Houston Estate Planning Law Blog
PETER FALK’S ESTATE GIVES $3 MILLION TO UCLA
Do you know where you want your assets to go after you pass? Some Texas residents have very specific plans. If you do, you should make sure to formulate legal preparations for the distribution of your estate. This way, you can ensure that your loved ones receive their appropriate share without any problems. In a recent story, a former well-known actor decided to bequeath some of his life earnings to a university for education purposes.
Sources explain that the estate of former “Columbo” star Peter Falk has willed $3 million to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), for student scholarships. The money will be used to create the Shera and Peter Falk Lt. Columbo Memorial Scholarship Fund. The first award will go to five students entering UCLA next fall. It will cover the students’ tuition for four years. The scholarship will focus on aiding undergraduates studying music, military veterans and those with disabilities.
After a long acting career on Broadway, in television and in the movies, Falk passed away last June at the age of 83. Specifically, the actor was best known for his role as a Los Angeles police detective on “Columbo,” which earned him four Primetime Emmy Awards.
Based on his probate arrangements, one might assume that education was extremely important to the former actor. If you are making estate plans, you should consider what is important to you. Do you have a preferred charity that you would like to support? Do you want your children to receive most of your assets? If you have particular plans for your estate, you may want to speak to an experienced lawyer. An attorney will guarantee that the people you care about are taken care of after you pass away.
Source: Washington Post, “Former ‘Columbo’ star Peter Falk bequeaths $3 million to UCLA to provide student scholarships,” Feb. 21, 2012
Continue reading: PETER FALK’S ESTATE GIVES $3 MILLION TO UCLA
Tags: estate planning, Wills
AUCTION OF SUICIDAL MAN&RSQUO;S ESTATE FINALLY SET IN MOTION
The last two years have been a difficult one for the widow of an elderly Ohio man who killed himself in 2011. Some people here in Texas may remember hearing the story about the man on the news. Just prior to killing himself, he cut the locks to cages on his property, freeing the exotic animals inside. It took two days for local law enforcement to round up the animals, many of which needed to be killed because of the danger they posed to the community.
Much like the police, the man’s widow also had some rounding-up to do when it came to his estate. He had left behind an enormous collection of vehicles–everything from motorcycles to a hovercraft–horse-back riding equipment, and other animals. Though still grieving, she had the enormous task of figuring out what to do with his remaining belongings. According to reports from around the time of his death, the two had become estranged, and she may have been left with little direction as to how he wanted his estate distributed. In the end, she felt that an auction would be best.
It’s taken nearly a year to gather and identify the items going up for bid; but with the help of an auction house owner, the estate is finally ready to be sold. “She’s spent day and night assembling these things. It’s all a part of settling the estate,” explains the auction owner in a recent interview. It’s being seen as another step now to moving on–something many of our readers can relate to having had to go through similar processes with their own deceased love one’s estate.
While some people may specify in their estate plans that their belongings be auctioned, others may want these items to stay in the family or be donated to charitable organizations. It’s no surprise that having clear instructions in your will can make sure that your this happens and that your final wishes are carried out exactly as you wanted.
Source: The Columbus Dispatch, “Zanesville’s exotic animal owners’ estate going on block,” Eric Lyttle, Aug. 4, 2013
Continue reading: AUCTION OF SUICIDAL MAN&RSQUO;S ESTATE FINALLY SET IN MOTION
Tags: death, estate plan
LAW OFFERS LITTLE END-OF-LIFE GUIDANCE FOR MANDELA&RSQUO;S KIN
Millions of people across the nation, including many right here in the state of Texas, have been anxious watching the failing health condition of the former South Africa President Nelson Mandela. This may partially be because, like so many families here in the United States, the complexities of estate planning laws have left Mandela’s kin with little end-of-life guidance.
For those who have not been following the story, Mandela has been reportedly lying on the edge of death for the last few months. While doctors insist that he is in “critical but stable condition,” this confronts his family with the difficult decision of when to take the ailing 94-year-old off of machines. Friends who recently visited him in the hospital say he is awake and smiling but family members know that they will need to come up with an end-of-life plan soon.
In the United States, living wills make situations such as this quite easy and often relinquish the burden of making the difficult pull-the-plug decision to the person who is dying. As we’ve mentioned in past posts, this is part of your estate plan where you dictate your medical wishes and end-of-life instructions to your family. But according to reports, this may be less clear under South African law.
