When your loved one dies, an experienced probate attorney can be a great asset. If your loved one had a will then there should be a person named to be in charge of wrapping up the estate, called an Executor. The Executor is generally a surviving spouse, an adult child, a trusted friend or relative, or a trust company named in the will. If your loved one had no formal will appointing an Executor, a court appointed Administrator may be required to pass assets on to his/her heirs at law. The Executor or Administrator has a special responsibility to act in the best interest of the Estate beneficiaries and see that the Estate assets and money are not wasted.
If you are an Executor or Administrator, one of the smartest ways to ensure you are acting in the best interests of the Estate beneficiaries is to hire an experienced probate attorney. Your attorney should be willing to provide you with a basic education of the probate process so you can determine which tasks you can handle independently and which ones will require professional guidance. The Estate is responsible for paying the attorney fees, so there should be no personal cost to you. Hiring a probate attorney who has good communication skills and makes themselves available to you is the ticket to a successful estate administration.
The following is a sample of services an experienced probate attorney should offer Executors or Administrators during the probate process:
1. Assist with obtaining copies of death certificates and a dated obituary notice and/or newspaper articles.
2. Coordinate meetings with the decedent’s family and/or beneficiaries, as necessary.
3. Advise on checking the contents of any safe deposit boxes and on obtaining copies of marriage and birth certificates.
4. Help with compiling a list of heirs, next of kin and beneficiaries.
5. Review the decedent’s will with the Executor/Administrator and decedent’s family to determine whether probate is needed and if so, what probate proceeding is most appropriate.
6. Proceed with probate filing, if no trust was created.
7. If necessary, obtain letters testamentary or letters of administration for the executor/administrator from the court.
8. Assist with inventory of tangible real estate property and obtaining real estate deeds, mortgages, leases, and tax information, as well as provide guidance with inventorying and securing personal items such as cars, trucks, boats, recreational vehicles, mobile homes, motorcycles, furniture, fine jewelry, art and personal contents of the home(s).
One of the most common concerns of our aging clients is the fear of losing their family home if they need full time nursing care. There seems to be an inclination to transfer the family home to someone else, usually a family member, as quickly as possible to keep the home from being sold. This may sound like a smart idea, but it simply doesn’t work in most circumstances.
Losing the family home is a legitimate concern but one that you should not try to address without the assistance of an experienced elder law attorney. Here are a few of the problems you can encounter if you don’t abide by Kansas law and Medicaid rules:
1. Gift Tax Consequences. Unless the appraised value of your family home is $15,000 or less (the 2019 annual gifting allowance), when you transfer your family home to someone else, you will be required to file a gift tax return and may be subject to a gift tax.
2. Medicaid Reimbursement Claim. If you require full time nursing home care and are counting on Medicaid benefits to cover the cost of your care, transferring your residence to someone else shortly before moving to a nursing home facility will likely result in a problem. Medicaid works on the theory that assets (your family home, for example) that otherwise could be used to pay for your care should not be given away within the five year period prior to requesting the government (Medicaid) pay for nursing home benefits. This period is called the five year look-back. Unless the gift recipient fits certain, clearly specified exceptions, the government will assess a penalty period before they will contribute to your nursing home care if you have made a gift within the five year look-back. During the penalty period, you will be required to private pay for the cost of any nursing home care that you receive.
You know you need to do your estate planning but you have a problem: a “problem child” more specifically, who has caused a kink in your plans. If you have an adult child with a history of mismanaging their life, it’s likely you’ve wrestled with HOW or IF to include them as a beneficiary of your estate.
Having an adult child who struggles through life can complicate an otherwise simple estate plan. When our clients are in turmoil over how to include a problem child in their estate, their adult child usually has demonstrated a weakness in one or more of the following areas:
• Gambling addiction
• Drug or alcohol addiction
• History of criminal activity
• Inability to hold steady employment
• History of financial mismanagement
• Mental health issues
• History of unhealthy relationships or marriages
• History of causing unnecessary drama with other family members
Sadly, if you fret that one of your children will be a problem during the administration of your estate, your worries probably are justified. Death does not often bring out the best in people. The stress that arises after a death can heighten behavioral problems. Here are a few things you can do to reduce the chance of your child creating problems during the administration of your estate:
1. Experience matters. If you suspect that one of your children will be difficult during your estate administration, hire the best estate planning attorney you can find. There are many things you can do yourself, but preparing your own estate plan should not be one of them. Experienced estate planning attorneys possess knowledge of sophisticated legal options that rarely are offered to you on internet sites or by attorneys with little or no estate planning experience.
2. Hire a professional fiduciary. If you cannot find anyone to serve as the executor or trustee of your estate, consider this an indicator of brewing problems. It may mean one of your kids has a well-known difficult personality or reputation. If you find this situation to be true, consider hiring a professional advisor or trust company to manage your estate. A professional fiduciary may cost more, but in the long-run it will save legal fees and stress. Professional fiduciaries are accustomed to handling disgruntled family members.
