A Big Problem With Fill-in-the-Blank Wills

It’s tempting, I know. You’re trying to save money. You don’t have lots of property to leave to others. Your estate isn’t complicated. So you go to an office supply store, bookstore or online legal site, grab a standard will form and fill it in yourself. That’s what Ann Aldrich of Keystone Heights, Fla., did back in 2004. She left her property to her sister, Mary Jane Eaton, and added in a clause stating that if Eaton died before she …

Estate Benefits of Roth IRAs Curtailed in Obama Budget

Buried in the details of President Barack Obama’s 2015 budget are tax changes that could upend many people’s estate and retirement planning. The president is proposing significant changes to the Roth IRA, which has become a popular way for higher-income investors to leave money to heirs tax-free. “The Obama team put this out in an effort to simplify tax law when it comes to retirement accounts,” says Matt Curfman, a financial planner with Richmond Brothers Inc. in Jackson, Mich. “Thank …

An Unusual Challenge to an Actress’s Will

Imagine that you die after a long series of illnesses. Because you’ve been successful in your field and leave a considerable estate. You might expect a will challenge – sure. But from your former lawyer?  Now, that’s one weird situation. But that’s exactly what has happened with the estate of Julie Harris, the renowned actress who died late last summer. Back in 2009, Harris had fired long-time lawyer Herbert Nass, who was potentially the executor of her will.  Several months …

Should Elder Abusers Be Able to Inherit From Their Victims?

Say there’s an older adult - let’s call her Judy - who has difficulty caring for herself. Judy’s son, Charles, is her primary caretaker, but he abuses her, pinching her and refusing to give her dinner if she doesn’t stay quiet during his favorite TV show.  Judy’s doctor notices that she has bruises on her arms and is rapidly losing weight; she reports Charles to family services, and Charles is eventually convicted of felony abuse. After several months, Judy dies of unrelated …

In $300 Million Estate, Lawyers Lose a Piece of the Action

Most of us don’t have $300 million to leave behind when we pass on. But for those who do, it’s no surprise when there’s a fight over their wills. And when they leave most of their estate to charities and caretakers instead of family members? Bring on the trusts and estates lawyers. A couple of weeks ago, I told you about Huguette Clark, the New York City heiress who died after living for 20 years in a hospital room, treating …

Where There’s a Will There Isn’t Always a Way

Most lawyers say, emphatically, that all older Americans – heck, all Americans, period – should have a will. But let’s face it: Even by the time they die, most people haven’t accumulated much in terms of an estate. So why do lawyers say a will is so important? Well, because a properly executed will helps survivors know what a deceased person wanted to do with his or her assets. Except when it doesn’t. Lack of clarity is especially a problem …