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ARETHA FRANKLIN, QUEEN OF SOUL – WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, died in August at the age of 76. As tragic as it is, I find it
more tragic to learn that she died without a Will. Having been an estate planning attorney for
over 20 years, my stomach aches every time I hear about this. According to a NY Times article,
Aretha was “known to be private and unusually protective of her finances. According to a 2016
profile in the New Yorker, she demanded cash before performing live, and then often kept the
money in a handbag that she kept near her onstage.”

They say that PROCRASTINATION is the number one reason people do not prepare an estate
plan. No one thinks they are going to die soon. And even when you have a health prognosis that
provides you with some time to “get your affairs in order,” often times it still does not get done.
Aretha was survived by her four sons. According to court documents, the sons nominated
Sabrina Owens, a niece of Ms. Franklin, as the estate’s personal representative. She will likely
need to file an “accounting” of the assets of the estate. This is a formal court document that
states the current values of all assets, all income and payments that come into the estate since
the date of death, then subtracted by all of the expenses paid out from the estate. Once there
is a net number, then it is divided equally among her four sons. This entire process will take a
lot of time. And a lot of money. There will be attorneys, court fees, bond fees, valuation fees,
accounting fees and other miscellaneous fees. One of the challenging aspects of Aretha’s estate
is the value of her music collection. What would it be valued at today, considering her estate
will likely be benefiting from the value for many years to come? This also dovetails into estate
taxes. If Aretha’s estate is greater than $11M, then her family would need to file an Estate Tax
Return, and a State Inheritance tax return, and such taxes could be as high as 40% of the gross
value of the estate greater than $11M.

In any event, it will be a long, arduous process. It will be a public process. It can be a
contentious process. Unfortunately, money and family dynamics bring out the worst in people.
My biggest hang up when I hear about these stories is the “what could have been”. What kind
of legacy could Aretha have left had she really thought through who could benefit from her
estate? Could she have created a scholarship in her name for upcoming artists trying to make it
in the business? Could she have given lower-income talented singers a chance to make it in
music? Could she have had a talent agency created in her name that helped people like her?
The possibilities are endless.

Unfortunately the woman who kept her money in a handbag near a stage while she performed,
will not be able to tell us what she would have wanted. You don’t have to be a celebrity to leave
a legacy. We are only here on earth for a short period of time. Make your time count. Plan
ahead. Don’t procrastinate.

About the author
Maritess T. Bott, of Bott & Associates, Ltd. is an estate planning attorney in Rolling Meadows,
Illinois, a Northwest suburb of Chicago. She has been an attorney since 1997, and has helped
hundreds of families have peace of mind by protecting their wealth, and preserving their
relationships. She has been a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys
since 2003, a nationally recognized organization of attorneys who specialize in estate planning
and probate. If you are interested in more information, you may check out
www.bottestateplanning.com.

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Child support FAQ

Estate Planning Lawyer

Family Courts oversee several different types of family related cases including child support agreements.

What is child support? This financial court order is in place to ensure the health and well-being, both physically and emotionally, of the children. Child support is intended to help provide the basic human necessities and ensure the children experience the same lifestyle after divorce as they did when their parents were married.  The judge will always look to what is best for the children when ruling on financial agreements associated with divorce. If payments are missed, the individual will likely be considered in contempt of court possibly resulting in jail time.

How much is enough? The family court judge will consider many factors when ruling on the amount a parent will be required to pay for child support. The priority is always the health and well-being of the child or children. Specific considerations are food and shelter, educational needs, medical needs, age of children, income of both parents and the custody arrangement. The medical needs include regular doctor visits, dental care and health insurance. The age of the children is important because a baby will have different needs from a teenager. Expenses naturally increase as children get older, such as the cost of clothing, food, educational needs and social outings. Custody arrangements vary greatly; some couples split the custody 50/50 while other arrangements have the children in one primary home. The latter arrangement will likely mean the custodial parent will be awarded child support payments as they are responsible for the children the majority of the time.

How long is one obligated to pay child support? The court determines the time-frame of child support payments and the specifics should be outlined in the official written agreement. The court will usually identify the termination of a child support obligation to occur when the children reach the age of majority, the age at which the individual is lawfully deemed as responsible for him or herself. State laws govern the age of majority; most states recognize 18 to be the age of majority while other states deem the age to be 21.

