Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Definition of the Week: Grantor

Grantor: A grantor is a person "granting" or transferring assets to a trust. Some practitioners and state statutes use the word "settlor" or "trustor" or "maker" or "creator." At Hughes Estate Group, we use the word used by the Internal Revenue Service, the tax courts, and most state courts: "grantor."

Monday, November 7, 2011

Joke of the Week

An elderly couple is lying in bed one morning having just awakened from a good night's sleep. He takes her hand and she responds, "Don't touch me!"

"Why not," he says.

She answers back, "Because I'm dead."

The husband says to her, "What on earth are you talking about? We're both lying here in bed together and talking to one another."

The wife says, "Not so, I'm definitely dead."

Her husband insists, "You're not dead. What in the world makes you think you are dead?"

His wife answers, "I know I'm dead because I woke up this morning and nothing hurts."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Second Marriage And Children Of The First Marriage Fight With Murder Thrown In

Judge Patrick Maqubela, acting judge in the Western Cape High Court, was suffocated June 5, 2009 in his Bantry Bay flat. He wife of his second marriage, Thandi Maqubela, has been accused of co-conspiring to kill him.

At the time of his death, Thandi Maqubela declared her husband had died intestate or without a testamentary document in place. Later, she declared that she had found his will. The difference between how Mr. Maqubela's R20m estate would be distributed by the laws of intestate versus by a will it hugh.

According to the intestate laws of South Gauteng, Thandi Maqubela would receive half the estate and Mr. Maqubela's five children would receive the other half to be divided in five equal shares. With the will, the two children from Mr. Maqubela's first marriage are completely cut out of the will and Thandi Maqubela's daughter from a previous marriage is named a beneficiary. Mr. Maqubela's son from his first marriage, Duma, is contesting the validity of the will saying that he cannot believe his father would disinherit him and his sister, Patiwe.

A full article reporting on the situation can be read here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Definition of the Week: Trustee

Trustee: The trustee is the person who manages and distributes trust assets for the benefit of beneficiaries.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Unique Coffins Seen Around The World

I read a very interesting article in the Wall Street Journal that mentioned the kinds of coffins being made now-a-days for people to be buried in. The article explores the human rituals that attend death and what people sometimes are buried in. To quote one paragraph, "We bury our loved ones in the ground. We burn them in fire. In some cultures, we leave corpses as carrion, inviting the birds to pick the bones dry. In others, we hang the dead in trees or stow them in caves. In naval circles, we consign them to the ocean." The article mentions an airplane coffin made for a grandmother who never had a chance to fly in an airplane. It really is a fun article to read. The full article can be found here.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Joke of the Week

Excerpt from the classified section of a city newspaper:

Dog for sale: eats anything and is fond of children.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Movie Review: Snowball Express

Here is another inheritance movie. Disney's classic, Snowball Express (1972), is just plain fun. The story is about the crazy adventures a family has when they move to Colorado to try and make an inherited run down hotel a success. Of course, there are the good and bad guys and the ultimate "snowmobile" race to see which side wins.

The movie can be found here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Moving To A New State With Estate Documents In Place

If you have estate documents (wills, trusts, powers of attorney, etc.) and you move to a new state, it is always good to have an estate planning attorney in the new state review your documents. A general rule of thumb is wills and trusts will less likely need to be amended with a move to a new state. Powers of attorney, especially health care, will more likely need to be amended to meet the new state's requirements.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Definition of the Week: Simple Distribution Plan

Simple Distribution Plan: A simple distribution plan calls for immediate distribution of assets to your beneficiaries at your death. A simple distribution plan is relatively easy to draft and can sometimes be done without a trust. Because it is easier to prepare, a simple distribution plan is less expensive than a complex distribution plan.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Basic Stages of Life

There are three basic stages of life. Different estate documents are used for each stage of life.

The first stage of life is when an individual is alive and mentally competent. At this point in a person's life, not estate documents are necessary. However, this is the time an individual should put estate documents in place for the next two stages of life.

The second stage of life is when an individual is alive and mentally incapacitated. At this point, powers of attorney can be used to establish authority and begin acting for a person in the second stage of life. If powers of attorney have not been created, an individual seeking authority to act for a mentally incapacitated person must petition a court for that authority in a guardianship/conservatorship proceeding.

The third stage of life is when an individual dies. Once someone dies, the powers of attorney or a guardianship/conservatorship ends. At the point of death, trusts and/or wills are then used to establish authority and distribute a deceased person's estate to beneficiaries. If there is not a properly funded trust or there is only a will or there is no will at all, most likely authority to act on behalf of a deceased person must be sought through the probate court.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Joke of the Week

Neighbor: "Where are you going Beatrice?"

Great Aunt Beatrice: "To see my Arithmetic Relatives."

Neighbor: "Why do you call them that?"

Great Aunt Beatrice: "Because they add to my misery, they subtract from my pleasure, they divide my attention, and they multiply like the dickens."

Friday, October 21, 2011

Movie Review: Scavenger Hunt

Here's an inventive way to give away your estate. Have your relatives participate in a scavenger hunt where the winner inherits all. Scavenger Hunt (1979) is exactly that. In this comic movie, the relatives and even the servants compete for the prize: the $200 million dollar estate.

Check out this review.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Mummy Bequest

It is a personal decision whether or not you want your body donated at your death as organ transplants or even for medical research. In recent years it has become more and more common for individuals to make these kinds of donations. Alan Billis, a former British taxi driver, donated his body for scientific research. What makes his end-of-life bequest unique is that he donated his body to be mummified in the same way the pharaohs were mummified. In fact, the mummification process on Mr. Billis will become a documentary titled Mummifying Alan: Egypt's Last Secret. His family was supportive of Mr. Billis's decision and joke about their claim to a real live mummy in the family.

Read more about it here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Definition of the Week: Complex Distribution Plan

Complex Distribution Plan: A complex distribution plan requires at your death that your assets be distributed over time, in certain amounts, or under certain conditions. A complex distribution plan is generally more difficult and time consuming to draft than a simple distribution plan. A complex distribution plan requires use of a trust. A complex distribution plan is more expensive to prepare than a simple distribution plan. Hundreds of reasons exist for Complex Distribution Plans.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

William Shakespeare and Edward De Vere's Estates

No matter which side you take--William Shakespeare is "the" William Shakespeare or Edward De Vere is "the" William Shake-speare--it is of interest to look how their heirs inherited each of their estates.

The Stratfordian Shakespeare's Will

William Shakespeare of Stratford prepared a will before he died.

To his daughter Judith he willed:
- 100 pounds for a marriage portion and another 50 pounds if she renounced any claim to the Chapel Lane cottage.
- An additional 150 pounds if Judith lived another three years, but forbade her husband any claim to it unless he settled on her lands worth the 150 pounds.
- If Judith did not live another three years, the 150 pounds was to go to Shakespeare's granddaughter Elizabeth Hall.
- A silver bowl
To is sister, Joan Hart, he willed:
- 30 pounds
- Life estate with nominal rent in the Western of the two houses on Henley Street, which Shakespeare himself inherited from his father in 1601.
To Joan Hart's sons, his nephews, he willed:
-5 pounds to each of Joan's three sons.
To his granddaughter, Elizabeth Hall, he willed:
- All his silver plates, except the silver bowl left to Judith.
To the poor of Stratford he willed:
-10 pounds to the poor of Stratford.
To his friends he willed:
- His sword and various small bequests to local friends.
- Memorial ring to be bought for his lifelong friend Hamnet Sadler
- Memorial rings to be bought for John Hemynges, Richard Burbage, and Henry Cundell
To his wife, Anne, he willed:
- His "second best bed."
To his daughter, Susanna and Son-in-Law, John Hall, he willed
- "All the Rest of my Goods, Chattels, Leases, Plate, Jewels & Household stuff whatsoever after my debts and Legacies paid & my funeral expenses discarded."

Oxfordian Shake-speare's Estate

Edward De Vere was the 17th Earl of Oxford. He inherited the Oxford estate when his father died. Titled property usually was inherited by the oldest son in a nobleman's family. Edward De Vere had only one living son, Henry, from his second wife, Elizabeth.

