Hi, How Can We Help You?

Blog Posts

No Crystal Ball

A couple of years ago I heard about a car accident in a nearby neighborhood. A Mom and Dad, and their 16 year old daughter, were just leaving a local YMCA, about to turn into the main road at about 9pm on a weeknight. A 20 year old gentleman was driving on that main road, at 90 miles an hour. He ran into this family’s van head on. He survived, the family didn’t. The rest of the family, two minor children, were at a relative’s house at the time.

This story haunts me. First of all, I have 3 minor children so it’s hard not to think about the “what if”. But it also impacted me deeply because of the clients I serve. Many families tell me that certain “what if” scenarios would never happen. Like a parent surviving a minor child. Like an older spouse surviving a much younger spouse. Like an entire family dying in a common accident. So when I hear about these types of car accidents, I know different. We do not have a crystal ball. We just have to plan for every scenario, no matter how unbelievable it may seem at the time.

Another story that has impacted me is the one that just happened earlier this year. It was in a Duck Boat in Branson, Missouri. This tragedy is even more troubling because me and my entire family of 16 people were on this very same Duck Boat in 2015. The boat was on the lake this past summer, when a horrendous storm came over. 13 people died, including 9 people from the same family. What a horrific event. There are no words.

Hug your family. Say I love you. Often. And more importantly, plan ahead. Many people sit in my office to tell me they are not ready to do an estate plan. No one is ever ready, sort of like being a parent for the first time. The important thing is, get it done, before it’s too late.

Getting an estate plan done is not as complicated as you would think. I know seeing a lawyer can be a stressful situation. Generally if you are seeing a lawyer, you are either buying a house or going through a lawsuit or a divorce. All of those scenarios are very complicated and stressful. However, when you come in to discuss your estate plan, it can be somewhat of a relief. We discuss your family, and your assets. We discuss a myriad of “what if” scenarios. We help and guide you to make decisions about what would happen in case you are disabled, and upon your death. Not fun topics, but certainly important to discuss. Then after about a month, we come back together, review all of your documents, and sign the very same day. So in one month, you can have the peace of mind that a solid estate plan can provide. You will have given the gift of ease and protection to your family and beneficiaries, that will impact them fo the rest of their lives. The whole process does not take too long, and is more affordable than you think.

Call and make an appointment to discuss your estate plan with us. Feel free to come to an upcoming seminar or participate in our monthly webinar on basic estate planning concepts so you are armed with the information needed to make good decisions for your family. The first step is easy. Call us at (847) 818-9084 or email us at info@bottestateplanning.com.

Read More

One Trustee vs. Co-Trustees – What is the best option?

Often clients choose 2 or more children to act as co-trustees or co-executors because clients don’t want to “play favorites” and want every child to have a say in the estate or Trust administration. Although it may seem like a logical idea, it often turns into the worst decision for the family.

When we raise our children, we try to instill them with the same values and beliefs and teach them to be kind and respectful to one another. Then the children grow up, get married, have children, and lead very separate lives. During that time, each child has evolved as their own families grow. Two people with different backgrounds raise their own children and mix their cultures, beliefs and traditions. Then fast forward around 35 to 40 years, these same children who Mom and Dad raised exactly the same, who hopefully have the same values and beliefs originally instilled in them, have to come together, and make an inordinate amount of emotional and financial decisions about Mom and/or Dad while they are alive, and when they are gone.

This evolution of life is truly a recipe for potential disaster. Kids coming back together for Thanksgiving dinner or holiday brunch is common, and generally peaceful and happy occasions. Kids coming back for a Family Planning Meeting with a coordinator at a senior living facility, or at a funeral home, or at an attorney’s office to discuss estate planning, is definitely emotional and very tense for everyone. Sometimes the adult children are very accommodating, respectful and generous when dealing with decisions for Mom and Dad. That unfortunately is the exception. Most times, there is at least one child in the family that will cause more issues when making tough decisions for Mom and Dad.