What happens if the custody changes? It is not uncommon for situations to change from when the original child support agreement was established. For example, a job may change leading to an increase or a decrease in income, one of the parents becomes ill and cannot work or the custody agreement changes and the child or children are spending more time in the home of the parent paying child support. Under those circumstances, a modification to the child support agreement may be requested by the court that originally processed the agreement.   

What happens when a payment is missed? In the eyes of the law, complying with the court order to pay child support is considered quite serious. If several payments are missed, there is a possibility of a suspended license and registration. In addition, the individual will be required to pay fines in addition to the missed payment(s) and he or she could possibly be in contempt of court as child support is a court order.

The top child support lawyers in Austin, TX can answer all of your questions and make sure you are getting the payments you need.

 

 

Thank you to our friends and contributors at The Law Office of Ryan S. Dougay for their insight into child support.

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Life Changes that Should Trigger You to Update Your Will

Will Lawyer

Once you have written your will, it’s important to make sure that you regularly update it. This is especially the case when you experience significant life changes. There are key reasons to update a will and enlist an attorney for their help. When wills are not created, or aren’t regularly updated, serious problems could arise within your family. If you suspect it’s time to update your will, or create a new one entirely, speak with an attorney as soon as possible for their counsel.

Signs You Need a Will Update

There are specific events that should trigger you to immediately reach out to your attorney to update your will. Most people don’t realize the importance of this, especially because the last thing you plan on is passing away any time soon. Contact an attorney if you have experienced any of the following:

  • You are divorced or remarried
  • You have children
  • You have a significant change in your wealth
  • You are considering disinheriting one of your beneficiaries
  • Your appointed executor, guardian or trustee is no longer available to take on this responsibility
  • You are nearing retirement

Avoid problems from coming up by making the changes you need. When your family is grieving a loss, you won’t want them to also experience trouble with a will. This can leave your family guessing as to how you would like your wishes carried out and you losing your voice in the process.

Contact an Attorney

When you have undergone a significant life change, it may be a good time to update your will. Some situations may actually call for a new will altogether. Although it’s possible for you to update your will using will creation software, you may want to employ a professional. Reasons people use an attorney to update their will include:

  • An attorney can not only write your will, they can put together an entire estate plan for you.
  • An attorney can be a real time saver. You will be responsible for providing them with your information and details surrounding your decisions. An attorney can take the lead in creating your will.
  • Many people have difficulty in seeing past the initial expense of hiring an attorney. However, in all actuality, an attorney can save you money in the long run. They can review your finances to determine the most cost effective way to disperse your assets.
  • A will can be difficult to sort out on your own. Not only can an attorney make sure that your will is in compliance with the laws in your state, they can ensure that nothing is left out.
  • A lawyer can provide advice to you that is not self serving. Consulting with family may not get you a truly unbiased opinion because it’s possible that they may have their own interests at heart.  

There are various benefits to employing an attorney to create your will. With a professional, you can rest assured that your will has been created with someone who is knowledgeable surrounding the laws within your state. They can make sure you have left nothing out when it comes to your final wishes.   

If you find that you have experienced some serious life changes, or, it’s just been awhile since you last updated your will, take action as soon as possible. Don’t risk leaving your loved ones to navigate a will that is confusing or outdated. Contact a wills lawyer O’Fallon, MO residents rely on for assistance in the creation or update of your will.

 

 

Thank you to our friends and contributors at Legacy Law Center for their knowledge about creating a will and estate planning.

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What are Ways to Avoid Probate?

Probate Lawyer

Dying with a will is better than dying without one. But it’s the bare minimum a person should have in their estate plan. An estate plan is more than just a will. It’s the whole plan of what to do upon your death. No one likes to think of their demise but it’s better to plan for it than to leave your heirs with nothing or very little.

Probate is a costly and time consuming process that ties up your assets after you die. This delays the distribution to your heirs. Even if you have a will naming specific items to specific people, it will be months before they receive those items. Any cash distributions may be reduced by an amount if you owed debts at your death.

But all of this can be avoided using other tools in your estate plan.

Trusts

Trusts are some of the best ways to avoid the time and cost drain of probate. When you die, your assets immediately pass to your beneficiaries as described in your trust. If you want to leave your watch collection to your eldest son, you can do that. If you want to leave your collection of crystal to your granddaughter, you can do that.

