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Happy Thanksgiving Questionnaire

TurkeyIf you’ll see your parents (or your adult children) on Thanksgiving, you might want to leave ‘em a copy under their plate.

Dear ______________ (you fill in the blank),
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, we want to let you know that we are thankful in advance that you’ll read this letter. (We know you won’t want to discuss this, but we really need to.) And we’re making it as easy as possible for you to fill out; just check the boxes you like. You can also add in any words you wish.

So:
☐ I don’t have a Will.
☐ I have a Will but I don’t have the faintest idea where it is. Read more

Avoid the Asset Hassle, Courtesy of Uncle Pennybags

Piggy bankBeware the hassle assets. They are called that because if you inherit some, you will jump hoops, go down chutes and climb up ladders to get these assets into your name.

The corollary: if you own hassle assets now, do your spouse and estate recipients an enormous favor, and deal with these assets now, while you can. Prevent the legal zoo. We’ll explain how below.

Let’s contemplate your rich Uncle Pennybags, who has received huge royalties over the years as his picture has appeared since 1936 on millions of Monopoly boards, Community Chest and Chance Cards. (You thought it was Warren Buffett?)

Uncle Richie (as you called him) was a sophisticated investor; no Baltic Avenue for him in the real world.  Instead, he bought into companies which owned mineral rights in Georgia and oil well interests in Texas. He also bought a couple of shares in a company producing a Broadway musical. And yes, he had a part-interest in an assisted living facility on Marvin Gardens.

So when Pennybags died, his estate owned 1.6% of a Georgia partnership trying to sift kaolin out of dirt, 0.875% of a Texas venture owning a semi-dry oil well, and 3% royalties from whenever their musical was performed, whether in local high schools or foreign countries. Read more

Don’t Let Your Pets Become Orphans

George was interviewed recently by Laine Sweezey, President of the Brook Run Dog Park Association, to be part of a newsletter article for the Brook Run Dog Park.  The article content appears below.

DogIt is shocking how often I receive heart-breaking pleas to help find homes for pets whose owners have died or have become incapacitated. According to the website of the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), “… approximately 5 to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide each year, and approximately 3 to 4 million are euthanized (60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats). As a responsible guardian, it is important to think about who would care for your pets in the event of your inability, illness, or even death, and to implement a plan to prevent your pets from ending up in a shelter where their future remains uncertain.” Read more

Three Reasons You Still Need a Will, Regardless of the Estate Tax

FamilyWe heard so much about the “Fiscal Cliff” a few months back, and after all that talk and all the headlines, for most people, the change in the Estate Tax didn’t really change a thing — you still need a Will. Here’s why.

1. The Estate Tax doesn’t decide who raises your children.
We hear it all the time: “I don’t have any assets so I don’t need a Will.” But you do have children, and the change in the Estate Tax isn’t going to name guardians to take care of them if something happens to you.

When both parents die, the Georgia Probate Court will look to see who the parents named as guardians for their children in their Wills. If there are no Wills, then the Probate Court decides who will raise them.

Even if you aren’t sure about the person you choose, you are going to make a better informed choice than a Judge who never met you, and won’t meet your children, your in-laws, siblings, and parents until the Probate Court hearing where they’ll be fighting it out. Read more

Your Death Be Not Proud in a Digital Cloud

EmailShakespeare wrote “The email that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with the bones.” (See Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 2.) (It’s sort of there.)

The email lives on? Sure thing. The person may have died, but the funeral home package doesn’t include embalming the deceased’s email account, which likely holds saved and unread mail with comments, remarks, links, ads, articles you meant to read, appropriate and inappropriate jokes (from others, of course), and God only knows what else. Read more

Even You (Yes, You!) Can Create an Endowment

Money with bowYes you can.

We’ve given out the candy on All Hallow’s Eve. We’ve harvested and given thanks. Soon we’ll share good tidings of comfort and joy.

So this is a perfect time to consider a painless way to do something charitable. Actually, two painless ways.

One way is not going to cost you a penny more than what you are spending already.

The other way will cost you next to nothing.

Neither way will change your cash flow during your lifetime. And when you die, you’ll trigger a spectacular donation to the charity of your choice for any purpose you specify. Voilà: your personal endowment.

Here’s how this happens. Read more

Read This Article Before You Create a Will Online

Fine PrintToday’s questions:

  • What good is a “satisfaction guarantee” from an online will company when the problems with the will don’t become clear until you’re dead?
  • Why buy an online will kit from sellers who warn you that the content of their site is not guaranteed to be correct, complete or up-to-date?

I was recently presented with a will prepared through an online service. The person who downloaded it, filled in the blanks, and signed it would never know the problems created by the online form, as he had passed away.  But now, upon review of the document following his death, the problems with it were becoming clear to his family. Read more

George Clooney, Estate Planning and “The Descendants”

In the new movie, “The Descendants,” George Clooney is an estate attorney, husband, and father.  He’s also struggling with a conflict over land his family has owned for generations. As the trustee, Clooney must deal with his money-hungry relatives’ pressure to sell the valuable, unspoiled  property to developers.

The film has received great reviews, and it’s a wake-up call: family conflicts are easy to prevent, but expensive and time-consuming if you just ignore them.  You can’t wait until the owner is dead, or disabled and can’t communicate.

So enjoy the film. And come discuss your family’s inheritance and control-of-asset issues with us.

After Death, Don’t Rush The Net

Memo to someone who has just lost a loved one: don’t rush the net.

You’re kidding, right? Not at all. There is no legal reason to do anything quickly. And there are lots of legal reasons not to. Go be with family. Talk to clergy and friends. And do as little as possible with tax-significant assets.   Read more