Category: Executor

Complete a Complete Estate Plan

When it comes to planning, the focus is typically on making you better prepared for the future. That means limiting taxes, creating wiser investment strategies, knowing when it’s best to claim Social Security and developing sustainable retirement income plans. All of these help you on the path to your financial future and your long-term goals. But The Brainerd (MN) Dispatch reports in “3 common estate planning questions, answered,” that there is, however, one exception. That’s estate planning. While much of financial planning primarily benefits you, your estate planning primarily benefits your family and loved ones. 11-14-16

The basic component of your estate plan is your will but there may be other parts you need. Depending on your estate, you may want to consider a trust, in addition to healthcare directives, powers of attorneys and guardian designations. You should also remember that your will isn't necessarily the only instruction when it comes to distributing your assets. The beneficiary designations on your retirement and brokerage accounts, and the life insurance policies you own will take precedence over what you say in your will. Review beneficiary designations regularly to be sure the money in your accounts or the death benefit on a life insurance policy goes to the right person.

A trust can be complicated, so talk with an estate planning attorney to see if it makes sense and whether you'll actually benefit from using a trust. If most of your assets are covered by beneficiary designations or owned in joint tenancy, those assets are already exempt from probate, so they won’t necessarily benefit from a trust strategy.

The executor or the personal representative is the person who will be responsible for carrying out the instructions in your will, settling your debts and paying taxes on your estate. As far as selecting an executor, it should be someone with the capacity to carry out the needed tasks of the position. It also needs to be someone who is willing to serve and is familiar with your situation such as a family member or a close family friend.

If you don't spend every last dollar you have to your name on the day you die, you'll need to have an estate plan. Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to develop one.

Reference: The Brainerd (MN) Dispatch (Sept. 23, 2016) “3 common estate planning questions, answered”

Former Vanity Fair Contributing Editor Makes Headlines with Estate Dispute

The 63-year-old Wolff, who is married, is also the father of a baby with a much younger TV personality. He now is also a defendant in the new Manhattan civil suit with his estranged spouse, attorney Alison Anthoine. Wolff was under the impression that he’d settled a suit with his 93-year-old mother-in-law and his wife’s three siblings in 2011 over family real estate, as reported in The New York Post article, “Ex-Vanity Fair editor tangled in $6M legal battle with in-laws.” 11-01-16

The settlement allows matriarch Edith Anthoine to live in the one-bedroom apartment until she dies, with access for Alison permitted two times a year. The settlement was reached after a judge found there was evidence supporting Edith’s claims that she’d swapped a four-bedroom on Lexington Avenue and 77th Street with Michael and Alison in exchange for her one-bedroom apartment. Edith claims the two later attempted to evict her, which resulted in her suffering a heart attack.

Nina, Robert, Nelson and mother Edith Anthoine are suing Wolff and Alison. They claim the two stole artwork from her home, took a box of antique jewelry and refused to share proceeds from the sale of a $1.85 million Manhattan apartment.

Alison, who lives apart from Wolff, visited her mother’s home in June 2015 to photograph artwork. This escalated to violence with Alison grabbing her sister’s arm and hitting her mother’s hand, according to court papers.

The lawsuit says the two “have stolen millions to support their lavish lifestyles.” The papers petition the court to disbar Alison—in addition to the $6 million in damages.

The family has been fighting over the multimillion dollar estate of Alison’s father, the late Columbia Law School Professor Robert Anthoine. The thrice-married attorney passed away in 2015 at 94. A will contest is still pending in Florida.

“These defendants have been the ultimate recipients of their parents’ bounty, in every way, and they represent an unchecked greed that has swept the society,” the New York suit says.

Wolff said he didn’t know about the lawsuit.

Reference: New York Post (September 12, 2016) “Ex-Vanity Fair editor tangled in $6M legal battle with in-laws”

Children Challenge Pittsburgh Publisher’s Will After Being Left Out

10-13-16Two times in the past four years, the attorney for the late publisher Richard Mellon Scaife unduly influenced the billionaire to change his estate planning documents to disinherit his daughter Jennie Scaife and give assets to newspapers and foundations the lawyer controlled, according to a court petition Scaife’s daughter filed recently.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, in “Daughter of Scaife files new petition challenging will,” that Jennie got nothing after her father’s 2014 death because she wasn’t included in his 2013 will or a 2010 codicil. Those changes followed a 2008 will that left her family memorabilia, according to the courts papers filed in Westmoreland County’s Orphans Court Division.

