Back in 1987, Congress recognized March as Women's History Month to celebrate the incredible contributions of women in American history across various fields. From building a strong and prosperous nation to being the backbone of their families, women have been unstoppable. Yet, in the midst of caring for others, women often neglect their own financial and estate planning. It's high time for women to prioritize themselves by crafting a solid plan that caters to their future needs, which may differ from those of their male counterparts and dependents.
Longer life expectancies. According to Social Security Administration data, in 2021, women had an average life expectancy of 79.5 years compared to 74.2 years for men. As a result, it is important for women to create an estate plan that accounts for additional years of living expenses during retirement, healthcare costs, and possibly long-term care costs. As women age, there may be a greater possibility that they could become incapacitated and need someone to act on their behalf to make financial and healthcare decisions. Documents such as financial and healthcare powers of attorney and living wills authorize a person they trust to make decisions or take action for them if they are not able to act for themselves. Some women may not only own their own assets but also inherit wealth from both their parents and a spouse who dies before them, and if so, they need a financial and estate plan to optimally preserve and transfer this wealth. Because women may outlive their spouses, they also may be responsible for administering their spouse’s estate or become the sole surviving trustee of a joint trust. These duties may be difficult for a woman who is experiencing health issues that often occur at an advanced age, and this possibility should be addressed in their estate planning. For example, a woman concerned that she will be unable to handle administering her trust at an advanced age can name a co-trustee or successor trustee to administer it if she is no longer able to do so.
Lower earnings. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, women continue to earn less than men, and the pay gap widens as they age. In addition, because some women have shorter employment histories due to time off to raise children or care for aging parents, they may have less saved for retirement. As a result, it is important for them to take steps to protect their money and property from lawsuits or creditors’ claims. For example, a woman could transfer her money and property to an irrevocable trust. Because she is no longer the legal owner of the property, a creditor cannot reach it to satisfy claims against her so long as the trust is properly drafted to include appropriate distribution standards and administrative and other provisions. The woman may be a discretionary beneficiary of the trust, and the trustee may distribute the funds she needs for living expenses. Additionally, because they have less money and property during their retirement, women need to have a solid plan in place to make sure that they are able to financially provide for their loved ones upon their death and that unnecessary costs and expenses are minimized to the extent possible.
Care for loved ones. Many women are caregivers for minor children, adult children with special needs, or aging parents. As a result, they are often concerned about who will care for their loved ones if they are no longer able to do so. If a spouse or sibling is not available to provide care, they need to make sure that another family member or trusted individual can be the caregiver (sometimes called a guardian of the person) for their loved one. The same individual—or someone else—can serve as the guardian of the loved one’s estate (sometimes called a conservator or guardian of the estate) to manage the inheritance for their benefit. In the case of a child with special needs, if no family member is able to take on the responsibility of their care, a group home or assisted living facility may be the best choice. A special needs trust may need to be established to ensure that funds are available for the child’s care but do not decrease the amount of government benefits they are eligible to receive.
You have accomplished a lot in your life! Celebrate your accomplishments and contributions during Women’s History Month by contacting us to set up an appointment to create an estate plan that provides for your own future needs and those of the people you love. You deserve the peace of mind that comes with knowing your future is secure.
In October 2022, singer and songwriter Jerry Lee Lewis passed away. He left behind a rock legacy, a big family, and an estate valued in the multi-millions.
We often follow the lives of celebrities and dream of having their lavish lifestyles. Even so, famous folks experience many similar estate planning challenges just like the rest of us. This includes implementing the optimal tax strategy, as well as distributing assets to loved ones when deceased.
Lewis’s passing has prompted many to look back fondly at his music career. Aside from that though, it begs the question: what will shake out with his sizable estate? Let’s play “what if” in the following estate planning scenarios and see which lessons can be learned for celebrities and regular folks alike:
Jerry Lee Lewis lived a long life, passing at the old age of 87. Like other rock icons of the last century (Elvis, Johnny Cash), Lewis’s lifestyle put hard miles on him. Even though he engaged in substance abuse and experienced health problems, he outlived other leading rockers and was deemed “the last man standing from the dawn of rock and roll” by New York Magazine.