Edward did sell some of his estate during his life, and established a trust fund for his three living daughters from his first wife, Anne. His three daughters, Elizabeth, Bridget, and Susan all married men of title as well.

The remaining estate went to his second wife, Elizabeth, and his son, Henry, who became the 18th Earl of Oxford.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Joke of the Week

It usually takes five years for a tree to produce nuts, but this isn't true of a family tree.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Book Review: Special Needs Trust Administration Manual: A Guide for Trustees

Special Needs Trust Administration Manual: A Guide for Trustees, written by Barbara Jackins, with contributors Richard Blank, Peter Macy, Ken Shulman, and Harriet Onello, covers everything a trustee of a special needs trust needs to know in administering a special needs trust.

It is crucial that a trustee, especially if it is a family member of a special needs individual, understands how to spend special needs trust funds appropriately so that a special needs individual's government benefits are not harmed. It is also important for the trustee to report to government agencies how special needs trust funds were spent. This guide for trustees can be helpful in preventing mistakes that could cost a special needs individual dearly.

You can review the book here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Portability" of Estate Tax Exemption to Spouse

"Portability" as mentioned in the October 8-9, 2011 Wall Street Journal "allows a surviving spouse in effect to roll over the unused portion of a deceased spouse's [estate tax] exemption."

Ms. Saunders in her Wall Street Journal article mentions that the IRS has clarified what needs to be done if a spouse wishes to carry over the deceased spouse's unused estate tax exemption to their own estate. She indicates that the IRS has done some clarifying, but it will only apply to 2011 and 2012 unless Congress applies the same estate tax provisions to future years.

One important point is that even if the deceased spouse has a small estate, an estate tax return must be filed nine months after the individual has died, with a six month filing extension available, in order for a spouse to take advantage of the portability option.

If you are married, it is a good idea to become familiar with what is required in order to take advantage of the portability option.

Read the Wall Street Journal here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Definition of the Week: Fiduciary/Fiduciaries

Fiduciary/Fiduciaries: A fiduciary is an entity or person who manages your affairs if you are incapacitated or deceased. The word fiduciary is a general term referring to agents, personal representatives, or trustees.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What About Steve Jobs's Estate Planning?

Now that Steve Jobs has died there is speculation in the news regarding what place in technology ingenuity Apple, Inc. will play in the future. A less public issue of speculation is what will happen to Mr. Jobs's estate. Mr. Jobs during his life has been private regarding his philanthropy endeavors. Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs's widow, has very quietly been involving herself with education issues, women's issues, and other philanthropic causes. Two organizations founded by Ms. Powell Jobs are College Track and Emerson Collective. Both organizations strive to help individuals help themselves. Most likely, Ms. Powell Jobs will continue using Mr. Jobs's estate to further philanthropic causes important to both Ms. Powell Jobs and her deceased husband, Steve Jobs.

From our perspective as estate planners, the critical point is that Mr. Jobs seems to have done his estate planning right. We can say this because so little is being said (can be said) about it in the news. It seems everything has been done privately, confidentially, and competently. No news in estate planning is good news.

Here is an article with the Wall Street Journal touching on this issue.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Joke of the Week

"Oh yes," said Mrs. Lowell-Cabot, proudly, "we can trace our ancestors back to-to-well, I don't know exactly who, but we've been descending for centuries."

Friday, October 7, 2011

Movie Review: Greedy

The movie Greedy (1994, rated pg-13) is about an extremely wealthy uncle (Kirk Douglas) who knows his greedy relatives (Ed Begley, Jr., Phil Hartman, Michael J. Fox) want his money. He puts them through various tests including hiring a beautiful nurse from England. While watching the fun, it is of interest to see all the estate planning issues a family can actually go through.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs's Death

Steve Jobs passed away yesterday, Wednesday, October 5, 2011. We want to add our voice in expressing appreciation for what Mr. Jobs did in the field of computers. Our law business has greatly benefited by his products. Here is an article that mentions ten Apple computer products that helped change the world. The Wall Street Journal has a nice article as well. We wish his family well during this time of loss.

A Few Non-Tax Reasons For Using Insurance In Estate Planning

Often life insurance is used to offset estate taxes when an individual with a large estate dies. There are actually many non-tax reasons to use life insurance in estate planning whether or not an individual has a large estate. Here are a few non-tax reasons for using life insurance in estate planning:

  • Special Needs Planning (e.g. fund a special needs trust for a special needs child)

  • Estate Equalization (e.g. ensure each child has an equal inheritance when an estate owns an asset that is not easy to divide equally, like a business)

  • Charitable Giving (e.g. money set aside to be given to a favorite charity of the deceased person)

  • Special Planning or Purposes (e.g. fund children's education or other specific purposes)

  • Maintain Family Assets (e.g. family cabin expenses)

  • Income Replacement When Children Are Minors (e.g. one spouse dies and children are still minors)

  • Income Replacement For Children Of Dual-Income Households (e.g. spouse dies second income is required to survive financially.)

  • Business Exit Strategies (e.g. buy-sell agreements)

  • Enrich Estate Upon Death (e.g. wish children to have a larger inheritance)

  • Pay Outstanding Debt Still Owed After Death (e.g. pay off mortgage on home)
As mentioned above, there are a lot of non-tax reasons to include insurance when doing estate planning.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Definition of the Week: Third Parties

Third Parties: The best way to define a "third party" is with an example.

Suppose you decide to give your car to a friend. You deliver to your friend the signed title and the keys. In this transaction, you are the first party. Your friend is the second party. And the Division of Motor Vehicles or DMV, where the new title must be recorded, is the third party. The DMV is not a party in the transaction between you and your friend, but they are involved in recording the transaction.

A third party is a "person who is not a party in a transaction or agreement, but is involved in or affected by the transaction or agreement." (Black's Law Dictionary)

The importance of third parties in Asset Transfer Planning cannot be underestimated. These third parties include county recorders, banks, motor vehicle divisions, investment firms, life insurance companies, transfer agents, retirement fund custodians, and others. To transfer ownership of assets, you, your fiduciaries, and your beneficiaries have no choice but to work with these third parties and comply with their policies and rules.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Purpose Of Estate Planning

The purpose of estate planning is to transfer assets to beneficiaries at the times and in the manner desired by the owner efficiently, with minimal taxes, and without conflicts. This concise definition of the purpose of estate planning involves a lot of issues. The individual participating in estate planning must gain an understanding of all the issues. Look at the following site for an in-depth introduction to the various issues involved with estate planning.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Joke of the Week

"My grandfather plays the piano by ear."

"Well, if we must boast--my grandfather fiddles with his beard."

Friday, September 30, 2011

Book Review: "Philanthropy Heirs & Values"

"Philanthropy Heirs & Values" written by Roy Williams and Vic Preisser discusses how to help heirs learn money principles during their growing up years so that they can wisely handle their inheritance once parents have died. The book is geared towards more wealthy individuals, but I think the principles they talk about could be used by any family to learn sound money skills and the joy of philanthropy.

Briefly, the authors discuss three general skills children need to learn: values, mission, and accountability. The authors further discuss how these three skills should be taught to children during five developmental periods of a child's life. The five developmental periods are:

Age 5-10 Awakening Years, discovering one's personal influence.
Age 11-15 Exploring Years, discovering self in the midst of change.
Age 16-20 Developing Years, understanding accountability.
Age 21-30 Applying Years, maximizing the value of contributions.
Beyond 30 Mentoring Years, unifying the family through Philanthropy.

You can find "Philanthropy Heirs & Values" here.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Basic Stages of Life

There are three basic stages of life when contemplating estate planning.

  1. Individual is alive and mentally competent

  2. Individual is alive and mentally incapacitated

  3. Individual has died
Each of these stages is handled differently.

Individual is alive and mentally competent
When an individual is alive and mentally competent, estate planning documents can be in place, but most likely the documents are sleeping (or not being used) during this stage of life.

Individual is alive and mentally incapacitated
When an individual is alive but mentally incapacitated, there are certain estate documents that if prepared ahead of time allow family members to step in and begin acting on behalf of the incapacitated individual. The kind of documents that might be prepared for this stage of life are:

  • health care power of attorney

  • medical directive (pull-the-plug)

  • health care directive

  • financial power of attorney

  • do not resuscitate (In Utah, an individual can only obtain a DNR by contacting a physician and filling out the DNR with the physician.)
If these documents are not in place before an individual becomes incapacitated, family members will go to court to obtain conservatorship or guardianship appointment in order to act for an incapacitated person.

