Tag Archives: Estate Mistakes

Estate Mistakes from 4 stars that died too young

Estate planning is for everyone – avoid Estate Mistakes

The goal of estate planning is to leave what you have to whom you want to.at the least possible cost in terms of administration and taxes. But, no one can successfully predict how long they will live; illness and accidents can happen at any age & when least expected. That’s why estate planning is important no matter the age (or stage). Too many families are caught off-guard and found unprepared when an incapacity or death happens and proper estate plans are not in place.

Estate planning is also not just for the wealthy; it’s important that proper estate planning & instructions be discussed and documented no matter the state of wealth. Indeed, estate planning can often mean more to families with modest wealth, because they can afford to lose the least.

I think there are profound lessons worth passing along from the estates of 4 very famous young stars who did not leave complete estate plans in place. Hopefully, others young or old, rich or not so rich can learn from these mistakes.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman (1967 – 2014)

A much-loved, versatile & celebrated actor, director, and producer of film and theater who won a best actor Oscar for his role in “Capote” in 2006. He died of combined drug intoxication. He was 47 years young.

Estate Mistakes:

  • His entire estate was left to his partner who was the mother of his 3 children,but he failed to create trusts for his children.
  • Because his partner was not his wife, the estate did not transfer on a tax-free basis.
  • By not setting up a revocable trust, his estate was subject to probate which caused further delays and costs and made his family financial situation, very public.
  • Estimated cost of estate mistake: $15 Million of an estimated $35 Million estate

Amy Winehouse (1983 – 2011)

The controversial yet undeniably talented British singer and songwriter known for her deep vocals and eclectic musical taste, died of accidental alcohol poisoning . She was 27 years young.

Estate Mistakes

  • She died “intestate” meaning that she did not leave a valid will.
  • Her estate passed by law to her “natural heirs” being her divorced parents. Her ex-husband who she remained very close to until her death; received nothing.
  • Her father was appointed as administrator and incurred considerable personal and financial burden in settling Amy’s complicated estate which included 6 music companies. The resulting cost to settle bills, debts and taxes ate up the majority of the estate estimated at $7 Million.

Heath Ledger (1979 – 2008)

The brilliant Australian actor and director died of accidental overdose of prescription drugs. He had just finished filming his performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight for which he won many awards after his death including an Academy award. He was 28 years young.

Estate Mistakes:

  • He did not update his will following the birth of his daughter, Matilda
  • The beneficiaries in his will were his parents & 3 sisters with no mention of his daughter or his daughter’s mother
  • A filing of probate by his daughter’s guardians in Australia sought part of the estate held in Australian trusts worth approximately $20 Million. Much publicity around family infighting ensued until Leger’s father agreed to financially support his granddaughter

Paul Walker (1973 – 2013)

This young “heart throb” was best known as the star of the Fast & Furious movies and tragically (and ironically) died in a high-speed car accident that lead to a fiery car crash. He left a 15-year-old daughter and a tangled mess of finances & questions. He was 40 years young.

Estate Mistakes:

  • He established a revocable living trust for his 15-year-old daughter many years earlier, but he was noted as the only trustee with no successor trustee named. This has led to much debate between his own family and the mother of his daughter as to who will oversee the trust given that his daughter is a minor.
  • He had not updated his will in 12 years, a period over which his net worth grew significantly. Given the fact that his will had not been updated, there were no provisions made for his girlfriend of 7 years, who he intended on marrying.
  • While he established a revocable living trust for his daughter it was not funded fully during his lifetime so there has been considerable expense and publicity incurred that could have been avoided. It’s a common mistake to set up a trust but not do the actual transfer
  • Estimated cost of estate mistake: $5 Million of an estimated $25 Million estate

Better and more complete estate planning would have saved the estates of these young stars, millions in estate taxes. Better financial organization would have saved the families additional grief that comes with tracking down details and settling final accounts.

Better financial organization and peace of mind are goals behind LegacyTracker. When better organization is in place; better and more complete planning can take place.

$63 Billion in Unclaimed Funds – pretty good reasons to get your ducks in a row

Are your ducks in a row? 

$58 Billion in Unclaimed financial assets in the US plus another $4-$6 Billion in Canada should be enough of a reason to get organized. These financial assets were no doubt hard-earned. A good majority of these assets are also for the most part, tax paid. $63 Billion or so waiting to be claimed by the individual that lost track or the legal beneficiaries of those assets; It’s a lot of money that could make a really BIG difference to many families and loved ones.