You likely have heard his greatest hit, “Great Balls of Fire”, but Lewis had a variety of other hits that earned him four Grammy wins. Lewis was inducted into both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Country Music Hall of Fame. His music career spanned for an astounding seven decades, and he produced over forty albums.
At his death, Lewis left behind his seventh wife, Judith Coglan Lewis, and four of the six surviving children from his marriages. In the years preceding his death, a feud ensued between Lewis and his daughter, Phoebe, and her husband, Ezekiel Loftin. Lewis sued the Phoebe and her husband in 2017 for taking advantage of his financial status. Charges were later dropped.
Lewis had his fair share of financial missteps, filing for bankruptcy in 1988. The filing included more than $3 million in debts. This came from over $2 million in IRS dues, unpaid medical bills, and tens of thousands in attorney fees. Still, his net worth at the time of his death was estimated to be in the range of $10 million and $15.4 million.
As professional estate planning attorneys, we evaluate the life and legacy of Jerry Lee Lewis through the perspective of our field of expertise. While his tumultuous and fast-paced lifestyle may not align with our personal experiences, we recognize the valuable insight it provides in regards to common estate planning issues. In this discourse, we will address several issues related to Lewis's estate that are particularly noteworthy.
Based on what we know about Lewis’s relationship with his daughter, Phoebe, it is likely that he will remove her from any consideration to receive a portion of his assets. Mississippi law permits individuals to disinherit beneficiaries under a legitimate basis. However, it is worth noting that Phoebe has established her own career in the music industry and has done quite well for herself, potentially rendering any inheritance unnecessary.
The distribution of assets for his remaining children is yet to be determined. While most parents opt for equal distribution of assets among their children, the unique circumstances of the Lewis family dynamic require analysis of what is equal versus what is fair.
We can take lessons away from the Lewis family and apply them to our own situation. Each child has financial needs unique to their lives. While some are able to obtain financial freedom, others may struggle. A family’s financial picture can change for better or for worse between the birth of children as well. For instance, a younger child might enjoy a slightly more affluent lifestyle than the older siblings, simply because their parents have worked their way to a better career milestone and are making more money now than they were. This is why dividing assets equally within an estate plan is not always the fairest method for all parties.
Will He Transfer Assets to His Surviving Spouse?
Lewis was married a staggering seven times, and each came with their own controversies. His seventh wife was by his bedside upon his death. Will he distribute assets to her?
In the case that Lewis did not have a will in place, intestate law would take effect. This would automatically make his spouse the primary beneficiary. It’s not a far off scenario – about two thirds of American adults fail to compose a will. Rock icons can fall into this category if they fail to do some basic estate planning before death.
In the case that Lewis did have a will, he still could have left his entire estate, or a portion, to the surviving wife. If he just left a portion, those assets could be given to her as a lump sum, or distributed over time under the management of the estate’s trustee.
Lewis also would have had options deciding the type of trust set up. The pros and cons of these different types are as follows:
Even though death and taxes are certain in life, estate taxes may not fall into this category. It all depends on the breadth of the estate at Lewis’s death, and the amount of the lifetime exemption used.
The lifetime gift and estate tax exemption denotes the maximum amount of wealth that an individual can pass on to their heirs without incurring estate taxes. Such transfers can take place either as gifts throughout a person's lifetime or at the time of their death.
In 2022, the federal lifetime gift and estate tax exemption threshold was $12.06 million, rising to $12.92 million in 2023. Based on the conservative estimate of Lewis's net worth, the value of his estate is lower than the 2022 lifetime exemption limit. Therefore, in the absence of any previous use of his exemption during his lifetime, he may not require workarounds for estate taxes if his spouse does not posses substantial personal assets. It is worth noting that for couples, the exemption amount doubles to $25.84 million in 2023.
Mississippi does not impose an estate tax, so Lewis's estate does not need to worry about such a tax being levied. However, if Lewis had passed away in a state that imposes an estate tax, or if he had owned property in such a state, then his estate might have been subject to an additional tax due to his death. The exemption amount and tax rate for each state's estate tax are determined by that state.