Individual has died
When an individual has died, any powers of attorney used during incapacity becomes void and family members must turn to any will or trust that has been established to deal with this stage. If an individual has prepared a trust and/or will, family members can begin the process of accessing assets, paying bills, and distributing assets to the beneficiaries of the deceased person. If the person dies without estate documents in place, most likely the family members will need to go through probate to obtain authority to access and distribute any property of the deceased person.

In contemplating estate planning, it is important to be aware of the three stages of life and prepare for each stage.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Definition of the Week: Power of Attorney

Power of Attorney: A power of attorney is a legal document in which you give an agent the power to act as your attorney in the event you are mentally incapacitated and cannot act or speak for yourself. Sometimes people refer to a person as "power of attorney." That grates a little. It is easier and more correct to say, "John is my agent." Finally, you, the creator of the power of attorney, are called the principal. So, in brief, the principal designates a person in his or her power of attorney to act as his or her agent. Use these simple and correct terms on your estate planning lawyer and he will be impressed.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Michael Jackson's Estate Distributions

Michael Jackson's estate has made enough money since his death to pay off large amounts of debt due at his death and still distribute about 30M to his children and their mother. Unnamed charities have also begun receiving portions of the estate assets.

Here is a good article regarding this event.

Foreign Citizen Named as Trustee of Trust

A recent question from a client has prompted this blog. The client asked whether a sibling who lived in another country could serve as the trustee of the client's trust.

Issue: Authority of a Canadian citizen as the duly-appointed trustee of a trust, created pursuant to U.S. and Utah law, to access the trust's Zions Bank account.

Hypothetical Scenario:

  • U.S. Citizen and Utah resident--John Smith--creates a revocable trust: "The John Smith Revocable Trust, dated 12/10/2010" ("Trust").

  • John Smith goes through the process of setting up a Zions Bank account owned by the Trust. Zions Bank secures for its records a certified copy of the Trust, and the account is set up using John Smith's social security number (the Trust being revocable and John Smith being the grantor and original trustee).

  • On Zion's Bank records the account is listed as owned by "The John Smith Revocable Trust, dated 12/10/2010."

  • The Trust names John's sister--Mary Smith, a Canadian citizen (not dual U.S./Canadian--only Canadian)--as the successor trustee upon John's death. (We can state without hesitation that nothing in the Utah Probate Code prohibits a foreign citizen from acting as a trustee of a domestic trust.)

  • John dies.

  • Mary Smith files an SS4, securing a TIN for John Smith's now irrevocable Trust.

  • Mary Smith comes into a Zions Bank branch with a Canadian Passport and other identifying documents and the IRS letter showing the TIN, and asks to access the $100,000 Trust account.

  • Zions Bank (1) examines the Trust on record to ensure Mary Smith is named as the successor trustee, (2) secures copies of Mary Smith's identification, and (3) confirms or secures a copy of the TIN for the now irrevocable Trust.


  • Given the above facts, can Mary Smith, as a Canadian citizen, manage the Zions Bank account, withdrawing and distributing funds as necessary and required under the Trust?

  • What other procedures would Zions Bank require in this situation to allow Mary Smith to access the Trust account?

  • Is there anything in banking law or Zions Bank policies and procedures generally that prohibits a foreign citizen from serving as trustee of a domestic trust?
Mary Smith, as a Canadian citizen, can manage the Zions Bank account, withdraw and distribute funds as necessary and required under the Trust after doing the following:

  • Fill out a W-8ECI to establish tax residency. (W-8ECI and Instructions)

  • Give Zions Bank contact information.

  • Prove identity (e.g. passport).

Monday, September 26, 2011

Doritos Creator Taking Doritos to the Grave

Arch West the inventor of Doritos passed away September 20, 2011. He was 97 years old. He got the idea for his chips while on vacation with his family. On October 1, his family will throw Doritos in Mr. West's grave before it is filled with dirt as a tribute to their father.

Here are some articles about Mr. West:
Doritos Creator to Be Buried with Chips
Doritos Creator Dies -- Gets Tastiest Funeral EVER!
Man behind Doritos taking popular chip to his grave, literally
Doritos creator Arch West taking his tasty chips to the grave

Joke of the Week

Jacob, age 85, and Rebecca, age 79, are all excited about their decision to get married. They go for a stroll to discuss the wedding and as they walk go past a drugstore. Jacob suggests that they go in. He addresses the man behind the counter: "Are you the owner?" The pharmacist answers, "Yes."
Jacob: "Do you sell heart medication?"
Pharmacist: "Of course we do."
Jacob: "How about medicine for circulation?"
Pharmacist: "All kinds."
Jacob: "Medicine for rheumatism?"
Pharmacist: "Definitely."
Jacob: "Medicine for memory?"
Pharmacist: "Yes, a large variety."
Jacob: "What about vitamins and sleeping pills?"
Pharmacist: "Absolutely."
Jacob: "Perfect! We'd like to register here for our wedding gifts."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Movie Review: "Topper Returns"

I have been thinking about about good stories based on inheritance issues. I remember watching "Topper Returns" (1941) as a little girl with my family. It is a mystery/comedy that boils down to murder in order to inherit. I remember laughing so hard it hurt. I would highly recommend watching this movie. Take a look here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Financial Powers of Attorney Cont.--Part 3

In Wilson Rawl's Where the Red Fern Grows, Billy says of his small hunting dog Little Ann, "Dynamite comes in little packages." Financial powers of attorney are as dangerous as dynamite in terms of their potential consequences for ill. Inadequate financial powers of attorney are at the heart of numerous expensive and painful probate cases. Financial powers of attorney are as important as revocable trusts and deserve as much attention.

In an article written by Linda S. Whitton, titled "Durable Powers as an Alternative to Guardianship: Lessons We Have Learned" (37 Stetson L.Rev. 2007), Ms. Whitton states there are three things to understand about durable powers of attorney when being used as an alternative to guardianship.

  1. A Power of Attorney is Only as Effective as the Willingness of Third Parties to Accept It.

  2. A Power of Attorney is Only as Protective as the Agent is Trustworthy.

  3. A Power of Attorney will Not Prevent Family Power Struggles of the Principal's Assets.
In this blog, we will address the third point made by Ms. Whitton.

We disagree with Ms. Whitten's third point. We disagree based on our firm's experience. Yes, Ms. Whitton is correct that a power of attorney in itself will not make controlling family members suddenly loving, giving individuals. However, a well-drafted power of attorney that requires regular accountings and encourages constant communication can keep the urge to control from ranging out of control.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Definition of the Week: Principal (the person)

Principal (the person): In estate planning, this term most generally refers to the person who creates a power of attorney.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Financial Powers of Attorney Continued--Part 2

In Wilson Rawl's Where the Red Fern Grows, Billy says of his small hunting dog Little Ann, "Dynamite comes in little packages." Financial powers of attorney are as dangerous as dynamite in terms of their potential consequences for ill. Inadequate financial powers of attorney are at the heart of numerous expensive and painful probate cases. Financial powers of attorney are as important as revocable trusts and deserve as much attention.

In an article written by Linda S. Whitton, titled "Durable Powers as an Alternative to Guardianship: Lessons We Have Learned" (37 Stetson L.Rev. 2007), Ms. Whitton states there are three things to understand about durable powers of attorney when used as an alternative to guardianship.

  1. A Power of Attorney is Only as Effective as the Willingness of Third Parties to Accept It.

  2. A Power of Attorney is Only as Protective as the Agent is Trustworthy.

  3. A Power of Attorney will Not Prevent Family Power Struggles over the Principal's Assets.

In this blog, we will look at the second point.

The most dangerous time in a person's life is when they are mentally unable to make decisions for themselves. The chances of being taken advantage of increases during this stage of life. And family members can be the worst perpetrators.

Most often it is family members who are named as the agent for an incapacitated person in a power of attorney. It is crucial that the individual acting as agent is trustworthy.

