Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Roth IRAs for 50-Somethings

Roth ira

Roth IRAs appeal to investors in the early stages of their careers that expect to pay taxes at a higher rate in retirement; however, older investors may want to use Roths to generate more retirement income than they could with a traditional IRA. 

Although the strategy may work well in certain circumstances, the advantages for investors saving with a Roth could be small.  New research by T. Rowe Price Group indicated that investors in their 50s and early 60s who pay taxes at a lower rate in retirement can fare better in a Roth. 

Even if you do not know what your tax rate will be, a Roth can be useful.  By having money in both Roth and traditional accounts, you may be able to diversify your tax exposure so not every cent of your retirement savings is taxed at whatever rate a future Congress may set for ordinary income.  Furthermore, tax free Roth distributions will not trigger taxes on Social Security benefits, as can sometimes occur with withdrawals from a traditional IRA or 401(k). 

See Walter Updegrave, The Roth-IRA Math for 50-Somethings, Fox Business, Sept. 26, 2014.

September 30, 2014 in Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Fault in Inheritance


Although many children have no expectation of receiving an inheritance, the vast majority of retirees cling to the intention that they must leave something behind.  While these parents may seem loving and devoted, it is also somewhat foolish.  After years of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to rear and educate each child, parents ought to cease feeling a sense of obligation.  It is much better to spend their retirement money in the present on making meaningful memories with family members or on healthcare that can help make aging more comfortable. 

In a study at the University of Texas, 86.2 percent of parents ages 59 to 96 expected to leave a bequest.  However, just 44.6 percent of the children, ages 40 to 60 thought they would receive one.  Where parents had no intention of leaving money behind but their children were expecting some, there was only 2.4 percent disconnect. 

The motivation behind inheritance stems from two general areas according to economists.  The first area is the moral obligation that parents feel toward their offspring.  The second is the assumption that parents wish to reward children who help them while they are still alive.

It might be that aging parents are generous to a fault, if a bit manipulative.  However, adult children assume their obligations to care for their parents with little expectation of receiving anything in return. 

See Ron Lieber, Parents, the Children Will Be Fine. Spend Their Inheritance Now., The New York Times, Sept. 19, 2014.

Special thanks to Matthew Bogin, (Esq., Bogin Law) for bringing this article to my attention. 

September 22, 2014 in Articles, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Questions Remain in Joan Rivers' Death

Joan rivers

Although Joan Rivers passed away on September 4th, details surrounding her death are still unfolding.  According to the Guardian Liberty Voice of Las Vegas, Rivers was undergoing endoscopic surgery at a clinic in New York when her respiratory system became compromised.  She was then rushed into the emergency room where she fell into a coma and placed on life support.  Shortly thereafter, her daughter Melissa authorized medical staff to discontinue life support.  New York health officials are continuing to investigate the clinic where Rivers’ final surgical procedure occurred. 

“It is very likely that Melissa Rivers was following the wish of her mother when she took her off life support . . . In New York, relatives cannot make end of life decisions automatically.  An advance directive must be in place and proper procedure must be followed prior to execution.  In this case, we can assume that Rivers had planned ahead.”

Rivers was outspoken about aging, death and estate taxation.  She once said that show business had hardened her to the point that she was not afraid of dying.  Thus, it is fair to say that Joan Rivers was not shy when it came to estate planning.  While her death may have come as a shock to fans, it was something that Rivers was ready to face, and planned in advance.  

See UltraTrust.com Exposes Postmortem Why Joan Rivers Joked About Her Estate Plan and Paying Taxes—Now Estimated at $45M, Insurance News Net, Sept. 18, 2014. 

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 19, 2014 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Funeral Home's Own Drive-Thru

Drive thru funeral

A funeral home in Saginaw, Michigan has added an unusual feature for mourners.  The Paradise Funeral Chapel installed a drive-thru viewing window that displays a body set up in a special area inside the building with a raised and tilted platform for the casket. 