In the case that Lewis's spouse does possesses assets and wealth that surpass the individual gift and estate tax exemption limit, it may behoove her to ask for the deceased spousal unused exclusion (DSUE) amount. The DSUE provision, aimed at helping the surviving spouse, allows the unused exemption amount of the deceased spouse to be transferred to the surviving spouse in case the former did not use up the entire exemption amount. In simpler terms, Lewis's wife would be eligible to receive a DSUE amount of $2.06 million, calculated based on the 2022 exemption of $12.06 million and Lewis's estimated estate value of $10 million.
Based on the 2022 exemption of $12.06 million and an estimated estate value of $10 million, Lewis's wife would be eligible for a DSUE amount of $2.06 million.
It is impossible to know for sure how Jerry Lee Lewis chose to allocate his wealth. His wife and children may be as uninformed as the general public, and there could be unexpected elements in his estate plan that have yet to surface.
The Lewis family requested that instead of sending flowers for his funeral, contributions be made in his name to either the Arthritis Foundation or MusiCares. It raises the question whether Lewis may have chosen to allocate a significant portion of his estate to these or other charitable organizations instead of his family.
Only time will tell how it’ll play out. We may not even get the full story if he left his estate to charity, since it’s common for charity information to stay private.
Ironing out an estate plan is not exclusive to rock-and-roll icons. Regardless of the complexities of your estate, it is essential to develop a plan for the distribution of your assets, settling your debts, and ensuring that your wealth goes to the individuals and causes that matter to you. Contact Anderson, Dorn & Rader’s office today to arrange a consultation with our team of estate planning attorneys and begin planning for the future.
You may have seen the popular ABC TV show, Modern Family, which follows a fictional extended family through life’s ups and downs. It’s a relatable show that addresses many issues life throws our way. Just like the families depicted in the series, it’s crucial to have an estate plan to protect loved ones when someone passes, or becomes unfit to manage their finances. Let’s take a look at some situations that arise in Modern Family episodes and how you can apply the lessons learned to your own situation.
Throughout the Modern Family series, various family members start and own businesses. No matter if it’s a passion project, investment opportunity, or owner-operator business, it should have a plan for the future.
The “traditional” lines in familial relationships can get blurred within multi-generational, blended families. For example, Jay often refers to Manny as his son, even though he’s technically his stepson (the child from Gloria’s previous marriage). Though he loves Manny as if he were his own son, the law doesn’t take these emotions into account when it comes to transferring business interests. Legally, stepchildren have no right to inherit a stepparent’s money or property. In situations like these, documentation should be created if you want any assets to be left to stepchildren, including your business interests.
There are several minors within the Modern Family series that would require guardianship in the event that their parents pass away. While Manny expressed a desire to serve as Joe's guardian if Gloria and Jay pass, it is important for them to formally nominate their preferred guardian in their wills. However, it should be noted that such a nomination is not binding and may be contested by others. To mitigate the risk of potential disputes and ensure Joe's wellbeing, it is advisable for Jay and Gloria to have open and candid discussions with both of their families to prevent any possibility of a guardianship dispute.
Rex and Lily would also require guardianship in the event of the passing of their parents. Without a comprehensive estate plan in place, it is possible that a dispute may arise between the families of Cameron and Mitchell. While Lily has spent a significant portion of her life close to Mitchell's family, later in the show, Lily and Rex move to reside with their parents in Missouri, which is closer to Cameron's family. As a result, Rex may develop a stronger bond with Cameron's family as he grows up, which could potentially lead to conflicts between the Pritchett and Tucker families if guardianship for these two children becomes necessary. To avoid such a scenario, it is imperative for Cameron and Mitchell to establish an appropriate estate plan.
Finally, it is important for Poppy and George to have designated guardians in the event that their parents, Haley and Dylan, die. While the family may not possess significant financial assets or property, it is crucial for them to establish basic plans for their children's care, including the appointment of primary and alternate guardians. When the show ends, Haley and Dylan have moved out of Phil and Claire's residence, but still nearby. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that Farah, Dylan's mother, has become increasingly involved in their lives since the announcement of Haley's pregnancy. It is possible that she may express an interest in assuming the role of guardian for the children in the event of the untimely passing of Haley and Dylan.
As a parent of minor children, it is crucial to consider and plan for the potential guardianship of your children should the unexpected occur. While no one can replace a parent's love and care, it is essential to formally nominate a guardian in a last will and testament or through a separate legal document, as permitted by state laws. While the court ultimately makes the final determination, clearly expressing your wishes can provide peace of mind. Furthermore, discussing potential guardianship with your family members in advance can help prevent disputes and ensure that your wishes are respected upon your passing.
