Monday, August 31, 2009

Get Your Deeds In Order - ISSUE ONE - Deceased Spouse Name still on Deed!!!

So often as part of the Estate Administration part of my practice, I have to address issues that should have been resolved long ago. Over the next few days, I will discuss the typical type of problems that arise with Deeds. Today, I will address the Deeds that still have a deceased spouse's name on the Deed.

Is your deceased spouse's name still on your Deed?
When one spouse dies the property becomes the property of the surviving spouse (Tenancy by the Entireties). The surviving spouse takes 100% ownership as the right of the surviving spouse. Therefore, many choose to not incur the cost of having a new Deed prepared. However, when there is a sale of the property evidence of the death of the spouse whose name is still on the Deed is needed. Though this is easily accomplished with a death certificate, it is still another step that has to be taken. You may have a death certificate handy or you may have to order another one. Everytime something is done with the Deed, the explanation and proof has to be provided, even for the heirs at the death of the surviving spouse.

I recommend, for yourself as well as your heirs, that a new Deed be prepared when one spouse dies. The minimum cost that you will incur will save you and your heir lots of unnecessary anguish in the future.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Power of a Story - Kennedy in His Own Words

As Senator Edward M. Kennedy was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetary, his legacy could be seen in his family, friends and the nation touched by his 47 years of service in Congress. I watched the services held for him but also, like many, I saw the HBO special Kennedy: In His Own Words. The Kennedy Dynasty began in the years after World War II and Senator Kennedy carried on that dynasty for his entire life, flaws and all.

It is important that all of us tell our story in some way. I work with my clients to do just that, create their legacy. All of us have a unique life from which others, especially our family and other loved ones, can learn and benefit. The Kennedy's have not taken their story to their graves but have documented it in ways that we all can reflect. I venture to say that estate planning was a top priority for this family. At the time of death of each respective family members questions of having a will or taking care of those left behind were NEVER raised. It was done, no question!!!

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Board Members of Non-Profits - Succession Planning

Board members of non-profits often have their hands full with all aspects of raising money to further the non-profit's mission as well as keep the non-profit viable. From discussing how to raise money, organizing and having fundraisers, writing for grants, to nurturing relationships with potential donors, board members could fail to address another important aspect of their responsiblity. Business succession planning can not be overlooked by board members. A non-profit is still a business and without taking into its role business succession planning, the board members will miss out on the most important viability issue facing a non-profit.

Business succession planning is at every level of the work of a non-profit; from its committee membership, its operations personnel, to its board membership. Now is the time to take a look at each of these area and address any deficiencies. Without succession planning the future of your non-profit IS at risk.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Wow!!! You Hit the Lottery, Now What?

In these economic times we still have people hitting the lottery for millions of dollars, inheriting millions, and making fortunes on certain investments. Are you prepared for a financial windfall? I would venture to say that many are not. I would further venture to say that EVERYONE should be because what it takes to be prepared for a windfall is what it takes to be prepared for LIFE!!

Here are my lessons for life as it relates to Winning The Lottery!!!

1. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing. Do not take a lump sum payment. Take the money over time. It gives you time to think rationally and even to learn more about what you have and what you really need.

2. What you don't know CAN hurt you. Learn about money. Educate yourself by taking a course on money management and investments. You have the time and money and it is well worth it.

3. You Can't Take It With You. You need to make a will. A will represents your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets. Without a will, you leave it to the state and can create disharmony among your family. A little planning goes a long way.

4. Help Those Who Help Themselves. Many people will ask for help along the way and some immediately upon knowing of your good fortune. But ask them, what are you doing to help your situation? Do not just go on what they say, go on what you know. People do not change with a hand out.

5. Know Your Friends. Your true friends expect nothing from you that they were not already getting before your windfall.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Senator Edward M. Kennedy - An American Political Icon Dies

Senator Edward M. Kennedy will be remembered as we mourn his death. I share the attached video and look forward to addressing your comments over the next few days regarding his life and legacy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

As part of any estate planning, you must consider any upcoming marriage and the inheritance rights you might want to bestow on your new spouse. This is especially true in second marriages where there are children involved. This would entail the use of a prenuptial agreement which is used before marriage to generally alleviate inheritance rights.

