Tax Lessons to be Learned from Celebrity Estate Plans

A celebrity’s image and likeness can continue to produce considerable income after death. This type of intellectual property is considered part of your estate, and the IRS can tax its value. In the case of pop star Michael Jackson’s estate, that recently meant an IRS bill to the tune of $64.5 million, years after his death, which is about 40% of his likeness’ valuation of $161 million.

Michael Jackson’s estate planning fail could certainly have been avoided by using one of these estate-planning strategies that minimize the taxable value of a person’s image and likeness.

Charitable Bequests

Robin Williams made a charitable bequest of his image and likeness to a foundation. It was set up in his name, allowing his estate to get a charitable deduction against the estate tax.

Time Bans

Williams also established a 25-year time ban to prevent any future exploitation of his image. A time restriction lowers the value of a celebrity’s name and likeness because the value is typically lower at the end of the ban than at the date of death.

State of Residence

Some states don’t recognize inheritable postmortem rights to likeness. This means the estate can’t profit from it. Consider your state’s laws when estate planning so you can benefit from any available tax breaks.

Consult with Multiple Appraisers

Get one appraisal and have another appraiser act as a consultant to point out where there might be room to argue against the valuation.

Celebrity estate planning fails grace the cover of tabloids and news sites as soon as weeks after their deaths. Fortunately, they provide valuable estate planning lessons for the rest of us. While their fails may be more expensive, even a small fail can have a huge impact on your family’s future and well-being. Don’t leave your family holding the bag, especially an empty one.

Your family is worth the time for you to have a Family Wealth Planning Session with us so you can make empowered, informed choices for the people you love. As your Estate Attorney, we can walk you step by step through a process that will minimize your tax liability and keep your family out of court and out of conflict.

Our Family Wealth & Legacy Planning Session guides you to protect and preserve what matters most. Before the session, we’ll send you a Family Wealth & Legacy Inventory and Assessment to complete that will get you thinking about what you own, what’s most important to you, and what you can do to ensure your family is taken care of and you’ll leave the Session with absolute clarity about how to make the best choices for your life and death.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Estate and Business Attorney. We don’t just draft documents, we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth & Legacy Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today at 832.408.0505 to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and find out how to better protect your family.

Facing Grief After the Death of a Loved One Can Be the Key to a Life of Health and Wholeness

If you have ever met someone who repeatedly sabotaged their life or seemed to have a hard time moving things forward, despite the best of intentions, it may be that they were dealing with unprocessed grief. Most people have never been taught to deal with grief and as a result are stuck dealing with confusing emotions, relationships that don’t work and lives that can feel like they just don’t work.

This relationship between facing grief and being able to move through it in a healthy way was discussed at length by Prince Harry in a recent podcast with Bryony Gordon of Mad World. In the interview, Prince Harry addressed his personal struggle with dealing with the loss of his mother, grief he spent 20 years denying.

Raised in the spotlight, in a culture where keeping up appearances and holding it together are paramount, Prince Harry struggled through early adulthood and didn’t know why. A few very public drunken escapades and the expectation that feelings were not to be discussed led Harry to a very dark place. Some blamed it on traumatic experiences he’d had while serving in Afghanistan, but deep down Harry knew that wasn’t the cause.

His rage grew and he had no outlet. Thankfully, he started talking – to family members and to a therapist. And things began to shift. He slowly realized that the public grieving he was forced to do as a child did not adequately release his intense emotions. He took up boxing to deal with his anger and started a non-profit organization to help others, passionate about spreading the word that grief should not be suppressed.

Prince Harry discovered that simple and honest conversation about death and grief were the key to healing. In doing so, he processed his feelings and moved on from the death of his mother in a healthy way. Now he enjoys helping others move through grief and other painful emotions by listening to their problems, a technique he says is sometimes all you need to face grief and gain clarity of mind about your feelings.

Clarity in the face of grief is important not only to keep moving forward in your life and process your emotions in a healthy way, but it’s also necessary to be able to make the important decisions often faced when someone dies – and often not considered until it’s too late. The unfortunate result is a tough transition when a loved one dies.

What we can learn from Prince Harry’s experience is that grief should never be ignored. Denial can contribute to self-destructive behavior and an avoidance of dealing with important issues, such as how a loved one’s wishes should be carried out.

To be proactive and reduce the strain on your family when you die, so that they can focus on moving through the grief instead of stuffing the feelings so they can deal with all of the “stuff” you’re leaving behind, create a comprehensive estate plan that makes it easy for the people you love. Doing so will allow your family to focus on processing their grief without having to worry about over-managing your estate.

