Massachusetts Estate Planning & Asset Protection Blog

Unequal Inheritance, A Problem with Communication

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Fri, Aug 22, 2014

The Problems with Unequal Inheritance | Massachusetts Estate Planning Attorney

Inheritance, family, unequal 

Just Because It Makes Sense to You…

Sometimes clients want to leave more to one of their children than another. Their reasons may vary, ranging from their child’s current financial wellbeing, to any special needs they may have or even which of their kids is their favorite. What does not seem to change though is their concern that this may cause discord in their family once they find out.

It can be an uncomfortable subject to talk about with your family and you can never be certain how people will react, but the alternative of finding out only after their loved one has already passed, can be far more devastating. The reasons you use to make the decision of who-gets-what may be perfectly clear to you, but your children may not know what you based your decision on and they will never get a chance to ask you about it. The emotional fallout from this can rip once close-knit families apart.

 

Money Does Not Equal Love

This is because of the often mistaken tendency to equate love and money. If you leave more money to one of your children their siblings may think that you loved them more. After all, if you had some sort of logical reasoning behind the decision, why wouldn’t you have simply told them? You may have had very good reasons for why you did not talk to your children about this before but the lack of communication can have devastating effects on your family once you are gone.

 

Explanations Make Everything Easier

For example, you leave three quarters of your estate to your youngest child but only one quarter to your oldest, but you still make them the executor of your will. The older child will have a hard time not feeling resentment towards their sibling and their new responsibilities without any explanation from you. Simply explaining your reasons can go a long way towards preventing a bitter legal fight once you are gone. We recommend sitting down with all parties and explaining your reasoning to them in person. However, we know that not all families are comfortable talking about money, in those cases we recommend leaving a detailed letter explaining your reasons why you divided your estate the way you did.

Expanding on the earlier example, you may have decided to name your oldest child as executor simply because you know it will be more convenient for them to meet with your estate planner since your younger child has moved several hours away for work. Just telling your child this will lighten the burden on them. Likewise, you may have left more of your estate to your youngest because they need the boost starting their own business or because you know their financial situation isn’t as strong and they may need some help. A simple explanation can prevent a lot of needless stress from ever arising in your family.  

 

 

At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center, we help people and their families learn how to protect their home, spouse, life-savings, and legacy for their loved ones.  We provide clients with a unique educational and counseling approach so they understand where opportunities exist to eliminate problems now as they implement plans for a protected future.

We encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops, call 800-964-4295 and register to learn more about what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy.

 

Click Here to Register For Our Trust, Estate & Asset  Protection Workshop

Tags: will, family, executor, Massachusetts, Wills, senior, Inheritance, children, unequal

Massachusetts Estate Planning Lawyer | 5 Estate-Planning Tasks That You Shouldn't Put Off

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Tue, Oct 16, 2012

Over time, your family will face a number of changes. From when you purchase your first home and your children are born to the time they leave for college and you plan for retirement and beyond, new issues and concerns arise. With proper planning your family will be prepared for life’s changes and challenges.

Please take the time to read this great article by Christine Benz called "5 Estate-Planning Tasks That You Shouldn't Put Off" which addresses estate planning to-dos that should not be placed on the back burner.

5 Estate-Planning Tasks That You Shouldn't Put Off

Here are the key estate-planning to-dos:

Task 1: Update Your Beneficiary Designations
Even if you've never set foot in an attorney's office, you've laid the groundwork for an estate plan if you've filled out beneficiary designation forms for your financial accounts. Those designations, in fact, trump other estate-planning documents when it comes to distributing your assets, so it's worthwhile to periodically review them to make sure they're up-to-date with your current situation--if you've gotten married or divorced, or example. (How would your spouse feel if you inadvertently left your 401(k) account to your brother?) And if you have drafted estate-planning documents such as a will, your attorney should be able to help you review your beneficiary designations to ensure that they sync up with those documents. This article (http://news.morningstar.com/articlenet/article.aspx?id=309885) provides guidance on beneficiary designation dos and don'ts.estate planning, estate-planning, lawyer, Massachusetts

Task 2: Designate Legal Guardians
Here's another step that's important regardless of asset level: Parents of young children should designate legal guardians who will look after their children if the parents should die or otherwise be unable to care for their minor children. Spouses often put off this step because they disagree about guardianship, but it helps if you can focus the discussion on actual child-rearing abilities and willingness to do the job. Don't get hung up on hurting anyone's feelings or bypassing friends or family members who might expect to be your guardians but aren't the best choice. (Naming someone a guardian because you're a guardian for their children isn't a good reason.) Most important, your guardian should be willing and able to take care of your children if the need arises, so an essential step is to discuss the responsibilities with the potential guardian and make sure he or she is on board. You also want your children's guardian to share you and your spouse's values and views on parenting; financial wherewithal should be a consideration, as well. It's also worth noting that it's possible to name two guardians--one to take care of your child's needs on a day-to-day basis and another to supervise the child's financial assets. But that's usually not practical for obvious reasons.