We have found that in addition to carefully picking the agent, agent accounting requirements adds a safety feature to a power of attorney. If an agent is accounting to the other family members on a regular basis regarding how money is spent for the incapacitated parent, it is less likely the agent will be skimming funds or paying themselves a very high agent fee.

Therefore, it is crucial that the agents are trustworthy. In addition, accounting procedures help facilitate an honest agent.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Real Pain Of Being The Executor Of An Estate

The Wall Street Journal has an article in today's paper regarding the responsibilities an estate executor. It is more work than glory. We encourage parents to involve their executor child in the beginning stages of estate planning to completion and maintaining the estate plan so that the child executor will be as prepared as possible for the inevitable responsibility of executing the estate. Here is the full article for your review.

Protecting a Child From Him or Herself

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article today regarding children who are not good with money then receiving an inheritance. The article explains ways of protecting that "spendthrift" child from blowing their inheritance. The full article can be read here.

We are experienced in "spendthrift" issues. Check out our website here.

Joke of the Week

Bumper Sticker: Where there's a will, I want to be in it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Book Review: "The Parent Care Conversation"

Dan Taylor experienced an emotional five years caring for his father who had developed Alzheimer's. After Mr. Taylor's father's death, Mr. Taylor developed a plan with ways to talk to parents about their financial and health care concerns before the parents actually need help. His book, The Parent Care Conversation: 6 strategies for dealing with the emotional and financial challenges of aging parents is a good book to read before sitting down with loved ones and discussing financial and health care concerns.

Mr. Taylor's plan presents six conversations that need to be made between children and parents. The six conversations are:

  • The Big Picture Conversation

  • The Money Conversation

  • The Property Conversation

  • The House Conversation

  • The Professional Care Conversation

  • The Legacy Conversation
It is not always easy to talk about the future especially when discussing parents financial and health care needs. But it is really crucial for the peace of mind of both the children and parents to be prepared for the inevitable. Therefore, we recommend reading Mr. Taylor's book.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Comparing a Power of Attorney to Dynamite

In Wilson Rawl's Where the Red Fern Grows, Billy says of his small hunting dog Little Ann, "Dynamite comes in little packages." In my opinion, financial powers of attorney are as dangerous as dynamite in terms of their potential consequences for ill. Inadequate financial powers of attorney are at the heart of numerous expensive and painful probate cases. I think financial powers of attorney are as important as revocable trusts and deserve as much attention.
In an article written by Linda S. Whitton, titled "Durable Powers as an Alternative to Guardianship: Lessons We Have Learned" (37 Stetson L.Rev. 2007), Ms. Whitton states there are three things to understand about durable powers of attorney as used as an alternative to guardianship.

  1. A Power of Attorney is Only as Effective as the Willingness of Third Parties to Accept It.

  2. A Power of Attorney is Only as Protective as the Agent is Trustworthy.

  3. A Power of Attorney will Not Prevent Family Power Struggles over the Principal's Assets.

In this blog, I will address the first point made by Ms. Whitton.

The first point is spot on. If a third party refuses to accept a financial power of attorney, then the power of attorney is not very effective.

A word about this first lesson in terms of Utah law. As of the date of this entry, there is no Utah statute or Utah judicial decision that requires a third parto to accept a financial power of attorney or that offers any statutory redress against a third party for unreasonably refusing to accept a financial power of attorney. Utah statutory law governing financial powers of attorney is quite basic, essentially recognizing and authorizing the use of financial powers of attorney, but not much more. (U.C.A. 75-5-501 to 504.)

Therefore, in Utah, if a client is incapacitated and if third parties will not accept a durable financial power of attorney signed by the client, then the named agent has only two options: the agent can sue the third party to force acceptance of the power of attorney or seek a conservatorship.

So the question is, what can be done in Utah to encourage third parties to accept financial powers of attorney?

I have asked the legal departments of Zions Bank, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, Key Bank, and Mountain America Credit Union what they are looking for in financial powers of attorney that encourage them to acknowledge the agent's authority to access the principal's accounts. The responses are summed up as follows:

  1. First, are the formalities honored? Is the document signed and notarized? (A few of the legal departments said they would be impressed if the principal's signature was witnessed, even though there is no statute requiring witness attestation.)

  2. What is the liability of the third party in accepting or rejecting the power of attorney? The less liable these third parties are, the more likely they said they would be in accepting the agent's authority under the power of attorney.

  3. How recent and well-organized is the document? The more "fresh" and readable the power of attorney is, the more likely these third parties will accept it.
With these ideas in mind, I suggest that financial powers of attorney include language at the very beginning of the document that releases third parties from liability for accepting the agent's representatives regarding the validity of the power of attorney (and places liability for abusing the principal or the power of attorney squarely on the agent). I suggest this language include clear language as to what third parties are and are not obligated to do in accepting a financial power of attorney.

Check out our website to learn more about financial powers of attorney.

Craig E. Hughes

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Definition of the Week: Agent

Agent/Agents: In estate planning, an agent is the individual whom you (the principal) name in a power of attorney to represent you if you are ever absent or mentally incapacitated.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Funerals

What purpose does a funeral serve?

It is the customary way to recognize death and its finality. Funerals are recognized rituals for the living to show respect for the dead and to help survivors begin the grief process.

What do funeral directors do?

Funeral directors are caregivers and administrators. They make the arrangements for transportation of the body, complete all necessary paperwork, and implement the choices made by the family regarding the funeral and final disposition of the body. Funeral directors are listeners, advisors and supporters. They have experience assisting the bereaved in coping with death. Funeral directors are trained to answer questions about grief, recognized when a person is having difficulty coping, and recommend sources of professional help. Funeral directors also link survivors with support groups at the funeral home or in the community.

Do you have to have a funeral director to bury the dead?

In most states, family members may bury their own dead although regulations vary. However, most people find it very trying to be solely responsible for arranging the details and legal matters surrounding a death.

Why have a public viewing?

Viewing is part of many cultural and ethnic traditions. Many grief specialists believe that viewing aids the grief process by helping the bereaved recognize the reality of death. Viewing is encouraged for children, as long as the process is explained and the activity voluntary.

What is the purpose of embalming?

Embalming sanitizes and preserves the body, retards the decomposition process, and enhances the appearance of a body disfigured by traumatic death or illness. Embalming makes it possible to lengthen the time between death and the final disposition, thus allowing family members time to arrange and participate in the type of service most comforting to them.

Does a dead body have to be embalmed, according to law?

No. Most states, however, require embalming when death was caused by a reportable contagious disease or when remains are to be transported from one state to another by common carrier or if final disposition is not to be made within a prescribed number of hours.

Isn't burial space becoming scarce?

While it is true some metropolitan areas have limited available cemetery space, in most areas of the country, there is enough space set aside for the next 50 years without creating new cemeteries. In addition, land available for new cemeteries is more than adequate, especially with the increase in entombment and multi-level grave burial.

Is cremation a substitute for a funeral?

No, cremation is an alternative to earth burial or entombment for the body's final disposition and often follows a traditional funeral service.

Why are funerals expensive?

When compared to other major life cycle events, like births and weddings, funerals are not expensive. A wedding costs at least three times as much; but because it is a happy event, wedding costs are rarely criticized. A funeral home is a 24-hour, labor-intensive business, with extensive facilities (viewing room, chapels, limousines, hearses, etc.), these expenses must be factored into the cost of a funeral. Moreover, the cost of a funeral includes not only merchandise, like caskets, but the services of a funeral director in making arrangements; filing appropriate forms; dealing with doctors, ministers, florists, newspapers and others; and seeing to all the necessary details. Contrary to popular belief, funeral homes are largely family-owned with a modest profit margin.

What recourse does a consumer have for poor service or overcharging?

Funeral service is regulated by the FTC and state licensing boards. In most cases, the consumer should discuss the problems with the funeral director first. If the dispute cannot be solved by talking with the funeral director, the consumer may wish to contact the Federal Trade Commission. Here is there website address.

Do funeral directors take advantage of the bereaved?

Funeral directors are caring individuals who help people deal with a very stressful time. They serve the same families 80% of the time, and many have spent most of their lives in the same community. If they took advantage of bereaved families, they could not stay in business. The fact that the average funeral home has been in business over 59 years shows that most funeral directors respect the wishes of the bereaved families.

