Friday, February 26, 2010

Special Needs Trusts

As I sit at my computer composing this post, we are in yet another winter snow storm. The snow whirls in tornado circles creating high drifts in the yard and on the roadway. Even the wildlife that I may generally see has bunkered down for this event.

I reflect now on the radio interview that I did yesterday. I received a call after the show about Special Needs Trusts. These are trusts set up for the benefit of those with special needs who receive or may receive medical assistance or other government benefits. When the money of the person with special needs is used there is an age restriction for medical assistance benefits.

For medical assistance eligibility, the Special Needs Trust must be irrevocable and for the sole benefit of one with special needs under the age of 65. If the special needs individual is over 65, then their own money CAN NOT be placed in a trust to enable eligibility for medical assistance. This is to avoid those who may be going into a nursing home to take all of their money and have it placed in a trust so that they can qualify for public assistance, medicaid.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Financial Voices - Radio Interview

Good Thursday Morning:

We are getting another snow storm today through tomorrow. Fortunately, my office is attached to my home. I can get my work done without the commuting problems that exist with bad weather.

Also, this morning:

I will be live - call-in- on Financial Voices

(Thursdays, 7am to 9:30am) on

WURD Radio 900AM.

I will be talking about my book:

Stop! What are you waiting for? Your Step-by-Step Guide to Estate Planning.

This is another opportunity to reach a large audience about an important topic to everyone. Without planning, we leave our assets, estate, loved ones subject to the uncertainties, changing, arcane laws and regulations of the state and federal government. We have to take charge of our destiny, the destiny of what we have worked for all of our lives. If not now, when?

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lessons Learned

Over the last few days we have had an estate planning moment from the archives of the rich and famous. Now, what do you do with this information? Well, just today, I had a new client tell me that these specific blogs made him think about what "could" happen. And with that comment, I realized my intent had been fulfilled.

You see, these are the types of mistakes I think about daily. However, such issues do not form a part of most people's regular thoughts or concerns. But, when I show you how it could play out with folks you "know" then I bring it home to you. It becomes more personal.

It also demonstrates how important it is that you seek professional estate planning guidance from one who is an expert in this area. Their insight is invaluable to you and your family.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dispute flares in Estate of Tasha Tudor

I have been covering the wills of the rich and famous. One of my readers thought it would be of interest to mention the current dispute in the 2 million dollar Estate of Tasha Tudor. Well, to be honest, I was not familiar with her but I researched the estate dispute and it is a classic one. Three disinherited children strike out against the one child favored in the will. Allegations of undue influence by their sibling and questions of the sanity of their 92 year old mother fill the court documents. Who wins in these battles with all parties represented by separate attorneys and siblings estranged from one another? Could it all be avoided with professional planning? Yes, if one cares enough to make a plan, then it should be done to cause the least amount of human anguish.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

No Dog House for Trouble the Maltese

Many states now provide for Pet Trusts under their laws. But, there is a right way and there is a wrong way to leave money to you pet. Here is example of how you do not want to do it.
When she died in 2007, hotel tycoon Leona Helmsley's will left most of her $5 billion estate to charity, created a $12 million trust for her Maltese dog, Trouble, and completely cut out two of her four grandchildren. The two stiffed grandkids sued her estate, claiming she wasn't mentally fit to create her will and trust. The case settled, with Trouble getting $2 million, and the two grandkids sharing $6 million plus legal fees.

If you're older and cutting out relatives, have some professional, doctor or lawyer, conduct an evaluation of your sanity to confirm your sanity when the natural object of your "bounty" is disinherited, especially in favor of an animal.
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Olympics - Loss and Lessons

Your original will is required for probate so it must be maintained in a safe place. The three options I share with my clients is (1) a safe at home that is fire proof (2) a safety deposit box (3) my firm's safe. Choose one location and advise your executor.
When Olympic sprinter Florence Griffith Joyner died at 38, in 1998, her husband couldn't find her original will, and failed to file it with the probate court within 30 days of her death, as required by California law. Joyner's husband and mother took disputes, including whether Joyner promised her mother could live in their house the rest of her life, to court. Joyner never filed the original will, and the judge eventually appointed a third party to administer the estate.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Your Will Must Be in Writing

Oral promises can not withstand legal scrutiny when it comes to leaving someone property when you die. The formalities of a will are required.
A friend of Marlon Brando claimed Brando gave her the house she lived in, saying he had kept it in his name for tax reasons. She settled with the executors of his estate for $125,000. She also claimed Brando promised her continued employment with a company he owned, and settled that claim out of court. She was lucky to get anything and clearly felt she was entitled to a lot more.
Make your intent clear by executing a will and make sure if someone claims that they are leaving you something when they die, see that it is put in writing or get it befor they die. Leave you comments here or contact us at

Lesson: Oral promises won't do; if you're serious, execute the right written documents.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Selecting Your Executor - Be Extremely Careful

Your executor serves a critical role in making sure your estate benefits those individuals you intended to be benefitted. First, they have to be someone you trust. Secondly, it should be a trusted person who has the ability to get the job done or know how to hire and oversee qualified professionals. You do not want your executor to be a spendthrift because if they can not handle their money, they probably will not be able to properly handle yours.
Tobacco heiress Doris Duke, who died in 1993 with a fortune estimated at $1.3 billion, named her butler as executor and as trustee for a huge charitable foundation. After the butler's lifestyle and spending habits were called into question, he was removed from his duties by a probate judge, then reinstated by New York's highest court. A settlement agreement created a board of trustees to manage the foundation.

