Law News and Tips

A CHRISTMAS GIFT?

Fred Vilbig - Friday, November 22, 2019

                                                                            A CHRISTMAS GIFT?

                                                                                                                                                                             Vilbig © 2019

     I recently heard from a client about an estate planning mess that could have been avoided.Although this particular story is hearsay, I know from experience that these kinds of things regularly happen.

    Bill (these are not their real names) had been married to Julie for years.Together they raised three wonderful children.After the kids were grown, Julie got sick and died, leaving Bill a widower at a young age (relatively speaking).

     After Julie’s death, Bill lived alone for several years, but that can be tough.Older singles get isolated. Most of their friends are married, so they can feel like the odd man out socially.So Bill became lonely.

     After some time, Bill met Debra.Debra was a lovely lady.Her husband had also died after they had raised two children. Bill and Debra grew to love one another, and they decided to marry.The kids were actually happy to see their parents so happy.

     Bill and Debra had a happy life together.They trusted each other completely.They bought a house together; they invested their money together; they had a joint bank account; and they named each other as their beneficiaries on their IRAs.

     As time when on, Bill noticed that Debra was forgetting things.It was almost unnoticeable at first, but it grew progressively worse.Debra was finally diagnosed with dementia.Bill took care of her as best he could, but he himself was aging.The stress and strain proved too much, and Bill died. Since Bill and Debra had not done any planning, Debra’s kids had her declared incompetent, and opened up a conservatorship to manage her money and pay her bills.Debra did not survive Bill long, and she soon passed away.That’s when Bill’s kids had an unpleasant surprise.

     On Bill’s death everything passed over to Debra, including Bill’s IRA.It wasn’t a malicious thing, but it just happened. So when Debra died, everything went to her children.Nothing was left for Bill’s kids.Debra’s kids could have shared, but they were disinclined.Bill’s kids were very upset, but there wasn’t anything that could be done.

     This is just one of many examples of an unfortunate result from lack of good planning.I recently met with a young couple with a large family.Although they had thought about it, they had never gotten around to planning their estate.Now they were facing a medical emergency, so that need was immediate.

     Although you can’t wrap it up in a nice box and put a pretty bow on it (or maybe you can), I would like to suggest a Christmas present for your family: a well thought out estate plan.It’s not a cool present, but it may be one of the more important things you can give them.Just a thought.Give me a call if you want to talk.

     And at the risk of offending some, Merry Christmas and a blessed new year.

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