Task 3: Create a Living Will and Last Will and Testament
A living will is another document that's important no matter what your asset level is; it tells your health-care providers and your loved ones how you would like to be cared for if you should become terminally ill and unable to express your wishes yourself. Called a "medical directive" in some states, this document details your views toward life-support equipment. Not to be confused with a living will, a last will and testament details how you'd like your assets and possessions distributed after your death.

Task 4: Draft Powers of Attorney
Estate planning doesn't just relate to death and dying: A basic estate plan should also address what would happen to your affairs if you are still living but incapacitated. A power of attorney is a document that specifies who will handle your affairs if you are unable to do so. You'll need to draft two separate documents: one that names your power of attorney for health-care decisions and another for financial matters (often called a durable power of attorney). The person you entrust with your power of attorney for health care will, ideally, live in close geographic proximity to you and will also understand your general wishes about your own health care. The person who you name on your durable power of attorney form should be detail-oriented and comfortable with financial matters, and he or she should also have a general understanding about your attitudes toward and goals for your money.

Task 5: Name an Executor
Your executor will gather all of your assets after you're gone and make sure they are distributed in accordance with your will. Ideally, your executor will be someone who's comfortable with numbers and good with details, and will also be able to find the time to work on your estate. It's common to name family members as executors, but in more complicated situations it might be preferable to use a professional, such as a bank trust officer, to serve as your executor. It's a good idea to tell your executor that you've named him or her, and also provide details on how to obtain access to important documents, such as your will and a master directory detailing all of your accounts.

At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center, we help people and their families learn how to protect their home, spouse, life-savings, and legacy for their loved ones.  We provide clients with a unique educational and counseling approach so they understand where opportunities exist to eliminate problems now as they implement plans for a protected future.

We encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops. Call 800-964-4295 and register to learn more about what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy.

Register Now and receive a free Unique Self-Guided 19-Point Trust, Estate, & Asset Protection Legal Guide with accompanying DVD!


 

 

Tags: power of attorney, living will, Estate Planning, Beneficiary, executor, Elder Law, lawyer, legal guardians, testament

Power of Attorney vs. Guardianship | Boston Estate Planning Attorney

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Thu, Aug 09, 2012

What is the difference between a power of attorney and guardianship?

A power of attorney is a legal document where one person (the principal) authorizes another person (the agent) to act on his or her behalf, either for health care decisions or for financial decisions.

guardianship, power of attorney

Guardianship is a legal relationship whereby a court gives a person (the guardian) the power to make personal decisions for another (the ward). A family member or friend initiates the proceedings by filing a petition in the circuit court in the county where the individual resides. A medical examination by a licensed physician is necessary to establish the individual’s condition. A court of law then determines whether the individual is unable to meet the essential requirements for his or her health and safety. If so, the court appoints a guardian to make personal decisions for the individual. Unless limited by the court, the guardian has the same rights, powers and duties over his ward as parents have over their minor children. The guardian is required to report to the court annually.

A conservatorship is a legal relationship whereby a court gives a person (the conservator) the power to make financial decisions for another (the protectee). The court proceedings are very similar to those of a guardianship, except the court of law determines whether an individual lacks the capacity to manage his or her financial affairs. If so, the court appoints a conservator to make financial decisions for the individual. Often the court appoints the same person to act as both guardian and conservator for the individual. Like the guardian, the conservator is required to report to the court annually.

Powers of attorney for health care and property/financial decisions are relatively low cost and private way to decide which family member or trusted friend will have the legal authority to carry out your wishes if you can no longer speak or act for yourself. If you do not have power of attorney, or if your powers of attorney are not drafted properly and something happens that results in your inability to make decisions, your loved ones may later face court proceedings and court supervised guardianship and/or conservatorship. A court proceeding is not only costly, but the person appointed as your guardian/conservator may not be the person whom you would have chosen yourself.

At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center of Dennis Sullivan & Associates, we help people and their families concerned with losing their homes and life savings to increasing medical and nursing home costs, taxes and the costs and time delays of probate. We also protect clients from losing control of their own health and financial decisions.