Current laws are vague and unclear about who gets to make the decisions for Mandela if and when he is unable to. This can get especially complicated if he has not designated a proxy in his stead. Situations such as this are not uncommon here in Texas though our state laws do offer more guidance than what the Mandelas may be getting.
Source: The New York Times, “Mandela’s Kin Face Gray Area on End of Life,” Rick Lyman, July 11, 2013
Continue reading: LAW OFFERS LITTLE END-OF-LIFE GUIDANCE FOR MANDELA&RSQUO;S KIN
Tags: death, estate plan, estate planning
BONANZA STAR’S SON SELLS MEMORABILIA TO SHARE WITH REST OF WORLD
Lorne Greene, best known for playing Ben Cartwright on the television show Bonanza, is considered to be one of the most iconic people of his era and was privy to have been on what is now considered to be the second-longest-running TV Western. But Greene likely didn’t know how popular he would really become once the show went into syndication the world over, creating an even larger fan base than he probably dreamed. That may not have been his thought when he decided to leave a treasure trove of Bonanza memorabilia behind for his son when he passed away in 1987.
Treasures ranged from commemorative belt buckles to the original branding iron that was used during the beginning sequence to every episode. It’s a collection that Greene’s son now says he wants to share with the world.
A few months ago, Greene’s family contacted Anchor Auctions and Appraisals and explained that they wanted to auction off a portion of Greene’s items. As the son’s assistant explains, Greene had owned a lot of stuff and, in the end, just wanted the public to have access to it. So they got to work putting together a collection of more than 500 artifacts, including 20 from the television show, to be put up for auction. It’s not clear whether the auction, which will be open to overseas investors, was stated in Greene’s will or if the idea was that of his son who knew what about his father’s final wishes of sharing these treasures with the rest of the world. Regardless though, many Texas residents may be getting ideas about their own estates from just such a situation.
As we’ve stated in past posts, providing a detailed description of what you want to happen to your belongings and monetary assets after you pass is an important part of any estate plan. It not only ensures that the people you designate get what you want them to get, but makes sure that your final wishes are carried out exactly how you wanted.
Source: The Los Angeles Times, “Son of ‘Bonanza star’ Lorne Greene to auction off memorabilia,” John M. Glionna, June 27, 2013
Continue reading: BONANZA STAR’S SON SELLS MEMORABILIA TO SHARE WITH REST OF WORLD
Tags: estate plan
THINGS TO CONSIDER WITH YOUR LIFE INSURANCE POLICY
In a world of uncertainty, we try our best to inform our blog readers about important estate planning events before it’s too late. One issue we run across from time to time is life insurance policies. Incredibly important, these documents can often carry with them incredible burdens, especially if they aren’t prepared correctly and maintained properly. Hopefully this week’s blog post can clear up some confusion and get our readers on the right track again.
The first thing to consider when establishing a life insurance policy is who to name as a beneficiary. While most people only name a primary beneficiary, it’s often a good idea to list others just in case your primary predeceases you or dies at the same time as you. It’s also important to communicate your intentions with your beneficiaries. Letting them know who the policy is through and the general specifics about the policy before your passing can make sure they’re not blindsided by the process in the future.
It’s important to consider who you’re naming as a beneficiary as well. Consider for a second that you choose your minor child as your beneficiary. Some states will not allow that insurance policy to be paid out until the child is a certain age. On top of that, a guardian might be required which can end up adding additional costs to the process.
Consider too that Texas is a community-property state. This means that regardless of designation on the policy, if your spouse does not waive their right to the money, the policy could be paid out to them instead of the intended recipient.
Not having specific wording in your policy and not maintaining it properly can also cause headaches down the road. But considering these things and clearing them up with a skilled estate planning attorney before hand can help your loved ones from experiencing future frustrations down the road.
Source: Fox Business, “Naming Life Insurance Beneficiaries: 10 Ways to Screw up,” Barbara Marquand, May 22, 2013
Continue reading: THINGS TO CONSIDER WITH YOUR LIFE INSURANCE POLICY
Tags: estate plan, estate planning
ESTATE PLANNING FOR THE 8 STAGES OF LIFE
Readers of our blog know that we stress the importance of starting your estate plans early and updating them as often as possible. That’s because, no matter what stage of life you’re at, you’ll want to have the stability and financial cushioning most aspects of estate planning can offer.