If you are ready to take that step toward making things as easy as possible for the people you love in the event of your incapacity or death, start by sitting down with us. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can walk you through creating an estate plan that will protect what you value most. We always begin with a  Family Wealth Planning Session so you can get informed, educated and empowered to make the right choices for the people you love. . Before the session, we’ll send you a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment to complete that will get you thinking about what you own, what matters most, and how your affairs should be handled when you die.

This article is a service of Gratia Schoemakers, Estate Attorney. We don’t just draft documents, we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session

Commit to Your Estate Plan Before Committing to a Trip Away

If you are planning a vacation, you probably have a lot to prepare for before you get away. Between structuring your itinerary, getting plane tickets or train reservations, and booking hotels, creating an estate plan is probably not something you thought to add to your to-do list. But, think again and consider that now is the time to take action on this vital piece of your legal life planning.

If something were to happen to you while away on vacation, whether an illness, injury or even death, your family would be stuck with a huge mess to clean up.

The Barber family of Southern California is an unfortunate example. Mom, dad and three kids went on a roadtrip to Arizona where they were in a terrible accident. Mom and dad died, and their three boys were injured, but alive.

It took the authorities a couple of days to locate any relatives, during which time the boys were in the protective custody of strangers. A fate no parent ever wants for their children in a time of tragedy, fear and grief.

The family member that was located first was a sister of the mom and she promptly took the boys back to her home and didn’t let any other family members see the boys.

It took many hundreds of thousands of dollars and at least 7 lawyers to sort out the family fighting that ensued over both the boys and the assets left behind by the Barber parents.

And it all could have been easily avoided with a small amount of planning in advance.

Making the commitment now to create a comprehensive estate plan will ensure your loved ones will not be stuck in court or conflict, if the unexpected happens while you are on vacation.

At least 8 weeks before you leave, schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session with us. During that Session, we’ll get you more financially organized than you’ve ever been before (ensuring none of your assets are lost if you are injured on your vacation) and guide you to make informed, empowered and educated choices for yourself and the people you love most. If you are leaving sooner than 8 weeks from now, call our office and let us know you need a rush Family Wealth Planning Session and we will see what we can do to get you started.

Whatever you do, do not just think a standard set of estate planning documents will serve you or your family. What you and your family need is a plan that properly addresses the care of your children (if you have minors at home), your assets and the parts of your life that go beyond just the money. We can explain more during the Family Wealth Planning Session.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session!

7 Steps to Creating an Estate Plan That Keeps Your Family Out of Court

Many people fail to create an estate plan because they don’t truly understand what is involved and therefore believe it is too complicated. But the real truth is that creating an estate plan during your lifetime is far less complicated than what your family will deal with after you are gone, if you don’t:

  1. Create a Trust. When most people think of preparing for the end of life, they think of writing a Will, but having a Will without a Trust is fast track to put your family in the Courthouse after you are gone.  Instead, to keep your family out of Court, you’ll want to set up a Trust and title all of your assets to be owned by that Trust.  While it might feel like a lot of effort, it will save your family a LOT of trouble after you are gone.
  2. Designate beneficiaries. Designating beneficiaries for your retirement accounts and insurance policies is critical because these assets do not pass through your Will or Trust.  Filling out beneficiary designation forms for each of your accounts will ensure these assets pass to the people you want to have them and stay out of the Court system.  Be sure to review your beneficiary designations periodically to be sure they align with your current circumstances. Hot tip: never name minor children as beneficiaries of your retirement account or life insurance policies AND if you have more than $150,000 in a retirement account, consider a special trust called a Retirement Trust to ensure the most beneficial tax treatment for your loved ones.
  3. Avoid estate taxes. Most of us will not have to worry about estate taxes since the federal estate and gift tax exemption is $5.49 million ($10.98 million for married couples) in 2017 and indexed every year for inflation.  However, if you are married and wish to take advantage of portability – where spouses are entitled to each other’s unused exemption – the surviving spouse must file the required paperwork to claim the exemption.

Plus, 15 states and the District of Columbia have state estate taxes, so you could still owe even if your estate is too small to owe federal tax. The big key here is to not just leave a set of documents that your family will have to figure out after you are gone, but give them the gift of a trusted advisor to turn to; call us if you’d like to consider having us be that trusted advisor for your loved ones.

