Will Your Death Cause Your Family Distress?

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By Jill Besl

Heiress Huguetta Clark’s death in 2011 at the age of 104 spawned numerous lawsuits that have dragged on for years. At her death, Clark’s estate totaled more than $307 million and included an original Renoir, a Stradivarius violin and an original edition of Paradise Lost. She had no husband, children or siblings; only distant relatives with whom she had little contact.

At her passing, two wills were found. The first will, signed March 7, 2005, left everything to her distant relatives but this will had the word “revoked” handwritten and a line drawn through the first page. The second will, signed just a few weeks later on April 5, 2005, cut out the relatives, stating: I intentionally make no provision in this my last will and testament for any members of my family, whether on my maternal or paternal side, having had minimal contacts with them over the years.” Instead, the new will left $1 million to the hospital where she spent the last 20 years of her life after a serious bout of skin cancer, $100,000 to her personal physician, gifts to the caretakers of her various properties as well as gifts to her lawyers and accountants. Her California property went to a foundation that was to be established to promote the arts and her long-time daytime nurse received Clark’s $1.7 million doll collection and 60% of the estate.

It’s certainly not difficult to figure out what came next. The relatives contested the April 2005 will, claiming that Clark had been coerced into excluding them from her estate. After years of legal back-and-forth, a tentative settlement was reached in September 2013. Under the terms, the relatives would divide $34.5 million among themselves and many of the other bequests from the second will would not be honored. Then, to complicate matters further, in January 2014, Geraldine Coffey, Clarks night-duty nurse for 20 years would not agree to the settlement. The attorneys for the estate argue that Coffey caused Clark distress by pressuring her for money.

The drama that has persisted for the past three years since Huguetta Clark’s death and has signs of continuing. It could have easily been avoided with the proper estate planning documents. As Florida Certified Elder Law Attorney Joseph S. Karp so aptly summed it up: “Multi-millionaires or not, all of us should take steps to ensure that in death, our wishes are carried out and those we care about most are protected.” Seek counsel from an experienced elder law attorney to make sure your family – or those who you wish to receive your assets – understand what you want at your death.

Dangers of a GPS

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By Attorney Mitch Adel

A few summers ago I was speaking a workshop for retired teachers, prior to my presentation on retirement and long term care planning, a woman spoke about the dangers of a GPS.  I had never really given this much thought until recently.  This past week I was scheduled to give a seminar for a group of seniors at a community center/fitness facility.  As I was walking from my car to the facility, I remembered that I had left my GPS on my dashboard.  [Read more…]

Americans Are Litigious: They will sue you in a heartbeat, and your kids, too!

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By Kathy Cooper

Recently, I came across an article about outrageous lawsuits that made me think about why we all might want to have Legacy Trusts for our kids.  I should mention that Thom and I have them for our two girls and here’s the reason: People sue –  and sometimes win – ridiculous lawsuits.  Just to name a couple from the article:

  • The kids who sued their mom for “bad mothering” because they received empty birthday cards
  • The photographer who was sued by a man, already divorced, who never received the last 15 minutes of video from his wedding

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The Cost Of Retirement

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Saving for retirement is extremely important, even during an economic downturn. While some economists predict that brighter times are right around the corner, that doesn’t change the fact that an increasing number of people are delaying their retirement plans. Just a few years ago, when the stock marked was still soaring to dizzying heights, many people become obsessed with “the number” – their individual nest-egg that would assure a comfortable retirement. Now the focus is shifting to a different, more important number: how much retirement income your savings will provide.  [Read more…]