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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

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

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

The Pet Trust: Protecting Your Animal After You’re Gone

dogThe widowed aunt had written in her Will: “I give $5,000 to [nephew] if he takes care of my cat.”

The nephew put the cat to sleep.  He then demanded the five grand from his aunt’s estate. His reason: “I took care of the cat.”

They ended up in court.  Read more

It’s Critical to Discuss Your Will with Your Children – Even if it’s Uncomfortable

Certain superstitions are silly: “Handling a toad gives you warts.” “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.” “It’s good luck to find a horseshoe.” (Unless, of course, it’s still attached to the horse).

Other superstitions have intellectual issues: When Punxsutawney Pete looks for his shadow on Groundhog Day, how does he know what he’s looking for? Or does the shadow know?

Other superstitions come with directions: “Pull off the petals of a daisy one by one, naming a boy (or a girl as the case may be) at each one, thus: Jenny, Fanny, Jenny, Fanny, etc. The one named with the last petal is your sweetheart.”

Life and death have their superstitions. If you’re having thirteen for dinner in Brookline, MA, “the last one who sits down will not die.” In nearby Somerville, “the one who rises first from a table of thirteen will not live through the year.” So if you’re invited to dinner in New England, take your time showing up and chew your food really, really well.

Here’s a superstition which is both worthless and dangerous: “If you discuss your Will with your children, you die really soon.”

Read more

Who Gets the Assets if Your Spouse Dies Without a Will? You Might be Surprised.

The financial planner thought he knew everything.  And with that confidence, he downloaded a form will. It wasn’t a bad will, actually. But he made one enormous mistake: he didn’t sign it right.

So when he died, his wife went to an attorney to find out how she would collect everything. She got a shock: she wasn’t going to. The will was useless. Void. Non-existent. Consequently, the law says that she and the child had to split the assets. The scorecard: Child: 50%. Mother 50%. Game, set, match.

Would it matter if it was his child, and not their child? Not a whit. Could they fudge the distribution? Nope.

What if parent and child didn’t get along? Doesn’t matter. They were chained legally to 50% each. They may not have spoken in years . . . but now they sure were going to.

The key: if the once-good will is not good now, or if there’s no will, then the spouse and the children divide the estate assets equally.  Read more

Your Documents Are Only Good if People Can Find Them. Just ask Jack.

This is the House that Jack left.

This is the basement, dingy and dark
In the house that Jack left.

This is the chest, so rarely opened,
Covered by carpets and dust and webs
In that basement, dingy and dark
In the house that Jack left.   Read more