All of the distributions you set up in your trust will immediately pass to your beneficiaries upon your death. The biggest difference between a trust and a will is that the will must pass through probate and the trust does not.

Payable on death

This is a term used on many different types of accounts ranging from investment accounts to insurance benefits. Naming a payable on death beneficiary on your accounts means that, when you die, the beneficiary you have named will immediately have access to the funds in those accounts. Once again, this avoids the time and cost of probate.

You can also combine this option with a trust. Instead of naming an individual as the beneficiary, you can name your trust. This will then add further monetary value to your trust, increasing the amount received by your beneficiaries.

Own property jointly

An easy way to pass property to your beneficiaries is to change your deed while you’re still alive. If you want your house to pass onto your only child after you die, you can change the title of the house to be in both of your names. Not only does this avoid probate but it also means that the moment you die, your only child owns your home outright.

Contact a trusted estate planning attorney

These options for avoiding probate are numerous but they are also complex. They require a skilled hand and an experienced probate lawyer Phoenix, AZ residents trust. Consult an attorney to evaluate your situation.

 

Thank you to our friends and contributors at Kamper Estrada, LLP for their insight into estate planning and probate.

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BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

I recently met with a mother (“Mary”) and adult daughter (“Susan”), who came in to discuss the
situation with Dad (“Bill”). Bill and Mary have been divorced since 2002. Bill was an alcoholic.
He was 71. He now has alcohol induced dementia. Bill does not remember much. If you ask him
where he lives, he mentions the address of his childhood home. He cannot identify his children
when he sees them. He lives in a nursing home right now after a recent stint at the hospital. He
has been there for a couple of months. The cost to live in the nursing home is approximately
$8,000 per month. Neither Susan or Mary have the funds, nor the inclination, to pay for Bill’s
care. But they came to see me because they received a letter from the institution that held Bill’s
Thrift Savings Account or TSP, which was about $65, 000.

Bill did sign a Power of Attorney which named Susan and his other daughter as agents. The
daughters presented such POA to the TSP company but they would not accept it. They stated
that they only accepted the Power of Attorney form that is in their company form files.
Obviously Bill is unable to sign a new Power of Attorney due to his incapacity. The company
stated that they would need to get guardianship over Bill.

Guardianship is a court process designed to protect the mentally disabled. It requires a
significant amount of time, and money. When someone says to you, go get a “guardianship”, it
is not just applying for it, or just filling out a form, and all of a sudden you are the guardian. It’s
a formal process where the court, rather the Judge, is in charge. He/she tells you who is the
right person to be the guardian, and he/she will require you to tell the court what you spent of
the disabled person’s funds on an annual basis, down to the last penny.

Unfortunately, Susan and Mary are between a rock and hard place. They need to access the
funds to pay for Bill’s care, but they do not have the financial ability to open a guardianship
case. I unfortunately encounter this situation fairly often. The financial institutions are so full of
regulation that they make it harder and harder to access your funds. Although Bill did the right
thing by having a Power of Attorney, it still did not allow his daughters to access his account.

It is important to do some estate planning, while you have the capacity to do so. I recommend
going to each of the financial institutions where you currently have your investments at, and see what the requirements are upon a disability. If they have their own Power of Attorney form, then perhaps we review it, and you can sign it just for that specific account. Although it may seem like a tedious task today, it may be the most significant task you do, to help your family out in the future.

About our firm
Maritess T. Bott, of Bott & Associates, Ltd. is an estate planning attorney in Rolling Meadows,
Illinois, a Northwest suburb of Chicago. She has been an attorney since 1997, and has helped
hundreds of families have peace of mind by protecting their wealth, and preserving their
relationships. She has been a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys
since 2003, a nationally recognized organization of attorneys who specialize in estate planning
and probate. If you are interested in more information, you may check out
www.bottestateplanning.com.

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PAPARAZZI FOR A DAY

My husband and I had the most amazing honeymoon in 2000. We went on a 10 day cruise in
French Polynesia. We flew from Los Angeles to Tahiti, where we were immediately taken to the
cruise ship, which at the time was with the Renaissance Cruise Line. The ship had about 750
passengers, and it was adults only. My husband and I love cruising. We love the fact that we are
able to see many sights, without having to rent a car, and we love the incredible food. Our
cruise took us to 5 islands, Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Raietea, and Huahine.

