Will Changes

How Do I Change My Will?

Many people have wills that were drafted years ago. Now they want to leave some specific items to someone who was not included when their original will was drafted. Making changes to a will doesn’t have to be complicated says nj.com’s recent article, “Does my dad need to pay money to get a new will?” However, making changes on your own can cause trouble for the executor if not done correctly.

How do I change my will?
Making simple changes to a will isn’t difficult as long as the correct procedure is followed.

Many times making changes to a will is as simple as creating a written list that disposes of tangible personal property, not otherwise identified and directly disposed of in the original will.

The list must either be in the testator’s handwriting or it can be typewritten, but it must be signed and dated by the testator. This list also must describe the item and the recipient clearly.

This list can be amended or revoked. It should be kept with the will or given to the executor, so he or she knows about it and can ensure it is followed.

It would not be in the interest of the executor and may be perceived as a breach of fiduciary duty to honor such a list and make such a distribution, if the beneficiaries named in the will object. No one wants to cause a fight over the items on the list, after the parent is gone.

Although this kind of change to your will can be done on your own, it would be much wiser to invest in having the items added to a revised will to protect your wishes. If some of the beneficiaries got into a quarrel over the items on the list, it could result in a family fight that a properly drafted and executed revision or amendment could easily prevent.

Reference: nj.com (October 14, 2019) “Does my dad need to pay money to get a new will?”

Why Would I Need to Update My Will?

OK, great!! You’ve created your will! Now you can it stow away and check off a very important item on your to-do list. Well, that’s mostly correct.  You’ll still need to update your will from time-to-time.

Update your will
Your will should be reviewed every 3 to 5 years and updated as your life changes.

Thrive Global’s recent article, “7 Reasons Why You Need to Review your Will Right Now,” says it’s extremely important that you regularly update your will to avoid any potential confusion and extra stress for your family at a very emotional time. As circumstances change and major life events take place (like the birth of a child or grandchild, the purchase of a home, or retirement, to name just a few), you need to update your will reflect changes in your life. As time passes and your situation changes, your will may become outdated, obsolete or even create confusion when the time comes for your will to be administered.

New people in your life. If you do have more children after you’ve created your will, review your estate plan to make certain that the wording accounts for your new children. You may also marry or re-marry, and grandchildren may be born that you want to include. Make a formal update to your estate plan to include the new people who play an important part in your life and to remove those with whom you lose touch.

A beneficiary or other person passes away. If a person you had designated as a beneficiary or personal representative of your will has died, you must make a change or it could result in confusion, when the time comes for your estate to be distributed. You need to update your will, if an individual named in your estate passes away before you.

Divorce. If your will was created prior to a divorce, and you want to remove your ex from your estate plan, talk to an estate planning attorney about the changes you need to make.

Your spouse dies. Wills should be written in such a way as to always have a backup plan in place. For example, if your husband or wife dies before you do, their portion of your estate might go to another family member or another named individual. If this happens, you may want to redistribute your assets to other people.

A child becomes an adult. When a child turns 18 and comes of age, she is no longer a dependent.  Therefore, you may need to update your will in any areas that provided additional funds for any dependents.

You experience a change in your financial situation. This is a great opportunity to update your will to protect your new financial situation.

You change your mind. It’s your will, and you can change your mind whenever you like.

Reference: Thrive Global (June 17, 2019) “7 Reasons Why You Need to Review your Will Right Now”

Why Do I Need an Estate Plan?

Investopedia’s recent article, “4 Reasons Estate Planning Is So Important,” says you should think about the following four reasons you should have an estate plan. According to the article, doing so can help avoid potentially devastating consequences for your family.

  1. An Estate Plan Keeps Your Assets from Going to Unintended Beneficiaries. A primary part of estate planning is choosing heirs for your assets. Without an estate plan, a judge will decide who gets your assets. This process can take years and can get heated. There’s no guarantee the judge will automatically rule that the surviving spouse gets everything.
  2. An Estate Plan Protects Your Young Children. If you are the parent of minor children, you need to name their guardians, in the event that both parents die before the children turn 18. Without including this in your will, the courts will make this decision.
  3. An Estate Plan Eliminates a Large Tax Burden for Your Heirs. Estate planning means protecting your loved ones—that also entails providing them with protection from the IRS. Your estate plan should transfer assets to your heirs and create the smallest tax burden as possible for them. Without a plan, the amount your heirs may owe the government could be substantial.
  4. An Estate Plan Reduces Family Headaches After You’ve Passed. There are plenty of horror stories about how the family starts fighting after the death of a loved one. You can avoid this. One way is to carefully choose who controls your finances and assets, if you become mentally incapacitated or after you die. This goes a long way towards eliminating family strife and making certain that your assets are handled in the way you want.

If you want to protect your assets and your loved ones after you’re gone, you need an estate plan. Without one, your heirs could face large tax burdens and the courts could decide how your assets are divided or even who will care for your children.