Is it right to make a profit from death?

Funeral directors look upon their profession as a service, but it is also a business. Like any business, funeral homes must make a profit to exist. As long as the profit is reasonable and the service rendered are necessary, complete, and satisfactory to the family, profit is legitimate.

Don't funeral directors mark caskets up tremendously, at least 400%?

No. Talking about the mark up on caskets is really not the point. Most items--clothing, furniture, jewelry--are marked up as much or more than caskets. The real question is whether the funeral director is making an excessive profit. And the answer is "No." Profits run around 12.5% before taxes--not excessive by any standard.

Who pays for funerals for the indigent?

Other than the family, there are veteran, union, and other organizational befits to pay for funerals, including, in certain instances, a lump sum death payment from Social Security. In most states, some form of public aid allowances are available from either the state, country, or city or a combination. Most funeral directors are aware of the various benefits and know how to obtain them for the indigent. However, funeral directors often absorb costs above and beyond what is provided by agencies to insure the deceased a respectable burial.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Joke of the Week

An epitaph on a grave marker in England:

Remember man, as you walk by,
As you are now, so once was I,
As I am now, so shall you be,
Remember this and follow me.

To which someone replied by writing on the tomestone:

To follow you I'll not consent,
Until I know which way you went.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Book Review: "Last Laughs"

A fun cartoon book to look at regarding aging, retirement and death is "Last Laughs" edited by Mort Gerberg. For example, there is a cartoon depicting a grocery story with an old man pushing a shopping cart. Two old women discussing the old man say, "A great catch. He's a widower, still frisky, and has fully paid-up-long-term-care insurance." Take a look here.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

How Can I Regain My Identity Once It Has Been Stolen?

The most important thing you can do if you find unexplained charges on credit cards, bills on your credit report, an unexplained notice you are being sued, or even an arrest warrant, is to take action quickly. Below are the starting steps of reclaiming your name:

  • File a report with the police.

  • Place a fraud alert on your credit reports.

  • Close any accounts that you know or even think might have been tampered with or opened by someone else.

  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

  • Put a Freeze on Your Credit.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Definition of the Week: Benefactor

Benefactor: A person who wants to benefit someone else. A father who wants to give assets to his children is a benefactor. A peron who wants to give $100,000 to the Red Cross is a benefactor.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How Can I Prevent Identity Theft?

There are many things you can do to reduce the risk of identity theft. The following is a quick guide to simple, but important ways to protect yourself and those you care about.

  • Guard your personal information.

  • Take your social security number off your driver's license and checks.

  • Never carry documents containing personal information with you.

  • Secure your mail and trash.

  • Ask for a credit report at least twice a year.

  • Consider removing your name from phone directories.

  • Update computer protection regularly.
Credit reports can be obtained from one of the three major credit bureaus.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Joke of the Week

An older couple was watching TV. The man stretches and says, "Honey, I think I'll go to the kitchen and get some ice cream. Would you like some?"

"Believe I would thanks."

"Would you like some chocolate sauce on it?"

"Yes, I would . . . but now be sure and write that down so you won't forget."

Her husband glares, shakes his head, and marches off to the kitchen. Twenty minutes pass as the husband rustles about. Finally, he reappears, carrying a plateful of scrambled eggs.

"Why," exclaims the wife, "I told you to write it down. Here you've come back and forgotten my bacon!"

Friday, September 2, 2011

Book Review: "Preparing Heirs"

Preparing Heirs by Roy Williams and Vic Preisser gives five steps in transferring family wealth successfully. The fives steps are as follows:

  • Assessing Your Wealth Transition Plan

  • Taking Action on Plan Deficiencies

  • Preparing the Heirs

  • The Heir's Self-Preparation Responsibilities

  • Continuing Evaluation and Measurement
The book also gives examples of families that have successfully transferring wealth to future generations and those who were not successful. A good read. You can find the book here.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Cost of Ignorance

By most measures, Larry Hillblom was a smart guy, but he lost his senses when he decided to draft his own will.

Mr. Hillblom was the "H" in DHL Corp., the air-courier giant. His interest was valued at $600 million before he died in 1995. He graduated from Boalt Hall School of Law at Berkeley and argued high-profile international cases before the Ninth Circuit. He was a special judge in his adopted county, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

But when Mr. Hillblom decided to draft his own will, he exhibited little intelligence. In the will, he left most of his $600 million to university medical centers for research. But, alas, the will lacked one detail: a simple, one-sentence disinheritance clause.

Mr. Hillblom's drafting failure was unforntunate, because over the years he had fathered several children with young women through the South Pacific. The mother of Hillblom's oldest known child named him "Junior Larry Hillblocm." When Junior was ten, an attorney represented him and three other offspring and sued Hillblom's estate, claiming inheritance rights.

The estate, DHL, and the various medical research universities hired over 100 buttoned-down attorneys to fight the paternity claims. After more than four years of litigation, the case was resolved.

The four children won.

A very important lesson can be learned from Mr. Hillblom's mistake. It is always advisable to consult an expert in ensuring your estate plan will be carried out in the way your intended it to. Or pay the price to become the expert yourself. Check out our website.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Think Twice Before Deregulating the Law

Our letter to the editor was published in regard to an article in the Wall Street Journal that discussed the possibility of deregulating the practice of law. You can read our response as well as a couple of other individuals' responses here.

Definition of the Week: Adult

Adult: In Utah "the period of minority extends in males and females to the age of 18 years; but all minors obtain their majority by marriage." Utah Code 15-2-1

In regard to payment of social security benefits, the term "adult" may refer to an individual who has graduated from high school or is older than eighteen (18) years of age, whichever is later, but in all cases an individual who is nineteen (19) years of age or older is considered an adult.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Phases of Grief

Grief is the physical, emotional, and mental condition brought on by a loss, such as the death of someone you love. Grief is the body's natural ability to heal emotional injury. Grieving can be hard. Lack of understanding makes it harder. Grief is a personal process characterized by three phases:

Phase 1--Shock (Denial)
This begins with the news of the death, but the reality of the death may occur in a few minutes, a few days or even several months later. This phase "protects" the survivor from the emotional impact of the death. Common characteristics of this phase iclude a need to stay busy, confusion, an inability to express emotion, inability to function and an overwhelming sense that somthing is wrong without grasping the reality of the loss.

Phase 2--The Expression of Grief
Anger, bargaining, and/or depression may last for several days to several years. They are mental, physical and emotional manifestations that may come and go or appear in any combination.

  • Mental: Preoccupation of the death: how it happened, the person that died. Inabilities to focus, to remember or to be productive are mental expressions of grief. You may have paranoid or inconsistent thoughts. You may even want to make radical changes in all aspects of your life, but it is imprerative that you take time to think clearly and not make impuslive decisions that you may later regret.

  • Physical: Fatigue, weakness, insomnia, weight gain or loss, headaches, the tendency to catch stress-related illnesses, a sense of vulnerability, discomfort with too much activity or stimulation are all physical expressions of grief.

  • Emotional: Intense sadness, fear, anxiety, anger, depression, loneliness, confusion, helplessness, isolation and guilt are emotional expressions of grief. The inabilities to feel love or give love, compulsive behavior, thinking that you are "crazy" are often felt by those in grief.

Experiencing these symptoms is quite normal and in many ways are a necessary part of the healing process of grief. If you feel, however, that you are not able to handle your grief on your own, you may want to consider professional help.

Phase 3--Acceptance
You will know when you have reached this stage when you are able to recall memories of your deceased loved one fondly and pleasantly instead of painfully. Once acceptance has been reached, planning for the future becomes more realistic. A new and wiser you will have emerged.
The rate of acceptance often depends on your ability to feel and express your grief openly. Take time out from your usual standars of behavior. Surround yourself with people that you feel comfortable with, tell them how you feel and what you need from them. Feel and express your emtions. It is okay to cry, to laugh, or to be silent. Write things down about your feelings, your wishes, regrets and joys. Give yourself breaks from grieving to rest, have fun and be nurtured. Try to eat well. Try to get your sleep. Above all, give yourself time.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Joke of the Week

I've got to the age when I need my false teeth and my hearing aid before I can ask where I've left my glasses.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Book Review: "Little Dorrit"

Some of Charles Dicken's greatest works use inheritance to move the stories along. We have mentioned Charles Dicken's "Bleakhouse" in a previous blog. Another of Charles Dicken's great books is "Little Dorrit." Much of the story follows individuals who grapple with the consequences that come with having a lack of money or an over abundance of money. There is the burning of a will and unclaimed inheritance reclaimed by relatives. There are family secrets to protect and the ultimate triumph of love over money. It really is a great book. The BBC production starring Claire Foy, Matthew Macfayden, Tom Courtenay, et al. (2009) brings to life this wonderful book.

