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.
Q: My uncle recently died. I received a notice from his family attorney stating I am a beneficiary in my uncle’s estate. Am I also an heir? What exactly do these terms mean?
A: Under Kansas law, a beneficiary is a person or organization that receives money or property because someone specifically named them in their Will or Trust. In your case, because you’ve been notified that you are a beneficiary, your uncle mentioned you in his Will by name to receive something from his estate. The item(s) being given could be things like money, property, or personal items like jewelry or a family heirloom. Beneficiaries can include a person, charity, or organization.
An heir is a relative who would inherit under the laws after the death of someone. If the deceased person (also known as the decedent) did not have an estate plan in which he or she named beneficiaries then the heirs would inherit the property. What property an heir is entitled to after the death of a decedent is determined according to the laws of the State that the decedent was a resident of when he or she died. In Kansas, an heir could be a spouse, child, parent, sibling, niece or nephew. For instance, if an unmarried individual dies in Kansas and does not have children, Kansas law states that their property is to be distributed equally to their parents. One common misconception is that if a person in Kansas dies and they are married with minor children, all of their property will be distributed to their spouse. This is not true. Instead, half of the property will be distributed to their spouse and half to their minor children. Oftentimes, people want their property to go to individuals other than their heirs. This is one of the reasons why it is a good idea to have an estate plan in place and to know who your heirs are if you don’t.
An important thing to note is that a person can be both a beneficiary and an heir. In fact, most Wills and Trusts are set up by individuals leaving property to their heirs who they are naming as beneficiaries in their estate planning documents. For example, a child named in a Will set up by their parent is a beneficiary of the Will and an heir of their parent.
For more information on beneficiaries and heirs, contact Davis & McCann, P. A., Dodge City, KS. We are members of Wealth Counsel, a national consortium of Estate Planning Attorneys and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). We focus our practice on providing clients with the best legal advice on Estate Planning, Medicaid and Long-term Care Planning, Family Business/Small Business Succession Planning, Probate, Trust Administration, Real Estate Transactions, and related matters.
Q: Our house is owned by our Revocable Trust. We would like to sell the house. How do we remove the house from the Trust for the sale?
A: As the Grantors of your Trust, you can sell property in your Revocable Trust the same way you would sell a property titled in your own names. The only difference is that you use a different type of deed called a Trustees’ Deed. Trustees’ Deeds typically are prepared by your attorney. You should provide a copy of your existing deed on the property to your attorney, showing when the property was deeded to the Trust, and verifying the legal description and recording information. If you are providing title insurance as part of the sale, you will need to purchase a title commitment from your title company. This title commitment will stipulate the information that in required to be included on the deed. Your attorney will use this information to prepare the Trustees’ Deed and Affidavit or a Certification of Trust. An Affidavit/Certification of Trust in Kansas should state the name(s) of the Trustee(s) of the Trust, that the Trustee(s) are legally authorized to sell the property, and that the Trust is in good standing, among other things. The Affidavit may be combined with the Trustees’ Deed, while the Certification of Trust typically is a separate document. The Trustee(s) must sign these documents before a notary public. The documents
We often talk about the proverbial “crystal ball” in our office. If only we knew when our death will occur, we could wait until the last minute to get our affairs in order. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), very few of us receive notice that our death is imminent while we are healthy enough to take care of these things. Perhaps we receive a terminal diagnosis, but we believe we’ll “have more time” to take care of the details involved in our estate. Or, we pass away due to an unforeseen accident. The reality is we “think” about getting our estate in order but, time seems to slip away. We encourage everyone to assemble these important documents during their younger years, so when a health crisis or death occurs, there is one less stressor on the family.
Here are some helpful tips we gathered from the National Institute on Aging, as well as some of our own, that may assist you in getting your affairs in order:
1. Gather important papers and keep them in one place. Create a file and place everything in a desk or dresser drawer. Notify a trusted family member or friend where these papers are located. You also can notify your lawyer as to their location. You may wish to list the information and location of papers in a notebook. If your original papers are in a bank safe deposit box, keep copies in your home file. Check each year to see if there is anything new to add.
2. Give permission in advance for your doctor or lawyer to talk with your caregiver as needed. There may be questions about your care, a bill, or a health insurance claim. Without your consent, your caregiver may not be able to get needed information. You can give your approval in advance to Medicare, Medicaid, or your doctor. A HIPAA authorization form and/or Health Care Power of Attorney may be used to accomplish these tasks.
Q: Why do I need a Durable Power of Attorney if I own everything jointly with my spouse?
A: While you generally would have access to jointly titled bank accounts and brokerage accounts, owning everything jointly with your spouse does not give you the power to manage every asset if your spouse is incapacitated. Without a Durable Power of Attorney, you could not sell, rent or lease jointly owned property. Without a Durable Power of Attorney naming you as your spouse’s agent, you could not manage or draw upon your spouse’s IRA, even if you were the beneficiary, until your spouse dies. You cannot sign tax returns on behalf of your spouse or access information regarding his or her social security or other government related accounts without a valid Durable Power of Attorney.
