The ONLY 5 Times You Should Leave Your Will with Your Lawyer

Ah, lawyers. That smarmy, cash-grabbing group of wordy professionals who somehow legitimately charge you in 15-minute intervals for one text message. And if you thought their tricks ended when you are dead, you would be wrong: Attorneys even know how to ensure they wring out one last retainer after you expire. When a person has their Will done with an attorney it becomes an excuse for the lawyer to say, “After all your thought and money, don’t you think it makes sense for me to hold onto your Will in case your family can find it when you die?” What the attorney was NOT telling you is that when you do expire they get the first chance at charging your

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4 Reasons Your Online Will is Turdy

In the world of legal documents, sometimes having nothing is better than having something. If you pass away without a Will you would hardly be the first person – thousands of people die in the United States every day without having a Will – so there are default statutes that dictate how your estate shall be distributed. True, often times these default laws do not entirely fulfill your post-mortem desires, but they may be better than drafting a faulty document from an online web site, executing it incorrectly, or drafting in ambiguities that now require extra court interpretation (and attorney costs) when you do pass away. My advice: Work with an attorney to draft your Will, even if it’s a

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The 4 Ways (and Best Way) to Leave Property Using Your Will and Trust

If you have not already, one morning you will wake up and finally accept the fact that one day you shall die. Not an easy thought but coming to this inevitable conclusion earlier in life has the benefit of allowing you to plan for the things that remain when you pass: Your family, friends, legacy, and money. And while you can use accounts that name beneficiary designations to transfer some property – such as retirement plans, life insurance, and transfer-on-death accounts – only Wills and Trusts allow you to transfer property at the point-in-time you desire (such as a beneficiary attaining a certain age), and include protections for beneficiaries (from creditors, spendthrift behaviors, special needs and addiction). But how much

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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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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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“Don’t Forget About BoBo: Pet Trust for Your Animal Companion”

One of my dearest aging clients have a dog named Bo Bo. Bo Bo is a true companion to this couple: They are in their 90s and have outlived many of their friends, the husband is more mobile than his wife and likes to get physical activity by walking Bo Bo, and the dog is absolutely in love with them. Bo Bo also smells bad, barks at the littlest disturbance, is a manic that constantly jumps on visitors, (and gets slobber and fur on my suit, which needs to be dry cleaned after every single visit) and is begrudgingly tolerated (at best) by anyone other than my clients. Unfortunately,  when my clients pass to the eternal human boneyard, Bo Bo’s

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5 Times You DON’T Pay a Deceased Person’s Credit Card Bill

The weeks immediately following a family member’s death is tense, emotional and stressful; many people rush to handle the departed person’s affairs. This includes paying the deceased person’s debts, since every credit card company comes out of the woodwork the moment the card is cancelled by the survivors. However, many family members pay these bills even though they had no responsibility to do so.   Here are 5 instances when you should NOT pay a deceased person’s debts:   Retirement Plans: Remember that your retirement plans are protected from most creditors, including credit cards. If the decedent died with only retirement plan assets remaining in his name, tell this to the credit card company and don’t pay them anything.  

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Increase Executor Commissions by Including Real Estate Transfers

You have a good deal of latitude structuring Executor’s commissions in a Will. There are many subtleties to default Executor commissions that apply if you don’t substitute them; in order to be fair to your Executor, one that you may want to modify relates to instructing your Executor to transfer real estate under the terms of your will.   In New York, Executor commissions are based on collecting and distributing property, primarily intangible investments. These commissions are easy to calculate, since investment assets are easy to price, transfer and sell. But the family home – typically the largest Probate asset – is not so easy to administer, and is not always commissionable.   If the real estate is sold as

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5 Special Provisions You Should Add to Your Will

At some level, American Wills have not changed much in the last 200 years: Just like in old-timey England you need to (1) state who gets what, particularly anything left-over (your residuary estate), (2) who shall manage your estate’s affairs (your Executor), (3) you need to sign your Will or have someone do it for you in your presence with your permission if you don’t do so yourself, and (4) you need two disinterested witnesses who sign your Will in your presence as you state it is your Will. However, there are a few modern developments and government programs that justify adding the following provisions to even the most routine Wills:   Contingent Ownership of a 529 Plan: If you

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Trusts: How to Protect a (Troubled) Child from Your Money

Parents: You are responsible for the financial education and well-being of your child. You have more life experience, you are the ones who brought your children into the world, and you are the one leaving your money to them. So take the extra step and make sure you give your children money in a responsible way. We’ve all heard of it: The child who spent all of his inheritance before he received it, the gambler, the substance abuser, spendthrift, and so on. In 2011, I had a 29 year old female client, whom I shall call “Janice” who didn’t have one penny to her name: Janice was living in a homeless shelter, on all types of public assistance, and almost thoroughly ignored

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