All in the Execution

Phil Kernen  |  Nov 15, 2021

A FRIEND WAS RECENTLY asked by his father to be executor of his estate—and, without hesitation, my friend agreed. But then the conversation quickly moved on to other topics, leaving my friend confused about his role.
My suggestion to my friend: Have another conversation with your dad—and ask these four questions:
What are your expectations? Someone who creates a will is known as a testator. The primary role of an executor is to settle the testator’s estate.

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Helping Wisely

Adam M. Grossman  |  Nov 14, 2021

LIFE IS EXPENSIVE—especially for young adults contending with budget busters like housing and tuition. If you have adult children facing these expenses and want to help them financially, you may be wondering what’s the best approach. While every family is different, below are three principles that I’ve seen work well.

1. Transparency. This applies in several ways. First, you should let your children know your objectives for these gifts. Do you want to see them spend it on something specific—such as a home down payment—or are they free to use it as they see fit?

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Do It Anyway

John Goodell  |  Nov 12, 2021

SIX YEARS AGO, a colleague came into my office, looking concerned. He asked if I could speak with a client who was suffering from dementia. At the time, I was the Army’s attorney in charge of legal assistance at Fort Hood, Texas. One of the services we provided was drafting wills for servicemembers, veterans and their families.
For our legal office, my policy was that I’d always be the person to deliver bad news.

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Telling Your Story

Ron Wayne  |  Nov 8, 2021

WANT THE LAST WORD? Write your own obituary.
It’s the final opportunity to tell the world you were a great person and that others should regret never having known you. You can write what you want because, in most newspapers, the obituaries are essentially paid ads—and pricey, to boot. No one is going to challenge your obituary’s veracity, at least not publicly, unless it’s outrageous.
Was she really well liked by everyone she met?

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CDs and Cemeteries

Don Southworth  |  Sep 27, 2021

“A YEAR TO LIVE.” That’s the name of a class I’ve been teaching on and off for the past 20 years. My hope: Participants will gain more understanding, acceptance and peace about one of life’s few guarantees—death. This year’s class members have a little over five months left to live.

Every group is a little different. Some people resist the practicalities of preparing for death: putting things in writing, making medical and funeral arrangements,

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Giving Twice

Kathleen M. Rehl  |  Sep 22, 2021

MY ANDROID RANG on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The screen said it was from a police station. Hesitating, I took the call. My biracial son came on.
“I’m going to jail, Mom. But I didn’t do it.”
Instant memories, almost 50 years old, of police guns pointing at my African husband’s head and mine. Wrong profile of an interracial couple. It wasn’t us. Checking IDs, they realized we weren’t the suspects sought.
With my son’s phone call,

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The Snag

Richard Quinn  |  Sep 14, 2021

I PARTICIPATE IN Facebook groups for retirees from my old employer. Having worked in employee benefits for decades, I know or at least recognize the names of many of the people.

Frequently, someone posts an obituary. It used to be that they were much older than me. No longer. Now they’re near my age—or younger. It’s all a bit unsettling. Often, a picture is posted of the deceased. I think to myself, “What happened to Joe?” Then I avoid looking in a mirror for a few days.

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Life and Death

Dennis Friedman  |  Jul 22, 2021

I SAW MY MOTHER walking through the neighborhood the other day. She was wearing this big floppy hat hiding her face from the sun. But I knew it was her because I can tell by the way she walked. I see her from afar quite often. She drove by me just yesterday when I was coming out of the grocery store. I wonder why she didn’t wave to me. I knew she saw me.

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Courtside Seat (III)

Robert C. Port  |  Jul 12, 2021

EVERYTHING I KNOW about estate planning I learned in court.
As part of my litigation practice, I represent parties—often warring family members—involved in disputes over wills, trusts and family businesses. These disputes have common themes that teach important lessons about financial planning in general and estate planning in particular.
Driving these disputes is the enormous transfer of wealth—trillions of dollars—from the Greatest Generation to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Couple that wealth transfer with other demographic trends,

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About the Kids

Richard Quinn  |  Feb 27, 2021

SHOULD LEAVING money to our children be a formal part of our financial strategy—or should we focus on our own wants and needs, and let the chips fall where they may?
My wife and I have four children ages 45 to 50. They’re all married and, between them, have 13 children ages five to 17. They’re also all college graduates, with almost the entire cost paid by my wife and me. Three have master’s degrees.

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Final Thoughts

Kathleen M. Rehl  |  Feb 12, 2021

YOUR ESTATE PLAN specifies what you want done with your money and possessions after your death. But your life’s treasures extend beyond these material items—to your values, heritage, relationships, hopes, dreams, memories and stories. You can share some of this with family and friends through a legacy letter, sometimes called an “ethical will.”
Not long before my mother died, she wrote her legacy letter. She asked that it be read during her memorial service.

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For Their Sake

Adam M. Grossman  |  Jan 24, 2021

A FEW YEARS BACK, I found myself in the emergency room, thinking I had a serious condition. As I sat there, I worried about my family, including my wife and young children. If I didn’t come home, would my wife have a clear picture of our finances?
Fortunately, the health scare turned out to be a false alarm, but it was a wakeup call. Sure, I had an estate plan, but I realized that a binder full of legalese wasn’t enough.

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He Gets, She Gets

James McGlynn  |  Dec 15, 2020

IF YOU DESIGNATE beneficiaries for your retirement accounts, that’s usually a surefire way to pass those assets directly to your desired heirs without going through probate—but not always.
Because those beneficiary designations are so important, you should verify your choices every year in case there’s a change due to, say, marriage, birth, divorce or death. Especially marriage and divorce. Which brings me to a crucial issue: When dealing with IRA and 401(k) beneficiary designations,

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Don’t Leave a Mess

Richard Connor  |  Jun 23, 2020

I’VE BEEN INVOLVED in settling five estates. They ranged from insolvent to almost seven figures. Some were well-organized, but one took significant time and effort to settle. These experiences taught me a key lesson: An organized and easily understood estate is a gift to those you leave behind.
I’m not an estate planning attorney. I’ve dealt with a few and found them to be professional, empathetic and helpful. If you have a complicated financial life or family situation,

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From Two to One

Catherine Horiuchi  |  Apr 30, 2020

FOLLOWING MY husband’s death, I went from feeling prosperous to precarious in the space of a few short months. For decades, I’d had something extra in hand, beyond the minimum sum necessary to keep going. That sense of prosperity was now gone.
This wasn’t just my imagination. Studies have found that widows are significantly less wealthy than their married counterparts. One academic article notes, “The death of a spouse is an event that may precipitate a large decline in wealth.” Similarly,

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