Friday, November 30, 2012

WVXU Broadcast

Forgive the self-promotion.  I will be on Chris Desimio's "On the Money" program on WVXU tomorrow morning discussing changes to estate tax laws.  The segment will be here soon thereafter.  

Thank you to Chris for having me on the air.  It is always fun. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Even Rappers Need Wills

Rapper Nate Dogg's $200,000 estate moved one step closer to being settled after his wife (step-mother to his children) and his mother ceded control of the estate to a neutral 3rd party at the request of his children.  Mr. Dogg died in March 2011 without a will at the age of 41, leaving a wife and 6 children whose ages are unascertainable in a cursory web search.  His wife and mother had sought to be appointed co-executors, but his children believed they were only motivated by financial gain and did not have the best interest of the children at heart.

Lessons to be learned:

1.  Everyone, even rappers, need a will.  The issue of executors would not have arisen because the will would have appointed someone to serve in that role.

2.  A funded trust would have been better because this entire dispute, or at least the financial end of it, might have remained shielded from the public.

3.  $200K estate for a rapper?  The music business is tough for everyone this century.  However, 6 children, a socially appropriate level of bling, and no solo releases for 9 years could drain assets quickly.   

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New Web Page

My revamped web page is up and running.  Feel free to stop by and kick around.  Content will change once we have some Congressional direction on estate tax laws.

Thanks to Justin at Kesil Consulting for the clean look, quick work, and the web feedback.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Death Better than Divorce?

Schmuck of the year finalist.  An NY man and woman were married for 30 years.  8 years prior to his death, man obtained an uncontested divorce on grounds that his wife abandoned him.  Man continued to live with woman for duration of his life.  Wife did not discover divorce documents until cleaning up his finances post-death.  Wife claimed that they had been happy.  She was aware that he had tried to sell a house previously without informing her. 

As a widow, she was entitled to his pension and perhaps other benefits.  As an ex-wife, she was not entitled to those and he could leave them to his children (or mistress).  She was able to successfully overturn the divorce and fend off the claims of his children from a prior marriage.

Lessons to be learned:

1.  If a spouse is ill, it behooves the other spouse to stay married because a widow is generally better positioned financially than an ex-wife of the husband/ex-husband.  

2.  If a spouse tries to sell a house without telling the other spouse, the trust level in the marriage should become zero.

3.  One woman's apparently happy marriage can be another man's misery.    

Monday, November 19, 2012

Dahling, It's the Fiduciary that Matters

Zsa Zsa Gabor's daughter recently convinced the LA county probate court to invalidate the power of attorney held by Zsa Zsa's husband because  he was abusing it.  Her financial affairs are now subject to probate court supervision. 

To avoid the rigors of a guardianship and probate court supervision, an individual should have a financial power of attorney and health care power of attorney.  However, selecting the person to manage those responsibilities is important.  

What we can learn from Zsa Zsa's situation is that a husband is not always the best choice to serve as fiduciary  especially if he if he wants the 94 year old to have a baby, has adopted several adult men, and has claimed to father Anna Nicole Smith's daughter.      

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Will Rogers on Death and Taxes

With all estate planning stories focused on the looming  fiscal cliff, and President Obama wanting to gouge the wealthy for the sake of gouging the wealthy, this Will Rogers quote seems appropriate:

"The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Will Trivia

Among fun facts about wills (yes, there are some) are that the longest will ever probated was over 1,000 pages long, the shortest wills were 3 words, and among famous Americans who died without a will were Sonny Bono, John Denver, and Chris Farley.  I find the last fact interesting because all sexagenarians should have a will (much less sexagenarians who ski alone in trees) as should anyone engaged in high risk activities like flying experimental aircraft or heavy cocaine usage while being overweight.  Perhaps lapses of judgments with respect to mortality cross over into lapses of judgment about tending to personal affairs.      

Planning for Pets Redux

Some good and some silly advice for dealing with pets after death.  The good is to think about a pet trust to provide financially for a pet after death.  The silly is to name the pet in a will, which I have never done in 25 years of drafting wills.  The sillier is to carry a "pet card" in a wallet so if one is struck by a car or has a heart attack, authorities will know that there is a pet at home that needs care.  No word on whether one should leave the Best Buy Rewards Zone card, Staples Rewards card, or airline frequent flyer card out of the wallet to make room for the "pet card."  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Six Weeks and Counting Down

For those who did not jump off a cliff after Tuesday's election results, they have an opportunity over the next six weeks to take advantage of the current estate and gift tax laws before the U.S. is pushed over the fiscal cliff. I am afraid that I agree with the following: " "The estate tax environment is going to change dramatically. You have six weeks to get this done. The estate taxes will not be this favorable for the rest of our natural lives. So for clients in that bracket, this is a pretty critical six weeks."

For wealthy individuals, gifting assets to children or a trust for children is a great strategy. Also, for individuals with older parents, whether wealthy or not, this is the time to gift.

Still Not Moving On Up

A quick Sherman Hemsley update.  If you remember, the body of the Jefferson's star has been in an El Paso funeral home while his girlfriend and a man alleging to be his brother argue over the disposition of it.  A DNA test revealed the man to be his brother, but that fact does not give the man control of the body and has been excluded from evidence.  A trial to determine who has the authority  to bury the body is set for tomorrow.  It is a toss up on whether this case or the Florida election results will be resolved first.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sell Before the Empire Strikes Back

George Lucas' sale of Lucasfilms to Disney is being touted as an estate planning move because his heirs no longer have to be concerned about running the company after his death.  It can also be considered an income tax move because he is taking advantage of the 15% capital gains tax rate before it is increased to 20% on January 1.  I think it is a creative move because the Star Wars franchise has to rebound from the nadir of Jar Jar Binks and the 3 most recent episodes.