Estate debate: mothers, stepfathers and dead heirs

A complicated estate case has one heir wondering whether he should file a petition to be named executor of his stepfather’s will after his mother left everything to the stepfather following her death. The Moneyist at Marketwatch has advice for the heir, who says his stepfather’s will leaves everything in his estate to the stepfather’s deceased daughter. What should an heir do in a situation like this? Read why The Moneyist says that the heir has one thing in his favor.

What would you do with a $150K inheritance?

For most of us, inheriting $150,000 would be a significant windfall. But what’s the wisest way to spend or invest that money if you’re in the working class? A Texas woman posed that question to Quentin Fottrell, personal finance editor at Marketwatch, and author of The Moneyist column. The woman plans to spend some of the money on a home and on dental work. What advice would you give her on how to invest the rest? Find out what Fottrell recommended at Marketwatch.

Estate dilemma: Giving up inheritance for spite

Dividing up estates after a loved one’s death can sometimes bring out the worst in family members. A woman whose brother and sister aren’t speaking to her any more and won’t let her in her mother’s house wrote to The Moneyist at Marketwatch looking for guidance. The woman says her sister wrote herself a $20,000 check before their mother died, and now claims a life estate in their mother’s house. She’s so frustrated that she says she’s willing to give up her inheritance. Is that a smart move? Find out why not at The Moneyist.

Disinherit the Wind

Whenever a party is disinherited in a will, family drama is sure to follow. Because it’s the deceased’s last message, it doesn’t leave the person who was disinherited a chance to address the reason why. The disinherited person may not know the answer to the statement “for reasons known to them.” Above the Law has more on the dramatics that can come with being disinherited.

Be clear: The importance of designating beneficiaries

Making sure who gets what in your will is a critical part of an estate plan. If it’s not done right, assets can be diverted from those intended to receive them, increasing the likelihood of litigation. The National Law Review takes a look at why it’s important to designate precisely which beneficiaries should receive specific assets in an estate plan.
Beneficiary designations override the terms of your Will or Trust with respect to that asset. For example, if a friend is designated as the beneficiary on your life insurance because the form was completed before you had kids, that policy will be paid to the friend upon death even if all of your other estate plan documents direct your assets to your children. Or, alternatively, if no beneficiary is listed we may end up having to open a court process to administer the assets.
It’s important to periodically review the recipients in an estate plan. Click here to read more about the items you should consider.

6 common myths about estate planning

Everyone needs an estate plan, but some people still don’t get around to creating one. It’s easy to see why: setting one up can quickly become daunting, according to US News and World Report. There are also some misconceptions about what an estate plan can and cannot do. Here’s a list of six things that people planning an estate may be mistaken about, including the belief that estate plans are only for the wealthy.

4 things not to do after getting an inheritance

After an estate is settled, many people aren’t sure what to do if they receive an inheritance. There’s paperwork to fill out regarding legal and financial issues, and a lot of people may put off making difficult decisions so soon after an emotional loss. Even if you get a large lump sum, many people make mistakes and find out the money doesn’t go as far as they might have thought. CNBC has four examples of poor decisions made by people who inherited money, along with advice on how to avoid those mistakes.

More estate litigation expected in 2018

As baby boomers continue to age, the pace of estate litigation is accelerating, according to Will Sleeth, a partner in national law firm LeClairRyan’s Williamsburg office and leader of the firm’s Estate and Trust Litigation team. “Changes in the federal estate tax have grabbed many of the headlines, but I expect four other estate litigation trends will move to the forefront in 2018,” says Sleeth, who highlights some likely developments in a blog, 4 Estate Litigation Predictions For 2018. Estate Litigation Volume: “We are very likely to see an increase in the volume of estate litigation in 2018,” writes Sleeth in the post that appears in the firm’s Estate Conflictsblog, which focuses on disputes involving wills, trusts, guardianships, and celebrity estates. One reason is the aging of our society; and with more money being passed down, “there’s much more to fight over than at any time in the past,” he observes. Binding Arbitration Clause Litigation: Sleeth foresees an increase in litigation of certain wills and trusts, particularly ones that try to resolve disputes by shackling beneficiaries with mandatory binding arbitration clauses. “I generally think those provisions are counterproductive, as they can minimize the potential consequences of fiduciary misconduct and can increase the financial and legal burdens on disadvantaged beneficiaries,” he writes. No Contest Clauses: The scope and breadth of “no contest clauses” will continue to expand, Sleeth says. More estate planning attorneys are drafting broad clauses that aim to control challenges to beneficiary designations or joint-account designations, and other activity like claims for breach of fiduciary duty against a trustee or executor. “As more trusts and wills are litigated with increasingly broad (and novel) no contest clause provisions, we can expect states to make an array of new case law regarding the extent to which broad no contest clauses will be enforced,” Sleeth writes in the blog. Default and Mandatory Rules: “Estate planning attorneys occasionally seek to limit a trustee’s duties or liability in a manner that could arguably conflict with one or more of the default duties under the Uniform Trust Code,” he writes. “Given that many states have adopted the Uniform Trust Code—or a modified version—within the past decade or so, there is not much case law that governs when and to what degree the default rules will prevail over certain terms of a trust that seek to limit a trustee’s duties or liability in various scenarios. We can expect to see a sizeable amount of litigation on this subject in both 2018 and the years to follow.” For now, he says, anyone with a sizable estate may wish to periodically review their will and/or trust with legal counsel to ensure it’s compliant with current laws. “Taking this action now may offer peace of mind, knowing that your estate is more likely to be administered in accordance with your wishes,” he concludes. The full column is available at:

Should you create your own estate plan?

With available online forms and guidance, some people may be tempted to create their own estate plan. However, making mistakes on your estate planning can be expensive to fix — if they can be fixed at all. Unintended consequences can quickly unravel a do-it-yourself estate plan.
For many, though, do-it-yourself options may be better than not having any plan. A 2016 Gallup Poll survey found that only 44 percent of Americans have a will, which means most don’t have a plan to guide their families or determine who will take care of minor children. People who don’t have estate plans are stuck in denial, sure, but many are also intimidated by the perceived complexity and cost.
Columnist Liz Weston examines the consequences of trying to save time and money by coming up with your own estate plan in this story at the Associated Press.

Questions over Southern Univ. law professor’s estate work

Southern University law professor Dorothy Jackson has used an unusual and possibly unethical technique in naming herself as the attorney for executors of wills and estates. A law professor at LSU says Jackson’s actions are neither necessary nor customary. Jackson is now on administrative leave from the university pending an investigation into her role in drafting one of the wills. More details about the unusual methodology are available to The Advocate.