Seminar this Wednesday: Estate Planning for Blended Families

I’ll be presenting a seminar at the Orem Public Library on Estate Planning for Blended Families.
When                 Wed, April 5, 7pm – 8pm
Where                Orem Public Library, Media Auditorium (map)
Description       Couples with blended families face special challenges when it comes to making sure that stocks, bonds, real estate, and other property and family heirlooms go to the right persons at the right time when a spouse dies. This seminar will address such issues and discuss ways to solve them, using wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents.
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Hope to see you there.

So You’re the Trustee of Your Parents’ Trust . . .

If you’re already or soon to be a trustee of a family trust you might want to read my new piece on Medium: Trustee Much? 5 Ways to Avoid Sibling on Sibling Mayhem.

What Do You Do When You Can’t Find the Decedent’s Will?

If the title of this post describes you, you might want to read my post at Medium.com.

Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes that Keep on Giving–to the Wrong Person

My dad was a life insurance salesman. I remember rummaging around in his sales materials and finding a service he subscribed to that reported on the estate tax problems of the rich and famous and even the not-so-famous. He used the  reports to make the point that his prospective clients needed to do some estate and insurance planning, so their families wouldn’t face similar fates.

I was reminded of this when I stumbled upon this 2013 article from Forbes, “Monumental Estate Planning Blunders of 5 Celebrities.” The piece details the woes of rocker Jim Morrison, Rat Pack icon Sammy Davis Junior, hotelier Leona Helmsley,  QB Steve McNair, and, my favorite sad story, actress Marilyn Monroe:

Some celebrities have erred by not going far enough with their estate planning. For instance, famous actress and model Marilyn Monroe left most of her estate to her acting coach, Lee Strasberg.

“She left him three-fourths of her estate, and when he died, his interest in Marilyn’s estate went to his third wife, who did not even know Marilyn. Marilyn’s mistake was not putting her assets in trusts,” says Nass.

Strasberg’s third wife, Anna, eventually hired a company to license Monroe’s products, which involved hundreds of companies including Mercedes-Benz and Coca-Cola. In 1999, many of Monroe’s belongings were auctioned off, including the gown she wore to President John F. Kennedy’s birthday party, for more than $1 million. Strasberg ended up selling the remainder of the Monroe estate to another branding company for an estimated $20 million to $30 million, according to a remembrance of the star by NPR in 2012.

It’s unlikely Monroe would have wanted someone she didn’t know to profit so handsomely from her belongings. A trust would have provided for Strasberg while he was alive and then after his death could have directed the remainder of her estate to someone of her choosing.

Yes, I imagine was very unlikely that she wantedStrasberg’s 3rd wife to laugh all the way to and from the bank. But poor planning allowed that to happen.

Kanban Boards, Focus, and Productivity

One of my many weaknesses is maintaining focus. Often it seems squirrels are everywhere. And that’s frustrating because when I am focused, my head down, I move forward quickly and accomplish a lot.

So it was that I got excited when I heard John Grant describe so-called Kanban Boards on a Legal Talk Network podcast. (Warning, the podcast starts out slowly and Grant can be a bit jargony–so much so that I almost turned the podcast off–but it gets better and when he began talking about Kanban Boards, I was hooked.)

I rushed home, watched his video on the the subject and created my own  board. I’d show you my board, but I have client names on some of the Post-it Notes–did I mention that a Kanban Board is essentially a white board divided into columns and covered with Post-It Notes? Since I began using my board three weeks ago, I’ve been multiple times more focused and productive. Can’t recommend the tool highly enough.

By the way, Kanban Boards are not just for attorneys. They’ll improve anybody’s life.

Here’s the video:

 

Like Sand through the Hourglass

At least one soap opera had a happy ending.

What’s the Value of Water?

The answer to the question, “what’s the value of water?” is it depends. No surprise there, but to be clear, I’m not talking about the value of the water that runs out of your tap. I speaking of the value of water that is appurtenant to your farm or ranch land. What’s it worth in an of itself?

Well, Deborah Stephenson of DMS Natural Resources LLC, writing at Hall and Hall makes clear that the answer is in no way clear and depends on a number of things, including:

  1. Quantity – The quantity of water that a water right yields.

  2. Marketable Region – The feasible region in which the asset can be transferred to a new user.

  3. Alternative Water Supply Options – Availability of existing water supplies and future water development opportunities within the region.

  4. Water Quality – The quality of a water source can influence the suitability of a water right for a potential new use.

  5. Reliability – The amount of water that is regularly available to the water right holder compared to the claimed or stated volume on the water right. The amount of water available is determined based on a combination of water source yields, hydrological conditions, and the water right’s legal attributes –  mainly priority date.

  6. Seasonality – The period during which the water right holder can divert or withdraw water from the source.

  7. Highest and Best Use – The highest value use to which the water right can physically and legally be put to use.

Using those seven criterion, you can arrive at an appraised value of the water in question. But that only gets you so far, Stephenson says. No, you also have to look at water in the operational context, and that assessment is based on three considerations:

  1. Utilizing the water in the current agricultural operation.

  2. Utilizing the water on-site, but changing the use to a non-agricultural purpose.

  3. Decoupling the water and transferring it off the property.

You should be able to readily see that each of those factors will influence the value the water. I’m going to leave it at that. Stephenson covers the topic quite well, so click on the link above and continue–if you’re interested.