While joint ownership can be an economical estate plan, it is not fool-proof. Everyone over the age of 18 should designate one or more persons to act on their behalf should they become incapacitated, with the use of a Durable Power of Attorney. Your Durable Power of Attorney can be drafted to provide your agent(s) with all the powers allowed by the State, or you can limit their power to very specific matters and time periods. The agent(s) can be given immediate authority to begin acting on your behalf, even if you are perfectly healthy, or the Durable Power of Attorney can be effective only upon your incapacity.
Elder law may not be on your radar yet. However, if you live long enough, it will be. May is designated as National Elder Law Month and is sponsored by The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) specifically to draw attention to legal issues related to seniors and their families. As you or your aging parents encounter an increased need for legal and financial assistance, you will find elder law attorneys can help with a wide range of legal topics, including healthcare directives, financial powers of attorney, long-term care planning, Medicaid planning, guardianships, special needs planning, and similar matters.
You or your parents may not feel the urgency for legal guidance in any of these areas today, but with the passing of time, it will become more relevant. There is significant risk involved by waiting to develop a long-term care plan. If you wait until the point when you realize an elderly parent can no longer manage his or her money, or their health has declined so much that immediate intervention is necessary, then the pressure is suddenly on to act quickly to prevent significant losses, which often results in higher costs and more difficulty in the planning process. Rarely are optimal decisions made in high-pressure situations. Advanced planning provides you the peace of mind that in the event of something unforeseen, you have a plan in place that will immediately meet the needs of the senior. It also is especially important for adult children who live at a distance from their elderly parent and cannot respond immediately in a crisis.
What are the key questions you should ask yourself or your aging parent when considering estate planning and long-term care planning?
Providing a copy of the following items during the estate planning process will assist your attorney in determining which estate planning options would best match your goals and budget. Similar to a medical professional needing access to your complete medical history, your estate planning attorney must have a complete picture of your asset holdings before he/she can make a good recommendation for your estate plan. In addition to the following list of items, you should inform your attorney if you are a current or future beneficiary of any Trust, a party in a litigation matter, or if you anticipate a substantial inheritance in the foreseeable future.
Current Estate Planning Documents:
• Copies of any currently existing estate planning documents, including any powers of attorney for financial or medical, living wills, Last Will and Testaments and any trust documents.
• Copies of your most recent statements for all checking, savings and money market accounts.
• Copies of certificates of deposit.
Investment and Mutual Fund Accounts:
• Copies of your most recent statements for all investment and mutual fund accounts.
Stock and Bond Certificates:
• Copies of all stock certificates.
• Copies of all bonds.
Q: What happens when you own property with someone and the co-owner dies?
A: The answer depends on how the property is titled. For Kansas residents, here’s the short and sweet version of how property will transfer if a co-owner dies:
Tenancy in Common:
If the owners are “tenants in common”, the deceased owner’s interest will transfer according to his/her estate plan, or intestacy laws should he/she fail to make a plan. The surviving owner(s) will not obtain the decedent’s interest unless they receive it under his/her estate. The surviving owner will continue to own the same percentage of property, but they may end up sharing the property ownership with a new co-owner(s) after the decedent’s estate is settled.
If the property is owned as “joint tenants with rights of survivorship and not as tenants in common” and one of the owners dies, the deceased person's interest transfers to the surviving joint tenant. For the surviving owner to obtain clear title, her/she must file an original death certificate of the decedent with the Register
In the last three weeks, we discussed the telemarketing and internet scams focused on senior citizens. To learn more about those topics, you can visit: http://www.dclawfirm.net/blog--news/why-are-retirees-easy-targets-for-con-artists-part-one, http://www.dclawfirm.net/blog--news/why-are-retirees-easy-targets-for-con-artists-part-two and http://www.dclawfirm.net/blog--news/why-are-retirees-easy-targets-for-con-artists-part-three. Today, we begin the final part in our four (4) part series on elderly financial scams. In this article, we’ll be discussing mail fraud, home repair fraud and professional fraud.
Caregivers can help monitor loved ones’ mail for potential mail fraud. Stacks of unsolicited mail with various offers for money or prizes is a quick indicator that your loved one is being targeted for a scam. Also, if you notice packages of cheap costume jewelry or other “gifts” arriving by mail to your loved one, inquire about the source of the items and the circumstances leading to their receipt.
If your loved one has provided confidential personal data, be watchful for unauthorized transactions in their financial accounts and alert their banker to the situation. Review their checkbook entries and look for unusually large withdrawals or checks written to unfamiliar companies. Credit card statements should be checked for any unauthorized charges. It’s also advisable to examine your loved one’s credit rating to
In the last two weeks, we have discussed the dangers associated with scams aimed at seniors. To learn more about those topics, you can visit: http://www.dclawfirm.net/blog--news/why-are-retirees-easy-targets-for-con-artists-part-one and http://www.dclawfirm.net/blog--news/why-are-retirees-easy-targets-for-con-artists-part-two. Today, we begin Part three (3) in our four (4) part series on elderly financial scams by diving into internet and computer scams and what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Senior Citizens have traditionally been less apt to be the subject of Internet scams because of a lack of technological savvy. However, as the Baby Boomers move fully into retirement years, we have seen an increase in the number of Internet scams, due to the group’s advanced comfort with computers.
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