Little Dorrit in DVD
Little Dorrit in paperback

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Special Needs Trust Reminder

It is crucial for you to consider a special needs trust if you or your child can qualify for government benefits based on special needs. Here is an article regarding the importance of special needs trusts. Look at our website here for additional information regarding special needs trusts and the services we provide in this area of law.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Definition of the Week: Trust

Trust: In the briefest of terms, a trust is an entity, created pursuant to state and federal law, which can own assets, and which directs, subject to law, how the assets are to be administered and distributed by a named trustee for the benefit of named beneficiaries.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Response To The Editor

Yesterday, August 22, 2011, we reviewed an article in the Wall Street Journal titled, "Time to Deregulate the Practice of Law." You can read the full article here. We responded to the article with a letter to the editor. This is our full response to the article:

August 22, 2011


In regard to Winston and Crandall's essay "Time to Deregulate the Practice of Law" (WSJ 8/22/2011). A will is a simple document indicating how you want your assets distributed at your death. Simple. Anybody can write on a napkin, "Distribute my assets equally to my children." Simple.

Then you die. Your children are now faced with the processes of actually transferring your home, your bank account, your investment or retirement accounts, your life insurance policy, your car to themselves. The children must deal with county recorders and deeds, bank managers and signature cards, investment firms and contracts, life insurance companies and policies, the division of motor vehicles and titles. Dealing with these entitites may also be simple . . . or not.

To think that a will is the beginning and end of the legal issues involved in transferring assets at death exhibits a gross ignorance of reality, let alone the law, exactly the level of gross ignorance companies like LegalZoom (praised by the authors) deeply rely upon in selling their wares, but the kind of gross ignorance I did not expect from senior fellows at the Brookings Institution.

Craig E. Hughes
Hughes Estate Group, Attorneys

Monday, August 22, 2011

Joke of the Week

Dude Awakening (WSJ 8/28/98)

When they told me life was
Different from school
I dismissed it with a scoff.
Then I suffered a shock
When I first found
You don't get summers off!

Paul Richards

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Definition of the Week: Estate Planning

Estate Planning: To understand what estate planning is, we need to first ask, "What is an estate?" The word "estate" simply refers to the things you own, your assets. For example, money in a checking account is an asset you own. If you have a checking account, you have an asset and you have an estate. Equity in your house or a life insurance policy or anything else you own are additional assets comprising your estate.

Estate planning is planning how your estate will be managed when you cannot manage it yourself. If you ever become mentally incapacitated or after you die, an estate plan will control how your checking account and other assets are managed and distributed. If you want to decide who receives your assets, and how and when they receive your assets, when you cannot make those decisions in person, then estate planning is for you.

Estate planning is like building a bridge over a chasm. The chasm is a deep gorge and dangerous river of confusion, wasted money, resentments, fraud, and probate litigation. Point A on this side of the chasm is the date of your incapacity or death. At point B on the side of the chasm stand your heirs, your beneficiaries, those you care most about. Estate planning is the bridge, the road over the deep gorge and dangerous river, which is used to transfer your assets safely, efficiently, and peacefully from point A to those you care most about at point B.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Joke of the Week

Excerpt from the classified section of a city newspaper.

Get rid of aunts. Zap does the job in 24 hours.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Book Review: "Asset Protection"

This book review is more of a book recommendation. When potential clients come to our office and ask us about asset protection strategies, we recommend they read "Asset Protection" by Jay D. Adkisson and Christopher M. Riser. Once they have read the book, we suggest they set up an appointment to meet with us regarding asset protection.

You can review and order the book here on

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Definition of the Week: Estate

Estate: The word "estate" simply refers to the things you own, your assets. For example, money in a checking account is an asset you own. If you have a checking account, you have an asset and you have an estate. Equity in your house or a life insurance policy or anything else you own are additional assets comprising your estate.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Do You Know How Your Home is Titled? For Sure?

I ran across an article discussing the importance of knowing how your home is owned, specifically if the home is owned by more than one owner. The article focuses on the importance of knowing whether or not the property is owned as joint tenants or as tenants in common. The way the property is owned (joint tenants or tenants in common) makes a difference in how the property is owned upon the death of one of the property's owners. You can read the full article here.

In Utah, real property is owned as joint tenants if (1) a married couple expressly indicates on the deed of ownership that they are husband and wife or (2) the words "joint tenancy interest with rights of survivorship" or similar verbiage are expressly included on the deed of ownership. If the deed does not have the above language, the owners are considered tenants in common.

In 2011, the Utah State Legislature amended the joint tenancy statute in Utah. The new statute makes it clear that entities of any kind, including corporations and trusts, cannot own property in joint tenancy. Only individual natural persons can own property in joint tenancy if expressly indicated on the deed of ownership.

You can read the full Utah joint tenancy statute here.

Check us out here regarding asset ownership issues.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Talking to Your Parents About Their Finances

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal's weekend edition. The article discusses ways for family members to approach talking to aging parents about their financial needs or concerns. The full article can be found here.

Search our website here for our family approach to estate planning.

Joke of the Week

George M------, son of Prof. and Mrs. E. S. M------, is now connected permanently with the ------- funeral home, where he will be pleased to see his friends. Shreveport paper.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Book Review: "The Anatomy of Peace"

When we meet with potential probate litigation clients, we recommend they read "The Anatomy of Peace" by The Arbinger Institute. On the outset, it might seem strange to be recommeding a book that discusses peace with a potential probate litigation client. However, litigation is ugly and can ruin family relationships forever. "The Anatomy of Peace" gives a formula for dealing with conflict while still maintaining a heart at peace towards those individuals on the opposite side of any conflict. I would highly recommend reading this book even if your family will never experience probate litigation.

You can obtain a copy of "The Anatomy of Peace" here.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Estate Planning Fraud Alert

There is danger in using online documents. Read our article here on "The Dangers of Internet Documents." This blog posting is to give you an update on the two class action suits mentioned in the article.

The Missouri Case:
Todd Janson, et al. v., Inc., Case 1:10-CV-04018-NKL

Synopsis of case: This class action suit claims that, Inc. ("Legalzoom"), an internet provider of legal documents, is unlawfully practicing law in Missouri by providing legal documents and instructions over the internet.

A judge ruled against Legalzoom's request to dismiss the case. The case goes to trial August 22, 2011. We will keep you posted.

The California Case:
Webster v., Inc., No. BC 438637 (Los Angeles Super. Ct. filed May 27, 2010)

Synopsis of case: Katherine Webster, the executor of an estate, claimed that Legalzoom created a trust that was legally defective causing the estate to pay over $10,000 to undo damage done by the flawed trust. Ms. Webster claimed that Legalzoom used unfair and deceptive business practices as well as engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.

Legalzoom is settling with the Plaintiffs in the Webster case which will also resolve a related class action suit, Whiting v., Inc. Legalzoom is not accepting blame for the defective trust. They are offering to settle in order to stop legal costs in the courts. We will keep you posted.

Future Updates:
We will be covering a serious of online articles regarding the issues of the unlawful practice of law and online legal document companies in the next few weeks. It is a serious matter, and it is important for you to be aware of the issues in order to protect yourself from being harmed.

A Family Business That Is Still In The Family

Sometimes it is hard to get a family business past the first generation. A success story is L.L. Bean founded by Leon Leonwoood Bean. He began his business selling the "Maine Hunting Shoe" which is now called the "Bean Boot." The success of the business can be boiled down to staying true to the original business policy--quality outdoor products, especially good boots. In 1960, Leon Gorman, Mr. Bean's grandson, took the company from being a $4 million company to a $1 billion company. Mr. Gorman stepped down in 2001, but the business is still run by the family. L.L. Bean continues to be successful selling outdoor products, especially the "Bean Boot."