What About a Guardian for our Minor Child?

I presented a seminar at the Orem Public Library last night. The topic was wills, trusts, and other documents that make up a good estate plan. It was
not well attended, but the couple that did show up were interested in hearing what I had to say, so I was off and running with the presentation I had prepared.

I did a decent job. I say decent because I had worked through the presentation a number of times in my mind, and it went sooo much better there. In other words, my tongue got time one or more times. But all in all, I think it went well. I presented, they asked good questions, and I answered them. Then I presented some more. Finally, we arrived at the end, and I asked once more, “Any questions?”

And they asked the question that was really on their minds: “How do we appoint a guardian for their 2-year old son in case we both die?”

I was embarrassed that I hadn’t asked them at the beginning of the presentation, “What questions do you hope to get answered tonight?” I won’t make that mistake again.

That said, I think I answered their question satisfactorily. The next morning I followed up by e-mailing them a link to Utah Court’s website that discusses guardianship in detail, and I attached a good questionnaire they could use to assess who might work best as a guardian for their child.

In case you’re wondering, here’s the link to the Court’s site. If you’d like to have a copy of the questionnaire, e-mail me, and I’ll send you one.

For those wondering how to establish a guardianship for a minor, here’s what the Utah Court’s site says:

There are several ways to establish guardianship of a minor under Utah law. These include:

  • Acceptance by the guardian of a testamentary appointment. The child’s parents can nominate a guardian in their will or other written document. The guardian must submit written acceptance with the probate court and provide notice to interested persons according to law.
  • Appointment by a local school board.
  • Appointment of a guardian in a child welfare proceeding in juvenile court.
  • District court appointment. This is the most common court proceeding to obtain a guardianship of a minor. The laws governing guardians of minors in the district court are Utah Code sections 75-5-201 through 212.

 

Dear Annie, Estate Planning is Hard, Especially for Blended Families, Which is Why People Shouldn’t Do It on the Fly

Annie Lane apparently writes an advice column for The Daily Courier in Prescott, Arizona. Today she gave some advice to a woman who was having trouble coaxing her second husband into doing some estate planning. After explaining that she has a college-age daughter and telling how happy she is in her 2nd marriage and what an otherwise perfect husband the new guy is, the woman writes,

He is so generous and dedicated, but this is one subject he will not deal with. We have no will or trust, but I get the feeling he would be fine with anything I would want to arrange financially. As far as what to do with our bodies upon death goes, though, that’s something we would need to decide on together. Even though I am older than he is, my family has a history of living long, and his family does not. And there is always a possibility we will go at the same time in some kind of accident.

So we have a second marriage, at least one child–a stepdaughter of the husband–a husband who is at least a few years younger than the wife and who is still passionately engaged in a career he loves. The family of one of the spouses has a long lifeline, the other a short one. Apparently plenty of money. And the wife seems pretty certain that even though he won’t talk about estate planning, the husband will be fine with anything she suggests.

Yeah, right. Especially when money’s involved.

And Annie says?

Fortunately, you seem equipped to tackle this challenge on behalf of you both.

Tell your husband that you’ll prepare a draft of the will and that he can simply sign off on it or make revisions before it’s finalized. My guess is that he’ll be relieved. Once the will is behind you, you’ll have the peace of mind to enjoy the rest of your lives together even more.

Where to start? Well, first there’s the idea that just anyone can draft a will. Of course, they can–and LegalZoom and its competitors are there to help. But really? The weeds can get pretty thick and high very quickly when you have some money, are in your 50s and 60s, and have grown children and stepchildren. I’ve been there and done that, and if you want hard, there it is–in spades.

Next, there’s the idea that where there’s a will, there’s a way out. But not so fast. Yes, it’s better than nothing, but there’s the little matter of stepchildren–his and probably hers. Who gets what–especially when it sounds like it’s really all his–is a question that needs to be addressed big time, preferably sitting in the office with an attorney with oodles of experience in dealing with blended families.

And then there’s the fact that a will is only the first in a long line of estate planning documents that virtually everybody should have in order, including trust, an advance health care directive, a financial power of attorney, and so one. Add to that the fact that though the couple probably have their minds around a number of issues in their financial and family life, there’s certainly a lot that they don’t know they don’t know. A good attorney can help them see those problems and issues.

I do agree with Annie on one thing: The woman having a will drafted and presenting the draft to her husband may bet him moving on the subject. But don’t do this alone.

My take anyway.

 

Estate Planning Seminar at Orem Public Library

I’m presenting a seminar at the public library in Orem, Utah tomorrow, Wednesday, March 1st at 7 PM. The topic will be “Wills, Trusts, and Other Documents Necessary to a Good Estate Plan.” I’d love to see you there.

Unfortunately, I just learned that the library’s calendar was hacked yesterday, so you’ll have to trust me on this one.

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