It was in Bora Bora where we had an unforgettable experience. We were having lunch on the
beach. My husband spotted a “celebrity” couple walking down the beach. I did not see them,
but he insisted that we follow them. He would not tell me who he thought it was. So we quickly
finished our lunch, and headed on the path they took. It led us to the Hotel Bora Bora.
Prior to walking to the main pool and beach area, we were passing some beach front
bungalows which were part of the Hotel. And lo and behold, in a hammock in front of one of
the bungalows sat this couple. I recognized them right away. It was Drew Barrymore and Tom
Green. I remembered that they just started dating. My husband, with our camcorder
underneath his arm, said to me, I’m going to go there and take their photo. I immediately said
“no, you are not!” Of course he did not listen to me, and he proceeded to walk up to them, with
the camcorder turned on by his side. I was mortified. I walked away from him. He said to them,
“hello, I just wanted to see if I can get a photo.” Suddenly a bodyguard appeared, and put his
hand over the camera lens. “Please leave.” And he walked back to me.
We walked to the hotel bar and just stood there. He said that he was able to get some footage,
and I was like, good thing the bodyguard didn’t ask for the tape. As we stood there, we saw
Drew and Tom walk by, and talk to one of the hotel personnel. Shortly thereafter, we were told
to leave the premises.

When we arrived back in the US, I was excited to show the footage to my co-workers. One of
them said, “have you ever thought of sending it to the tabloids?” I said, “no, that would not be
right.” They said, “why not?” Sure enough, I get on the computer, email a few magazines. To
make a long story short, our photo was purchased by US Magazine, who paid $1,200 for it, and
they further passed it along to an Australian magazine, who paid us $500 for it. Crazy! So when I
see all of the paparazzi feverishly waiting and bombarding the celebrities of today, I grin to
myself, “I (actually my husband) was one of them once.”

About the author
Maritess T. Bott, of Bott & Associates, Ltd. is an estate planning attorney in Rolling Meadows,
Illinois, a Northwest suburb of Chicago. She has been an attorney since 1997, and has helped
hundreds of families have peace of mind by protecting their wealth, and preserving their
relationships. She has been a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys
since 2003, a nationally recognized organization of attorneys who specialize in estate planning
and probate. If you are interested in more information, you may check out
www.bottestateplanning.com.

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Reasons to Update Your Will After a Divorce

Will Lawyer

The last thing you may be thinking about following a divorce is the importance of updating your will. Chances are, your will is one that you created with your ex spouse. Because of this, the decisions you made regarding your estate likely encompass them as well. Your estate has probably changed significantly following your divorce, which is why it’s more important than ever to update your will to reflect the changes in your life.

Your Ex May Stand to Inherit Everything

If you and your ex shared a will, you can either update your will or create a new one altogether. Often all assets are left to the living partner in wills shared by married people. This is a key reason to make changes to your will. Although some people may still choose to include their ex in their will in some way, it’s not likely that you want them to inherit everything you own.

Power of Attorney and Health Care Directives

Power of Attorney and Health Care Directives are two significant aspects to developing a will. If you were to become incapacitated, someone can be appoint to make decisions for you. Power of attorney covers legal and financial decisions, while health care directives appoint someone to make medical decisions. It’s important that when making such changes, you shred or destroy and previous documentation that is outdated.

Guardianship over Your Children

In most cases your ex would assume sole guardianship over the children you shared together if you were to pass away. But, what happens if you believe they are unfit to take on this responsibility? Bypassing your ex may be difficult to do unless there is a substantial history or evidence that supports their inability to parent the child. Writing a letter outlining your concerns that is included with your will may allow the judge to review your concerns. It’s important to be aware that despite your best efforts, it’s highly likely that your ex would be appointed guardianship over the children you share.

Your Loved Ones May be Impacted

Dealing with an outdated will can be a real headache for your loved ones. What if your family is unable to locate your ex? Or your ex is really the last person who should be managing your estate after you die? This may result in a number of problems for your family. During such an emotional time, the last thing they should have to manage is such a contentious and complex situation.