Is the answer NOT choosing 2 or more kids to act together as trustees or executors? No. The answer is to be honest with yourself, and take stock of your family dynamics as they are today. Perhaps the kids were very close growing up. Perhaps parents wish them to be close today, but they are not. If that is the case, DO NOT make them act together to make important decisions with your finances and/or your health. Choose one person for each type of decision, and tell the family that you have made your decisions. If you want to avoid conflict for your children when you die, talk to them while you are alive, about the decisions you made, and why you made them. This way no one is caught off guard. The goal is not only to keep them from fighting, but hopefully, the children can have Thanksgiving together in peace, even after Mom and Dad are gone.

Read More

What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

Estate Law Lawyer

It can be daunting to think about creating a law will and testament in the event of your death. Taking into account your assets and considering your beneficiaries can seem like a monumental task when you don’t know where to begin. Let’s start simply: Having a will can make the lives of your loved ones easier after your passing and will make your last wishes known so that you can have peace of mind.

What happens if you die without a will?

If you don’t leave behind a will, your estate will be known as “intestate.” That means that your estate is in the hands of the laws in the state you reside in, and that those laws will determine how and to whom your assets will be distributed. These laws vary depending on your marital status at the time of your death.

If you are…

Married Without Children

If you own your property with your spouse, your estate will go entirely to them, but if you do not both own the property, it will be divided evenly between your partner, parents, and siblings.

Married With Children

This one can be more complicated than you would think. If your children are all the children of your surviving spouse, your estate will simply be inherited by your surviving spouse, but if your children are not all shared with your spouse, things are a bit different. Your spouse would get up to 50% of the estate and the rest would go to the the surviving children from the other spouse or partner.

In a Domestic Partnership

Not all states recognize domestic partnerships, so it’s important to check your state laws, but if domestic partners are recognized in your state, your partner would inherit your estate in the same way a married couple would.  

Unmarried, but in a Relationship

If you are unmarried but in a relationship and living together at the time of your death and you choose not to leave a will, that means that your partner does not inherit any of your assets. Intestacy laws only recognize relatives and not unmarried couples.

Single Without Children

If you are single and without children, then your estate will pass on to your parents (if they are both living). If one parent is deceased, the estate gets divided among your surviving parent and the rest of your siblings. If both parents are deceased, then the estate is divided amongst the surviving siblings. If there are no surviving  parents, siblings, or children of siblings, then the estate will be split in half with 50% going to relatives on your father’s side and the other 50% going to relatives on your mother’s side. If you have no family at all, then the estate is often given over to the state.

Single With Children

If you are single with children at the time of your passing, the estate will pass on to your children and split among them equally.

As you can see, passing without a will means that you do not really have a say in how your estate is divided amongst your loved ones. It could be helpful to talk to an attorney at an estate planning law firm St. Peters, Missouri relies on to discuss the specifics of your case so that you can figure out what would be the best fit for you.

 

Thank you to our friends and contributors at Legacy Law Center for their insight into estate planning and what it means to not have a will.

Read More

Should I Create Trusts for My Grandchildren?

Trust Lawyer

If you are a grandparent, you are likely deeply invested in your grandchildren’s wellbeing. To that end, you may have questions about how you can best financially support them as they grow and their needs evolve. Whether you are interested in providing them with financial support during your lifetime or after you have passed away, it may benefit you to speak with a law firm about setting up trusts for your grandkids. These legal and financial tools have numerous benefits and may allow you the best possible avenue to assist your grandchildren in specific ways while ensuring that your support is used at specific times and/or for specific ends.

Trust Basics

One of the many reasons why trusts serve as excellent financial tools is that they are advantageous from a tax-related standpoint. The tax benefits associated with individual trusts vary depending on the trust type, terms and amount. Trusts set up for grandchildren tend to lower taxes on grandparents’ estates, which can be an excellent incentive for older Americans interested in creating trusts. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have about the potential benefits tied to the kind(s) of trust you may be interested in setting up for your grandchildren at any time.

