Month: March 2016

How’d that Valentine Gift Work for Ya This Year?

MP900422340 (1)How did your gift go over on St. Valentine's Day this year? Many of us run out of gift ideas to give our loved ones for Valentine's Day. However, the Appleton Post-Crescent offers an idea that may not be too romantic but still focuses on doing something that will really help many people.

The article "Plan ahead to reduce stress on loved ones" provides a list of things to consider that would prove important when they will be needed:

  • Can you find your will, trusts, power of attorney, and any letters of instruction?
  • Does your spouse or your children have a list of your bank accounts, your estate planning attorney, CPA, banker, or financial advisor?
  • Does someone have your health care power documents in the event they are needed in an emergency?
  • Do you have a list of your life insurance policies or your retirement plan documents?

Copies of marriage licenses, birth certificates, and military discharge papers are all very important. You may know where they are, but does your spouse or children? Someone should be able to locate your tax returns, brokerage statement, and beneficiary information. What about your day-to-day bills and the location of your checkbook and savings accounts? Do your family members know who your doctor is? Is there a list of your heirs and who has financial powers available?

These are things you need to have ready and organized to make a difficult time easier on your family. Also, they need to understand your wishes and desires in case something happens.

Next year for Valentine's Day, think about showing your love a little differently. Planning to make difficult times easier on the ones you love may be the best gift ever.

Reference: Appleton Post-Crescent (February 13, 2016) "Plan ahead to reduce stress on loved ones"

Who Gets My Stuff if I Die Without a Will?

MP900423046Call it junk or stuff, but when someone passes away, there's nothing on earth that creates more tension in estates than "stuff" — family heirlooms, collectibles, or other items.

Legally, these items are referred to as "tangible personal property," but it could be dad's stuff. What happens to this stuff after someone dies depends on many factors, and one of the biggest is whether he or she dies without a will, or "intestate."'s recent post, "Who Gets the Family Heirlooms When I Die?" looks at what happens to someone's stuff when there's no will.

When there's no will, the state law for intestacy where the deceased was living applies to determine who inherits his or her tangible personal property. In the majority of states, if the deceased was married, much of the tangible personal property will go to the surviving spouse. However, in blended families, the law typically notes a percentage or faction—such as one-third or one-half. Figuring out exactly what that fraction is can be a problem. For example, what's a third of the couch or one half of the jewelry?

When children and step-children are involved, things can unravel fast because there are no instructions to determine who gets what. One idea to avoid an epic meltdown is a lottery system where the heirs take turns selecting and pick what they want according to the numbers they've drawn.

Rather than put your family through this, your best option for dealing with your tangible personal property is to draft a will or a living trust that includes a specific heirloom list and a formula for distributing things that are not on that list to ensure that your wishes will be legally enforceable.

Work with a knowledgeable and experienced estate planning attorney so that the stress and fighting is minimal when the day comes to decide who gets your stuff.

Reference: (February 14, 2016) "Who Gets the Family Heirlooms When I Die?"

New Will Shows Media Tycoon’s Ex to Lose Out on Millions

Business_meetingA recent report in USA Today says that TV mogul Sumner Redstone's lawyers now are claiming that Manuela Herzer, his ex-girlfriend, is no longer included in Redstone's will and is not entitled to a $70 million inheritance.

The article, "Sumner Redstone's ex-girlfriend stands to lose $70M after new will," says that a new court document explained that Herzer was named in Redstone's will until the 92-year-old former chairman of Viacom and CBS Corp. ended the relationship last fall and rewrote the will.

Herzer filed a lawsuit, asking a judge to reinstall Herzer as Sumner's health agent.

Redstone's previous will stated that Herzer was entitled to $50 million and his $20 million house in Southern California. However, last fall Redstone removed her as his health care agent and ordered that his estate pass to his charitable foundation.

Redstone has been thought to be too mentally incapacitated to be involved in running corporate boards. He recently resigned as chairman of the boards of directors for both CBS Corp. and Viacom. Redstone became Chairman Emeritus of the companies, ending his managerial involvement.

A judge in Los Angeles is scheduled to rule later this month on a motion by Redstone's lawyers to throw out Herzer's lawsuit.

Reference: USA Today (February 9, 2016) "Sumner Redstone's ex-girlfriend stands to lose $70M after new will"