The holidays are coming up on us quickly. Before we know it Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here, rushing us straight into the New Year. The holidays are my favorite time of year, even amidst the stress that we all know can accompany family gatherings of any kind, and I look forward every year to celebrating with my law firm team and my family.
The late Prince Rogers Nelson’s estate continues to make national news. Unfortunately, the reasons for this publicity are not positive and should serve as a strong cautionary tale for anyone who does not yet have good, state-specific estate planning in place. While Prince’s failure to plan provides many valuable lessons, I believe the following two are the most important.
My guess is that anyone who ever saw Robin Williams, a native Detroiter, loved his comedy, his spontaneity, and his ability to make us laugh. He was a master of improvisation and often reminded me of my other favorite comedian: Jonathan Winters, who was a huge influence on Robin Williams.
Sadly, both also fought mental illness. Regardless, they are both comedic geniuses and will be greatly missed because laughter is so important in all our lives.
“I just want a simple will.” As an attorney who has for the past twenty years focused a large part of her practice on estate planning, I cannot begin to count the number of times I have heard that statement from a new or prospective client. Regrettably, I likewise cannot begin to count the number of times I have reviewed wills prepared by other attorneys who, to the detriment of the clients and their loved ones, either followed that directive, or independently and erroneously concluded that a “simple will” would suffice.
Personal belongings often have special meaning for individuals and family members. Planning to pass on such items — treasured wedding photo, Grandpa’s fishing tackle box, or a well-used yellow pie plate — can be challenging, and may lead to family conflict.
Give to charity Another way to leave a legacy is by contributing money or the equivalent to a charitable cause that reflects your values.
You could create a meaningful gifting plan so your kids and grandkids will receive money while you’re alive, allowing you to watch them benefit from your generosity.
If you’ve made a will, your loved ones will get many of your tangible assets — your car, house, stereo and family heirlooms. But what about your digital property — email accounts, online stock options, photo-sharing sites, even your iTunes profile?
A will is essential — and these days it should include all your online accounts. The new Google Inactive Account Manager feature can also be a useful tool.
Here are five steps to help you create a digital estate plan:
Knowing that pets usually have shorter lifespans than humans, you may have planned for your animal friend’s passing.
But what if you are the one who becomes ill or incapacitated, or who dies first?
The death of comedienne Joan Rivers has left millions of fans mourning her loss. The acclaim is sincere: In her arena, the 81-year-old Rivers was a master whose career spanned half a century and represented a huge step forward for women in comedy.
And, when it came to making sure that her loved ones were provided for after she was gone, Rivers did a masterful job of taking care of her family — by no means a guarantee among the Hollywood set.
But interestingly, she (like her recently departed colleague, Robin Williams) has also left behind a valuable estate-planning lesson that millions could benefit from: In her case, how to ensure that your pets are cared for as you’d want after you die.