One of the other reasons why trusts are so attractive is that the individual seeking to set up a trust is generally empowered to set terms related to its execution. For example, if you are interested in providing your children with money specifically for their education, you can insist that the funds in the trust be utilized for that purpose. Properly constructed trusts carry the force of law, so their terms must be generally respected. You may also set conditions related to the timing of when funds are released, etc. This kind of flexible oversight may be especially helpful for grandparents whose financial intentions are highly specific.

It is important to be wary of any advertising related to trust creation. If you are not speaking with a licensed attorney or a certified financial professional, the promises being made on such advertisements may be less than legitimate. In general, it is important to avoid signing any legal documentation related to your financial situation unless you have consulted an attorney or certified financial professional first. Your noble intentions related to providing for your grandchildren must be treated with the utmost care and respect.

Estate Planning Guidance Is Available

If you have questions or concerns about setting up trusts for your grandchildren, please consider connecting with trust attorneys Dallas, TX offers today.

 

 

Thank you to our friends and contributors at Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC for their insight into estate planning and trusts.

Read More

15 COMMON REASONS TO CREATE AN ESTATE PLAN

Estate Planning Lawyer Palatine, IL

 

You don’t have to be a millionaire to benefit from an estate plan. Reasons to create an estate plan are as unique as the individuals who create them. If you own a home, have minor children and/or grandchildren, grown children in their own marriages, have been divorced, own a business, or expect to receive an inheritance of your own, you need to take action now with the help of an estate planning lawyer Palatine, IL offers.

 

Here are the common reasons you need to not only build and protect your hard-earned money, but transfer it with as little depletion and expense as possible. ‌With a proper estate plan in place, you can plan ahead to:

 

  1. Designate who will manage your affairs if you become disabled and when you pass away. If you fail to do so, the court will decide for you. You never know who the court will appoint. Keep control of your own destiny!

 

  1. Plan for Medicaid and its impact on your estate if you must go into a nursing home. ‌Nursing homes today can cost as much as $90,000 per year or more, and a long-term stay can easily impoverish all but the wealthiest families. With proper planning, however, you can shelter assets and keep your family’s wealth intact. Because there is a 50-50 chance that the average adult will spend at least one year in a long-term care facility, it becomes painfully clear this type of planning is extremely important

 

  1. Avoid probate, during your lifetime and when you pass away. ‌Do you want the court controlling you or your assets? Probate proceedings are public, expensive, time-consuming and should be avoided whenever possible. Leave your money to your heirs quickly, privately and efficiently by establishing a proper estate plan.

 

  1. Protect children from a prior marriage if you pass away first. ‌Second marriage planning can be complex and tricky. Expert legal guidance is needed to ensure your assets are preserved and your children of your first marriage will receive the proper share of their inheritance.

 

  1. Protect assets inherited by your heirs from lawsuits, divorces and other claims. ‌Make sure your assets are inherited by your loved ones, not the people you don’t want to receive them, such as their ex-spouses, in-laws, creditors or the IRS.

 

  1. Impose discipline upon children and/or grandchildren who may not be capable or experienced in managing money. ‌Make sure your children and/or grandchildren spend their inheritance wisely. Protect their inheritance against inexperience and mismanagement by including specific conditions and rewards in your estate plan.

 

  1. Provide for special needs children and grandchildren. ‌The loss of governmental benefits can wipe out your estate. Special considerations and planning is needed to avoid the loss of governmental benefits.

 

  1. Insure that a specific portion of your estate actually gets to grandchildren, charities, etc. ‌Without planning, the state will decide who inherits your assets… NOT YOU! Planning your estate ensures your intentions and directions are followed.

 

  1. Protect a portion of your estate if you pass away first and your surviving spouse remarries. ‌Special Trusts can be set up to protect your current surviving spouse and insure that your assets don’t end up in the wrong hands. Take action now to protect your family.

 

  1. Address different needs of different children. ‌No two children are alike. Customized estate planning can assure that each child’s personal needs are addressed in the manner you deem best.

 

  1. Prevent or discourage challenges to your estate plan. ‌Establishing a Revocable Living Trust now makes it more difficult for objections when you are no longer around to speak for yourself.

