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 One of Louisa May Alcott's first novels (1849, unpublished until 1997) is about a little orphan girl who ends up inheriting a large estate.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.

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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

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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.

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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.

Check out our website here to learn more about doing estate planning.

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.

Visit us here to learn more about coordinating estate documents with beneficiary designation forms.

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.

Take a look at our site here regarding inheritance matters.

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.
To learn more about wills visit here.

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."

Check out our website here for additional information regarding estate planning.

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.

Check out our website here for additional estate planning resources.

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

For more information regarding inheritance issues look here.