As all married couples know, the question of what will happen in the event of the first spouse's death is important to consider. For couples like Phil and Claire, who have built and accumulated their assets during the course of their marriage, it may be natural to consider everything they own as jointly held. Both partners may wish for all assets to pass to the surviving spouse. However, without proper planning, leaving assets outright to a surviving spouse can leave them vulnerable to creditors and predators.
It is important to consider potential scenarios, such as the possibility of a scam artist exploiting a well-intentioned person like Phil, or a successful woman like Claire remarrying and unintentionally disinheriting her children by leaving all assets to her new spouse. To safeguard assets for the surviving spouse, regardless of whether it is their first or third marriage, a qualified terminable interest trust can be an effective solution. This designation of trust allows the surviving spouse to receive annual income from the trust and withdraw principal for specific purposes like health, support, education, and maintenance. It also grants you the power to choose where any remaining assets are allocated upon the death of your spouse.
In blended families, as seen on Modern Family, there are a variety of options for inheritance distribution. As Jay prepares his estate plan, it is important for him to consider how he wishes to divide his assets among his family members. This includes his spouse, two adult children from a previous marriage, a minor son, and an adult stepson, as well as five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He will need to make decisions regarding the distribution of assets, including the beneficiaries, the amount, and the timing of the distribution. He will need to consider whether it would be more beneficial to provide for his current spouse, Gloria, through a trust during her lifetime, with the remainder going to his other children, Claire, Mitchell, and Joe upon her death — or if his children should receive their portion of the inheritance while Gloria is still alive. Additionally, he will need to decide if he wants to provide for his stepson, Joe, or leave that responsibility to Gloria if she survives him.
When formulating an estate plan, it is crucial to consider the legal requirements for providing for a surviving spouse. In certain jurisdictions, there is a mandated minimum inheritance, known as the elective share, that must be allocated to the surviving spouse. Additionally, in states with community property laws, a surviving spouse may be entitled to a portion of assets acquired during the marriage. While one may assume that their spouse can support themselves without an inheritance, it is essential to have open and thorough discussions about estate planning, and document any agreements to ensure that the surviving spouse's rights and needs are protected. Without proper planning and documentation, a surviving spouse may unhinge the distribution of assets if they have not been taken into consideration within the estate plan, and haven’t waved their minimum inheritance rights.
Phil and Claire will need to evaluate their familial situation and devise a plan to distribute their assets and financial assets among their children and grandchildren. Given the distinct characteristics of their three children, it is important to consider each of their individual needs. For example, Haley, as a mother of two, may require a larger portion of the inheritance to support her children. Phil and Claire may elect to set aside a specific fund for their grandchildren. Alex is very smart and her education or employment opportunities may not require as much financial support. Luke, on the other hand, may benefit from trust money to pursue his business ventures and protect him from impulsive decisions.
An estate plan is a valuable tool for ensuring the protection of assets and financial resources for families of all sizes and backgrounds, not only those depicted in television series. The estate planning attorneys at Anderson, Dorn & Rader are dedicated to collaborating with families to develop a personalized plan that reflects the unique characteristics woven into each one. Reach out to our knowledgeable staff to see how we can assist your modern family with a financial plan for the future.
If you have children or young loved ones you hold close, you can make a large impact on their development by sharing knowledge to help them succeed in life. January is National Mentoring Month, and there’s no better time to help mentees form goals that will put them ahead of the curve.
Usually when estate planning is mentioned, we default to the notion that it only relates to a person passing, or when someone is preparing to transfer assets to loved ones. While these scenarios are definitely part of estate planning, it also involves the development of good habits throughout your whole adult life. This is where mentoring comes in. Teaching your children and other young family members the value of financial and estate planning now can help them in the long run. Here are some ways you can implement teachings and set them up for success:
Start by teaching them the importance of setting goals and how to set them for themselves. For instance, if they want to start a business or pay for college in the future, help them set up a savings or investment account and incentivize regular deposits by matching a portion of their contributions. If they want to give to a charitable cause, match their donations to encourage them. By helping them achieve their goals through their own efforts, they will learn valuable lessons and benefit from the experience. Share your own experiences and lessons learned when pursuing similar goals to further aid in their success.