Unclaimed financial assets come in a variety of forms:

  • Bank or Credit Union accounts
  • Stocks/Bonds
  • Uncashed dividends
  • Utility deposits or refunds
  • Other prepaids, deposits or refunds
  • Trust distributions
  • Inheritances
  • Annuities/Pensions
  • Education funds
  • Prepaid funeral contracts
  • Mineral royalties such as oil, gas, or mining
  • Insurance policy claims/refunds
  • Contents of abandoned safe-deposit boxes
  • Etc.

Unclaimed financial assets also reside in a variety of places:

While held initially by a variety of different financial organizations or institutions, if you live in the US, after a set period of time, unclaimed financial assets will be gathered up by each State Treasury for safeguarding while at the same time, entered into an online search base where hopefully the legal owners or heirs will find those assets and make a claim.

Unclaimed Property legislation in the US is a win/win for the State and for the legal owners of those assets as the State is able to use those funds until they are claimed.

Check out MissingMoney.com

The US estimates that 1 in 10 Americans has unclaimed funds belonging to them. Unfortunately, only 2 provinces in Canada (Alberta and Quebec) have comprehensive unclaimed property legislation in place and provide searchable databases. BC has a voluntary system in place.

Check out some links that can help you locate unclaimed financial assets in Canada           Where to look in Canada

The staggering amount of unclaimed financial assets and the alarming rate at which unclaimed assets are increasing should be sufficient evidence of why all individuals and families need to properly safeguard their financial assets and the information about those assets appropriately. Helping with that challenge, is one of the core missions behind LegacyTracker.

Getting organized means centralizing information about your assets and sharing that information in case of an emergency or what we call a “What if” situation.

LegacyTracker enables you to keep track of your assets on an ongoing basis and share that information with loved ones (or advisors) as you wish when you wish. 

Worries of the Wealthy (HNW) in 2014

 

US Trust 2014

The 2014 version of the U.S Trust Annual Insights on Wealth and Worth was recently released. The annual survey provides insight on the wealth management challenges confronting high net worth and ultra high net worth individuals in the US.

High Net worth is defined for the purposes of this survey as being $3 Million or more in investable assets. The 2014 survey sheds light particularly on the growing challenges and needs that come with more complex family dynamics including multi-generational and extended family situations. Worries of the Wealthy.

Some highlights that we found particularly interesting and some of the challenges that LegacyTracker can help with….

The Top 5 risks to family wealth

Divorce, Addictions, Untimely death or disability of a primary income earner, medical problems  and disagreements over inheritance or distribution of family assets

Family circumstances US Trust 2014

“The modern American family is more diverse than it once was, adding to the challenges of wealth management for high-net worth investors and their advisors. Changing family structures and roles among multiple generations of immediate and extended family members affect the way family members interact, communicate  and manage their wealth”

Ranking the most important reasons for having an estate plan

US Trust 2014 Reasons for Estate Planning

How important are Financial Legacies ?

While 60% of those surveyed thought it was important that they leave a financial legacy, 96% of wealthy parents are concerned that their children will be mature enough to receive an inheritance until at least age 25 and 37% think the ideal age is between 30-34. That might explain why only 38% of wealthy parents have fully disclosed their financial status to adult children over age 25.

Executor choices

Perhaps some troubling challenges on the horizon?

  • More than 3/4 of those surveyed have named a family member or friend as executor
  • Most often, individuals name their spouse as an executor but…
  • Nearly a quarter of those surveyed had not yet chosen an executor or trustee
  • 22% have not named a trustee because they have not established a trust

Families and Friends as Executors US Trust 2014

Few consider capacity of executors

Executor challenges

There were many challenges noted by those that have served as an executor or trustee. The 2nd biggest challenge cited was…having access or knowledge relating to where the records and important information was kept.  We would suggest that this issue adds to the biggest challenge noted being, the time commitment of time require to execute a will. Time is money and time can also add to the grief already being experienced in the case of a loved one who has been named as executor which happens a majority of the time even in high net worth families.

 

US Trust 2014 Survey on Executors

Yes. LegacyTracker can help with some of these challenges; important documents & information is critical & so is the sharing of that information as required. Our built in alerts & reminders are all about ensuring that the proper documentation & information is safeguarded.

 

Read the full US Trust Survey US Trust 2014 survey on High Net worth individuals

 

 

Estate Mistake Amy Winehouse

Estate Mistakes – Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse was a controversial but talented British singer who died of accidental alcohol poisoning at the “too young” age of 27 in 2011. She also died “intestate,” meaning that she did not leave a valid will.  Her former spouse who she was quite close to at the time of her death received nothing. She might have wished it otherwise, but she left no will so her estate passed by law to her “natural heirs” as determined by law which did not include her ex-husband or her siblings. Instead, her divorced parents were entitled to the bulk of her estate and her Dad was appointed the administrator of her estate shortly after her death. It’s tragic enough to lose a child but being the administrator of your child’s estate adds to the grief.