Read a fun article about Mr. Bean in the Wall Street Journal here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Definition of the Week

Attorney: The word "attorney" simply means "representative." An attorney may be a person with a law degree, formally authorized to draft legal documents for others and represent others before judges. Or an attorney may be a non-lawyer or "attorney-in-fact" whom you name to represent you in a power of attorney.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Do Your Assets Match Your Estate Plan and How Healthy Are Your Assets?

We have found in reviewing many estate plans that a person's assets are not always coordinated with their estate plan thus undermining the plan and the effectiveness of the assets in fufilling the plan.

For example, parents might instruct their executor upon their deaths to set aside money for their children's educations. The parents' assets might consist mainly of retirement accounts. In following the estate plan, the executor would need to liquidate the retirement accounts to pay for the children's educations. In liquidating the retirement accounts, the parents' estate would be faced with paying potential penalties and forced taxes. Careful planning would enable the parents to fund educations while still preserving their retirement account tax status.

As another example, consider an individual who wants his estate to go to his children from his first marriage and still provide for his new spouse. When the assets are reviewed, the estate is real estate rich but cash poor. Without careful planning, the individual's executor might find it impossible to meet the needs of the surviving spouse while preserving the children's interests in the real estate.

We have also found in reviewing clients' assets that many clients' assets have become old and stale. For example, an insurance policy over five years old should be reviewed and possibly updated to take advantage of better premiums and better coverage. The same goes for investments. It is important to have your investments reviewed in order to ensure they are performing at their optimum capacity.

Here at Hughes Estate Group, we make sure our clients' assets match their estate plans. We also offer free evaluations to check the health of clients' assets. Getting estate planning documents in place is crucial. It is just as important to make sure your assets fit your plan and each asset is healthy to meet the needs of your plan.

Joke of the Week

City Aunt: "And what brought you to town, Henry?"

Henry: "Oh, wll, I jus' come to see the sights, and I thought that I'd call on you first."

Monday, August 1, 2011

Unique Way Of Sharing Wealth During Life

Jennings Osborne died this past Wednesday, July 27, 2011. He was the founder of the Arkansas Research Medical Testing Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. With the money he made from his testing center, Mr. Osborne turned to philanthropy. Mr. Osborne would host free tailgate parties before University of Arkansas Razorbacks' football games. He would sponsor fireworks displays. But the thing he became famous for was creating Christmas-light displays.

Mr. Osborne started his Christmas-light displays with his own home. In 1993, his neighbors sued saying his three million lights, two 80-foot Chrstimas-tree-shaped masts, and other Christmas paraphernalia was a nusance to the neighborhood. He lost. But this did not stop him. Instead, he began creating big Christmas displays elsewhere like the governor's mansion in Little Rock, Arkansas, former President Jimmy Carter's home in Plains, Georgia, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and Elvis Presley's Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee.

Here is a nice obiturary article from the Wall Street Journal written by Stephen Miller regarding Jennings Osborne.

See us here for information regarding estate planning.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Book Review: "The Inheritance" by Louisa May Alcott

Literature is full of inheritance stories. A classic theme is that of a poor deprived child receiving an unexpected inheritance that changes his or her life. One of Louisa May Alcott's first novels (1849, unpublished until 1997) is about a little orphan girl who ends up inheriting a large estate.

I remember reading "The Inheritance" because I loved the movie based on Alcott's novel. I was a little disappointed in the book only because the movie had a father character that I really liked and the book did not. That is what I get for watching the movie before reading the book. The book is still a fun read.

Just for curiosity's sake, I searched on to see if there are any recent inheritance novels out there. As of July 7, 2011, "Soul Inheritance" written byHoney A. Hutson is avaiable. I have not read the book, but the reviews say it is about a girl that does not know her past and ends up inheriting something interesting.

Inheritance is a timeless subject to write about.

Check out the DVD of "The Inheritance" or the book on Amazon .
Check out "Soul Inheritance" by Honey A. Hutson (July 7, 2011) on Amazon.

Check out our website here.

Estate Planning Must be Done Right in a Second Marriage to Prevent Problems

In Second Marriages, it is common for the deceased person's surviving spouse and children from the deceased person's first marriage to fight over assets. An example of this type of fight can be seen in a high profile case. Melvin Simon, a shopping mall magnate, died. His assets are being fought over by his second wife, Bren Simon, and Melvin Simon's three children from his first marriage. Seven months before Mr. Simon died, he changed his will giving his second wife, Bren, half of his estate and reducing his children's inheritance significantly. The children say Mr. Simon signed the will under duress. To read more about Mr. Simon's case click here.

It does not matter if an estate of a deceased person is large or small. If the deceased has married two or more times and has children from previous marriages, the chances of there being a disagreement between the surviving spouse and the children from the previous marriages are very high. In second marriages, it is essential that estate planning be done right. Please contact us at Hughes Estate Group to ensure a smooth transfer of assets in the event you are in a second marriage and have children from a first marriage.

Check out our website here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Don't Leave Rover Out Of Your Estate Plan

Pet Trust Law: In recent years, laws have been passed allowing pet trusts to be created on behalf of family pets. The Utah Uniform Probate Code says, "A trust may be created to provide for the care of a pet or animal as provided in Section 75-2-1001." (Utah Probate Code 75-7-408)

An Extreme Example: An extreme example of a person creating a pet trust for their pet is Leona Helmsley, a billionaire, who created a pet trust for her dog, Trouble. Ms. Helmsley funded Trouble's pet trust with $12 million. The $12 million was subsequently reduced to $2 million.

Pet Trusts: A pet trust ensures your pet is taken care of if you are no longer able to do so. A pet trust enables you to name guardians of your pet, allows trustees to remove guardians if necessary, provides basic compensation for guardians, provides basic needs for your pet including health check ups, and provides for burial needs at the death of your pet. With the life expectancy of pets increasing, it is a good idea to consider a pet trust for your pet when you prepare your estate plan.

Fun Pet Websites:
dog guide
best friends

Visit us here to learn more about pet trusts.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Spirit of Giving Inspired by the Very Young

Here is an inspirational story regarding a nine year old birthday wish, clean water, death, and charitable giving.

Check us out here.

Definition of the Week: Beneficiary

Beneficiary: A person or persons who benefit from the generosity of a grantor or benefactor. A person who receive an inheritance. The beneficiary may be a child, grandchild, or any other natural person or a charitable organization. Beneficiaries are the persons named in a testamentary document as recipients of a benefactor's or grantor's generosity. The grantor or benefactor may be a parent, grandparent, or any individual. A beneficiary is not necessarily an heir (or child). For example, your church may be a beneficiary, but would not be defined as an heir. Also, an heir (or child) is not necessarily a beneficiary. For example, you may disinherit an heir (or child), which means that particular heir (or child) would not be a beneficiary.

Who Did Julius Ceaser Adopt Posthumously as Dictated by His Last Will?

Augustus, first emperor of Rome.

Source: Wikipedia

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Dishonoring Virgil's Death Wish Gave The World "Aeneid"

Virgil (70 BC - 19 BC) was a classical Roman poet. His epic poem Aeneid was unfinished when he became sick and died. Tradition says Virgil indicated that the incomplete Aeneid should be burned upon his death. Tradition also says that Augustus (63 BC - 14 AD), the first Roman emperor, ordered the poem published instead. In dishonoring Virgil's death request, Augustus saved the Aeneid's destruction and provided the world with something beautiful and worth keeping. Since its publication, the Aeneid has became a national epic poem for Rome and was popular from its publication through the present day.

Here are a few websites on the subject:

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Make Sure I'm Dead Before You Bury Me

A South African man experienced a very unique situation this past weekend. The man had an asthma attack. His family thought he had died. They called an undertaker who took him to the morgue. His body was placed in a morgue refridgerator. Hours later, morgue employees became frightened by pounding noises coming from the morgue refridgerator. With the aid of police, the morgue employees opened the refridgerator and there the man was alive. He is now back with his family.

Read the Deseret News article here.
Here is the New York Daily News article.
Yahoo News reported here.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Joke of the Week

Suzie--"Mamma, you know that vase you said had been handed down from generation to generation."
Mother--"Yes, my dear."
Suzie--"Well, this generation has just dropped it."

