Modern Estate Planning Adapting to Legal and Digital Changes

The recent litigation surrounding Lisa Marie Presley’s estate underscores the critical importance of maintaining an up-to-date estate plan. Presley’s outdated estate plan led to a legal battle, highlighting how changes in family dynamics and personal circumstances can necessitate regular reviews and updates to ensure your wishes are honored and your assets are protected. A significant aspect of this dispute involved the ownership of Graceland, now owned by Lisa’s daughter, Riley Keough. Graceland remains a valuable asset worth an estimated $400-$500 million, emphasizing the need for clear and current estate planning See https://www.hellomagazine.com/homes/499783/riley-keough-owns-graceland-how-much-worth-today/

Many individuals create an estate plan and assume it is a one-time task. However, numerous factors can render an estate plan obsolete. Changes in family dynamics, financial situations, and state or federal laws can all impact the effectiveness of your estate plan. See https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2024/02/14/why-so-many-estate-plans-are-out-of-date-jamie-hopkins/

What changes can necessitate an estate plan update?

  • Family Changes: Life events such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or the death of a beneficiary require adjustments to your estate plan. Failing to update your plan can lead to unintended consequences, such as assets being distributed to the wrong individuals or loved ones being overlooked.
  • Financial Changes: Significant changes in your financial situation, such as acquiring new assets, selling property, or changes in the value of your investments, necessitate a review of your estate plan to ensure it accurately reflects your current financial status and intentions.
  • Legal Changes: The legal landscape for estate planning is continually evolving. According to Family Wealth Report, recent legislative changes can significantly impact estate planning strategies, especially concerning taxes and asset protection. Staying informed about these changes and consulting with an estate planning attorney is essential to maintaining an effective estate plan.

What are digital assets and how do they impact estate planning?

What are the steps to include digital assets in your estate plan?

  • Inventory Your Digital Assets: Create a comprehensive list of your digital assets, including login information, passwords, and security questions. This inventory should cover email accounts, social media profiles, online banking, cryptocurrency, and any other digital properties.
  • Appoint a Digital Executor: Designate someone trustworthy and tech-savvy to manage your digital assets. This person should have clear instructions on how to handle each asset, whether it involves transferring ownership, closing accounts, or archiving data.
  • Document Your Wishes: Clearly outline your preferences for managing your digital assets. This can include instructions for social media profiles, online subscriptions, and digital financial accounts. Make sure these instructions are legally documented and accessible to your digital executor.

Contact a California Estate Planning Attorney

Keeping your estate plan current requires regular reviews and updates. Partnering with an experienced estate planning attorney can help ensure that your plan adapts to changes in your life and the law. At the Law Office of David Knecht, we offer personal advice, legal experience and ongoing support. Contact us at 707-451-4502.

The Danger of Declining Estate Planning Rates

Do you have an estate plan? If not, you are not alone, and you may be responding to the latest trends affecting Americans and their estate planning practices. Statistics show that Americans are responding to financial trends including income inequality and rising inflation, and these factors are having an impact on estate planning nationwide.

This article will discuss the statistics and trends and potential impact these may have, with information derived from Caring.com’s 2024 Wills and Estate Planning Survey and an article about the danger of declining estate planning rates originally published by Forbes. See https://www.caring.com/caregivers/estate-planning/wills-survey/ and https://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewerskine/2024/03/20/the-danger-of-declining-estate-planning-rates/?sh=2db3b6924e33

What are the main estate planning trends?

  • As reported in a survey by Caring.com, for the first time since 2020, the number of Americans with a will has declined.
  • Only 32% of Americans have an estate plan in 2024.
  • security for loved ones.
  • For business owners, estate planning ensures business continuity.
  • For art lovers, a plan can preserve the value of art collections.
  • Estate planning can minimize taxes, preserve your legacy and facility philanthropic goals
  • Estate planning can involve more than financial assets.
    • It can control healthcare decisions
    • Designate what happens with your digital and social media assets
    • Provide guidance on how children are looked after in the event of an emergency

What can you do to address these estate planning concerns?