The will changes benefited the Tribune-Review newspapers, the Allegheny Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation. Each of these were controlled in part by attorney H. Yale Gutnick, the petition claims.

As a result, everything from an estimated $1.4 billion to the family knickknacks went to those beneficiaries. Jennie claims that this 2010 change “was all part of a carefully orchestrated plan by Gutnick to prohibit Scaife family members from having the ability to contest Richard Mellon Scaife’s will.”

The amended petition adds allegations to those she first made a year ago and looks to strengthen her case, which was complicated by the 2010 codicil. If a judge disqualifies a will due to undue influence, the assets are distributed according to any prior, legitimate will. If there isn’t an earlier will, it goes to the children.

So, if Jennie is going to successfully recover some of the estate, she’ll have to show she was included in the last will that was free of undue influence. She says that’s the 2008 document.

Jennie argued that during her father’s battle with cancer, Gutnick persuaded him to bequeath nearly everything to the newspapers and foundations, which the attorney directed and which were his big legal clients. She also alleged that her father’s bodyguard guided his hand as he scratched his initials on the 2013 will.

“As a person in a confidential relationship with Mellon Scaife, an alcoholic who suffered from many medical issues, an addiction to medication, and weakened intellect for many years prior to his 2014 death, Gutnick received a substantial benefit under both” the 2013 will and the 2010 codicil, Jennie’s amended petition states.

Gutnick was chairman of the Tribune-Review’s board until January. He was aware that, according to the petition, the newspaper’s losses were in the tens of millions of dollars every year and were likely to increase. Because of this, Jennie said the attorney influenced the publisher to put a large part of his estate into a trust fund to support the newspaper.

Jennie’s petition also noted that the estate paid $100 million in state estate taxes, and hundreds of millions of dollars are said to be owed by the estate for federal estate tax. The petition estimates those taxes at $300 million.

Likewise, the late publisher’s son was left out of his father’s will. However, he didn’t join his sister’s case. Instead, he’s a party in a separate challenge filed by the daughter and son in another county. That case alleges that Gutnick and two other trustees improperly allowed Scaife to drain a family trust fund of $450 million, which was primarily used to support The Tribune-Review.

Reference: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (July 27, 2016) “Daughter of Scaife files new petition challenging will”

A Close Look at the Costs for End-of-Life Care

A recent study showed that people in the U.S. fear developing Alzheimer's disease more than any other major life-threatening disease—including cancer, stroke, heart disease and diabetes. It also found if diagnosed with the disease, most have deep concerns about their inability to care for themselves. Burdening others by losing memory of life and loved ones was the second greatest concern, according to the MarketWatch article, “What to know about Alzheimer’s and retirement planning.” 8-29-2016

A survey of about 1,000 adults by Harris Interactive showed that the percentage of people who fear getting Alzheimer's has risen much more since 2006 compared to other diseases. This means it’s critical to properly plan for your retirement years early in case you or a loved one becomes afflicted. Take a look at the breakdown in terms of dollars for care between three common diseases:

  • Cancer: $173,400
  • Heart disease: $175,100
  • Dementia: $278,000

These potential medical expenses must be considered in retirement and estate planning. Some of it can be paid for by insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. However, a large amount needs to be paid out of pocket by the family. In most instances, the total cost of care by family caregivers isn’t included in estimates because much of that time is just "helping out," and there’s no cost figure against this. Similarly, there’s no estimate on the amount of lost income family-care providers would have earned if they weren’t involved in the care giving.

Financial planning often gets delayed, but there are many tasks that should be done to make things easier and to avoid complications down the road. Identify family members who should be included in financial plans, like those who can help with routine financial responsibilities. You also should identify the projected costs of care when it comes to Alzheimer's and dementia because those costs are so high. Review any available government benefits, along with Medicare and long-term care policies.

Reference: MarketWatch (July 7, 2016) “What to know about Alzheimer’s and retirement planning”