She may have trusted her butler but apparently his lifestyle was not conducive to being a trusted executor. Leave your comments here or contact us at

Friday, February 12, 2010

Updating Your Will is as Important As Having a Will

When actor Heath Ledger died at age 28 in 2008, he had a will. However, it was written three years before he died. This was prior to his relationship with Michelle Williams and the birth of their daughter, Matilda Rose. The will left everything to Heath Ledger's parents and sister. What does all this mean for his daughter Matilda Rose? Will her grandparents and aunt look out for her, financially? That is anyone's guess. Stay tuned but more importantly update your will before it is too late.
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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Princess Di - Formalities are Important For a Will

It is important that your will is signed, witnessed and notarized in order to avoid unnecessary controversey. Some individuals like to leave a memorandum noting distribution of some objects. However, it is important to go through the formalities required of a valid will to make sure your wishes are followed.
At her death in 1997, Princess Diana left a detailed will, naming her sister and mother as executors. She also wrote a separate "letter of wishes" asking her executors, at their discretion, to divide her belongings among her sons and her 17 godchildren. But instead of getting stuff worth over $100,000, each godchild got the equivalent of a trinket. If you want someone to have somethng special do not rely on others to do it for you, provide for it in your will.
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Former Chief Justice - Relying on do-it-yourself documents

It is important, for everyone, to have a will prepared by an experienced estate planning attorney. Your life's assets are too important to try to do it yourself. Whether you are a rocket scientist, brain surgeon or Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, you need someone with estate planning expertise to get the job done, right.
Chief Justice Warren Burger died in 1995 with a $1.8 million estate and a one page will that he drafted up himself. As a result, his family paid estate taxes that could have been avoided if properly planned. Further, his executors had to pay to go to court to get approval to complete administrative acts, such as selling real estate, that typically a well-drafted will would have allowed without court approval.
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Jimi Hendrix - Never Wrote Will

Music legend Jimi Hendrix died at age 27 in 1970 without a will. Since he did not plan for the distribution of his estate, the State contolled the distribution of his assets. Based upon the State laws, Jimi Hendrix's entire estate went to his father. Though he had a brother who he was reportedly close to, his brother received nothing.
His father did leave a Will when he died. His father's estate (including his inheritance from Jimi) still did not go to any relatives of Jimi. His father had remarried and his estate was left to his new family.
None of us are promised tomorrow. It is better to be prepared than not prepared. Share your comments here or contact us at

Monday, February 8, 2010

Madam C.J.Walker - Entrepreneur Legacy

We continue with the estate planning lessons of the rich and/or famous, the contemporary and/or historical figures. What did they do right or wrong in their planning? Hindsight of course is 20/20 so let it work for our estate planning.

How many of us know Madam C.J. Walker? She was born in 1867 and became an American businesswoman, hair care entrepreneur, tycoon and philanthropist who made a way out of no way to accomplish what many only dreamed about during her time. She made a fortune by developing and selling beauty and hair products. She founded the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company to sell hair care products and cosmetics. She used her company to build wealth and to promote economic opportunities for others. She provided jobs to many during her lifetime and gave to charitable institutions. Upon her death in 1919, she left two-thirds of her estate to many educational institutions and charities all of which still exist today because of this type of philanthropy.

Because Madam C.J. Walker did plan for the transfer of her wealth upon her death, her legacy lives on today in her great-great-granddaugher's ability to share her ancestor's story through her books, writings and speakes. Leave your comments here or contact us at

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wills of the Rich and Famous

There are lessons for all of us in the planning or failure to plan of the rich and famous. I thought I would spend a few days looking at some rich and famous, contemporary and historical figures. What did they do right or wrong in their planning? Hindsight of course is 20/20 so let it work for our estate planning.

Last night as I was looking at Jeopardy this post came to mind. The question was "At his death in 1790, he left 200 year trust funds to the cities of Boston, MA and Philadelphia, PA?" Do you know the answer? It was Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin decided to leave funds to his native Boston and his adopted Philadelphia, on the condition that it be placed in a fund that would gather interest over a period of 200 years. Franklin's Philadelphia trust was used for a variety of loan programs to local residents. The money was used mostly for mortgage loans. When the trust came due, Philadelphia decided to spend it on scholarships for local high school students. Franklin's Boston trust fund was used to establish a trade school that, over time, became the Franklin Institute of Boston.

In this case, Franklin invested a small amount that accumulated a lot over a long period of time and made a difference in the lives of countless individuals. Rich or famous, a little or a lot, let us help you plan TODAY for tomorrow. Leave your comments here or contact us at

Monday, February 1, 2010

Black History Month

As we end the month of January, we have been able to wish everyone Happy New Year!! As we begin the month of February, many of us are still contemplating those resolutions. Well, a few of you did follow one of my recommendations. That is to make your will. I received a number of calls in January to begin the process. Everyone wanted to do something that had been on their list for awhile and the new year was a good time to move forward. I am glad they did and still encourage others to join them.

As we also usher in Black History Month, I encourage everyone to learn something new this month about the contributions made by African Americans to this country. Everyone benefits from the contributions of others. All ethic groups help to make this country great. Each month serves as a time of reflection, whether it is Black History Month, Women's History Month, Irish American Heritage Month or American Indian Heritage Month. How do you celebrate your heritage?

Plan now, your legacy depends upon it. Leave your comments here or contact us