  • The obvious first step is to get your own affairs in order. At the Law Office of David Knecht, we have extensive experience in all aspects of estate planning, and we can help make this process easy. To get started or to freshen up a preexisting plan, contact us today at 707-451-4502.
  • Talk to friends and family. If you estate plan is prepared, talk to your loved ones about how they can get steps to be prepared for the future.
  • Get involved in your community and talk about estate planning with new friends and associates. You can look for opportunities to serve in local communities, on sites such as https://www.cityofvacaville.gov/i-want-to/volunteer

Estate Planning Does Not Have to Be Intimidating

Estate planning can be complicated and it does involve facing the inevitable occurrence of your passing on, but it does not have to be intimidating. All it takes to get started is one call to your estate planning attorney, and we will help you do the rest.

  • This is a 6% decline from last year.
  • 40% of people without a will attribute that to not having enough assets to leave to anyone.
  • The study found 16% notable decline among lower-income Americans.

What are other surprising niche trends?

  • Around 85% of successful business owners have outdated estate plans.
    • This can potentially lead to unintended consequences due to changes in tax law and personal circumstances.
  • Only about 10% of ultra-high net worth individuals with significant art collections have planned for their transfer.
    • This can potentially risk disputes among heirs or mismanagement of the collection.

Why is estate planning important?

  • Estate planning is crucial for distributing assets as to one’s wishes and providing financial security for loved ones.
  • For business owners, estate planning ensures business continuity.
  • For art lovers, a plan can preserve the value of art collections.
  • Estate planning can minimize taxes, preserve your legacy and facility philanthropic goals
  • Estate planning can involve more than financial assets.
    • It can control healthcare decisions
    • Designate what happens with your digital and social media assets
    • Provide guidance on how children are looked after in the event of an emergency

What can you do to address these estate planning concerns?

  • The obvious first step is to get your own affairs in order. At the Law Office of David Knecht, we have extensive experience in all aspects of estate planning, and we can help make this process easy. To get started or to freshen up a preexisting plan, contact us today at 707-451-4502.
  • Talk to friends and family. If you estate plan is prepared, talk to your loved ones about how they can get steps to be prepared for the future.
  • Get involved in your community and talk about estate planning with new friends and associates. You can look for opportunities to serve in local communities, on sites such as https://www.cityofvacaville.gov/i-want-to/volunteer

Estate Planning Does Not Have to Be Intimidating

Estate planning takes some time, and it does involve facing the inevitable occurrence of your passing on, but it does not have to be intimidating. All you need to get started is one call to your estate planning attorney, and we will help you do the rest.

Will My Roth IRA Heirs Have to Take Annual Distributions?

A Roth IRA is one of the many estate planning tools because of some of the tax advantages that apply. This article summarizes information about how Roth IRA’s can be a powerful investment tool both while you are alive and as a mechanism to transfer assets after you pass on. 

What is a Roth IRA?

  • A Roth IRA is an Individual Retirement Account to which you contribute after-tax dollars. While there are no current-year tax benefits, your contributions and earnings can grow tax-free, and you can withdraw them tax-free and penalty free after age 59½ and once the account has been open for five years. 

Why is a Roth IRA beneficial for heirs?

  • Many are happy to find out that heirs get to inherit your Roth IRA tax-free. This is quite the advantage compared to a traditional IRA or 401(k) where withdrawals made by heirs are taxed. In other words, you get to pass your Roth IRA benefits directly down to your heirs. 

Are there specific benefits for a spouse beneficiary of a Roth IRA?

  • Yes, spouses who inherit a Roth IRA have several advantageous options. 
    • If they are the sole beneficiary, they can be the account owner and avoid required minimum distributions (RMD’s) during their lifetime. 
    • If they are not the sole beneficiary, they can roll over their portion of the assets into an inherited or beneficiary IRA and stretch RMD’s out over their life expectancy. 
    • Roth distributions are tax free if the account has been open for at least five years.

 Will my non-spouse IRA heirs have to take RMD’s?

  • This question was asked and answered on nj.com, and the answer was “A non-spousal beneficiary must begin taking RMDs on the basis of his/her life expectancy by Dec. 31 of the year after the owner’s death.

Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Lawyer

There are many estate planning tools such as the Roth IRA to effectuate beneficial growth and tax treatment in life and for the heirs after your death. At the Law Office of David Knecht, we have extensive experience helping clients with estate planning and can help you make a plan that is just right for you and your loved ones. Contact us at 707-451-4502. 



