Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, October 12, 2015

Forgetting To Alter A Beneficiary Designation Could Lead To Big Problems

Pen and PaperFailure to keep a beneficiary designation updated could lead to big problems and prevent an intended party from receiving a distribution. For many, keeping up with the designation is an afterthought that was put down with the initial paperwork any never remembered again. However, a beneficiary audit is a good way to systematically review all accounts and policies and making sure they are updated with the most current information. For example, minors and the legally incompetent might need special care taken so review plan rules during the audit to see if something such as a trust will need to be set up. Ultimately, an audit is a low stress way of making sure that all accounts and policies as set up to benefit the right person and ensure that other issues, such as taxes and minors inability to collect, are prepared for in advance.

See Gary Altman, Don’t Forget to Audit Your Beneficiary Designations, Financial Planning Association, October 11, 2015.

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

October 12, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

How Clients Should Approach Medicaid Planning

MedicaidThis column discusses a unique area of the law that is known as “Medicaid planning.”  This type of planning requires clients to look for ways to maximize means-tested Medicaid benefits.  One of the most common ways to maximize Medicaid benefits is through “income reduction” techniques that often involve creating a Qualified Income Trust (QIT).  These QITs are often referred to by many in the legal community as “Miller Trusts” after a court case that authorized this technique.  There are also various special needs trusts that clients can set up to save assets without breaching the income requirements needed to maintain Medicaid eligibility.  In order to take advantage of these financial planning techniques it is a good idea to consult with a professional estate planning attorney. 

See Kyle Krull, What Do My Clients Need to Know About Medicaid Planning (for Starters, Anyway)?, Wealth Management, October 7, 2015.

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

October 8, 2015 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Income Tax, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 5, 2015

Special Considerations To Keep in Mind When Estate Planning For The Devout

ReligionWhen planning the estate of a religiously devout person, there are special concerns that will often arise as the client seeks to plan within the confines of their beliefs. For some, this might manifest itself in the need to have any philanthropic inclinations be tailored to make sure that the beneficiaries will use the gift in a manner consistent with the beliefs of the donor. Many religions require special care of a body upon death which will require advanced planning to make sure the body is handled properly. One key consideration is an advanced care directive which is imperative in order to make sure that the client's final medical care is dictated by the doctrines of their beliefs. Ultimately, the most important step is to communicate with the client about what restrictions they might need imposed on their estate due to personal beliefs since it allows the most time to prepare sometimes difficult arrangements.

See Martin M. Shenkman, Catholic Considerations and Estate Planning, Wealth Management, October 1, 2015.

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

October 5, 2015 in Estate Administration, Religion, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Responsibilities Of Serving As An Estate Executor

ExecutorTaking on the responsibilities of being an estate executor for a friend or loved one can be a risky burden.  An executive that breaches his or her fiduciary duties can be held personally liable.  The real work of an executor begins after the testator's death when the executor must settle all outstanding taxes and debts and then distribute the estate's assets to the correct beneficiaries.  There are many different difficult tasks involved with this process and the policies can vary from state to state.  It is important to protect the estate and make sure everything is properly managed.  The position of estate executor carries with it immense responsibilities and people should think carefully before taking on such a task.  

See Shelly Schwartz, The other side of a will: Serving as executor to an estate, CNBC, October 3, 2015.  

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

October 4, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Intestate Succession, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Importance Of Making Sure An Executor Can Find The Estate Plan

Missing documentsThe best executed estate plan would be worthless if the executor of the estate cannot find the legal documents after a client passes away.  This column discusses the importance of making sure the designated executor is able to find the legal documents that client created for the estate.  The author of this column, Michael Pace, provided a personal anecdote of an experience he had with his sister keeping her estate planning documents in a hidden compartment that he would not have been able to find or gain access of.  This author recommends creating an "info list" template that would explain to the person that is appointed the attorney-in-fact, personal representative, or trustee knows where the necessary information is kept and stored.  Trying to get access to these documents after a client passes away would create a lot of stress and hardship for anyone appointed in a fiduciary role.  

See Michael Pace, The Best Estate Plan Is Worthless If It Can't Be Found, Financial Advisor IQ, October 2, 2015. 

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


October 2, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 28, 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.

September 28, 2015 in Articles, Death Event Planning, Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Massachusetts Woman Charged With Attempting To Steal From Father’s Estate

GavelA woman in West Newton Massachusetts has been charged for attempting to steal from her father’s estate.  According to Westmorland County detectives Darci Randall attempted to deprive her sister of her rightful share by claiming to be her father’s sole heir.  Randall filed to become administrator of her father’s estate and wrote a $245.50 check to cover court costs that later bounced.  When office staff tried to track her down for the payments they searched an obituary and discovered the identity of Randall’s sister.  “Randall is charged with attempted theft by unlawful taking, tampering with public records, writing bad checks and false swearing.”

See Jacob Tierney, West Newton woman charged in theft of dad’s estate, Trib Live, September 21, 2015.

September 23, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Donors Look To Third Parties To Manage Private Foundations

CharityMany donors prefer to set up private foundations rather than give money to an established charity since the foundation allows greater control and gives the donor the ability to target the causes they believe in. However, setting up a foundation is the easy part since an administrator is needed to manage the funds and seek out charitable opportunities which can be an expense beyond the means of all but the largest foundations. However, a new trend has emerged where one company provides day to day management of a foundation, along with multiple other charities, and actively seeks out new charitable ventures. A management set up such as this is advantageous since it offers professional leadership for the foundation at a more reasonable fee while giving the donor final say on major decisions.

See Sarah Murray, Donors Recognize The Benefits of Outsourcing, Financial Times, September 19, 2015.

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

September 21, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 20, 2015

What Happens To A Tenant's Lease When They Pass Away?

Lease agreementIn this column a tenant living in a New York City apartment asks what would happen to their two year lease if they passed away before it expired.  The individual specifically wants to know if his daughter would be responsible for the remainder of the lease.  In the event of a person’s death the estate would be responsible for the lease.  There is a provision in New York State property law that would permit the estate to find someone to take over the lease.  If the estate makes a reasonable request to have someone take over the lease the landlord must either accept it or terminate the lease.  The relevant provision in New York state property law can be read here

See Ronda Kasen, Death and Leases, The New York Times, September 19, 2015.

September 20, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 11, 2015

New Digital Estate Planning App Now Available For Estate Planners

EverplansAbby Schneiderman, a tech entrepreneur who faced personal tragedy at a young age, has developed a new digital app that financial advisers can use to help their clients better organize their account information.  When Schneiderman lost her brother in a tragic car accident her family had to scramble to organize his financial information.  Everplans is the new program developed by Schneiderman and co-founder Adam Seifer to assist financial planning firms with better managing their clients data.  There are currently 40 professionals that have signed onto the new program but some are still expressing reservations.  Right now there is fierce competition from services like MoneyGuidePro, so Everplans is going to have to demonstrate to financial planning firms why its service is the best for organizing the financial data of a growing number of elderly clients. 

See Phyllis Furman, A Digital Estate Planning App Now Targets Advisors, Financial Planning, September 8, 2015.



September 11, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)