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March 2011 Archives

The Elizabeth Taylor Estate Could Reach $1 Billion

The estate of Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor, who died at the age of 79, has continued to increase in value and is currently worth between $600 million and $1 billion, according to CBS News. Yet some New York fans may be surprised to hear that the former actress' business, Liz Taylor, has contributed to most of her fortune.

"This was an entrepreneur," said Diane Brady, the senior editor of Bloomberg Businessweek. "So it wasn't just an actress who amassed a fortune. She was one of the first people out there basically branding her personality."

Putting it All Together: Storing Important Documents Before You Die

When it comes to estate planning, having a select place to store important documents, like bills and personal records, can come in handy for New York locals in helping their heirs settle their estates after death without having to search and sift through mounds of paperwork.

Karin Price Mueller, for instance, writes in SecondAct that she has a special place in her home where she stores all her important paperwork in what she calls the "When I'm Dead" file. As the "primary bill payer, record keeper and investor" in the family, Mueller has assumed the task of organizing her family's documents where her husband or children can easily find what they need in the event she passes away.

Health Care Directives Simplied Through "Polst" Programs

Even though advance health care directives help people to plan ahead and express the medical decisions they want in case they become seriously ill, there are still many New York locals who may not feel the need to have one. According to The Wall Street Journal, only one third of Americans have some type of advance directive prepared, such as a medical power of attorney, or a living will.

In an effort to encourage more people to outline their end-of-life wishes, many states are promoting new programs called Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (Polst), which aims to help direct doctors with a patient's specific health care instructions. A Polst clarifies and simplifies the medical choices a patient wants, such as whether or not to receive antibiotics, and is signed by both doctor and patient.

Sir George Shearing's Estranged Daughter Plans To Contest the Will

Wendy Peterson, the estranged daughter of blind British pianist Sir George Shearing, plans to fight for a portion of her father’s estate after having been left out of his will. Contactmusic News reported that Peterson, who is Shearing’s daughter from his first marriage, has been estranged from her father for more than 10 years and blames her step-mother, Ellie, for the rift.

According to the New York Post, Shearing died from congestive heart failure on February 14 at the age of 91. Peterson said that she and Shearing “always had a great relationship.” But after Shearing and Peterson’s mother divorced “and then he met Ellie, she alienated him from me, my kids … I haven’t spoken to him in 12 years.”

Estate Planning: What Is The Best Way For You To Leave Your Assets?

Most people would like to leave a legacy to their heirs, whether it's money, a business, or a personal heirloom. In fact, many New Yorkers may not realize that you don't even have to be a particular age to leave something for your spouse or children or if you wish to donate something to a special organization.

But the task many people are left with when it comes to estate planning is figuring out the best way they can leave their assets to their beneficiaries. And as most estate planning advisers and lawyers will remind their clients, you may need a will if you are planning to leave your wealth or personal property.

New York State Estate Taxes: Will You Have To Pay For Them?

You likely will, unless you plan ahead.

While most of the emphasis on estate planning has often been focused on federal estate taxes, many New Yorkers may not realize that state estate taxes are just as, if not more, significant for many families to take into account.

The Digital Journal reports that a federal tax exemption of $5 million is allowed under the new estate legislation that was passed at the end of last year, and any amount over $5 million becomes subject to a 35 percent tax. But in New York, state estate taxes are applied to those that exceed $1 million, meaning residents will still have to pay for NY state taxes even when they may be completely exempted from federal estate levies.

GRATs: Passing Profits To Parents Without Gift Taxes

Some New Yorkers may be unfamiliar with grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs), which provide sucessful children with an opportunity to pass their investment profits to their parents or grandparents. According to Bloomberg, children also do not have to use their $5 million lifetime gift-tax exemption when creating a GRAT.

People can currently offer up to $5 million to others during their lifetime without having to pay for gift taxes, which include a federal tax of 35 percent. For instance, JPMorgan Chase & Co. Private Bank’s managing director Anita Sarafa has helped a client give his parents over $300,000 without having to pay for any gift taxes.

Using Online Retirement Calculators As An Aid To Estate Planning

Some estate planning advisors might compare an online retirement calculator to a financial GPS system. Even though it can generally guide you to your destination, a retirement calculator cannot exactly show you the most ideal route to take or the unsafe roads you need to avoid on the way to retirement.

Planners say most calculators provide a broad sense of whether or not a person will be able to restore close to 85 percent of his or her preretirement income. That is how much New Yorkers will likely need depending on the amount of money they have saved and plan to save, according to The New York Times.

Former Actor Tony Curtis Excludes Children From Will

The Telegraph reported Hollywood star Tony Curtis decided not to include five of his children in his will, including his daughter actress Jamie Lee Curtis. While he apparently acknowledged their existence, Curtis told CBS television show "Inside Edition" that he had "intentionally and with full knowledge chosen not to provide for them."

Curtis, a New York native, was 85-years-old when he died from cardiac arrest this past September in his Nevada home. He was married five times and had children with three of his wives - Christine Kaufmann, Leslie Allen, and actress Janet Leigh. Jill Vandenberg Curtis, his fifth wife, was designated as the representative of his estate in his will, which was filed in the state of Nevada.

What To Consider When Choosing An Estate Executor

As some New Yorkers might know, those designated as the executor of an estate are left with the responsibility of carrying out a person’s final wishes after death and will remain in charge of that estate until it is legally closed. But the role of executor has recently become a little more complicated after the tax law President Obama signed last December.

The job of an executor can last for a few years or more depending on the complexity of an estate, according to The New York Times. But with the new tax law in place, an executor managing the estate of a spouse who died in 2011 through 2012 has now become responsible for transferring any of the unused exemption to the surviving spouse. Not following through on this responsibility can cause a surviving spouse a great deal of money.

Estate Planning For Couples In Second Marriages

New York couples in second marriages might find themselves in a potentially messy and complicated situation if they plan their estates at the last minute or leave their children to decide on how to distribute their assets. Sticky circumstances like these can lead families contesting wills or fighting over a deceased's fortunes and properties.

According to The Wall Street Journal, there are several things couples should consider when planning their estate. For instance, how will they divide their money among their children and step-children in the event they die at the same time? One solution could be that each parent gives assets to just his or her biological children. Another option a couple can consider is to equally distribute their money among all of their kids.

Actor Mickey Rooney Testifies About His Experience With Elder Abuse

Renowned film and television star Mickey Rooney, 90, recently testified this week about his experience with elder abuse before the Senate Aging Committee. According to the Associated Press, the committee is currently considering legislation that will help reduce and limit abuse against senior citizens.

Senator Herb Kohl, who chairs the special Senate group, said the elderly are common targets for abuse because they are "often fragile" and vulnerable, leaving their abusers with a small chance of getting caught. When Rooney had discovered that a family member had stolen and misused his money, he told lawmakers that he "felt trapped, scared, used and frustrated."

"But above all, when a man feels helpless, it's terrible," said the actor.

What You Can Do To Plan For Chronic Illnesses

Nearly 120 million people nationwide suffer with some sort of chronic illness, and 22 percent of those individuals may live with two more chronic illnesses, according to the Wills, Trusts, & Estates Prof Blog.

Most people might believe that chronic illnesses are something only older individuals need to worry about, but that is actually not the case at all. Even some medical practitioners may not realize how common chronic illnesses are. However, many attorneys would encourage New Yorkers of a wide range of ages who live with such health conditions to prepare or modify their estate planning in the event a health-related issue occurs. Here's why.