 

  1. Encourage and reward heirs who make smart life decisions, and prevent the depletion of your estate from those who do not. ‌There can be a point at which giving a child more money can make them less productive and less happy. A Family Incentive Trust can be tailored with financial incentives which encompass your family values and goals to encourage and motivate your children. Such a Trust can be a loving way to support your children while inspiring them to be productive members of society and fostering their sense of self-worth.

 

  1. Assure an education for children, or grandchildren, despite what they (or their parents) dream of doing with the inheritance. ‌Establishing an educational Trust can assure that your children and/or grandchildren use their inheritance for education and not fund a vacation in Las Vegas.

 

  1. Plan for a “Brady-Bunch” family estate plan and assure the step-parent doesn’t spend your children’s inheritance and/or provide for a spouse without sacrificing the intended legacy for children of a prior marriage. ‌Divorce and second marriages can have devastating effects on the inheritance you intend for your children, if your estate plan is not reviewed and updated. Often times, the original “traditional” estate plan will not meet the needs or provide the protection needed for your new blended family, so proper planning is imperative.

 

  1. Pursue charitable goals you may not otherwise feel you can afford. ‌Considerably cutting probate expenses allows you to also leave a legacy to a charitable organization you admire.

 

Contact the attorneys at Bott & Associates for further insight into estate planning and reasons to create an estate plan.

 

Read More

Which Costs More: Probate or Trust Administration?

Estate Planning Lawyer Rolling Meadows, IL

A Living Trust can help you avoid probate, but does it really save you money? Let’s compare the cost of administering a Trust with the cost of probating a Will.

There is no question that a Living Trust allows you to avoid probate – if, of course, the Trust is properly drafted and funded. But does this mean a Living Trust is more cost-effective than a Will?

Some people say that a Living Trust offers no net savings over a Will. In their opinion, the cost of preparing a Living Trust plus the cost of Trust Administration at death, equals or exceeds the costs of preparing a Will and probating an estate. Is this the truth?

In 2002, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals released an opinion in the case of Estate of Grant v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue Service. This opinion contained some interesting findings about the cost of probate as compared to the cost of administering a Trust.

Here’s what happened:

Mrs. Grant, a Maryland resident, established a Living Trust. When she died, most of her assets, including her home, were included in the Trust. These assets, with a total value of approximately $866,000, avoided probate. Mrs. Grant also left assets totaling $11,253 that were not included in her Trust. These assets were subject to probate.

Mrs. Grant’s children served as personal representatives for her estate. On the estate tax return, her children deducted a total of $48,102 in administration expenses. Personal representative and executor fees accounted for $16,875 of the deducted amount.

Since only $11,253 of Mrs. Grant’s estate was subject to probate, the IRS disallowed most of the $16,875 deduction. The Tax Court agreed, making these determinations:

  • Under Maryland law, the maximum executor fee for an estate totaling just over $11,000 was roughly $1,103.
  • The maximum Trustee fee for a Trust totaling $866,000 was $5,720 under Maryland law.

The Tax Court reduced the $16,875 deduction for personal representative and executor fees to $6,733. The children argued that their fee was reasonable and that it was less than what the executor’s fee would have been if Mrs. Grant’s entire estate had been subject to probate. They appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Tax Court’s decision was upheld.

One of the lessons from this case is that in Maryland, all things being equal, the cost of administering a Trust is significantly less than the cost of probating an estate.

Is the same thing true throughout the country? The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys conducted a nationwide survey of probate costs and found that, on average, probate fees approximate 2 percent of the value of the estate. According to the same survey, Trust administration expenses were much lower – ½ to 1 percent of the cost of the estate, on average.

Are Trust administration costs always less than probate costs? The facts in Mrs. Grant and the American Academy survey do not indicate this, but what they do indicate, that in most situations, it is less expensive to administer a Trust than to probate an estate.

Which is the best choice for you, a Will or a Living Trust? The best way to determine this is to seek the advice of an experienced, qualified estate planning lawyer Rolling Meadows, IL trusts at Bott & Associates, Ltd. He or she can walk you through all of the relevant factors, including cost, and help you establish an estate plan that meets your unique needs.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More