For example, if you plan to pass on a family cabin to your children, give them information on how to maintain it and create a schedule for taking care of it. Share your knowledge and experience you gained caring for it growing up. If you and your siblings were responsible for the cabin growing up, teach them the best ways you found to work together as a team to care for the property. Along with providing practical information, share personal stories and memories about your own experiences at the cabin to communicate its importance and why you want them to have similar positive experiences once it’s passed down to the next generation.
Share the lessons you learned from your parents about saving money or contributing to good causes. If you have developed money management skills that have helped you build a significant estate and benefit your family and others, invest time in teaching those skills to your mentee. Similarly, if you have found effective ways to evaluate the credibility of charities and make responsible donations, share that knowledge with your mentee so they can make informed decisions. Emphasize to your mentee how these skills have positively impacted your life and the lives of others to stress their importance and the value of learning them.
Mentoring in a creative way allows you to pass on more than just your assets to your loved ones. You can also share your core values, skills and experiences gained from putting them into practice. If you wish to leave a lasting legacy for your family and loved ones by creating or updating your life plan, reach out to Anderson, Dorn & Rader for help.
The dynamics of a “blended” family make estate planning for such families a particular challenge. But, with blended families becoming more and more common, being able to create an effective and comprehensive estate plan for these special families has become more important. An attorney with experience in estate planning for blended families can help you create an estate plan that fits the needs of everyone you love.
What is a “blended family” exactly?
A family where at least one spouse has at least one child from a prior relationship, is considered a “blended” family. They come in all shapes, sizes and combinations. For instance, a couple could have children together, while each spouse has his and her own children from prior marriages. The family dynamic is always different, when a spouse remarries while the children are still minors. In order to accomplish estate planning for these families, it must be done on a case-by-case basis.
Using reciprocal wills for estate planning
A Reciprocal Will is a type of will that simply says, you give everything to your spouse, and then equally to all children. Each spouse will have the same language, which is why it is called “reciprocal.” After the death of the first spouse, the assets of that spouse go to the surviving spouse. Then after the death of remaining spouse, the assets go to the children. The problem with this type of will, when a blended family is involved, is that the children are not all common to the marriage.
Why reciprocal wills are not effective for blended families
A reciprocal will does not provide very much protection for children from a prior marriage because there are no guarantees that the surviving spouse will provide for those children. As the children are not legally entitled to the assets of the non-parental spouse, there simply are no guarantees. Nevertheless, most blended families use this type of will as their primary estate plan, for the sake of simplicity and lower cost, without knowing the real disadvantages of doing so.
What is the alternative to a reciprocal will?
Another option is for each spouse to create their own wills, which do not contain the exact same provisions. This way, each spouse can leave a percentage to the surviving spouse and a percentage to be divided equally between his or her own children, but not the children of the other spouse. The result is that the first spouse to pass away is not forced to rely on the surviving spouse to take care of his or her children.
Life insurance is another option
Another choice blended families have is for the parents to purchase life insurance policies that provide either for the surviving spouse or their own children. Since jointly owned assets automatically belong to the surviving spouse, the most common choice is to purchase life insurance for the children. An advantage of using life insurance for estate planning is that it guarantees, as long as the life insurance policy remains in force, that the children will receive something upon the death of their biological parent.
If you have questions regarding blended families, or any other estate planning issues for families with minors, please contact Anderson, Dorn & Rader, Ltd., either online or by calling us at (775) 823-9455.
To learn more, please download our free Nevada Estate Planning For Families here.
Estate planning involves confronting some sensitive matters. For many people considering marriage, one such issue is the decision to ask your spouse-to-be to enter into a premarital agreement. Those who are entering into a first marriage without a lot of assets and no children may not need a premarital agreement. However, if you're getting remarried after you have enjoyed financial success throughout your life, the decision becomes more complex. This is amplified if you have children from a previous marriage or marriages.