  1. Leave a letter of instruction. Not everything you may wish to pass on to your heirs – like instructions for your funeral – should be put in your will or Trust.  Leaving a letter of instruction with your family or attorney can ensure your final wishes are respected.  And take it one step further with a Family Wealth Legacy CD or DVD in which you record your values, insights, stories and experiences for your loved ones to refer back to for generations to come.  We provide this service at no additional charge for our clients because we know this is one of the things families value the most and is least often handled.
  2. Sign a durable power of attorney. Estate planning is not just about death, but also ensuring your family can handle things in the event you become incapacitated.  Signing a durable power of attorney that designates someone to handle your financial affairs will save time, money and hassle for your family that, without it, will have to go to court to have a guardian or conservator appointed to manage your financial affairs. This could cost tens of thousands of dollars and is easily handled with one simple document and a trusted advisor for your family to turn to in a time of need.
  3. Create an Advance Healthcare Directive. This document designates a decision maker of your choosing to make sure your wishes are followed when it comes to the medical care you want – or do not want – to receive when you are incapacitated or near death.  You will also need to sign a HIPAA release form so your medical records can be released to your health care agent and medical professionals can discuss your medical care with that person.
  4. Organize your paperwork and digital files. Since many of us live our lives online these days, make sure your executor has access to all your digital information, including website addresses and the log-in information for those sites.  Put all your important paperwork – deeds, insurance policies, bank and brokerage statements, etc. – in one file and let your executor know where it is.

Bonus tip: If you have minor children at home (or adult children with special needs), don’t rely on naming guardians in your Will alone. Create a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan to ensure your children’s care is covered not just for the long-term, but for the immediate term as well and no one you don’t want raising your kids ever has a chance to take control.

Contact us about scheduling a Family Wealth Planning Session so we can sit down and talk about designing a plan that fits the needs of you and your family.  Surprisingly, sometimes the less you have, the more important it is to plan.

 

Why DIY Estate Planning is a Bad Idea For the People You Love

America is a nation of do-it-yourselfers, but building a deck and creating a legally valid estate plan are two entirely different things – and a less-than-perfect deck won’t devastate your family’s financial future or the relationships among the people you care about most.

The prevalence of online legal services has led many people to believe that they can create legal documents cheaply and those documents will be just as effective as if they had visited an estate planning attorney.  And this is why that is wrong:

No legal advice – these sites are little more than document mills that churn out the same generic forms over and over.  They are not attorneys and cannot advise or warn you if you make a mistake. Plus, who will be there for your family when something happens to you if you’ve used an online document drafting service?

Think your family doesn’t need an advisor to support them when you are gone?  Think again.

Consider this: Erica’s father was killed in a motorcycle accident. Dad didn’t leave much behind, but he did leave an estate plan prepared by a trusted family attorney.  Had the family attorney not been there for Erica and her brother, they would have taken what dad did leave and drowned their sorrows in a European backpacking trip.  Thanks to this family attorney, though, Erica and her brother now have a healthy trust fund set up for them for life with the proceeds of a successful wrongful death case.

Leaving it to your family to know what to do after you’re gone is a big mistake for the people you love.

One size doesn’t fit all – your family is different from everyone else’s family.  Just like every state has different inheritance laws, every family has different situations.  An online form will not help you protect a special needs child or relative, or protect a child’s inheritance from creditors or a nasty divorce.  An online form cannot tell you how to protect assets from taxes or help you achieve your goals.

And, an online form cannot keep your family out of conflict during a time of grief.  Even if you don’t have a lot of assets you are leaving behind, whatever you do have will be subject to distribution between the people you care most about.  Some of the biggest disagreements we’ve seen after death, aren’t about loads of money, but about the little things and those little things aren’t going to be dealt with well with form documents.

Save now, pay later – you may think you are saving money by using an online service to create your will or trust, but it is impossible to make a fair comparison since the services provided are entirely different.

An estate planning attorney creates an entire plan tailored to your individual needs in a legal document that will stand up in court, and advises you on ways to cut taxes and save for retirement and long-term care.  No online service does that.

In addition, your trusted advisor is going to be there for your family when you cannot be. The people you love will need someone to turn to after you are gone.  Do you want them to be stuck with figuring out who that should be during their time of grief? Or do you want to leave behind the gift of having taken care of things well during your lifetime and a trusted advisor to hold their hand when you no longer can?

We invite you to take advantage of our specialized legal services for families with a Family Wealth Planning Session.  Call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about designing an estate plan that fits the needs of you and your family.

Why You Should Get Estate Planning Off Your To-Do List

There are many goals most of us want to accomplish in life, and some of the most important ones center on family and money. Here is what a thoughtful estate plan can help you accomplish that involves both:

Control health care decisions. Most people will die in a hospital or care facility, and many will lack important decision-making capacity for their own care. You can name the people responsible for health care decisions if this should happen to you through an advance medical directive as part of your estate plan.

