Recent Articles

A Touching Memorial from One of March Madness’ Greatest

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of March Madness, the annual college basketball tournament, but rarely does that passion overlap with my estate planning practice. Not so this year as Dean Smith, the legendary North Carolina University basketball coach, used his estate plan to leave a legacy as admirable as his on-court success. Smith, a who passed away last month at age 83, had prepared his estate using a will and living trust. Through his trust Smith directed that $200 be given to each of his former … [Read More...]

Reasons to Establish a Trust (and Being Rich Isn’t One of Them)

When you hear the words, “trust fund,” do you conjure up images of stately mansions and party yachts? A trust fund - or trust - is actually a great estate planning tool for many people with a wide range of incomes who want to accomplish a specific purpose with their money. Simply put, a trust is just a vehicle used to transfer assets. According to a recent article at The Motley Fool, Trust Funds: They're Not Just for the Rich, and You Might Need One, trusts are especially useful for parents of minor children as … [Read More...]

No One Feeling Good About Continuing Battle Over James Brown Estate

James Brown was known for his signature song, “I Feel Good,” but no one is feeling good about the battle that is still being waged over his estate almost a decade after his death in 2006. The majority of Brown’s estate - estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars - was distributed via his will to the I Feel Good Trust to provide scholarships to underprivileged children in South Carolina and Georgia. None of those estate proceeds have been distributed to date, due to ongoing litigation between Brown’s … [Read More...]

Why Every Family Needs an Agent

Everyone needs an agent – and not the Hollywood type. An agent is someone you designate to handle your estate after you’ve gone or who can make decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself. Here are the kinds of agents everyone needs: Executor – an executor is the person you designate to carry out your wishes for distributing your assets as listed in your last will and testament. You can choose a family member, a trusted friend or even a professional to fill this role. Guardian – if you and your … [Read More...]

Life Lessons From Celebrity Deaths on Updating Your Estate Plan

A new year always brings the sad reviews of notable personalities who have died in the past year. Two notable movie stars - Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Walker - provide a cautionary tale on the importance of keeping your estate plan and will up to date. In Hoffman’s case, his 2004 will had never been updated and he had two children after it was created. Walker’s 2001 will had also never been updated to reflect the changes in his life. Conducting an estate plan review whenever something major changes in your … [Read More...]

10 Tips to Ensure Family Harmony Over Your Estate Plan

When your children were small, you no doubt suffered the challenge of keeping peace in the family. We see this same scenario play out time after time among adult siblings when a messy estate causes family rifts. Here are 10 tips to help prevent your children from fighting over your estate: 1. Talk to children about your estate plan. It may be a difficult discussion to have, but you need to have it. If you find it too difficult, enlist the help of your estate planning attorney to go over the details of your … [Read More...]

Why You Should Get Estate Planning Off Your To-Do List in 2015

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 … [Read More...]

Joan Rivers Has Last Laugh Through Use of a Family Trust

Famous comedienne, Joan Rivers, who died unexpectedly on September 4, 2014, from what is alleged to be a botched medical procedure, made millions making us all laugh. Some of her most infamous routines centered around skewering celebrities, most notably legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor. For Rivers’ comedy, everyone and everything was fair game for exposure. But when it came to the disposition of her estimated $150 million fortune, Rivers made sure everything was kept private via the use of a family … [Read More...]

5 Reasons Why You Need to Review Your Estate Plan

Creating an estate plan to protect your financial future and that of your family is just the first step in the estate planning process. Once those documents are executed, you will still need to review your plan annually to ensure it continues to reflect your needs and achieve your goals. Here are 5 reasons that can trigger the need to review your existing estate plan: Family changes. Marriage, divorce, birth and death are four family changes that should prompt an estate plan review. If one of your beneficiaries … [Read More...]

‘Tis the Season to Be Gifting: How to Do It Right

Not many people would view the IRS as a charitable organization, but you might if you plan your gifting appropriately - i.e., in a way that will benefit you on your income and gift taxes. Here are guidelines when gifting to charity or your own family members this season: Charitable Donation Rules Household items. These must be in good condition or better in order to qualify for a deduction, unless you are donating an item with a value of over $500 and have a qualified appraisal. If the value of your … [Read More...]