“These documents could save money but can lay estate planning traps.”
An estate planning attorney would much rather not see a family undergoing unnecessary stress and expenses. Do-it-yourself wills and on-line wills very often create problems for families, as reported in Next Avenue’s aptly-named article “The Problems With Do-It-Yourself Online Wills.”
The article reports that one DIY estate planning service had three different “packages” that consisted of the same document, just with different names. Those packages were also missing a key estate planning document that the average person would not know to ask about. Even attorneys who do not practice estate planning law, know to work with an estate planning attorney for their wills.
For those with complex financial and personal lives, a DIY service may not be able to address the estate planning issues. If you have over a certain level of assets, do you want to risk making a costly blunder that would easily be prevented by working with a skilled professional?
Think of it this way: there are some people who can have their taxes done online, because they receive simple tax forms from their employer. If there’s a mistake, the IRS sends a letter and they may have to pay a penalty or pay the taxes that were not paid properly. Simple, right?
If your estate plan doesn’t work, you’ll never know. However, your loved ones will, and they’ll be the ones to have to make things right.
Good estate planning is all about expressing our wishes. The documents that are prepared and the process of decisions about our wishes accomplish a number of tasks:
Avoids court intervention in your family’s life,
Reduces administrative confusion, and
Reduces or eliminates unnecessary fees and delays.
The four basic planning documents are: a will, power of attorney for financial matters, an advance health care directive and if needed, a trust. If you expect to use any of these through a DIY website, expect to use a “fill in the blank” approach. Remember that every state has its own laws governing probate. Are you sure that the forms you are filling out are acceptable in your state?
Other DIY sites have some documents, but only if you purchase a high-end package. Others offer attorney consultations, but some consider an attorney consultation to be a series of questions and answers through an online app with pre-written responses, and not a real attorney.
The problem with DIY wills, is that we don’t know what we don’t know. We may know who we would like to receive our assets, but not what our state law requires to make that happen. Case law about estate distribution and probate is not something an average person knows. That’s why it makes more sense to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney. They will be able to create an estate plan based on knowledge and skills, that come about only after practicing in this area of law.
It is never an easy decision to disinherit a child. People who have made that difficult decision, need to understand that it is also difficult to legally do so.
Sometimes parents think they have no other choice but to disinherit one of their children. They can decide this for many different reasons, such as the child's criminal behavior, drug use or just a complete breakdown in the parent-child relationship.
Since a disinheritance is not something people normally undertake lightly and to make sure that they do not disinherit unintentionally, estate law has developed to not make it easy to disinherit a child. The rules vary by state, but recently the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog shared some tips in "How to disinherit a Child: 5 Tips to do so Successfully," including:
Hire an attorney to make sure that you follow the appropriate laws in your state.
Make sure that there is a paper trail available for your executor or trustee that establishes the reason for your decision and provides some evidence for it.
You might not want to be too specific about your reasoning for disinheriting the child, unless it is required by the laws of your state. In some states, if the child can prove that the reason is factually incorrect, then they can claim a portion of the estate.
Consider whether you want to tell the child before you pass away. Sometimes, it is best not to leave them surprised. However, at times, telling a child that he's being disinherited can cause more problems.
Instead of disinheriting a child, it might be better to give him or her a small inheritance and include a no-contest clause in your will. This is something an attorney can help you assess, based on the laws in your state.
If you want to know whether a grantor trust or a non-grantor trust is more suitable for you, please contact an estate planning attorney.
If the Louisiana legislature cannot fix a budget shortfall soon, 30,000 nursing home residents in the state will be evicted on July 1st.
It would probably come as a shock for most nursing home residents, if they were suddenly sent an eviction notice. It would be even more shocking, if the residents were all on Medicaid and the government was paying for their care.
That is about to happen to some 30,000 nursing home residents in Louisiana, who are on Medicaid.
The state faces a revenue shortage and the Louisiana House's budget cuts include Medicaid funding. That would mean that the state Medicaid program will no longer be able to pay for nursing home care, as of July 1.
There is still time for the state to fix this problem. However, there appears to be an impasse between the governor and the legislature over funding. Something similar could also eventually happen in other states.
As the population of the U.S. gets older, Medicaid expenses are growing for both the states and the federal government. Many states are looking for ways to change their programs to save money and the Trump administration has given them greater flexibility to do.
It is not certain how far the administration will allow states to go. For example, Kansas was recently denied its request to limit the number of years a person could be on its program. However, the administration has been more amenable to imposing work requirements on recipients who are not disabled.
Should you be notified that you are the potential beneficiary of someone's estate, then what happens next depends on state laws.
When a will is filed in probate court, one of the first things normally required is to notify everyone who is named in the will or who may potentially benefit from the will. Sometimes, that can be many people, as is the case of the recently deceased actor John Mahoney.
His estate is worth approximately $5 million and there are 38 people who could be beneficiaries. Most of the time, the number of people notified is likely to be far less. If you are notified that you could potentially benefit from a will, you need to know what to expect from the probate process. This is especially true, if it is a large estate.
The answer to what to expect of the probate process? It depends.
State laws vary greatly about how the probate process is conducted. Your first question might be what you can expect to receive from the estate. However, that can take a long time to sort out. In some states, you can ask the probate court for a copy of the will that was filed. This might at least give you a general idea.
However, in other states, it is left to the discretion of the appointed executor whether to let people see the will. Yet, what the will says you should inherit, might not be what you actually receive. Other people and creditors might file claims against the estate.
What is the best thing to do, if you are a potential beneficiary of a wealthy estate? Hire an estate attorney who can help you with the process in the state where the probate court is located.