Reference: Investopedia (May 25, 2018) “4 Reasons Estate Planning Is So Important”

Estate Battle Shifts into High Gear Between Truck Dealership Owner’s Widow and Sons

The company posted $172 million in profit on $4.7 billion in revenue in 2017.

Marvin Rush II founded, what is now the biggest commercial truck dealership chain in North America. Lawsuits are now flying, between his third wife and his son, who claims that his father was incapacitated when new wills were created.

Marvin-rush-chairman-emeritus*750xx760-428-0-46The dispute over the estate of W. Marvin Rush II, between his wife Barbara Rush and his son, W.M. “Rusty” Rush lll, has led to both parties filing lawsuits.

The San Antonio Express-News reports in its article, “Dueling wills filed over late truck dealer Marvin Rush’s estate,” that chief among the assets at stake is most of Marvin’s stock in Rush Enterprises. That’s the business he founded, grew, and later took public. There are now more than 100 Rush Truck Centers in 22 states, and shares in the company are worth about $74 million. The company posted $172 million in profit on $4.7 billion in revenue in 2017. It employs nearly 7,000 workers.

Rusty claims those shares belong to him, based on his father’s 2006 will. Barbara says her husband of 26 years revoked that will, when he made a new one in May 2013 and then another in November 2013. The 2013 wills don’t have any specific bequest of Marvin’s shares, so Barbara says they’re part of his residuary estate. She’s the sole beneficiary.

Rusty alleges that his dad suffered from dementia, when he signed the 2013 wills. Barbara disagrees.

Marvin’s obituary said that in “his last few years” he battled Lewy Body Dementia, which can have a range of symptoms. They include problems with thinking, memory, moving and changes in behaviors.

Rusty filed his opposition to probating either of the 2013 wills. He said that the onset of his father’s dementia was at least five to eight years prior to his death, “thus placing Mr. Rush’s mental capacity in doubt from May 2010 onward.”

Marvin completely disinherited Rusty in the 2013 wills. They will stated, “I do not wish to make any provision hereunder for my son William Maurice Rush, III, or any of his descendants.”

Barbara was named the executor of Marvin’s estate in the 2006 will and in each of the 2013 wills.

The two 2013 wills, which cut Rusty out of any inheritance, “represented a dramatic departure from (Marvin’s) long-standing estate plan of leaving his shares of Stock in Rush Enterprises to his son Rusty,” Rusty’s filing states.

“These wills were also executed shortly after Mr. Rush, apparently with the encouragement of his wife, Barbara, had formed an irrational belief that his son Rusty was somehow ‘at fault’ when the Board of Directors insisted that Mr. Rush step down as Chairman of the Board in May of 2013,” Rusty’s filing continues.

Barbara challenges Rusty’s argument, saying that the 2013 wills were prepared by a law firm and signed by two witnesses.

Barbara’s argument is that if Marvin truly lacked capacity or was being subjected to undue influence by her, when the will was made in May 2013, then how was it possible that Rusty, who was the CEO and president of Rush Enterprises could have entered into a “Retirement and Transition Agreement” with his father at that time?

Expect this to be a long, drawn out estate battle.

Reference: San Antonio Express-News (August 24, 2018) “Dueling wills filed over late truck dealer Marvin Rush’s estate”

A Partial Checklist for Your Will

Having a will prepared is a gift of kindness to your loved ones. They will appreciate the effort to care for them, after you’ve passed on.

Having a will prepared is a gift of kindness to your loved ones. They will appreciate the effort to care for them, after you’ve passed on.

Th (2)If you need another reason to have a will prepared, consider the potential for conflict among loved ones who will have to guess about what your wishes were during a very difficult time. You can spare them that distress, by preparing your will and estate plan in advance.

US News & World Report’s article, “10 Steps to Writing a Will,”says that if you've been procrastinating on completing the task, here's your opportunity to cross it off your list. You can get going with these simple steps.

  1. Do-it-yourself? You can use online software to help you write your will.However, there are many horror stories of people who wrote their own wills with devastating consequences. Consider the late Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger. Wouldn’t you think he, of all people, could write a will? Nope. His will was just 450 words and had a ton of errors. His family spent a fortune in legal fees and had to pay more than $450,000 in taxes to collect their assets. Work with an experienced estate planning attorney. He or she will know how to help you efficiently and effectively.
  2. Beneficiaries.When you pass away, your beneficiaries will receive your assets. Be sure that this list is up-to-date.
  3. Executor. In Florida the Executor is referred to as the Personal Representative.This individual will make sure the wishes in your will are carried out. The key here is making sure you select a person who’s responsible. (They’ll be working with a probate attorney, so they don’t need any special knowledge of the law).
  4. Guardian.If you have minor children, you need to designate a friend or family member as a guardian. Check out Mastry Law’s free Parent’s Guide for lots more information on this topic.
  5. Be specific.Don’t be vague in your will and think everyone will know what you want. If you leave your will open to interpretation, it may end up in court.
  6. Be realistic.Even if you want to distribute your assets fairly, it still isn't easy. It’s best to talk to your heirs about your assets. Tell them that if they have their eye on anything other than house and cars, to let you know so you can write that down and make sure they get it when you die. This gives them some input.
  7. Witnesses.Be sure you have the witnesses required to sign your will. They can't be people who stand to inherit anything in the will. Witnesses also need to be at least 18 years old, and ideally, they'll be people who are likely to be around after you’re gone. That’s because if something’s amiss, and your will is contested in court, the judge may want to call a witness to testify.
  8. Keep your will safe.Be sure that someone you trust knows the location of your will, as well as any other important papers and passwords to financial institutions. Keep the original copy somewhere secure.
  9. Keep your will up to date.Major events, like the birth of a child, death, divorce, remarriage, moving to a new state, are all reasons to update your will. This year’s new tax laws may present opportunities that you don’t want to miss out on.