Friday, July 22, 2011

You MUST Coordinate Asset Ownership Or Beneficiary Designations Documents With Your Wills and Trusts

"Think your estate planning is done once you've gone to the touble of making a will? Think again. All your hard work can be undone with a stroke of a pen when you open a bank, brokerage or retirement account," writes Carolyn T. Geer of the Wall Street Journal. She is absolutely right. At Hughes Estate Group, we strongly encourage clients to coordinate ownership and beneficiary documents with estate planning documents.

Ms. Geer continues, "Increasingly, investors have the option of naming beneficiaries directly on a wide range of financial products. The appeal: When the account owner dies, the assets go directly to the beneficiaries named on the accounts, bypassing the sometimes long and costly probate process. The problem: Because these beneficiary designations override your will, they need to be carefully coordinated with your overall estate plan." Most people do not realize that creating a will or trust is only one step in completing and maintaining an estate plan. A vital step is ensuring each asset's ownership or beneficiary document does not undermine the will or trust.

Read the full article here.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Switt Family Will Not Inherit Gold Coins

An update on a blog I wrote a few days ago regarding Israel Switt, Israel Switt's heirs, and a lawsuit against the government to inherit gold coins.

A jury decided against Israel Switt's heirs. Gold coins discovered in a safety deposit box by his daughter, Joan Langord, were turned over to the government for authentication. It was determined the gold coins were authentic double eagles gold coins that were minted and then melted back into gold bars at the direction of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The coins were never sold to the public. Ms. Langord sued the government claiming her family were heirs to the gold coins. The government's lawyers convinced the jury that Mr. Switt underhandedly obtained the gold coins from a cashier inside the U.S. Mint thus making the property stolen property rather than an inheritance for Mr. Switt's heirs.

Read here for more information on the matter.

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Joke of the Week

Personal Ad: Lawyer will read Will tomorrow at residence of Billy Bob Smith (name changed) who died June 19 to accommodate his relatives. Teaneck (N.J.) paper.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Business Succession Must Include Estate Planning

Reading in today's Wall Street Journal about Steve Jobs and Apple's business succession discussions, I was reminded how important it is to include estate planning in any good business succession plan.

There is a fine line in ensuring a business does not die with the originator and making sure the decedent's family members receive their inheritance. One of the best ways to ensure both sides are not harmed at the death of a business owner is to have a buy/sell agreement that includes insurance on the owner(s) of the business. Insurance is a simple way of compensating family members at the death of an owner without forcing the business or other business owners to come up with funds to buy out the deceased owner's business interests.

If the business is a family business, it is essential that business succession include estate planning. At Hughes Estate Group, we have seen situations where siblings that did not stay in the family business and children running the family business fight over inheritance issues involving the business once the owner/parent dies. Estate planning that included insurance to equalize inheritance shares could have prevented these family fights.

There are many issues involving the transition of a business once the owner can no longer run the business. Good estate planning will address those issues and help protect a business from going bankrupt while protecting the rights of heirs. It is important to counsel with an estate lawyer and include good estate planning when considering business succession.

Check out our site here to learn more about business succession planning.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Definition of the Week: Medical Directive

Medical Directive: A Medical Directive is a document in which you dictate (1) whether mechanical procedures should be applied that will (2) allow your essential bodily organs to function (3) for a greater or lesser period of time (4) in the event you are suffering a non-curable medical condition that will (5) result in your short-term natural death if (6) the mechanical procedures are not applied. Sometimes referred to as a "living will" or pull-the-plug document."

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Connection Between Alzeimer's and Doing Estate Planning

In today's Wall Street Journal, one of the articles discusses the progress science is making towards detecting Alzeimer's disease earlier and earlier in patients, hence the likelihood of preventing the disease more and more often. In the same way it is wise to have medical checkups on a regular basis in order to detect early signs of Alzeimer's disease and thus take steps to prevent said disease, it is wise not to delay doing estate planning. The sooner you do your estate planning, maintain said plan, and review and update said plan on a regular basis, the more apt potential emergencies or problems with assets, estate taxes, incapacity, Medicaid, family conflicts, etc. will be eliminated or significantly reduced when life's inevitable moments arrive.

Check out our site here regarding the importance of doing your estate planning now.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Epitaphs To Encourage Estate Planning

An epitaph is Greek for "on the grave." An Epitaph is text honoring the dead, usually inscribed on a tombstone or read at a funeral. Here are a few examples of epitaphs written by individuals to be inscribed on their own tombstones at death:

"I told you I was sick." --Tombstone of Spike Milligan (1918-2002), Brittish actor.
"I'm in on a plot." --Tombstone of Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980), Brittish director.
"That's All Folks!" --Epitaph of Mel Blanc, The Man of a Thousand Voices.
"Keep Looking Up was my life's admonition
I can do little else in my present position." -- Jack Horkheimer (1938-2010), astronomer.

Cato the Elder (234-149 BC) said, "After I'm dead I'd rather have people ask why I have no monument than why I have one." Doing your estate planning is one of the greatest gifts you can give your family. Your estate plan may not be considered a monument at your death or be inscribed upon your tombstone. But your family will honor you forever if you take the time now to do your estate planning. Do it today. Check out our site here for information regarding estate planning.

A fun question to ask yourself, "What would I inscribe on my tombstone?"

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Last Will: Play Beethoven's Music in the Order I Like It.

If you are in Buffalo, New York, consider attending a unique annual "Strictly Beethoven" concert performed at the University of Buffalo. John Slee, a resident of Buffalo, loved Beethoven's music. In his will, he instructed his Personal Representative to establish a fund that would make it possible for Beethoven's music to be played for years to come--with one condition. The pieces had to be played in the order Mr. Slee liked to hear them. Since 1955 when the fund was established, the University of Buffalo has played Beethoven's music just as Mr. Slee loved to hear it.

To learn more about John Slee visit here.
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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Joke of the Week

Friend: "Was your grandmother's mind vigorous and sane up to the very last?"
Heir: "I don't know--the will won't be read until tomorrow."

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Definition of the Week: Asset

Asset: In our estate lawyer practice, we use the word "asset" to mean "real property" (not just "real estate" narrowly but all types of "real property" generally). In this regard, an asset is assumed to be something of value described in a legal document, which legal document is on file outside your home at a private company or government agency. The legal document may be called a deed, a title, a certificate, or a contract. This legal document describes the asset and who owns, controls, or is entitled to the asset.

The word "assets" includes, by way of example, the following real estate, water or mineral rights, stock, bonds, life insurance, promissory notes, financial, investment, or retirement accounts or benefits, or automobiles. The term "assets" also includes ownership interests in partnerships or closley-held businesses or in other complex arrangements or structures. Cash in the bank is clearly an asset. Cash in hand-though it does not have a document of ownership attached to it--is still considered by law to be an asset.

Valuable art, books, or musical instruments are also categorized as assets, but only if they have legal documents of ownership on file at a private company or insurance company. An asset can often be insured separately and specifically by name.

Finally, an asset is defined by the fact that if ownership of the asset ever changes hands, the legal document of ownership must be changed to reflect the name of the new owner.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Inheriting Double Eagle Gold Coins Might Not Be Easy

Israel Switt, a Philadelphia jeweler, died in 1990. In 2003, Switt's daughter, Joan Langbord, discovered ten gold coins in a safety deposit box owned by her father. She is now suing the U.S. Government for the right to inherit those gold coins.

The gold coins in question are called double eagles. In 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt ordered all double eagle gold coins to be melted back into gold bars. The double eagles were never released by the U.S. Government. But a few of these gold coins mysteriously got out.

Ms. Langbord insists the government has the burden of proof in this case. This could mean that if the government cannot prove Israel Switt personally stole the double eagles, the gold coins would pass to Israel Switt's heirs. And Israel Switt's heirs could inherit coins that are worth millions of dollars.

A few articles of interst regarding Mr. Switt's double eagle gold coins are:

"Heirs Battle U.S. Mint Over Prized Gold Coins" by the Wall Street Journal
"Family fights government over rare 'Double Eagle' gold coin" by Yahoo
"Pa. family fights US over rare 1933 gold coins" by Associated Press

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