I never thought I would be old enough to say this, but I long for the good old days. Like the 1920’s—well before I was born, and before most of the people alive today were born.
I long for the days when after Grandpa died, Grandma sat down with the local lawyer and discussed what needed to be done to handle the dearly departed’s financial affairs. More often than not, that meant going to probate court.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not about to start extolling the virtues of probate court, with its complex rules and laws. I’m not about to advocate for more costs, more delays or more hassles. Quite frankly, I can understand why more and more people are taking steps to avoid probate court. But things have gotten out of hand!
What I long for is a time when a person’s estate plan could be simple. I’m afraid those days are long behind us, though. Now, a person might have a last will which leaves all his worldly possessions to his children. But that will doesn’t control who gets his IRA, which has his daughter named as beneficiary, or his life insurance, which names his grandchildren as beneficiaries. It also doesn’t apply to his home where he has signed a beneficiary deed excluding his daughter—she is getting the IRA, after all.
It doesn’t apply to his brokerage account, which has his son as a joint owner, or to his favorite car, which is going to his buddy through a beneficiary form. It doesn’t even apply to his checking account, where the payable on death beneficiary is another son.
So what does the will control? Probably very little. To make matters worse, if the nearly deceased wants to change his estate plan, instead of simply visiting with his attorney and revising the will, he needs to first stop at the IRA custodian’s office, talk with his life insurance company, revoke the beneficiary deed at the county offices, sign new forms with his broker, wait in line at the motor vehicle department and finally meet with his banker.
It’s no wonder so many estate plans are “messed up”—a legal term which means you’re gonna pay a lot of money to an attorney to fix things, and even then you won’t like the outcome. Consider the case of Warren Hillman, who forgot to change the beneficiary of his life insurance after he divorced. I’m sure his new wife, Jacqueline, wasn’t too happy when Warren’s ex-wife ended up with the money.
Bruce Friedman wasn’t happy either when his sister-in-law ended up with almost $1 million from his late wife’s annuity. Although Bruce and Anne were happily married for almost 20 years, Anne’s sister walked away with the money, leaving Bruce destitute.
The simple solution is not more options with landmines for the unwary. Instead, a revocable living trust, properly drafted and properly funded, can avoid these problems and more. Whether a revocable living trust is right for you is another topic for another day, but for many people, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”
So maybe I don’t long for the 1920’s. I like TV and cars that go faster than 20 miles an hour too much to turn the clock back a century. But even today, estate planning can still be simple, if done correctly. And while Grandma still needs to meet with her lawyer, Grandpa’s ex isn’t going to walk away with the money.
What the Attorneys of Morris Hall Can Do For You:
The attorneys at Morris Hall have 100’s of years of combined experience ensuring that families’ assets are protected from probate, unnecessary taxes, creditors, ex-spouses and Medicaid spend-down. The attorneys also help those in Arizona and New Mexico to apply for and receive Medicaid assistance and Veterans Benefits. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Cave Creek, Tucson, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead. Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe. Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.