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

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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

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Should I Share My Will with My Financial Advisor?

And the answer is: No. Usually. See you next week.   Okay, okay, I’ll elaborate.   Your Last Will and Testament is a confidential document while you are alive. When you pass away your Will may be Probated in a court – at which time it’s contents are publicly available – so that your estate’s assets are properly distributed to your choice of beneficiaries.   So only you and your lawyer have access to the contents of your Will. Disinherit your son? He can’t find out while you are alive. Have more assets than your family knows about? They shall continue to live in ignorance. Don’t trust third parties with access to your confidential information? No problem, nothing to see

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No One Likes Your Uncle Marvin: Isolated Aging Men

Many of us have an aging male friend or family member who is unmarried and has no children. This man, also known as your “Uncle Marvin”, is getting older, lives alone, and is probably financially prepared for the remainder of his life. But he may be completely unprepared for the legal consequences of his aging.   Unlike his female counterparts, such as your Aunt May, Uncle Marvin and his male contemporaries are more likely to be emotionally isolated from other family members and socially separated from his community. In addition, our society still erroneously views men as competent, stoic loners who don’t require or desire our involvement with their lives. Even our health care and aging mechanisms are geared toward

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Your Brother is Taking Your (Parent’s) Money

  My grandmother used to counsel her friends with young children by sharing the phrase “Small children, small problems; big children, big problems…”   Some siblings work a lot, take pride in their independence, and save their hard-earned money. And some siblings have bad luck, are victims of financial predators or our legal system (divorce, criminal “justice” matters, etc.), or they may just be lazy. While the stars perfectly aligned for the former children, the latter child gets stuck in a perpetual rut, parents or other family members start financing his lifestyle, and sibling bitterness boils.   Down-on-their-luck children drain family assets, become increasingly disinterested in working, and cause fraternal discontent and animosity. Parental assets that could one day pass

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Legal Documents You Should Share With Your Family

When you pass away certain information dies with you, such as where you keep your legal documents and what the contents of those documents are. Keep in mind written documents matter: The basis of our lives is run by contracts. But if those contracts cannot be found your wishes and desires could be confounded. Here are some suggestions regarding sharing and not sharing certain legal documents:   Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements should always, always, ALWAYS be shared with multiple family members. These are not recorded anywhere, so if you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse mysteriously lose your copies you need to contact your former attorneys. And remember: Attorneys in New York only have an obligation to hold onto legal work product for

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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

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Your Prenup: How Your Family Law Attorney Betrayed You

If you have a prenuptial agreement, chances are that the family law attorney who represented you betrayed you and didn’t even realize it.   I often tell clients to get a prenup if they are getting married later in life, and insist my older clients pay for their child’s prenup. And soon thereafter, much to my dismay, I see yet another prenup that unintentionally-yet-completely screws my client if his or her spouse dies unexpectedly.   Prenups serve one vital purpose: “Split Money.” There is usually a financial disparity between the parties when the couple marries, so the wealthier spouse naturally wants to protect his or her money from the other spouse’s financial grasp after a short marriage. So the prenup

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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

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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

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