We developed our Unique Self-Guided 19-Point Trust, Estate, & Asset Protection Legal Guide, so you can learn where problems may exist in your planning as well as opportunities for improvement and how to implement a plan to protect your spouse, home, family, and life savings.

Click Here to Download our Trust, Estate, & Asset Protection  Legal Guide

We encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops to learn more about our process and what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy. To register for a seat at an upcoming workshop call (800) 964-4295 (24/7) or register online at www.SeniorWorkshop.com

 

Tags: massachusetts estate planning strategies, Elder Law, durable power of attorney, elder care, executor, advanced directives, guardianship, conservatorship

Discuss These Estate Plan Topics With Your Children

Posted by Wellesley Estate Planning Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Thu, Jun 07, 2012

LINK: http://www.yoursmartmoneymoves.com/2012/05/31/what-four-estate-planning-things-parents-should-tell-their-children/

From Your Smart Money Moves (May 31, 2012) “What Four Estate Planning Things Parents Should Tell Their Children”

1. Who is the executor of the estate?  If you have a will set up, it’s important to tell which child or children are the executors of your estate.  Inevitably, they should know where is your will is stored.  It is in a safe deposit box?  It is somewhere at the house?  Or, what’s the name of the attorney that has the will on file?  As the executors of the estate, they’re the ones that are going to be responsible for the orderly administration of all of your assets.  So it’s important to at least let them know that they are the executors. Sometimes, kids don’t want this responsibility. This doesn’t mean you need to talk about how much money you have, but you should be able to let them know that they will be the ones that will be helping to administer the estate down the road.

Estate Planning, Family, Loved One, Asset Protection, Long-Term Care2. What’s the game plan for long term care?  This is one that parents will avoid all day long due to the challenging nature of the question.  Many parents that hit the age of 60, 65, or 70, may or may not have nursing home insurance.  If they don’t have long term care insurance, one of the questions they should be discussing with you is who might be available to help in the future.  Sometimes, the kids want to pay for long term care insurance if in fact the parents cannot afford it themselves.  You may think it’s your middle daughter or you may think it’s going to be your youngest son that will take care of you.  The kids may have thoughts themselves about who’s going to do what or worse yet they may have not talked at all.  So it’s important to have some discussion that if something happens your children have some idea of how the chain of command and responsibilities will roll down at that time.  I had an uncle of mine that unfortunately went into a nursing home and wiped out their entire financial situation.  This is a quality discussion to have as a family.

3. Advanced Medical Directive / Living Will?  You should talk to your kids about whether you have a living will or an advanced medical directive as part of your overall estate planning.  Letting your children know these types of things and if you are an organ donor can at least prepare your children for your wishes somewhere down the road.  You may be uncertain about your wishes if you had some tragic situation that actually put you on some sort of thing that’s keeping your life going.  And if you’ve already pre-made decisions about what’s going to happen, that would be an important thing to share with them.

4. Where Is Everything Located?  I’ve yet to see someone pass away without the family having to deal with some level of mystery on where documents, collectibles, or bank accounts are located.  With today’s technology, getting your finances organized in an electronic account aggregation type software or at least collecting all of your documents in one place with instructions on where everything is located will be important for your children.   Often, families can have a major struggle over personal possessions especially if one member of the family has more knowledge than another including brothers and sisters as well as children.  The goal of doing this isn’t to share your financial picture, but merely give your family a go to person or a location so things can be sorted out easily in the event of a premature death.

As a parent you don’t have to discuss money, your net worth, or what’s happening with your overall budget.  Many parents don’t want to be a burden on their children or they don’t want their children counting on a future inheritance.   Make sure to discuss with your kids these important points so at least they can take the opportunity to discuss and plan their own lives to best support you and your overall estate plan.

For more information on estate planning, asset protection, and elder law we invite you to attend one of our free Trust, Estate, and Asset Protection Workshops.  Register online at www.MASeniorWorkshop.com or by calling (800) 964-4295 (24/7).  At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center we help families protect what matters most: their spouse, home, and life savings, from the rising cost of medical and nursing home care.  Did you know that resaerch shows that 86% of estate plans DO NOT WORK.  Research conducted by a colleague with more than 30,000 clients demonstrated the need to review plans.  To help people evaluate the areas in which an existing plan meets a family’s goals and objectives and where significant problems may exist we have developed the 19-Point Trust, Estate & Asset Protection Guide

 

Tags: power of attorney, Estate Planning, probate, Estate Planning, asset protection, long term care, gifts, gift tax, family, Beneficiary, Estate Planning Tip, elder care, estate, executor, disinherit, estate tax, estate tax savings

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