Choose Carefully When Choosing Your Successor Trustee

Bigstock-Financial-consultant-presents--14508974It’s smart to work with an estate planning attorney to set up a will or a trust. But it’s not so wise to put these documents away with your high school varsity jacket in moth balls. These important legal documents must be reviewed with some regularity.
For example, you may be surprised to learn that the individual you chose to be a successor trustee is no longer willing to serve in that capacity when the time comes.
The Ashland Daily Tidings recent article, “Aging Happens: Four tips to help select your successor trustee,” encourages you to review estate planning documents more closely and more frequently.
If you have a revocable living trust, you may have designated yourself as trustee to manage your own financial affairs. However, at some point, someone will need to step in when you’re unable to act because of your own incapacity or death. The successor trustee will be given a lot of responsibility. You may choose an adult child, another relative, a trusted friend, a bank trust department, a trust company or a professional trustee—and it should be someone you know and trust. In addition, this person or corporate entity should be someone with sound judgment who will abide by your wishes. The successor trustee doesn’t need to know all of the particulars now because your estate planning attorney can assist them later.
So how does this work?
In the event that you become incapacitated, your successor will assume control of your finances. He or she will pay the bills and make decisions on financial issues. After you pass away, your successor will act much like an executor under a will—taking inventory of your assets, paying your final bills, selling assets if necessary, having your final tax returns prepared and distributing your assets according to the instructions in your trust. It can be a large amount of work. It may take a year or more to complete the process.
When you think about selecting a successor trustee, consider these factors:
· The type and amount of assets in your trust;
· The complexity of your trust documents;
• The personalities of your potential trustees, their financial or business experience and their availability; and
• Your potential trustees’ willingness to serve.
Remember that trustees should be compensated for serving, so your trust document should detail fair and reasonable compensation. Follow these steps and increase the odds of everything working out.
Reference: Ashland Daily Tidings (July 5, 2016) “Aging Happens: Four tips to help select your successor trustee”


New Jersey Woman Guilty of Money Laundering and Elder Fraud

Money handing on clothes line"A portion of the money was used to fund the victim's expenses to keep the victim unaware of the thefts."

A New Jersey woman pleaded guilty to money laundering for her involvement in a scheme with her sister and an attorney to steal millions of dollars from elderly clients of an in-home senior care company.

The story was reported by New Jersey 101.5 in "NJ woman pleads guilty to scamming millions of dollars from the elderly."

A New Jersey State Police investigation led to the indictment of Sondra Steen along with her sister Jan Van Holt. The latter was the owner of a company that offered elderly clients in-home care and legal financial planning. Two other employees pleaded guilty to taking part in the scheme and stealing $125,000 from an elderly couple. Van Holt and Steen were charged with conspiring with a lawyer to steal over $2.7 million from 12 elderly clients.

Van Holt would target potential elderly clients who were known to have substantial assets with no immediate family. They would be offered help through the company with non-medical services such as running errands, managing finances, getting to appointments, and housework. Steen would then serve as the client's primary caregiver.

When they had gained the trust of these elderly clients, they would take control of their finances and add their names to bank accounts by forging power of attorney documents or using false pretenses to obtain control. They then stole from the accounts to pay their own expenses. If the victim owned stocks or bonds, they were cashed out and the funds were deposited into the account allegedly controlled by the defendants. The defendants would also name themselves as executors of the wills and then name Steen as a beneficiary. Authorities began investigating the alleged laundering after the state Office of the Public Guardian referred a case involving one of the victims to the State Police.

Under a plea agreement, Steen pleaded guilty to first-degree money laundering. Prosecutors are recommending a 10-year prison sentence as well as making restitution.

Reference: New Jersey 101.5 (February 9, 2016) "NJ woman pleads guilty to scamming millions of dollars from the elderly"


Not Having Children Does Not Mean You Do Not Need an Estate Plan

Bigstock-Perfect-Couple-88317566If you do not have any children, you might not think that you need to bother with having an estate plan. However, having an estate plan is often even more important for people without children than for people with children.

A common myth exists that the purpose of estate planning is to provide a way for a person's children to receive their inheritances. From this it follows that people who do not have children do not need to have an estate plan. Nothing could be further from the truth. Providing an inheritance for children is only one purpose of an estate plan, not the sole purpose or even the most important purpose.