Congratulations on your child’s recent high school graduation! Your graduate deserves acknowledgement for their hard work and the achievements they earned, but let’s not overlook the tremendous role that you, as a loved one, played in their success. Without your support and guidance, they most likely would not have reached this educational milestone.
You’ve shared your wisdom and advice, helped them plan their future course. Now it’s time for your child to embark upon their next journey in life: work or continued education. Before you turn your new “adult” out into the world, there is one last thing you should help them complete when they turn 18: estate planning. While you may not think 18 year olds need estate planning, there are three basic documents which every young adult needs:
1. Durable General Power of Attorney
The first necessary component of a young adult’s plan is a durable general power of attorney. Through a durable general power of attorney, your teen designates someone to make business and financial decisions. The durable general power of attorney can be set up as either “springing” or “non-springing”. A “springing” durable general power of attorney becomes effective only if your child becomes incapacitated; at that time it “springs” into action. Should your child be involved in an accident or suffer an illness and be unable to pay their rent or other bills, their appointed agent could make those payments and communicate with financial institutions and school officials until such time as he or she recovers.
A “non-springing” durable general power of attorney is effective as soon as it is signed. This document might be necessary if you have a child going to school in another country or far out of state. That child is not unable to handle their own matters, but, nonetheless, might need you to assist with some of their affairs for them while they are so far away from home.
Are you an owner in a multi-owner Corporation, LLC, S-Corp, or Partnership? If so, have you given any thought to or prepared a formal business succession plan?
One of the more difficult parts of being a business owner can be deciding how to wind up a business or determine how to restructure ownership after an owner wants out or dies. In order to simplify this process, the business owners should insist on having a formal Buy/Sell Agreement signed when they begin their business relationship.
A Buy/Sell Agreement is a legally binding contract that stipulates how an owner’s share of a business may be reassigned if that owner dies or otherwise leaves the business. Buy/Sell Agreements often stipulate that the available share be sold to the remaining owners or to the company. Buy/Sell Agreements can take many forms and there are no requirements as to how such agreements must be structured. Terms for such an agreement are negotiated between the owners. Therefore, the advice of an attorney is needed to ensure the best possible exit strategy for all of the owners.
Important clauses that every Buy/Sell Agreement should contain:
1. Valuation. The Agreement should include detailed information about your business’ worth. You should consider having it professionally appraised or using a set formula to value the business. You want the valuation provision clearly defined to establish a fair purchase price in the future in order to reduce conflicts.
2. Identify the Parties. The Buy/Sell Agreement must identify all the owners entering into the agreement.
3. Funding the Buyout. You want to make sure the Buyer has the financial ability to fulfill the payment terms of the Agreement. Many Buy/Sell Agreements utilize life insurance policies to ensure the purchase will be adequately funded. Don’t just assume the Buyer will have the cash at the time to purchase the business or that they can borrow 100% of the purchase price.
Acting as Trustee of a Trust can be challenging, and you should understand the responsibilities and duties involved if you are to serve in such a position. Although you may have initially been willing to assume this role, there may come a time when you know you want to resign as Trustee. Perhaps the administration of the Trust is taking more time and energy than you have available, or perhaps your health has deteriorated to the point where you no longer can properly carry out your duties; you don’t need to have a specific reason to resign. However, if you do need to resign as Trustee of a Trust there are a series of steps that should be followed to ensure that you are released, as much as possible, from any further liability.
A Trustee resignation should occur pursuant to the terms of the Trust. As long as you are Trustee, you are a fiduciary of the Trust with a duty of loyalty and a duty of care to the Trust and to the beneficiaries. Therefore, you must resign properly in order to ensure that you are not held responsible for problems that may occur due to your resignation or after your resignation. Even if the terms of the Trust seem clear and easy, you should consult with an attorney to ensure you are in compliance with the Trust and the law.
To resign as Trustee, the following steps generally must occur:
1. Check the original Trust document to see if there is a successor Trustee named. If there is no successor Trustee listed, a new Trustee will have to be appointed. The Trust may allow you to appoint a successor Trustee, but a thorough examination of the Trust will be required to determine this. If one or more of the original Grantors are still living and capable, they can name a successor trustee, if the Trust is a Revocable Trust. If the Grantor is unable to appoint a new Trustee, the current beneficiaries may be able to appoint a new Trustee. As a last resort, the Court always has the ability to appoint a successor Trustee. Whether these options are available to you depends largely on the terms of the Trust and the type of Trust.
If you’re age 65 or older, issues like retirement and long-term care planning are probably becoming more frequent topics of conversation. Even if you’re not in this population group, chances are you know and care for someone who is. Research from the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that if you are age 65 or older, you’re most likely going to need long-term care at some point in your life. Unless you are sufficiently wealthy or exceptionally poor, it is wise to do some advanced planning to cope with the increasing health care costs that will accompany long-term care stays.
Options you may want to investigate include, but are not limited to:
1. Long-term Care Insurance. The older you are and the longer you wait to obtain insurance, the more expensive it will become. Costs for long-term care insurance (LTCI) tend to be expensive and premiums will most likely rise over your lifetime. With average premiums running at $2,700 per year (according to industry research firm, LifePlans), many seniors may find LTCI too cost prohibitive to be a realistic option. Additionally, your age or current health condition may disqualify you from obtaining this type of insurance.