Curtains automatically open when a car pulls up and mourners are allotted three minutes to view a body as music is played through the overhead. 

There is also a deposit opening for cars to leave donations, cards, or memory items.  Additionally, there is a retractable guest book that drive-thru mourners can sign.

President Ivan Phillips says he is trying to be sensitive to the needs of the elderly who may have mobility issues that make it difficult to get into the building.  He asserts that his drive-thru enables people who might not otherwise visit the funeral home to honor the deceased.

See Associated Press, Funeral Home Offers Drive-Thru Viewing, USA Today, Sept. 16, 2014.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 17, 2014 in Death Event Planning, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Home Video Reveals Elder Abuse by Home Care Aides

Elder Care

Peter Mazza needed assistance with daily activities at the age of 99, but wanted to live out his days at his home in Staten Island, N.Y. To honor Mazza’s wishes, his family hired home-health aides through Visiting Nurse Service of New York, Partners in Care. The family had previously had a bad experience with home health aides so they installed video cameras in the home prior to hiring the new aides, and say that they informed both the company and the aides of the presence of the cameras.

Mazza sustained injuries due to a fall in April and died in a nursing home in June. Mazza's family claims that the cameras reveal multiple incidences of severe abuse and neglect, including an aide refusing to assist Mazza to reach his walker, which resulted in the fall that caused his injuries. The family is currently suing Partners in Care. The company has fired or suspended the aides involved.

See Frank Donnelly, Shocking Video at Center of Lawsuit Alleging Home Health Aides Abused 99-Year-Old Staten Island Man, SILive, Sept. 9, 2014.

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

September 13, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Joan Rivers' Lessons on Pet Planning

Joan rivers dog 2

Joan Rivers’ death has left millions of fans mourning her loss as she represented a huge step forward for women in comedy. 

When it came to ensuring her loved ones were provided for upon her death, Rivers’ did an A List job.  Rivers leaves behind a valuable estate-planning lesson that many could learn from, which would be how to make sure your pets are cared for after you are gone.

Rivers had a simple estate plan as she left the bulk of her estate to her daughter, Melissa, by way of a family trust.  Additionally, Rivers made sure her four dogs would be taken care of, “She loved her dogs dearly, and they meant so much to her . . . dogs have become accepted as much essential family members that providing for them well in life, and after death, is considered quite normal.” 

Although trust laws vary from state to state, traditional pet trusts are effective everywhere.  Such trusts allow you to make very specific arrangements about the type of care you want your pets to receive and how the money you use to fund the trust will be managed and used over the pets’ lifetimes.  Traditional pet trusts allow you to go into as much detail as you desire about how exactly your pets should be treated. 

See Dan Caplinger, What Joan Rivers Just Taught Pet Lovers About Estate Planning, Daily Finance, Sept. 11, 2014.

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

September 12, 2014 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

End of Life Lessons from Joan Rivers

Joan rivers

Joan Rivers, an iconic comedian, passed away last week, and her death seemed to shock the hearts of many.  But why was her death so alarming?  Perhaps it was her vivacity, zest, and boldness that made her seem anything but eighty-one.  Perhaps it was because Rivers, unlike many of us, was not uncomfortable with the notion of growing old or dying.  She told jokes about death—even her late husband’s suicide was not out of bounds. 

Rivers was never afraid to face the reality that she was growing older.  Losing her memory because of aging was one of her go-to comedy sources, “I must admit I am nervous about getting Alzheimer’s.  Once it hits, I might tell my best joke and never know it.” 

While estate planning is about wills and trusts, it is also so much more than that.  End of life planning is a critical aspect of this field of law, evidenced by Rivers.  On September 4, Melissa Rivers made the decision to take her mother off life support.  Although a difficult decision, she knew it was the right one, as this was a conversation she and her mother had previously had. 

Advance directives allow family members to make medical and termination of life support decisions for someone who becomes unable to do so.

See Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Joan Rivers Can Help With Difficult End-Of-Life Conversations, Forbes, Sept. 10, 2014. 

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 10, 2014 in Death Event Planning, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Elderly Couple's Marriage Questioned

Old newlyweds

After 96-year-old Edith Hill and 95-year-old Eddie Harrison had been companions for more than a decade, they finally married earlier this year.  Hill’s daughter, Rebecca Wright, does not understand the fuss over her mother’s marriage, “Anybody who wants to get married must have a little dementia.” 

However, the courts are not amused and the future for the newlyweds remains uncertain.  Legally, the wedding has been problematic, as Hill has been declared incapacitated for several years.  At a hearing earlier this month a judge said he believes that Wright, co-guardian over her mother, acted improperly by taking her mother to get married without the court’s permission. 

Cary Cuccinelli, represents Patricia Barber, the sister who opposed the marriage, said that the wedding occurred without other family members’ knowledge, and that it complicated the matter of how to eventually distribute Hill’s estate.  “Legally, Mr. Harrison now has a right to a portion of Ms. Hill’s estate.

The judge removed Wright and Barber as Hill’s guardians and subsequently appointed a lawyer, instructing her to “investigate the marriage and take all actions appropriate and reasonable to protect the best interests of Edith Hill.”    

See Matthew Barakat, Marriage of Newlyweds, Ages 96 and 95, Questioned, SF Gate, Sept. 9, 2014.

Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 9, 2014 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Article on Filial Responsibility

Filial responsibility

Christina Lesher (Law Offices of Christina Lesher), Andrea Wilson (The Methodist Hospital System), and Kerrie Wesley (Law Office of Kerrie A. Wesley) recently published an article entitled, Whose Bill is it Anyway? Adult Children’s Responsibility to Care for Parents, Estate Planning and Community Property Law Journal, Vol. 6 No. 2, 247-278 (2014).  Provided below is a portion of the article’s introduction:

Over the next few decades, the elderly population of the United States will expand exponentially, as the Baby Boomer generation ages.  Though Social Security and other government programs have aided in sustaining the financial stability of Americans for the better part of a century, the system now lacks resources.  As more of the work force retires, fewer tax dollars go into the system to maintain a population that will likely have a longer life expectancy than any generation before it.  Seeking a solution to this problem, some have proposed a utilization of filial responsibility statutes, which place a heightened level of responsibility for the welfare of the elderly on family members, rather than on the government. 

In recent years, there has been growing discussion of filial responsibility statutes among legal scholars.  If such policies were effectively implemented, they could potentially ease the burden on government coffers.  However, these laws also come with the potential for a significant impact on Medicaid eligibility.  This article aims to provide an overview of filial responsibility laws and to explain how it factors into Medicaid estate planning. 

September 4, 2014 in Articles, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Article on Complex Decision-Making and Cognitive Aging Call for Enhanced Protection of Seniors Contemplating Reverse Mortgages

Debra StarkDebra Pogrund Stark (The John Marshall Law School), Jessica M. Choplin (DePaul University), Joseph A. Mikels (DePaul University), and Amber Schonbrun McDonnell (The John Marshall Law School), recently published an article entitled, Complex Decision-Making and Cognitive Aging Call for Enhanced Protection of Seniors Contemplating Reverse Mortgages, Arizona State Law Journal, Vol. 46, 2014. Provided below is the abstract from SSRN:

This article explains what reverse mortgages are and how they work. It also analyzes who could potentially benefit from them, but why this type of loan is so problematic for many seniors. The article then considers steps that can be taken to improve the effectiveness of current federal rules and counseling protocols to enable seniors to make well-informed decisions keeping in mind cognitive barriers and the complicated nature of this loan product.

Because many seniors may not be noticing the high costs associated with federally insured reverse mortgages, many believe these loans are now the product of choice for “predatory lending.”

September 4, 2014 in Articles, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)