As U.S. News & World Report points out in, "No Kids? You Still Need an Estate Plan," people without children need, at the very least, to have a will if they want to have a say in who gets their assets after they pass away.

People who pass away without a will are said to have died intestate. Every state has a law that determines who gets the assets of people who die intestate. The laws all operate similarly, in that the assets are given to the person's closest living relatives.

Under such law, those who have a spouse or children will have their assets given to that spouse or the children. If however you have no spouse or children, then your assets will be distributed to other relatives, depending on who is closest in line. Ultimately, if you have no living relatives that can be found, then the assets will be claimed by the government. The term for this is escheat.

So, the primary purpose of estate planning for most people is avoiding the laws of intestacy and deciding for yourself who will inherit from you.

Do not let the fact that you do not have children deter you from getting an estate plan. Contact a qualified estate planning attorney to help you design a custom plan for your unique circumstances.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: U.S. News & World Report (October 14, 2015) "No Kids? You Still Need an Estate Plan"


Richard Attenborough’s Final Resting Places

Bigstock-Love-Heart-Made-Of-Ash-51901699Lord Richard Attenborough made a name for himself as an actor and director. Now that he has passed away, he is making another name for himself by where he wishes his remains to rest.

Richard Attenborough passed away in August of last year, and his estate's probate records have recently been made public. They reveal that his estate in the United Kingdom was worth approximately £1.5 million, although this does not include the value of his foreign assets and any assets held in trust.

However, his will also revealed that Attenborough requested that his body be cremated.

His wish was that one-third of his remains be placed at his Scottish estate and another third be taken to an estate in France. The final third of his remains he wants intermingled with the remains of his daughter and granddaughter at a church near Attenborough's estate in the UK.

The daughter and granddaughter perished in the tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004.

The Telegraph has more on this story in an article titled "Richard Attenborough's last request: place my ashes with my daughter and granddaughter." One thing that this story illustrates is that a will can be more than just a dry, legal document that divides property. In fact, a will can also be used to create an emotional legacy and let people know what is important to you.

As any father would be, it is clear that Attenborough was deeply affected by the tragic loss of his daughter and granddaughter. By using his will as the vehicle by which he dictated how his remains were to be treated, Attenborough shared that with the entire world.

Contact an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure the important details of your last wishes are legally covered.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: Telegraph (October 4, 2015) "Richard Attenborough's last request: place my ashes with my daughter and granddaughter."


Son Sues Mom for His Inheritance

Bigstock-Inheritance-Concept--73273333Family members suing each other over inheritances and other estate matters is fairly common. A recent case in North Carolina, however, is a bit unusual in that the matter centers on a disbarred attorney.

Tols Detmer’s father, Fritz Detmer, left his son an estate worth several hundred thousand dollars. The inheritance was supposed to be made available to the son when he turned 18.

Now, Tols is 19 and he is suing his own mother, Charlinette Detmer, for hundreds of thousands of dollars he says she improperly received from the estate.

The lawsuit alleges that Charlinette was supposed to receive $60,000 from the estate, but instead the lawyer administering the estate, Peter Capece, gave her $311,000. It is alleged that Capece gave Charlinette this windfall because she knew that Capece was misappropriating money from the estate for his own benefit.

In effect, the money paid to Charlinette was hush money.

Capece did not get away with his scheme, however. He was disbarred for appropriating $1.6 million from the estate of Fritz Detmer. Although the Fritz Detmer estate is suing Capece, you cannot get blood from a turnip. He has recently filed for bankruptcy.

The estate has put a home owned by Charlinette up for sale to pay Tols Detmer the money his mother owes him.

The Charlotte Observer reported this story in an article titled “Son sues his mom over Lake Norman estate proceeds.”

One thing this estate tale illustrates is that it is extremely important to choose a lawyer to administer an estate who is trustworthy.

If Capece had not misappropriated funds from the estate, then the mother never would have been able to request hush money. Of course, that does not absolve the mother in this case for taking the money that should have rightfully belonged to her son.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: Charlotte Observer (August 20, 2015) “Son sues his mom over Lake Norman estate proceeds.”

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