If you are married and live in a community property state like Nevada or California, all earnings and efforts that produce something of value after the marriage are community property. Many people believe that so long as they don't commingle funds and assets remain titled in their sole name that they are protected. This is not the case. While the assets with which you enter a marriage are your sole and separate property, all post-marriage earnings, regardless of where they are deposited or invested, are community property. Our office has handled the administration of several estates where a surviving spouse, or the children of a deceased spouse, brought claims to establish assets titled in the name of the other spouse or his or her estate as community property. In many of these cases assets were diverted to a surviving spouse and/or a deceased spouse's children in contradiction to the intent of the other spouse's estate plan. In addition, many states laws, including Nevada's and California's, allow a spouse to make a number of different claims against the will or trust of a deceased spouse, potentially further frustrating the deceased spouse's estate plan.
To address these problems it is possible to enter into a premarital agreement. Every state has its own requirements for a premarital agreement to be enforceable. In Nevada, it is important that both parties provide a reasonable disclosure of their property and debt. In addition, it is important that both parties are represented by independent legal counsel. The agreement should also be executed as well before the wedding and, and the terms of the agreement should not be unconscionable (i.e., too one-sided). These are just a few of the factors the courts look at to determine the validity of a premarital agreement.
Aside from claims upon the death of a spouse, there is the matter of possible divorce. There is a post on the Psychology Today blog that looks at the high rate of divorce among people who get remarried after having been married previously. This piece states that 67% of second marriages do not last. Third marriages are even more precarious with a 73% divorce rate. When you understand the fact that a significant majority of second and third marriages fail, you may conclude that premarital agreements may not be in poor taste after all. Perhaps they are simply a pragmatic response to a stark reality.
There are a lot of details to take into consideration when you are planning your legacy, and the best way to address them is with the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney. Rather than being consistently confronted with a series of unanswered questions as you think things through it is much simpler and more efficient to sit down with a legacy planning professional and work through the process from an informed perspective.
Experienced estate planning attorneys know how to proceed under any circumstances and they also understand how to adjust your estate plan on an ongoing basis as changes both within your life and throughout society as a whole take place that impact your existing plan.
One of the intricacies that people often face when they are engaged in inheritance planning involves providing for minor children. There are a number of different ways to proceed, and one of them would be to create a trust and make the child the beneficiary.
You can stipulate whatever you would like to in the trust with regard to what expenditures the trust is empowered to make in behalf of the child while he or she is still a minor. The grantor could then go on to set forth the terms for distribution of assets after the child becomes a legal adult.
Some people allow for the transfer of the total lump sum when the child reaches a particular age, and others arrange for more gradual distributions. You could even choose to include incentives such as allowing for regular distributions while the beneficiary remains in college with a lump sum to follow upon graduation.
Short of creating a trust you could name a property guardian in your will or appoint a custodian under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act. At a minimum, parents of minor children must have a will where a guardian of the person of your children can be named.
Providing for minor children is an important part of many estate plans. If you would like to learn more details, simply arrange for a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney.
We often talk in estate planning circles about preparing your assets for distribution to your loved ones. Depending on your personal wishes and the size and scope of your estate, in most cases this is going to refer in large part to your children and grandchildren. However, we live in an era when the typical family is not necessarily comprised of a single patriarch and matriarch. These days more than 4 out of every 10 marriages ultimately terminate in divorce. Divorce itself creates the need for an estate plan update, but the reality is that most of the people who get divorced eventually remarry.
The majority of these people have children from their previous marriages, which results in what are called blended families. If you are in this situation, there is a lot more to consider from an estate planning perspective. Depending on the dynamic that exists between the people who are getting married a number of different courses of action may be appropriate.
The thing that most people are concerned with more than anything else is making sure that their children from their previous marriages are provided for. For this reason and others, many people who are bringing considerable assets into such a marriage have the desire to separate their personal property from the community property that will result from the marriage. This can be accomplished through the execution of a pre-marital agreement, and some people will choose to create trusts in an effort to protect assets.
The QTIP or Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trust is one type of trust that is often used in these cases. These trusts provide the surviving spouse with income for the rest of his or her life. But, the grantor of the trust names the beneficiary or beneficiaries who will assume ownership of the assets after the death of the surviving spouse. This would presumably be his or her children.
Estate planning for blended families can be somewhat complicated, but there is an efficient solution for every possible scenario. It is just a matter retaining an estate planning attorney who is experienced and savvy when it comes to blended family planning.