There are now postnuptial agreements that may be entered into between spouses to address similar issues. There has to be full disclosure of assets in the postnuptial agreement. There has to be a lack of duress in the creation of the postnuptial agreement. It has to be fair to both parties.

Admittedly, the postnuptial agreement is not as strong as a prenuptial agreement but it is better than no agreement at all if inheritance is at issue. Given this precaution, each party should be represented by counsel.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Irrevocable Trust - When to Use

The Irrevocable Trust is an asset protection vehicle because it can protect your assets from creditors, bankrupty, divorce and nursing home costs. However, there is a 5 year look back period when applying for medicaid to cover nursing home costs.

Further, you must be cautious when placing anything in an Irrevocable Trust. If others can not reach the assets in the trust, neither can you. You can not change the terms of the trust or terminate the trust in order to retrieve the assets placed into the trust. You have to treat the trust assets as though you no longer own them because you no longer own them.

Consult with an estate planning attorney if you think that the Irrevocable Trust serves your interest. Leave your comments here or contact us at

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Living Wills - Surrogates

I continue to encourage people to get their living will done now while they are able to address the remote possibility of a catastrophic illness. It is important that you name a surrogate. More importantly, you must let the person you name as surrogate know that you named them and then get their confirmation that they can adhere to your wishes.

Do not name someone who CAN NOT agree with having life support withdrawn if you ever experience an end-stage condition or a permanent state of unconsciousness. Unfortunately, this has happened because either the person did not ask or confirm with their surrogate ahead of time. Listen and know that you are making the right decision with naming your surrogate.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

James Brown - His Legacy

I recently read about the settlement reached after James Brown's will was contested by his adult children alleging mismanagement by the trustees. Trustees are those appointed by James Brown (or the court if necessary) to be legally responsible for the financial management of certain assets placed in Trust.

In any event, what I am reminded of in that controversy is the importance (financial and otherwise) of ones legacy. It is the future income from movies, royalties and the sale of James Brown's likeness that may really prove to be the most lucrative for his estate. The settlement leaves his estate to his wife, his children, the Brown Family Educational Trust and charity.

Even though you may not be able to stop someone from contesting your will, you can make sure it withstands the scrutiny of the probate court with proper estate planning. Leave your comments here or contact us at

Friday, August 21, 2009

Stop!!! What Are You Waiting For? To Be Released Soon

Well, the book you have been waiting for has now gone to print. With the death of Michael Jackson, I wanted to include some lessons learned thus far, many more will continue to unfold. So, what is the book about??

STOP!! What are you waiting for?, a comprehensive guide to preserving your wealth, will provide information on the benefits of estate planning. It will address how estate planning (1) protects your assets, (2) saves you money, (3) creates your legacy, (4) distributes your wealth, (5) addresses your special circumstances, (6) insures you peace of mind, and (7) discerns needs as you age.

More importantly, this book will challenge you to reflect on your life. You can engage the estate planning process as a process of self-discovery to help you understand the life that you are living. It may be the first time that you plant an idea of your purpose that can begin to germinate into your legacy.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

An Ambassador's Legacy

Yesterday's blog asked "What is your legacy?". Today, I share how one woman's legacy has crossed over to the shores of Africa. Over 30 years ago, I graduated from Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. Since that time I have stayed in touch with one of my mentors, Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater. After serving as a Professor at Morgan, she joined the foreign service and continues her commitment to inspiring others to excel in education and achieve their dreams.

Now funds are being raised to build a school in her honor. Her work will not only help educate girls but will expand her personal reach by inspiring others to give back and help others. See how you can help at

What is your legacy? Through estate planning, you can capture it now, during your lifetime, and then preserve it for the prosperity of others now and those yet to be born.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Color Purple - What is your Legacy?