Adding to the tragedy of her death is the fact that 3 years after Amy’s death her parents are still settling her accounts. They have been forced to use much of Amy’s wealth of some $7 million or so to settle bills and debts and taxes. Amy had 6 music companies to account for and her parents have taken out loans to cover the costs of dealing with her personal and business affairs. Sales of her music after her death should help their financial situation but as her Dad has noted “it’s been “an incredible drain on our resources. We had to have a lot of security and it cost us an absolute fortune”. 

A basic will or a trust, would have ensured that Amy Winehouse’s estate would be passed to the person of her choice which may or may not be the same as those designated by the default rules of the legislature. A basic will or trust might have also saved a lot of estate taxes by allowing assets to pass outside of probate via beneficiary designations and/or trusts. And…some basic organization to her estate might have saved her parents additional grief that comes with trying to track down details and settle final accounts.

 

Digital Assets – in Life and in Death

In our increasingly digital world, digital assets are adding up…the average digital user (like you) has an estimated $35,000 in digital assets 

Digital assets include purchased movies, music, games, digital photos, communications and social media profiles including blogs like this. Many of these digital accounts can be subject to complicated terms of service agreements, which can make it frustrating or impossible for  loved ones to access. Depending on where you live, such terms of service agreements might even put loved ones in legal trouble related to anti-hacking or privacy statutes, if they try to log on to your accounts after you die.

 

Estate Plans for Digital Assets are becoming more critical 

That’s why it’s important to include detailed directions and information about your digital assets into your estate plan and save those instructions somewhere safe (LegacyTracker provides a spot for that)

An estimated 30M Facebook users died in the first 8 years of Facebook alone 

A good visual guide about what happens to your social media profiles after death comes by way of Dan Shaffer at WebpageFX

The world is changing and this guide is not a definitive answer in all cases. Clearly, Different Sites / Different Rules / Different Data & Different Documentation is accumulated & required after death of you or a loved one.

Here’s some more Facebook Trivia:  with 1 billion users already using Facebook, in the unlikely event that growth stopped on Facebook completely, it’s estimated that the number of deceased users would outnumber those living by 2065. If Facebook continues to grow and memorialized accounts are never removed, then deceased users will exceed living users by 2130.

LegacyTracker can help you organize & safeguard important information about your digital assets -in life and death 

Digital Assets and Death

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Safeguard your family

Safeguard your family from What If scenarios

Talking about Money has historically been considered as “UnFun” but these days it’s critical. What’s even less fun than taking about Money? Money and Death.     Yes. Thinking through all of the unpleasantness that comes with death is considerably UnFun but being unprepared for a sudden or unexpected death in your family is even more so.

Statistics indicate that women will often outlive their husbands but that’s not always the case. We all know Stuff happens & that includes BAD Stuff. That’s why it’s important that each spouse take an active role in their household/family finances and know where stuff is and what they have.

Others have talked about this in their columns or blogs like the Blunt Bean Counter in his blog post “Stress Testing your Spouse’s Financial Readiness if you were to Die Suddenly” and Roma Luciw in her Globe and Mail Article Why you should stress-test your finances for a sudden death 

The bottom line is about safeguarding your family from additional grief & expense in an already stressful time by ensuring that both spouses have all the important information necessary to manage through such a time.

Let me say that I’m quite familiar with the kinds of scenarios that can occur when a death happens. As an Accountant, I have helped many overcome all sorts of challenges that have been brought about by an untimely death of a loved one (not that there is such a thing as a timely death)

I’m also quite personally aware of the stress that comes from being the “CFO of the family“. That would be the spouse that manages & holds all of the important details relating to the lives of your family. Your family might work that way as Lots of families do: One spouse is the CFO & manages all of the important financial/legal/estate paperwork & the other spouse operates (sometimes blissfully) unaware of all of those important details behind your household finances. It’s not a good position to be in no matter which role you have. As the CFO in my family, I still worry that my spouse is not going to know where everything is and whether he will “leave money on the table” It’s a pretty UnFun responsibility to be the one solely responsible for the “info”.