Meeting with an Attorney

Many people may still choose to include their ex in their will in some way, especially if you share children together. Although this may be the case, many do not want an ex spouse appointed as the executor of the estate or given power of attorney in the event you are incapacitated. Following a divorce, it may be in your best interest to meet with an attorney to create a new will. They can help you identify new beneficiaries, ensure that all of your accounts have been updated, and identify a new executor. An attorney can make sure that nothing is left out. After a divorce, your will is probably the last thing on your mind, but by diligently tackling this task, you can ensure that complications do not arise for loved ones if you were to pass.

It can be a long time before a divorce is finally resolved, because of this, there are many loose ends that need to be sorted out. As a result, it’s not uncommon for people to forget that their will needs to be updated. Many people think they have plenty of time to make the necessary changes to their will. Unfortunately, it’s possible for the unexpected to occur. By failing to update your will, you risk your ex having a significant amount of power in the event you pass away or are incapacitated. Contact a wills lawyer Ridgefield, CT relies on who can help you review and update your will following a divorce.

 

 

Thank you to our friends and contributors at Sweeney Legal for their insight into estate planning, wills, and divorce.

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Tips for Writing Your Estate Plan to Prevent Trust Litigation

Estate Planning Lawyer

When a person sits down to start writing his or her estate plan, rarely do they imagine that their trust will go through litigation. Despite doing their very best to prevent their trust from being disputed in court, it can happen. After the creator of the trust passes away, a family member or beneficiary may become disgruntled no matter what. Here in the article below, we have listed a few tips to consider to help lessen the chances of your trust being contested in court.

Choose a Responsible Successor Trustee

If a beneficiary feels that your appointed successor trustee is not upholding his or her duties, a lawsuit may be filed. The person you choose as the successor trustee does not have to be a whiz at legalities, but they should have common sense and be able to take on such a crucial role. Before finalizing your estate plan documents, ask your proposed successor trustee if they are comfortable taking on this role after your passing. You may even want to choose a secondary successor trustee, just in case the first is not able to fulfill the position.

Communicate with Beneficiaries

Be open and honest with your beneficiaries. In most cases, the creator of an estate plan and trust chooses beneficiaries that are close family members, best friends, charitable organizations or mentors. Perhaps you want to have a conversation with your beneficiaries about what they can expect to receive after you have passed on. While it may be an uncomfortable thing to converse about, it can help prevent someone you care about being surprised later on. If a loved one feels they are not receiving the part of your legacy that means the most to them, you can have this conversation now instead of your trust going through litigation when you are no longer here.

Make Trust Instructions Clear

If the wishes you write down in your trust are not clear and concise, your assets may become disputed in court between beneficiaries. If your trust instructions are broad, your successor trustee and loved ones may have very different interpretations of what these statements mean. Make your instructions so straightforward that it leaves little room for potential negotiation. Remember, the wishes you write in your trust are to be carried out by your successor trustee after death. These are some of the very last words you may leave behind for your most cherished loved ones. During their time of grief, the last thing they may want to do is deal with a legal proceeding on top of the anguish.

When in Doubt, Hire an Attorney

For those who want a little extra help editing the final draft of their estate plan and trust, can meet with a trust attorney Sacramento, CA relies on for assistance. It is not uncommon for people to talk with a legal professional who knows about estate planning before finalizing these hugely impactful documents. Do not take this task of establishing your estate plan lightly, use as much time and as many drafts as you need to make it just right.

 

 

Thank you to our friends and contributors at Yee Law Group for their insight into estate planning and trusts.

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THE PRIVATE ESTATE PLAN OF BURT REYNOLDS

Burt Reynolds, the legendary actor, sadly died in September 2018, at the age of 82. According
to his Last Will and Testament, which was reportedly obtained by TMZ in a People Magazine
article, he left his only son out of his Will. The actual language was “I intentionally omit him
from this, my Last Will and Testament, as I have provided for him during my lifetime in my
Declaration of Trust.”

I always love how these gossip magazines find a copy of the deceased celebrity’s Will, and then
start making headlines “His Only son Out of His Will…” which of course sounds terrible. First of
all, TMZ was only able to get a copy of the Will because his family filed the Will in the county of
his residence. In Illinois, there is a law that states an original Will must be filed within 30 days of
death. I imagine there is a similar law in Burt’s State of residence. Secondly, his son’s
inheritance is quietly distributed via a Trust. The whole world does not need to know how his
inheritance is being given to him.

