuccessful. Medical professionals have a first hand knowledge of the pain that is usually associated with emergency treatment and often express a strong preference to die in peace. As the population ages, planning for end of life decisions is imperative as it spares family members terrible choices concerning loved ones health. Preparing for the inevitable will ultimately makes the process of death a lesser burden for the afflicted and their loved ones alike.

See Stephanie O'Neill, How doctors want to die is different than most people, CNN, August 11, 2015.

Special thanks to Daniel P. Buckley for bringing this article to my attention.

August 14, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Article On Patient’s End Of Life Treatment Preferences

MedicalRobert B. Wolf, Marilyn J. Maag, & Keith Bradoc Gallant recently published an article entitled, The Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) Coming Soon to a Health Care Community Near You40 Am. Coll. of Trust and Estates L. J. 57-150 (2015). Provided below is an abstract of the article:

Advance health care directives, including durable health care powers of attorney and living wills, are part of the standard bill of fare for estate planners, along with durable financial powers of attorney, wills and trusts.  This article discusses an end-of-life planning tool that is less well known in the estate-planning community – a physician order designed to elicit and record a patient’s end of life treatment preferences, referred to in some jurisdictions (and in this article) as POLST. The wide acceptance and spread of the POLST has gone largely unnoticed by estate and trust and elder law practitioners, despite its purpose to implement their clients’ care wishes when the client is dying or near death, traditionally a focal point of their professional efforts.  This article is intended to remedy that lack of awareness.

August 13, 2015 in Articles, Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Taking Care Of A Loved Ones Final Medical Expenses

End of lifeHow should an executor handle the final medical expenses of a person’s estate?  This article discusses the tax treatment of unpaid final medical expenses.  
Non-reimbursed medical expenses are normally deductible for income tax purposes in the year that those expenses were actually paid.  If the individual dies before the expenses are paid then “the executor of the decedent’s estate can elect to treat medical expenses paid by the estate during the one-year period that begins on the day after the date of death as if those expenses were paid when incurred.”  It is also important to understand the final Form 1040 basics, be aware of the necessary filing dates and the procedures for filing a joint return.  A person should also decide on whether to waive the right to count unpaid medical expenses as liabilities on federal estate tax returns. 

See Bill Bischoff, How to handle a loved one’s final medical expenses, Market Watch, August 11, 2015. 

August 12, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

CLE On Estate Plans After American Taxpayer Relief Act Of 2012

CLEThe American Bar Association is presenting a CLE entitled, Oh, What a Relief It Is: Curing Estate Plans that No Longer Make Sense in Light of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, Tuesday August 18, 2015, 12:00-1:30pm Central, online.  Here are some details about the event:

As a result of ATRA, the federal wealth transfer tax system is no longer relevant to most taxpayers and less relevant to the rest. For most taxpayers it will be more important to plan for reducing income tax than for reducing transfer tax. Typical estate planning transactions that may have once been appropriate for a client may be less so in the post-ATRA world. This presentation explores how clients can escape from the no-longer-useful (or perhaps harmful) estate planning transaction or more efficiently administer those they cannot escape from.

August 12, 2015 in Conferences & CLE, Death Event Planning, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Funeral Trusts Might Be A Good Way To Protect Assets

Funeral-trust25-crop-600x338This article discusses how some senior citizens are protecting their property while planning for death expenses by creating an irrevocable funeral trust. This column makes the argument that this is a good asset protection strategy that is often used in crisis planning situations.  The first component of an irrevocable funeral trust is whole life insurance which can be used to avoid probate costs and taxes. The second component is the trust itself which is a legal agreement to set aside funds for funeral costs.  Speaking to clients about funeral trusts may be a good way to prevent the family of a decedent from being burdened with unexpected funeral expenses.

See John D. Ferenchik, Life Insurance And The Funeral Trust, LifeHealthpro, May 12, 2015.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

August 10, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)