Reference: US News & World Report (June 19, 2018) “10 Steps to Writing a Will”

Not Just Your Will Needs to be Updated: Beneficiary Designations

You can update your will twenty times, but if you don’t change the beneficiary designations, the unwanted consequences could be awful for your loved ones.

You can update your will twenty times, but if you don’t change the beneficiary designations, the unwanted consequences could be awful for your loved ones.

MP900442211It happens more than you’d think: a husband thinks he has made all the necessary provisions for his second wife. Then he dies, and during the process of settling his estate, the first wife becomes the recipient of an extremely generous life insurance policy. The ex-spouse is planning a long trip to Europe, while the current spouse can’t do a thing about it.

As WMUR explains in its recent article, “Money Matters: The trump card of estate planning,”depending on state law, beneficiary designations can be the trump card of estate planning. In almost all cases under this scenario, the ex-wife will receive the life insurance proceeds.

That’s why assigning and regularly reviewing your beneficiary designations is a critical part of estate planning. Remember that assets for which beneficiary designations trump wills or estate directives include the following:

  • Individual and Group Life Insurance;
  • Traditional and Roth IRAs
  • Qualified Retirement Plans and 401(k)s;
  • Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs);
  • Contractual rights under deferred compensation plans; and
  • Employment contracts

It’s vital to remember that a change to your will or your trust doesn’t automatically make changes to all your assets listed in those documents.

Beneficiary designations are effective immediately after death.  Since they override any instructions made in your will, those assets won’t have to go through probate. Be certain that your beneficiary designations are updated and coordinated with your overall estate plan. It’s a good idea to review and update them, after any major life event like a marriage, divorce, or the birth or adoption of a child.

Don’t forget to name contingent beneficiaries as well. If the primary beneficiary passes way, or if you die at the same time, that way you can be sure that the proceeds from the accounts go to the secondary or contingent beneficiaries. This is especially important, if your beneficiaries are over age 50.

Reference: WMUR (April 5, 2018)“Money Matters: The trump card of estate planning”

Tom Benson Excludes Daughter and Grandchildren from his Will

The last will of multi-millionaire Tom Benson, who owned several professional sports teams and other businesses, did not include his daughter and her children

Before he died, the owner of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans gave millions of dollars of property to his daughter and her children, but they were not included in his last will and testament.

Tom-BensonThe last will of multi-millionaire Tom Benson, who owned several professional sports teams and other businesses, did not include his daughter and her children, according to an article from KPVI,“Though excluded from his will, Tom Benson's daughter and grandchildren received much from family patriarch.”

Following Benson's death, court records indicate that his third wife Gayle became the sole beneficiary of an estate controlling New Orleans' NFL and NBA franchises, as well as the Dixie Brewing Co. There were other valuable businesses or properties in the estate: three car dealerships, the site of Benson Tower and Champions Square, a $3.6 million Uptown mansion, a racing stable and a parking lot used by fans attending Saints or Pelicans games.

As the will reads, daughter Renee Benson, granddaughter Rita LeBlanc, and grandson Ryan LeBlanc received nothing further. They were parties in a complex, two-year court battle that began in 2015 after a falling out with Benson. The three were left with control of three car dealerships, bank branches and a hunting ranch in and around San Antonio.

Louisiana law allows relatives up to five years to decide whether they want to challenge the validity of a will. The allegations are typically that the deceased was either mentally incapacitated or subject to undue influence in making the will.

 However, the estate planning attorney who helped Benson prepare his will, Paul Cordes Jr., said he’s confident the document would survive a challenge. Benson’s will was drafted only a few weeks after a New Orleans judge found Benson was mentally fit enough to handle his own affairs, which Renee and her children had denied in a lawsuit filed in 2015.

Although Gayle is the sole beneficiary of her late husband's estate, Saints and Pelicans President Dennis Lauscha is the administrator. All of Benson's property was placed in a trust, the governing terms of which haven't been made public.

When Gayle passes away—she’s now 71—it is likely that there will be trust rules that will direct the line of succession. Gayle has no children of her own. But we won’t know what those rules are unless very specific circumstances occur. Sounds like Benson did some good estate planning.

Reference: KPVI (March 19, 2018) “Though excluded from his will, Tom Benson's daughter and grandchildren received much from family patriarch”

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