I am so pleased to see that Burt did a fantastic thing! He left his family a plan with PRIVACY. He
signed what is considered a “Pour Over Will” which generally goes together with a Living Trust.
The only document that needs to be filed with the county is the Will. The Will has very limited
language. As stated by the People article, his assets are distributed via his Trust, which is a
private document. Nobody gets to see that document except for the family, and certain
beneficiaries.

During our lives, we are all fairly private. We do not tell people what we make, how much we
have in savings, what we have on our tax returns and who we give gifts to. Why should that
information be public upon our death? Some people tell me…who cares, I’ll be dead. And I
come back with, “well, if you care about your beneficiaries, then you should care about
whether their private information will be made available to the public.” In the probate court
documents, we are required to report the size of the estate AND the names and addresses of all
of the beneficiaries. So now your children or other beneficiaries are exposed to people who
may take advantage of them because they may be getting an inheritance.

The moral of the story is….PRIVATE IS BETTER THAN PUBLIC. If you care about how your hard-earned
assets will go to your family, friends and charities, GET YOUR ESTATE PLAN DONE NOW,
so they can also enjoy the privacy that Burt Reynold’s family now have.

About the author
Maritess T. Bott, of Bott & Associates, Ltd. is an estate planning attorney in Rolling Meadows,
Illinois, a Northwest suburb of Chicago. She has been an attorney since 1997, and has helped
hundreds of families have peace of mind by protecting their wealth, and preserving their
relationships. She has been a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys
since 2003, a nationally recognized organization of attorneys who specialize in estate planning
and probate. If you are interested in more information, you may check out
www.bottestateplanning.com.

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RULING FROM THE GRAVE

Clients often have the desire to rule from the grave. Although this seems like such a negative
thing, I actually think of it as a positive thing. My background as an immigrant family, coming to
the United States in the mid-70s, with nothing, and being able to make our “American Dream”
come true, makes me very sensitive to the idea of preserving your hard-earned wealth. We
spend hours of back-breaking, labor-intensive, vacation-sacrificing, time in our jobs to earn
every penny in our accounts. We should be able to determine how such money will be used by
our children and beneficiaries.

They say the average time a person who receives an inheritance actually keeps the money is 18
months. What? 18 months? You mean the 40 years it took Mom and Dad to earn that money,
only took their son “Johnny” 18 months to use by buying a Maserati, going on 5 extravagant
vacations, buying his dream house, and giving various “friends” some gifts. You see, Johnny has
never had any money saved up. He lives paycheck to paycheck, and was ill equipped to handle
the inheritance Mom and Dad left him. You hear many stories of lottery winners who go
bankrupt soon after they receive their lump sum winnings. When you don’t know how to
handle money, you tend to spend it like it’s never going to run out.
Regardless of whether your children or beneficiaries are “good” with money, temptation always
seems to take over. Furthermore, you don’t know what types of situations the beneficiaries are
in at the time they receive the inheritance. What if he/she is in the middle of a divorce, or has
filed for bankruptcy? Will some of that money be inadvertently be given to an ex-spouse or to
creditors? There are many reasons why “ruling from the grave” or keeping the inheritance “in
trust” is a good idea. You probably worked very hard to have what you have. Let’s make sure
the next generation continues to protect it.

About the author
Maritess T. Bott, of Bott & Associates, Ltd. is an estate planning attorney in Rolling Meadows,
Illinois, a Northwest suburb of Chicago. She has been an attorney since 1997, and has helped
hundreds of families have peace of mind by protecting their wealth, and preserving their
relationships. She has been a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys
since 2003, a nationally recognized organization of attorneys who specialize in estate planning
and probate. If you are interested in more information, you may check out
www.bottestateplanning.com.

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WHEN CAPITALISM AND ALTRUISM COLLIDE

I recently watched the movie “All the Money in the World.” It was great. It is true story of the
grandson of John Paul Getty, Sr. being kidnapped for ransom, and the events that occurred to
set his grandson free. In 1957, Fortune Magazine named John Paul Getty, Sr. as the richest man
in the world, worth approximately $1.2B (approximately $25.8B in today’s dollars). He founded
the Getty Oil Company. Mr. Getty was an avid collector of all things rare, paintings, historical
artifacts, and antiques. His collection formed the basis of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los
Angeles, and over $661M of his estate was left to the museum after his death. He established
the J. Paul Getty Trust in 1952. The trust is the world’s wealthiest art institution, and operates
the many museums in his name. He died in 1976, leaving an amazing legacy of art for people to
admire for generations to come.