Control your finances. By assigning a durable power of attorney in your estate plan, you can save your family from the expense and emotional trauma of having to go to court to take control of your finances via a conservatorship in case you become incapacitated.

Plan for your long-term care. Most of us will require long-term care at some time during our lives, and it can be expensive – even financially devastating for many families. An estate plan will help you take the necessary steps to plan for your long-term care so it doesn’t fall to your family.

Keep peace in the family. By determining where your assets will go and having the right beneficiaries named on retirement and bank accounts, you will help ensure family harmony and fend off any potential inheritance fights.

The process of estate planning is ripe for procrastination since so few people understand it or – more commonly – wish to contemplate their own demise. Yet it still remains one of the best things you can do to protect your money, your health and your family.

Here are 3 tips to get estate planning off your “to-do” list:

Consider your children. Estate planning helps you protect your children throughout their lifetimes. When they are young, you need to appoint a guardian if something should happen to you. When they are older, you want to have the financial capacity to send them to college. When you are gone, you want them to enjoy a legacy that includes passing on your values as well as your assets.  Only estate planning can do this for you.

Review beneficiary designations. Life insurance policies, retirement accounts, investment accounts and other financial vehicles all require you to complete a beneficiary form to designate who will receive the assets upon your death. With no form, state law will govern, and your assets may go to those you never intended to receive them, or worse, go to your estate and be depleted by taxation. Be sure you have beneficiary forms on file for your accounts and that they are reviewed at least annually for any necessary updates.

Consider your own health. If you become incapacitated, who will be making your health care decisions for you? Do you want your life to be prolonged via life support no matter what? Whatever your wishes are for your own health, they won’t necessarily be followed unless you have executed a Living Will or assigned powers of attorney to see to these matters.

Make this the year you create your estate plan – or, if you have a plan that hasn’t been reviewed in the last two years, to update your estate plan. It’s a gift that will keep giving to you and your family.

The best way to learn about estate planning for your family is to meet with us for a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you to provide for and protect the financial security of your loved ones. Don’t wait! Give us a call today at 832.408.0505, we love to hear from you.

 

What a Will Won’t Do

There are a number of essential things a last will and testament can do for you, such as distribute family heirlooms and name a guardian for minor children, but there are some equally important things a will won’t do:

Diminish estate taxes – a will won’t help you decrease your estate taxes, but a Personal Family Lawyer® can advise you on what kind of trust instruments can accomplish this for you.

Provide long-term care – if you want to provide for someone with special needs or a person with long-term care needs, you will need to establish a trust or invest in a life insurance policy.

Distribute some types of property – to distribute assets from a retirement or investment account or the proceeds of a life insurance policy, you must execute the proper beneficiary designation forms, which supersede instructions in a will.  If you own property jointly with someone else, your will won’t allow you to distribute that property.

Provide for pets – since pets cannot legally own property, you will either need to establish a pet trust or designate a caretaker and provide funds for the care of your pet after you are gone.

If you’d like to learn more about wills, living wills, advance health care directives, Power of Attorney for Health Care designations or any other aspects of estate planning, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.

Procrastinantion is the #1 reason why people don’t plan… so schedule your no-obligation, no-pressure Family Wealth Planning Session, before the inevitable happens to you. Call our office Today!

Leaving Without a Plan: Prince Didn’t Leave a Will & Here’s Why You Should

Even after death, celebrities are highly publicized for their mistakes, many of which we make ourselves. April 21, 2016, superstar musician Prince suddenly died, leaving no will, and the management of his substantial estate fraught with legal complications and added costs.

It’s easy to assume that the wealthiest among us have all their ducks in a row, but it’s hard to judge someone—even a celebrity—for neglecting something like the creation of a will. Until you stop to seriously think about what will happen when you die, creating a will can seem like an unnecessary and morbid task, certainly not something you casually check off your to-do list. Nevertheless, the importance of having a will simply cannot be stressed enough. Below are just a few of the reasons why everyone should have a will, no matter their wealth, age or health.

You can name the person you want to manage your estate in your will. You will get to choose someone you trust and make sure they have all the knowledge they need to ensure your wishes for your estate are carried out.

You can decide who your beneficiaries will be. You can also disinherit those who would normally stand to inherit from your estate if you choose. Your wealth and possessions are yours; a will provides a legally enforceable way to ensure they go to the right people.

You can ensure your minor children will be raised by the people you want, for the long-term. If you have minor children, you should name a legal guardian and include provisions for their care in your will. But, don’t rely on a will alone because it won’t address the immediate care of your children if something happens to you, it won’t provide for your children’s care in the event of incapacity and it won’t ensure someone you would never want to raise your kids could not.

