Redo Your Estate Plan When You Remarry

If you are getting remarried, you obviously want to celebrate, but it is also important to focus on less exciting matters like redoing your estate plan. You may have created an estate plan during your first marriage, but this time it will probably be more complicated--especially if you have children from your first marriage or more assets - what we call a "blended family." You must redo your estate plan when you Read More

If You Haven’t Been Regularly Reviewing Your Estate Plan, Start When You Hit 60

You Should Review Your Estate Plan When You Hit 60 as well as other key points in your lifetime.  How frequently you should review your estate plan depends on how old you are and whether there has been a significant change in your circumstances. If you are over age 60 and you haven't updated your estate plan in many decades, it's almost certain that you need to update your documents. After that, you should review Read More

Does Your Will Name an Alternate Beneficiary?

If your will does not name an alternate beneficiary, what will happen to your estate if your primary beneficiary does not survive you? If your will does not name an alternate beneficiary, your estate will be divided according to state law. The way the state divides your estate may not agree with your wishes. Your money may go to someone you don't like or to someone who is unable to handle it. For example, suppose Read More

Back to Black: Amy Winehouse Didn’t Have a Will After All

Following the death of my all-time favorite singer Amy Winehouse (ok, after Sinatra) from alcohol poisoning in July 2011, it was reported that not only did the 27-year-old have a will but that she had recently updated it to ensure that her ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, would not inherit any of her estate.  That the troubled singer could be organized enough to plan her estate seemed somewhat incongruous, but news Read More

What Can Jim Morrison’s Simple Will Teach Us About Estate Planning?

It’s a bit of ancient history, but Jim Morrison’s will highlights a misunderstanding in estate planning that is still common today: What happens to the balance of a bequest when the beneficiary dies?   When The Doors lead singer died in 1971 at age 27, his will provided that his entire estate would pass to his girlfriend, Pamela Courson, provided she survived him by three months.  If Courson, his "primary Read More

Probate v Non-Probate: What Is the Difference?

When planning your estate it is important to understand the difference between probate v non-probate assets. Probate is the process through which the Surrogates Court determines how to distribute your property after you die. Some assets are distributed to heirs by the court (probate assets) and some assets bypass the court process and go directly to your beneficiaries (non-probate assets).  The probate process Read More

The Hazards of Do-it-Yourself Estate Planning

Many websites offer customized, do-it-yourself estate planning documents such as wills or trusts.  Although such products may seem convenient, using them could create serious and expensive legal problems for your heirs.  These digital do it yourself estate planning services appear to offer a cost-effective and easy alternative to visiting an estate planning or elder law attorney. But, is online estate planning worth Read More

How To Handle Intellectual Property in your Estate Plan

It is important to consider how to handle intellectual property in your estate plan.  If you are an inventor, author, artist, or owner of a closely held business, you should take steps to ensure the protection of your intellectual property rights and consider the best way to ensure your family can continue to benefit from your work in the future. Business ideas, visual art, published or unpublished literary and Read More

What to Do If You Want to Leave Your Children Unequal Inheritances

Parents usually want to leave their children equal shares of their estate, but equal isn’t always fair. If you plan to provide more (or less) for one child in your estate plan, preparation is important.  It is natural for parents to want to treat their children equally in their estate plan, but there are some circumstances in which a parent might want to leave children unequal shares. If one child is providing all Read More

Using a Roth IRA as an Estate Planning Tool

A Roth IRA does not have to be used as just a retirement plan; it can also be a way to transfer assets tax-free to the next generation.  Unlike a traditional IRA, contributions to a Roth IRA are taxed, which means that the distributions are tax-free. Also, unlike a traditional IRA, you are also not required to take any distributions on a Roth IRA, regardless of your age. If you don’t need the money for retirement, Read More