When a movie involves people who amassed fortunes, and then upon death, leaving a long
lasting legacy, my interest is always immediately piqued. I am a big fan of the amazing benefits
of capitalism in the United States being turned into long lasting altruistic impact upon a
person’s death. I think about Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s. He and his wife Joan were
very charitable. Ray died in 1984 and his entire estate went to Joan. Joan died in 2003, and
prior to her death, she spent a lot of time meeting with various large charitable organizations.
She was deciding the legacy she and Ray were going to leave behind. Joan chose the Salvation
Army to be the recipient of the majority of her fortune. It was the largest donation the
organization ever received, $1.5 billion dollars. Joan specifically wanted to have 26 Kroc Centers
to be built in underserved communities to provide opportunity, education, recreation and
inspiration for such communities. The programs must include education, fitness, arts and
worship, according to Joan’s instructions. In 2016, the Ray and Joan Kroc Center was opened in
the South Side of Chicago. I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to volunteer there in
its opening year, and was amazed by how much it offers. The Kroc Centers are all around the
country and they provide millions of children and families a place to learn and grow, and stay
safe. In my opinion, that is the best way you leave a legacy.

About the author
Maritess T. Bott, of Bott & Associates, Ltd. is an estate planning attorney in Rolling Meadows,
Illinois, a Northwest suburb of Chicago. She has been an attorney since 1997, and has helped
hundreds of families have peace of mind by protecting their wealth, and preserving their
relationships. She has been a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys
since 2003, a nationally recognized organization of attorneys who specialize in estate planning
and probate. If you are interested in more information, you may check out
www.bottestateplanning.com.

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Shining the Light on Mental Illness

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 5 adults in the United States experiences mental illness.  That’s about 43.8 million people, or around 18.5% of our country.  May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  It is a time to demystify some of the common misconceptions about various health issues.  In an article written by Quinten Plummer for Tech Times, he states that The Mental Health America organization has used the national attention to spark a conversation about how people whose mental illness is addressed before Stage 4 can recover quickly.

This illness is certainly not age-based, nor culture-based.  Years ago, I had represented a mother whose 18 year old son, “John”, for the most part, grew up “normal”.  Then one day he was experimenting with his friends with various substances to get “high”.  For some reason, his body and mind reacted in such an extraordinary way.  John started seeing things, hearing things and just acting so unusual.  His mom could not understand what was happening.  She took him to a psychiatrist, and John was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, manic with psychosis and paranoid episodes.  Mom was so distraught.  He would refuse medication, wander in the streets in the middle of the night, and be violent to the rest of the family.  Since he reached the age of majority, his mom could not talk to his doctors, and make decision on his behalf.  We opened up a Guardianship proceeding, and after several months, was able to get Mom appointed as John’s guardian.  When I met John in court, he appeared to be a typical 18 year old boy.  It wasn’t until the Judge started asking him some questions that you notice he was suffering from a mental illness.

On the other side of the spectrum, I represented a 72 year old business owner, “Nick”, in the later stages of dementia.  His son noticed that he was starting to do odd things, like leaving the stove on for a long period of time, or drive to the store, but wind up in a completely different neighborhood.  It was then that the son moved him into a Senior living facility.  Within a month of moving in, Nick met his next door neighbor, “Jane”, who befriended him.  They ate meals together, hung out together, and Nick seemed to enjoy the attention.  Then a few months later, Jane asked the facility to check into a 2 bedroom apartment for the two of them, because she said they were soon to be married.  It wasn’t long before Nick’s son saw the red flags, and started a Guardianship proceeding to protect his father.  I represented Nick and enjoyed learning about how he started his business years ago and what it has become today.  Although his short term memory was not very sharp, he remembers clearly details from his life long ago.  Needless to say it was a long court process and eventually Nick’s son became his guardian.  Interestingly enough, Jane moved out a month later.

I share these stories hopefully to encourage people to start noticing family and friends around them.  Anyone may seem “normal” at first, and yet, he or she may be suffering from a mental illness.  They are very susceptible to financial abuse, and perhaps physical abuse.  If we can keep an eye on our loved ones and our neighbors, have them seek help, perhaps they can recover with the right medical attention.

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