You can leave gifts and donations to your favorite charities or people you love beyond your legal family. Without a will, your estate would pass to the people designated to receive it under the law, and that may not be who you would want to receive everything you own. Creating a will ensures you get to choose who gets what.

Important as they are, a will can only do so much. For example, a will does not keep your family out of court.

And, a will does not ensure your kids will never be taken out of your home, if something happens to you.

And, a will does not keep your family out of conflict.

A will is only one part of a comprehensive estate plan that will protect and enforce your wishes when you die.

If you are ready to take the right steps toward making informed, empowered and educated decisions for the legal and financial future of the people you love, start by sitting down with a Personal Family Lawyer®.

As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we will walk you step-by-step through the creation of an estate plan that will protect what you value most. Our Family Wealth Planning Session™ helps you protect and preserve your wealth for future generations. Before the session, we’ll send you a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment to complete that will get you thinking about what you own, what matters most to you and what you want to leave behind.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, esq. We don’t just draft documents, we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. Begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session.

 

Avoid these 10 Common Estate Planning Mistakes

As a Personal Family Lawyer®, I see many of the same estate planning mistakes made time and again by people who either fail to plan properly or who use “do-it-yourself” estate planning websites or forms in an effort to save money.

Without professional guidance, this can cause more problems for your heirs and end up depleting estate assets by far more than what you could potentially “save” by doing it yourself online.

A qualified estate planning attorney or Personal Family Lawyer® can help you avoid these 10 common estate planning mistakes:

  1. Failure to leave any written documentation of your assets, including a list of your online accounts and passwords
  1. Failure to let family members know where to find important estate planning documents
  1. Failure to name a guardian for minor children or choosing a guardian who lives far away without planning for temporary, local guardianship (solved with a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan®)
  1. Failure to name recipients for your personal possessions
  1. Failure to designate beneficiaries for retirement and other financial accounts
  1. Failure to name secondary beneficiaries
  1. Failure to name alternative trustees or executors
  1. Failure to properly fund or title assets to any trusts you have established
  1. Failure to update your estate plan as life circumstances change
  1. Failure to create an estate plan of any kind and instead leaving it to the court system to decide how your assets will be distributed

If you’d like to learn more about how to avoid common estate planning mistakes that could cost your heirs dearly, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.

Estate Planning Essentials for Parents

A comprehensive estate plan can protect the things that matter most. For many, this means their property and their family.

Including provisions for the care of your children in your estate plan is essential for peace of mind. But many parents struggle with including such provisions as naming a legal guardian for their child in their plan. Indeed, even the fictional parents in the popular television sitcom Modern Family struggled with this issue in a recent episode. While Jay and his new and much younger wife Gloria agonized and argued about who they should name as a legal guardian for their children, their children were left at risk that if something happened to Jay and Gloria before they decided and properly named guardians in a legal document, a judge would make the decision for them. Not ideal, under any circumstances.

When naming a legal guardian for your minor children, there are many factors to consider, such as whether the guardian has similar values to yours or can provide a welcoming home environment. But the toughest decisions are often the most important. Consider the outcome if you died without having legal protections for your children in place. Your children could be subject to conflict between relatives or they could be raised by someone you would never want, or in a way you wouldn’t want.  They could even temporarily be taken into the care of strangers.

Identifying and naming a legal guardian for your children in your estate plan is a difficult and important task. Don’t put off naming a legal guardian for your child. While thinking about what will happen to your child if you die is difficult even for fictional parents, your kids deserve the protection and you deserve the peace of mind that a legal guardian can provide.

Unfortunately, even if you have made the hard decisions and worked with a lawyer to name legal guardians in a Will, your kids could still be at risk, because that would not take into account what happens if you become incapacitated, or if your named guardians all live far from your home, and it wouldn’t protect against anyone who may challenge your decisions. The only way to ensure your kids are raised by the people you want, in the way you want, never taken into the care of strangers (even temporarily) and that your kids would never be raised by anyone you wouldn’t want, is by creating a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan®, which only a select few lawyers, like us, are trained to prepare.

If you are ready to take that step, start by sitting down with us. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can walk you step by step through creating a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan® that not only names a legal guardian for your child in your Will, but also ensures your kids care is fully provided for, in the short-term and the long-term, and in the event of your incapacity.

Working with a trusted Personal Family Lawyer® will ensure your entire family is protected and cared for no matter what.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents, we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love.

If you would like to create or update your estate plan, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.