2. Life Insurance. Some insurance companies offer life insurance with long-term care riders. With this type of policy, your beneficiaries may still receive a death benefit even if you use long-term care rider benefits. With traditional LTCI, there is no death benefit paid to your beneficiaries after your death.
3. Family Members. Your immediate or extended family members may be able and willing to care for you or pay for your health care costs. However, with annual nursing home costs running an average of $89,000 annually, according to a 2018 Genworth study, few families can afford to cover these costs for a year, let alone for multiple years.
4. Medicare. Many people do not realize that Medicare does NOT cover long-term care expenses for patients requiring full nursing home care, except for very limited circumstances and for short periods of time.
When Bob and Laura married, they both had children and assets from previous marriages. They had new wills prepared, with each leaving their separate assets to their own children, but they did not sign a consent to one another’s wills. When Bob died ten years later, Laura’s attorney advised her that, as a surviving spouse in Kansas, she was entitled to a percentage of all of Bob’s assets—including the 300-acre farm that had been in his family for generations. Although she knew Bob had wanted the farm to go only to his children, she felt that she and her children had a right to part of it. She decided to contest Bob’s will, prompting a bitter and expensive court battle. Eventually Laura won. But, the farm had to be sold to pay the expenses, and the closeness the family had developed during Bob’s lifetime had been destroyed.
Second marriages, or even first marriages that occur later in life, can be wonderful and fulfilling but they should be entered into with caution when it comes to preserving family assets. In the above scenario, Bob’s farm had been in the family for generations. Bob and Laura had discussed that Bob wanted the farm to stay in his family after his death, but Bob’s will was not properly prepared to ensure that would happen. Because Bob and Laura had been married for ten years, Kansas law states that a surviving spouse who had been married 10 years but less than 11 years may receive 30% of the augmented estate of the deceased. Kansas Statute 59-6a202 offers a sliding scale to provide for the surviving spouse according to the number of years the couple was married. For example, if the couple had been married for 5 years, but less than 6 years, the surviving spouse would receive 15% of the augmented estate of the deceased; and if the couple had been married for 15 years or more, the surviving spouse would receive 50% of the augmented estate of the deceased.
Additionally, a surviving spouse is entitled to the homestead (residence) after the death of their spouse, unless otherwise agreed upon in their wills or in a pre- or postnuptial agreement. According to Kansas Statute 59-6a215, “a surviving spouse is entitled to the homestead, or in lieu thereof the surviving spouse may elect to receive a homestead allowance of $50,000. The homestead or homestead allowance is exempt from and has priority over all demands against the estate. The homestead or homestead allowance is in addition to any share passing to the surviving spouse by way of elective share.”
It’s finally summer. The kids are out of school and now is the time to visit the family vacation home for some rest and relaxation! If you’re like most people, your vacation home probably is located in a different state than your primary residence. As an owner of a vacation home, do you know how it will pass after your death to your heirs?
When someone dies in Kansas, any property owned in their individual name and without a Transfer on Death Deed will require a probate proceeding in order to transfer ownership to their heirs or beneficiaries. However, Kansas probate only applies to Kansas property. Real estate owned outside of the state—like a vacation home or investment property—will require a separate probate in the state where the property is located, known as an ancillary probate.
If the vacation home or investment property is put into a Trust during the owner’s lifetime, however, a probate can be avoided and the property can pass to whomever is named in the Trust. Even out of state
We frequently are asked to review old Wills for new clients. Many of those Wills are technically correct, but lack many of the “what if” scenarios that a more experienced estate planner would consider mandatory. We understand how this happens because when estate planning isn’t an attorney’s primary focus, it can be difficult to stay up-to-date on the current trends and recommendations of language that should be included in your Last Will and Testament. To ensure your Last Will and Testament provides the best protection for your estate and beneficiaries, here are some of the most common things you should be on the look-out for:
1. Does your Will name an alternate Executor or Trustee? Should your preferred Executor/Trustee be unable or unwilling to serve and you have no alternate named to serve in their place, it may be necessary for the Court to appoint a successor Executor/Trustee and the appointed Executor/Trustee may not be someone you would want handling your estate affairs.
2. Does your Will name contingent beneficiaries? It’s important to not only name someone to receive your estate assets, but also to have a contingent beneficiary in the event your first named beneficiary predeceases you. Failure to name contingent beneficiaries can result in your estate assets being distributed to individuals or organizations whom you would not have chosen yourself.
3. Would you have a taxable estate and if so does your Will include tax planning? Inclusion of specific tax planning language can save your beneficiaries thousands of dollars in unnecessary taxes, if your estate is found to be taxable. We recommend including tax planning language for anyone who is at or near the current taxable amount ($11,400,000 in the year 2019). Only an attorney familiar with tax planning should draft your estate planning documents if you believe your estate may be at or near a taxable level.
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