And now you know some of my personal secrets & some of my motivation behind LegacyTracker. it’s about ensuring that my family and yours have their important details of living life documented, safeguarded & shared with those who need to know. Details like:

  • Where the will and power of attorneys are
  • Having a readily available & accurate list of assets with account numbers & contact information
  • Having a current and comprehensive list of passwords for your digital assets and non-digital assets
  • Knowing the location of important legal agreements like income tax returns and real estate deeds
  • Knowing exactly how much insurance you have and who are your insurance contacts
  • Having the opportunity to write and share details about your final wishes/arrangements

Nothing can be left to chance.  It’s up to each of us to safeguard our financial legacies and that’s how LegacyTracker can help. That’s what we’re about.

 

2 Words best describe the need for a Power of Attorney

2 words about why you need a Power of Attorney – Casey Kasem

Casey Kasem POA

The dispute involving the famous but sadly ailing LA radio host, Casey Kasem provides clear evidence of the need for a power of attorney. Mr. Kasem is 82 and is suffering from a form of dementia (Lewy Body Disease) as well as Parkinson’s. His family meanwhile, has been embroiled in a very public ‘spat’ over his care which has included complaints by his 3 children from a prior marriage, that his current wife of 34 years has been denying access to them.

Last year, those children had filed a petition of conservatorship (or power of attorney) to gain control of their father’s health. But a judge denied the request.They claimed that his current wife, Jean Kasem, who had been in control of his medical care had also controlled access to him and had isolated him from his family and his friends.

Late last month, one of his daughters was appointed his temporary conservator after Mr. Kasem was reported missing. He was found 3 days later in Washington state. He is currently being treated in a Washington Hospital where he is in critical condition and the battle between his family about how best to treat Mr. Kasem is ongoing. While both his children and his current wife appear to have Mr. Kasem’s best interests in mind; they disagree about how he should be treated medically.

In Canada, power of Attorney is provincially legislated and enables someone either designated legally or by a court to become a substitute decision maker AFTER a person becomes incapacitated. While a power of attorney is the term used when an individual is appointed by that individual to act on their behalf; the term guardian is used when an individual is appointed by the court.

A power of attorney is quite different from a will. Some would argue it’s more important as it enables someone to look after your interests while you are still alive but incapacitated. It can also be more complicated. A person can be incapable of making one kind of decision but not for making a different kind of decision and sometimes that can change depending on whether or not capacity is diminishing or not. A power of attorney for property versus personal care can be different and responsibility can be provided to the same individual or different individuals.

With reference to Mr. Kasem’s case, In Ontario, one of the statutory obligations for someone acting as a power of attorney is to facilitate supportive relationships, they cannot deny access to relatives just because they don’t like them.

In all cases, it’s important to choose someone who you know to be trustworthy and capable who can take on such important responsibilities. It’s also important to document a power of attorney properly and to ensure that the document is available when needed.

We have included a place for safeguarding your power of attorney inside LegacyTracker and by doing so; we hope there is a better chance that you will attend to this important task if you haven’t already. And if you don’t have one yet and live in Ontario Canada, you can download a Power of Attorney Kit from the Ministry of the Attorney General’s website

POA Kit Ontario

Power of Attorney and Living Wills FAQ Ontario

Estate Mistakes – Ted Williams Baseball Legend

Estate Mistake: Document your final wishes & if you change those wishes – make the change formally & share the info so that information can be accessed quickly. Advanced Directives will help you outline those wishes between cremation, burial or something else as well as your medical care and end of life care

Baseball great Ted Williams by all accounts was a private person in life and it’s quite likely he wished to remain that way in death. Unfortunately, for Ted Williams, his Estate Plan also has become legend. In his will, Ted Williams said he wished to be cremated & his ashes sprinkled at sea off the coast of Florida.

However, a long-standing & bitter rivalry between his 3 children, Bobby-Jo, John Henry & Claudia made that impossible when the children from his 2nd marriage produced a grease-stained, handwritten note stating that he wished that his body be cryogenically frozen after his death. It was unclear if the handwritten note was written by Ted Williams or whether or not he had sufficient capacity to make that change to his final wishes.

His eldest daughter fought to have his body unfrozen and cremated, but gave up the fight when she ran out of money.  No one will ever know the truth behind the decisions made by or on behalf of Ted Williams-much has been written & is still being written about this particular case which was definitely not the intention of Ted Williams.

LegacyTracker helps families and individuals better prepare themselves for emergency situations that all happen to be on the rise including death, incapacity, Identity Theft, Natural and Physical Disasters. With the added feature of Alerts & Reminders, we hope LegacyTracker will help facilitate important family discussions that too many have put off, concerning estate planning and final wishes. The flexible sharing feature built into LegacyTracker allows individuals & families share any or all of their information with loved ones or Advisors.