I recently read that the Alice Walker library at Emory University has opened. Her works, including the original manuscript for The Color Purple, will reside at the institution and therefore be available to the many who may want to enjoy her work or do research on it. During her lifetime, she has made a tremendous gift that will assure her wonderful literary legacy will live on well beyond her lifetime.

Many of us have legacies that we too can preserve whether at Ivy League institutions, community schools or other educational or artistic establishments. It just requires proper planning now. Why allow your work to languish in the basement of your home or the attic of family members who may not appreciate the true worth of your talent? Your talents, whether literary, artistic, musical, or otherwise need your attention to continue to thrive beyond your mortal lifetime. Think about it!!! Act now!!!

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Monday, August 17, 2009

The Five Year Look Back - Keeping Assets in the Family

I am often asked about the 5 year look back period as it relates to nursing home costs. Will the nursing home take all of a person's assets? Can assets be transferred before a person has to go to a nursing home?

In order to qualify for state funding of one's nursing home expense, you either have to have no assets or spend down your assets. There are some permissible spend down, ie. prepaid funeral, home repair but the biggest one is paying for nursing home cost. Once you have paid for the nursing home care for a period of time, most assets are depleted. Some assets are protected if you are married and your spouse is not in a nursing home. If you are single, there is little that can be done unless you have planned ahead of time and transferred assets at least 5 years prior to going into a nursing home.

That is why planning now is so important. Leave your comments or contact us at

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Family Reunion and Estate Planning

I just attended my family reunion. When I walked out onto the Park grounds where the festivities were held, I realized that I was linked to something larger than myself. A family reunion is a good time to think about your estate. It helps you to see how over the generations wealth has been accumulated and in some cases wealth has been wasted. As a family, you can sit down and look at what has worked over the generations and try to capitalized on that for the next generation. Watching the young children participate in the organized games and spontaneous activities reinforced for me the importance of estate planning.

Think about what those close to you mean to you. Planning for their future and the future of those yet unseen is one of the most rewarding activities you can engage in, today!! Let your family reunion serve to ignite the desire to plan for the future.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Estate Planning - How Do I Get Started?

An associate of mine was preparing to make my introduction to a group of his colleagues. He wanted me to listen to what he had put together for my concurrence. He was very complimentary of my estate planning expertise and my caring and professional services. He then proceeded to tell people what they needed to have for a first meeting with me. Let me share his list and provide my comment:

1. Make sure you have all your assets appraised so the value of your estate can be determined.
My comment: Not Necessary
2. Make sure you purchase adequate life insurance to cover your loved ones.
My comment: Not Necessary
3. Pull all your important papers together, including your deeds, insurance, car title, bank statements, income tax returns and investments including retirement accounts.
My comment: Not Necessary

There were some other things that he mentioned. I thanked him profusely for the thoroughness of his remarks but had to comment on the last part. No wonder folks procrastinate on getting their estate planning done. It would be overwhelming for people if they had to prepare that much for the first meeting with me.

I made his last part easy: "For your first meeting with Yvette, you do not have to bring anything. She will guide you easily through the process which may entail obtaining certain documents or not depending upon your specific situation. So, what are you waiting for?"

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Town Hall Meetings and Healthcare Reform

The town hall meetings around healthcare reform are all a buzz. When I think about the importance of healthcare, I also think about the importance of having designated healthcare representatives.

We all want to be able to get appropriate healthcare whenever we should need it. Reform in our current laws is needed to accomplish this goal. We have an opportunity to impact what that law might look like. While we work with our elected officials to assure a plan that we all can live with, we should also be thinking about who will address our healthcare issues when we are unable to address them ourselves.

Do you have a Healthcare Power of Attorney? Do you have a Living Will? These documents allow you to express your wishes should you be unable to do so. They also allow you to appoint an agent to act on your behalf. The agent would be a person who understands what your desires and interests are as relates to your healthcare.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Creating Your Legacy

An important part of creating your legacy is making sure you build a sound financial future now. Even during these economic times, there are things we can and should be doing. Click on the article below which provides 3 simple steps to get you on the right track.
Financial Planning: Three Simple Steps to Financial Security - Quicken® Personal Finance Money Guide

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Michael Jackson - Buried?

