Angry Brothers Agree to Settle (Mom’s Estate)

You never know how close you are to your family until you have to share an inheritance with them. I am wrapping-up a case where my client’s mother died, leaving a Will that equally-distributed her real estate between her two somewhat-acrimonious sons. Usually this apartment would be sold, proceeds disbursed, and everyone would go their separate way. However, my client’s brother insisted that he could make them more money if he improved the real estate. His brother (my client) was not so hip on this idea – none of them had any real estate investing experience – but through sheer force, perseverance and presumption his brother had his own son move in (which he did – with a few kewl

Read More

Should You Treat Your Kids Evenly in Your Estate Plan?

I believe you do not need to treat children equally in your estate plan, even if they are equally responsible, equally financially-empowered, and on good terms with you and one-another. Some parents follow differing distributive patterns under Sharia Law or other cultural edicts, others leave disparate amounts to children if one has several children of their own and the other child does not. In the end, the decision of how to bequeath one’s money is the client’s decision. I had one couple who decided to almost completely disinherit their daughter. She was an active opioid addict for several years, and they felt leaving her substantial money (even if utilizing a trust with a substance abuse provision that would limit her

Read More

4 Reasons Your Family Disinherited You

I often get calls from indignant clients telling me their recently-departed parent or other family member has disinherited them, and they want to know their options. And while proving a Will that disinherits someone is never a foregone conclusion, they are usually walking up to home plate with two strikes against them.   And many times, this was unexpected: The client had no clue why they were cut out of the decedent’s estate. From my experience, it is likely due to one of the following misperceptions you had:   You did not give them enough attention.   Face it: Spending time with elderly and sick people is not usually our go-to option for a Friday night. It can be very

Read More

6 Steps Before You Fund Your Child’s Home Down Payment

I have had an increasing number of clients approach me asking an increasingly-difficult question: “Should I provide my child with funds for her first home down payment, or focus on my own lifetime needs and leave my (presumably larger) estate as an inheritance when I pass away?” This is not an easy decision, since it depend both on the parent’s finances and health issues, and the child’s cash flow and social issues.   Many middle-class parents realize their children’s purchasing power for real estate is significantly weaker than theirs was: Real estate prices have outpaced income growth over the last twenty years, while the number and cost of financial commitments (such as student loan debt and health insurance payments) have

Read More

5 Reasons UTMA Accounts Are Bad

Parents and grandparents sometimes look for easy ways to give money to younger family members. The challenge arises when the recipient is a minor (minors cannot own property in their own name until 18, with some exceptions) and when the donor wants to minimize legal fees. A Uniform Transfer to Minors Act [“UTMA”] account, which leaves funds to the child when he/she turns 21, used to be viewed as an appropriate way to leave funds to a minor now that would be paid out later when he/she reached a more mature age. UTMAs are inexpensive: You only need to set up the account at a financial institution, name an adult custodian for the account, and let the custodian buy a

Read More

What and When Should I Tell My Kids?

Parents who have gone through the estate planning process typically ask what information they should share with their children and when. The answer requires balancing many factors, but can be boiled down to a simple concept: Take responsibility and own up to your decisions, and don’t leave it to your kids to fight about it. First, if a child has been left out of a Will or is receiving less money than other siblings you may want to tell them so, and why. Clearly this is not a universal approach, but taking responsibility and informing them up-front allows the child to reconcile this fact. This will also help minimize your other children having to deal with the dispossessed child’s bitterness

Read More

College Kids in Trouble! Draft Your Child’s Health Care Proxy

Ah, the Ivory Tower, where high school kids aspire to escape to, and parents best hope for 4 years of peace and quiet. But with independence comes responsibility: Travel, driving, concerts, and protests. And drinking. Lots of drinking. And then comes a horrible injury or hospital admittance, followed by a parental realization: You are not allowed access to your adult child’s health care information, and cannot make decisions regarding their health care.   In most states, the age of majority is 18, and once he or she moves out of his or her parent’s residence they are considered an adult with all of the privacy rights that inure to adults.   The only individual who, by default, has access to

Read More

Second Wives: Reapers of Sorrow, Destroyers of Family Wealth!

In a world where our assets are constantly under threat from usurious taxes, government largess, financial predators and rapacious offspring, there is still NO worse threat to intergenerational family wealth than a second wife.   People get married the first time for any one of a number of reasons: Family pressure, filling a void, the urge to have children, an inexplicable desire to emulate the lives of Al and Peg Bundy and passion.  But these first marriages often end, sometimes with children left in their wake, and are replaced by a second marriage based on love, devotion and emotional security.   In these second (or third) marriages, often one spouse tends to be significantly older and more financially secure than

Read More

The Roadmap to Your Family Should be in Your Will

The cornerstone of Probate, leaving your estate to whomever you want, is almost paradoxical since the process is not as easy as most people think. To the great surprise of heirs that are listed in the Will, the decedent’s descendants (or next closest relatives) must be put on notice during the Probate process to validate the Will. The very concept of the requirement of placing the next of kin on notice is foreign to most clients: Why does a person’s nearest relative, who the Testator may have loathed, still have to be placed on notice of the Probate of the Will, even if that relative is being disinherited? The answer: Our estate laws allow your closest family members the right

Read More

UTMA Accounts: The Good, Bad and Ugly

Uniform Transfer to Minors Act accounts allow a person to leave funds to a minor beneficiary without a court’s interference.  In general, minors are not legally able to own property. If a minor comes into possession of a bank or investment account or proceeds from a life insurance policy or retirement plan, a court may have to appoint a guardian over the property. UTMA accounts sidestep this requirement by naming a custodian over the funds: the custodian oversees and invests the funds until the minor turns 21 years old.   However, just because UTMAs avoid court oversight, does not mean they are devoid of other problems:   Poor Investment Decisions: A custodian who invests the funds poorly relies on state

Read More

DISCLAIMER: Attorney Advertising. Please note that prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.