But knowing what to do and in what stage of life can often times be a tricky thing. So, to clear up a little of the confusion for our readers this week, we wanted to go over the commonly considered ‘8 stages of life’ and the specific estate planning measures that should be taken in each one.
Let’s start with the first stage which is your young and single years. While most of your assets were taken care of when you were younger, after 18 financial responsibility sort of gets thrust upon you. Assigning power of attorney and putting together a living will are probably the two most important things you can do at this time.
Grouping stages two through four cover the time between pre-marital relationship and ‘just married.’ During this time it will be important to change power of attorney to your spouse if desired and make sure that they are also included in your living will. This will also be the time to discuss combining assets, health insurance coverage, and getting a mortgage for your first home.
Stage five brings you into parenthood with a little one on the way. It’s at this stage that you’ll want to not only start saving for your child’s future but thinking about guardianships in the event you and your spouse pass enexpectedly.
Because divorce is a very real possibility after gauging the most recent U.S. statistics, we’re including stage six which is divorce. This is the stage in life where you may want to remove your ex-spouse from your financial accounts and will need to go through the sometimes painful process of dividing your assets.
In the last two stages is where you may want to invest in long-term care insurance and transferring power of attorney over to your children. Most experts suggest that this be done before your health begins to fail so as to avoid incurring large medical costs that can eat away your retirement funds.
As you can see, estate planning often requires changes over time; but with a heads up you can make sure that you’re on top of the ball the entire way.
Source: Bankrate.com, “8 life stages of estate planning,” G.M. Filisko
Continue reading: ESTATE PLANNING FOR THE 8 STAGES OF LIFE
Tags: estate plan, estate planning
‘THE DESCENDANTS’ AND THE REALITY OF HEALTHCARE PROXIES
Many people in Texas remember the 2011 George Clooney film ‘The Descendants’ in which a husband and father of two girls must make the difficult decision of following his wife’s medical wishes or keeping her on life support. But as much as we’d like to think that this scenario was a construct of Hollywood, situations like this happen every day in hospitals across the nation.
In most cases, a patient has already discussed their medical wishes with their family and friends, even authorizing a medical proxy in the event that they are no longer capable of making decisions for themselves. But it’s often times surprising to know how many people do not either designate someone as their proxy or tell their proxy about their wishes before the unthinkable happens.
Let’s take, for example, the story of an elderly Massachusetts couple. As the wife’s lung disease worsened, she was having considerably more trouble breathing on her own. But as she told her nurse, she had taken numerous trips to the hospital and been placed on ventilators in the past; these were situations she never wanted to be in again.
Though she had explained this to her hospice nurse on multiple occasions, it was a conversation she had failed to have with her husband who she had recently designated as her healthcare proxy. Although he was considered her healthcare power of attorney on paper and responsible for making important medical decisions, because she hadn’t discussed this with him he unknowingly had her placed on a ventilator after she suddenly couldn’t catch her breath one day. It wasn’t until after speaking with the nurse that the wife’s intentions were discovered.
Although it’s a difficult conversation to have with your loved ones, planning for situations like this ahead of time-preferably before the onset of an illness-can ensure that all of your wishes are being carried out to your exact specifications. Doctors and hospitals rely on the instructions given to them by patients in order to give the exact care that a patient wants to receive; if that person is unable to make those decisions for themselves, doctors look to family members. Making medical decisions for someone else can be incredibly stressful and -as George Clooney’s character demonstrated -difficult to make as well without proper guidance.
Source: The Boston Globe, “Doctors have a duty to encourage patients to discuss end-of-life wishes,” Kiran Gupta, Feb. 20, 2013
Continue reading: ‘THE DESCENDANTS’ AND THE REALITY OF HEALTHCARE PROXIES
Tags: estate administration, estate planning, healthcare proxy, medical wishes, power of attorney
HOUSTON WOMAN USES POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR EVIL, NOT GOOD
A 76-year-old Houston woman is trying to put her finances back in order after a 24-year-old Texas woman not only stole her driver’s license and social security card but used them to gain power of attorney over her bank accounts, getting away with nearly $30,000 of the elderly woman’s money.
In mid September, the 76-year-old woman went in to her local bank only to be told that someone had withdrawn $29,800 from her bank account. When the woman asked who, the bank gave her the name of a woman she did not know and explained that she had obtained power of attorney over her bank account. It was at this point that the woman contacted police.