I recently read that Michael Jackson's body will be buried in an unmarked grave. Well, what would he have wanted? I guess we will never know since there was no docummentation, to our knowledge, regarding his wishes.

Over the years, I have asked my clients of their burial intentions. The thought had not occurred to them but when asked to make their wishes known, they had very definite desires. Some have documented their interest to be cremated, with ashes maintained in an urn, tossed into the ocean, scattered over golf courses, and the list goes on. Others would like their bodies donated for scientific research. While others want very elaborate funerals with specific music and religious preferences which may be the same as their family or differ from their family.

No one can read your mind so think ahead and write done your wishes now.

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Finding Your Money!!!

I was looking out the window as I typed this blog admiring the greenery all around me. It made me think about the millions if not billions of dollars people take to the grave with them. This happens when you fail to keep loved ones informed of your insurance, investments, and the other benefits/assets you have.

Take the time now to collect your important papers in one place or make a list of all your insurance policies, investments, bank accounts, etc. Share with the person that you have named as executor in your will or let them know where such information will be located. There are now even on line services that you can use to store this information. Your loved ones will be notified once this service is made aware of your death. They do this by tracking Social Security Administration's death index and other governmental databases. As these services become more popular, less and less money will be diverted to the government. The intended recipient will get the money.

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Amending Your Trust

I had a question from a client regarding their revocable trust. They wanted to know whether they could amend their California trust or whether they had to execute a new trust now that they lived in Pennsylvania.

These clients had moved from California several years ago to Pennsylvania. In California they had executed a trust and proceeded to place their assets in their trust. This required them to retitle their assets from their individual names to the name of their jointly held trust. Over time new assets had been placed in the trust and now they wanted some of the terms to change since their circumstances had changed.

In response to their question, I advised that they could amend their trust. This way all of the assets already titled in the name of the trust would not have to be retitled into the name of yet another trust.

It is important when you move to have all of your estate planning documents reviewed to determine what documents need to be replaced and what documents may only need to be amended. Please leave your comments here or contact us at

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Credit Score and Estate Planning

Do you know your credit score? Have you checked your credit report recently? Estate planning is a time to get your financial house in order. An important element of that organization is getting credit score and credit report information. There is no cost to obtain this information and the importance to you is immeasurable.

How can you create wealth or leave a legacy if you are not on top of your own personal financial affairs? Today, your credit score is used for so many things and without a good one you may find yourself paying more, losing out on opportunities, and unable to secure your dream of a home. Once you obtain your credit report make sure it reflects your true credit information and if not have it changed immediately. Once your obtain your credit score, if it is high keep it that way and if it is low begin to make improvements.

In this day and time what you don't know can hurt you!!! Provide your comments here or contact us at

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Power of Attorney

I have blogged about the importance of having a power of attorney to address your financial affairs if you are ever incapacitated. More and more people understand the importance of the power of attorney but have questions about the formalities. They ask does your agent sign the power of attorney when you do? If not, when does the agent sign? Does the agent have to sign before a notary? How do I take the authority away from the agent? These are all good questions and the responses follow:

When does an agent sign the power of attorney?
The agent does not have to sign at the time that you sign your power of attorney. The agent's signature does not have to be notarized only the maker. In fact, since you only intend for your agent to use the power of attorney when you are incapacitated, then it is at that time that the agent signs and dates the power of attorney.

How do you revoke an agent's authority?
You should maintain your original powers of attorney. If you no longer want a person to serve as your agent then the powers of attorneys should be destroyed and new ones entered into. If your agent has an original power of attorney, then you must get it back and destroy it. Otherwise, you have to notify any one who may rely on the power of attorney that you have revoked your agent's authority. ALWAYS appoint someone whom you trust.