Anne Heche, Another Celebrity Estate Planning Lesson, Dies Without a Will

A recent celebrity death can provide insightful estate planning lessons. Anne Heche, who is often known for starring in the movie “Seven Days Seven Nights” along with Harrison Ford, died without a will. As reported by Fox News, the actress died in August in a car crash, leaving behind two sons, one an adult and one a minor. Homer Lafoon, the 20 year old son, has filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court to be named as administrator to her estate. News reports indicated that the crash resulted in severe anoxic brain injury before receiving medical care as she waited for the opportunity to donate her organs. The family indicated that she was “peacefully taken off life support” on Sunday August 14, 2022, after being declared brain-dead.

Estate Planning Lessons to Be Learned from this Untimely Celebrity Passing

It’s never too early to start working on your estate plan.

  • Anne was just 53 year old and likely assumed she had many years ahead.
  • Since Anne did not have a will, her son, who is only 20, has been asked to be named as administrator of her estate. This responsibility may be burdensome for him at his age. Lafoon has also requested to be named guardian ad litem over his thirteen year old half brother.

Dying without an estate plan can lead to uncertainty.

  • For Anne Heche’s estate, the lack of a will may result in an opportunity for controversy, and it may take extra time to identify an executor. Identify the heirs-at-law can also be challenging.
  • For example, Homer Lafoon, her son, has requested to be named as administrator, but it may be that another relative, such as Heche’s mother, may request to step in.

If you have a minor child, you can request a guardian.  

  • The self-help resources at courts.ca.gov provide detailed information about guardianship.
  • You can name a guardian for your children to guide the court as to your wishes, and if both parents are dead, then the court will consider what is best for your children and ask what they want.
  • If you have an incurable illness, you can ask the court to appoint a join guardian for your child, which will give you the peace of mind to know that when you die, the joint guardian will have full custody of your child without additional hearings.

Consult the Law Office of David Knecht

Celebrity deaths provide a wake-up call for all of us that we never know when our time will come. It’s rarely an easy or convenient time to consider estate planning, but making a priority of planning for the future can lead to a greater peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones.  Contact Law Office of David Knecht at 707-451-4502. We have extensive experience in estate planning and can help you make decisions that are right for your family.

5 Important Estate Planning Documents to Have in Place During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The unfortunate reality of the current global pandemic is that anyone can find themselves sick in the hospital and possibly no longer able to make their own financial or medical decisions. Because of this, the last thing that anyone wants is to become incapacitated without the proper estate planning documents in place.

Read on to discover what we consider the five most essential documents you should either create or update during the current COVID-19 outbreak to protect yourself, your property, and your loved ones.

Will:

 

Your will is the legal document that instructs how to distribute your assets after your death and appoints guardians for any dependents or minor children. Dying without a will leaves your assets and property in the hands of your state’s laws.

It is also recommended that you review all beneficiary designations for retirement plans and life insurance to ensure that they are current.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

It’s essential to authorize someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf in case of a medical emergency that leaves you incapacitated and unable to communicate your own wishes. A durable power of attorney for health care permits you to make such an authorization.

Living Will:

 

A living will is sometimes called an advance care directive. This document outlines the kind of medical care you want if you are terminally ill. For instance, you can make it known whether you want to be kept alive on life-support systems, such as a respirator or feeding tube. You can also include instructions for organ donation.

Durable Financial Power of Attorney:

 

You also may want to make sure that your family has some kind of access to your finances in order to pay bills and medical expenses if you are unable to do so on your own. That’s why another important document to prepare is your financial power of attorney. This document gives someone the authority to handle financial transactions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.

HIPAA Authorization: 

 

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) sets federal privacy rules for medical records. However, if you’re hospitalized, you may want your spouse, children, or other close relatives to be able to communicate freely with doctors and nurses and find out how you’re doing. That’s why you may want a release document for records authorizing certain people to have rights to disclosure of your medical records.

Contact Us:

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to actively spread through California, make sure you have the above documents in place and up-to-date, especially if you are an individual at high-risk of serious illness or death from Coronavirus.

David Knecht has extensive experience preparing Wills, Living Trusts, Durable Powers of Attorney, and Advance Health Care Directives to meet your estate planning needs. Contact David Knecht Law at 707-451-4502 today to learn more about these documents or schedule an estate planning consultation.