Although investigators believe that a 24-year-old Texas woman is to blame for the theft, police have not been able to take her into custody as she remains at large at this time.
As Texas’ elderly community continues to rise, stories like this continue to emphasize the importance of talking with your family members about your estate before tragedies like this happen. And although power of attorney was used in the worst possible way in this scenario, in most cases, power of attorney can be incredibly helpful when distributing an ailing family member’s estate.
Many real estate planning experts point out that it’s always a good idea to not only have a power of attorney in mind but to let other people, including your financial institutions, know who that person is. And although rare, you may be able to offer yourself a safety net against the difficulties associated with identity theft such as this.
Source: KHOU News, “Houston woman accused of stealing money using power of attorney documents,” Feb. 4, 2013
Continue reading: HOUSTON WOMAN USES POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR EVIL, NOT GOOD
Tags: estate administration, estate planning, power of attorney, Texas
COUPLE DONATES WORLD’S LARGEST AQUAMARINE TO SMITHSONIAN
One look at the Dom Pedro aquamarine and the only thing you’re able to articulate is, “Wow.” At a height of 14 inches and weighing over 10,000 carats, the obelisk-shaped gem is considered to be almost as rare as the Hope Diamond.
When Jeffrey Post, the curator of gems and minerals at the Smithsonian Museum, looks into the clear, Caribbean blue sparkle of the gem he sees more than a rare artifact; he sees a museum exhibit that would never had happened had it not been for the generous donation from a budding gem enthusiast and her husband this month.
The story begins in the 1980’s when a prospector saw the aquamarine wedged in an outcropping of rock. When pried loose, the gem stretched more than three feet long and weighed almost 100 pounds but it was not destined to stay this size.
After accidentally being dropped and broken into three pieces, the portion that would eventually become the Dom Pedro was sold to a third-generation broker. He then brought the gem to a skilled gem cutter who crafted the precious stone into the piece of artwork it is today.
Three years later, the owners of the gemstone wanted to sell. They first made an offer to the Smithsonian, asking for seven to 10 million dollars. Jeffrey Post was there when the offer was made and remembers laughing. “It doesn’t work like that. The Smithsonian collects via donations. We can’t just go to Congress and ask for $10 million for a gem,” he said.
It was money the museum didn’t have, but it was money a gem enthusiast and her husband did have so after buying and showing the gem at various exhibits around the world, they finally decided to donate it to the Smithsonian.
“We didn’t buy it for ourselves,” the gem enthusiast said. Now, besides reducing their estate tax for the future, the couple has shared a rarity with the world that could have remained unnoticed if not for their generous donation.
Source: The Washington Post, “The Dom Pedro aquamarine’s long and winding path to the Smithsonian,” Brian Vastag, Dec. 2, 2012
Continue reading: COUPLE DONATES WORLD’S LARGEST AQUAMARINE TO SMITHSONIAN
Tags: donations, estate planning, estate tax, Smithsonian
HOW APPOINTING POWER OF ATTORNEY CAN HELP WHEN YOU’RE INCAPACITATED
No family, in Texas or in any other state, wants to make the difficult decision of whether to take their child off of life support in order to end a terminally ill child’s suffering. But in situations where the child is of legal age, it is even more difficult when the child makes the decision that they want to be taken off of life support despite the parent’s opposition.
But this is exactly what happened to a family in Queens when their daughter requested the removal of life support. Her parents cringed at the thought and her father even petitioned in court to have himself appointed as her legal guardian. She later changed her mind, but it is cases like this that gets people thinking: what options do I have in similar circumstances?
Many estate planning attorneys will tell you that, even if you’re not sick now, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place just in case the worst should happen. Many lawyers will suggest appointing someone as your power of attorney. The designation of this person allows them to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. Sometimes, lawyers may also suggest a living will which describes your wishes when it comes to medical decisions in the event you are unable to state them otherwise.
Parents may also designate guardianship to someone else in the event that the parents of a disabled, ill or incapacitated child both die. Whether choosing guardianship or power of attorney, many experts will say that establishing powers of attorney can help family members in the future make difficult decisions they might not want to make on their own.
Source: NY Daily News, “Brain-cancer patient’s father drops court bid to be named guardian,” Erica Pearson, Oct. 9, 2012
Continue reading: HOW APPOINTING POWER OF ATTORNEY CAN HELP WHEN YOU’RE INCAPACITATED
Tags: disability, estate planning, guardianship, incapacitation, power of attorney