Springing Power of Attorney
There is another type of power of attorney referred to as a Springing Power of Attorney. It can only be used if a doctor has certified your incapacity and such certification must be attached to the power of attorney for it to be effective. The Springing Power of Attorney is revoked once your regain capacity.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Living Wills: The Debate Continues

As healthcare reform bills continue through congress, we pause to again reflect on the controversy over Living Wills. As I stated yesterday, a Living Will does not address all health related matters. It provides everyone with an opportunity to address our preference regarding life support if we should ever be in an end-stage medical condition or a state of permanent unconsciousness.

I wanted to add today that a Living Will can be very complex or simple. If you want to provide specific details regarding your life support alternatives, you can do that. If you merely want to state that you do not want heroic efforst used if you are in an end of life state, you can do that as well. Most important, whether your Living Will is complex or simple, it should be explained and understood by the person you name in your Living Will as your surrogate. That will be the person to address your life support preference when you are unable.

A Living Will allows you to address end of life decisions and not leave it in the hands of others who do not know your wishes.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Living Will and Healthcare Reform

Remember, the 2005 Terri Schiavo case which received national attention. Living Wills, an estate planning document, received front page notoriety and was the topic of discussion around water coolers, coffee shops, chat rooms, you get the picture. It was all a buzz!!

Well, it's back!! This time Living Wills are being discussed in the context of healthcare reform. Doctors and medical institutions in the past had been encouraged to determine the medical treatment wishes of their patients. Have you or someone you love been to the hospital recently? What are all those forms that you have to fill out? For many medical procedures, the hospital wants to know your preference regarding any life support measures or whether you want to be resuscitated. They may ask do you have a Living Will or DNR (do not resuscitate) order.

As I have counseled my clients,a Living Will is not the same as euthanasia. However, this has become part of the current controversy. So I think it is important to discuss exactly what a Living Will is.

What is a Living Will?
In the context of laws like Pennsylvania, a Living Will is used to express your desires regarding life support for end-stage medical conditions or a permanently unconscious state, such as an irreversible coma or an irreversible vegetative state. There also has to be NO realistic hope of recovery. In other words, without life-support, death would result. Your physician and generally another attending physician would make this determination. After the determination, the surrogate named in your Living Will would express your wishes as documented.

What are Life Support Measures?
The type of life support addressed by your Living Will may include measures like mechanical respiration, cardiac resuscitation, tube feeding, or other artificial forms of nutrition or hydration. This is not an exhaustive list but merely serves as an example. With modern technology, the forms of life support continue to advance. That is why it is important to have a discussion with your physician to understand the options available and how you want to address those options.

Do You Have A Living Will?
A year after the Schiavo case brought national attention to the subject of Living Wills and people were being encouraged to express their wishes in a Living Will, I commissioned a survey and found that 69% of the local population still DID NOT have a Living Will. Age did not matter, though the older population was slightly more prone to address this topic than those much younger. The results of the survey confirmed that most people are not making Living Wills a priority. Even with the incredible media coverage surrounding the case many people just have not been moved to action by executing a Living Will. I surmised, at that time, that any increase in other parts of the region or nation was minimal.

What Next?
What will the current debate on Living Wills have on people? Will making a Living Will be on the rise, decline or remain the same. Well, I am looking forward to conducting another survey after this controversy ends.

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Estate Planning Now For the Health of Your Life

This morning I went jogging, nothing noteworthy just lightly jogging. I was not jogging because my doctor told me to start doing some exercise or I needed to prepare for a race. I was jogging just to be healthy. And then I thought, why do people need to get their estate planning done. Just because one does their estate planning does not mean they are getting ready to die. Though for some unfortunate reason some people believe making a will might lead to an early death. Well, that is a myth so dispel it!

In any event when one gets their estate planning done, it can be done because they want to be prepared for their eventual death but clearly intend to live a long life. Getting estate planning done will not shorthen their life but will allow them to live knowing they have taken care of the next generation. So like jogging to live a healthy life, how ever long that may be, estate planning is done to live knowing the financial health of those we love has been addressed.

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