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November 2012 Archives

Good Neighbor Gets $12M For Helping With Groceries

This case puts a whole new meaning to the phrase "love thy neighbor."

Or rather, "love thy neighbour" (that's neighbor with a "u" if we're spelling it the Australian way). A woman in Australia gave her entire $12.5 million estate to her neighbor! Of course, surviving family members didn't love that.

Betty Harris died at age 95, back in 2009. Her estate was originally left to Coralie Hart, her niece, reports Fox News.

The 'Fiscal Cliff' and What It Means for Estate Planning

We’ve been hearing quite a bit about the “fiscal cliff.” But what does it mean and how does it impact your end of year estate planning?

The fiscal cliff is a phrase used to describe the end-of-2012 tax issues that the United States will be facing. Here’s the story: As of December 31, 2012, many tax cuts and tax breaks will expire. Some call it a “disaster waiting to happen.” According to CNN, it includes $7 trillion worth of tax increases and spending cuts over the course of a decade.

J.R.R. Tolkien's Estate Sues Warner Bros for Online Gaming Apps

The estate of J.R.R. Tolkien is suing Warner Brothers over the creation of an online slot machine, reports Hollywood Reporter. The lawsuit is claiming over $80 million in damages, claiming the merchandising was unauthorized.

This comes just weeks before the studio releases The Hobbit, based on a Tolkien book.

The lawsuit was filed on Monday in Los Angeles. It was brought by the Tolkien estate and HarperCollins. The lawsuit claims that Warner Brothers and Saul Zaentz, the rightsholder to the Lord of The Rings franchise, have infringed on the copyright and are in breach of contract.

Huguette Clark, Bellasguardo Foundation and Charitable Giving Law

Earlier, we talked about the estate of Huguette Clark and the Santa Barbara property that was designated to her private foundation.

The law of charitable giving and nonprofits isn't always crystal-clear to the layman. The terms public charity and private foundation often get confused. People assume, when they hear the word "foundation" that it's the same thing as a charity.

Huguette Clark's California Mansion in Dispute

Huguette Clark's estate is back in the news this week. This time, Californians are stepping into the estate battle.

Huguette Clark had a property out in Santa Barbara, California. The property is named Bellosguardo. According to NBC News, community leaders in that area have started a PR campaign for the preservation of Clark's ocean-front home.

They claim Clark's will called for the home to be preserved as an art institution.

How it Works: The QTIP Trust

Let’s talk today about the Qualified Terminal Interest Property Trust, also known as the QTIP trust. It’s a great tool to avoid paying estate tax.

The QTIP is very similar to a bypass trust, but with some tiny differences. It’s a trust that goes to your spouse when you pass away, naming your spouse as beneficiary. The spouse has the right to certain income from the trust for his or her life. Upon death, the assets in the trust go to the beneficiaries designated in the trust.

This trust is for married couples. And only a U.S. citizen spouse can be named as a beneficiary of the trust.

Superstorm Sandy Reminds of the Importance of Pet Planning

One interesting development coming from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is the need to factor pets into estate plans. This isn’t one of those stories where we talk about eccentric billionaires giving their full estate to their cat.

This is more of a discussion on disaster planning for pets.

What are the Inheritance Rights of Adoptive Children?

Inheritance planning is complex and sometimes, if there is no will, results in some tricky questions. For example, what are the rights of an adopted child, once the adoption decree is said and done?

This is really a question that comes up in two instances: Intestacy, and in the case that the child is omitted under the will. The answers to these two questions lie in New York's omitted spouse rules and in New York's intestacy laws.

First off, what are the adopted child's rights to inherit from their birth parent?

Elliot Carter, Composer, Dies at 103: What Happens to His Music?

Elliot Carter died Monday at the age of 103. Carter, a famous composer, passed away in his Greenwich Village apartment, reports The New York Times.

While his assistant confirmed the death, he didn't disclose the cause of death.

While The Seattle Times describes Carter's music as "difficult to play, difficult to listen to, and... difficult to write," he was one of the most celebrated modern composers of our era.

How It Works: Estate Tax and Calculating Your Estate Tax Burden

In our earlier post, we talked about why some DIY wills (i.e. Do-it-Yourself) might pose problems, particularly if one doesn't understand estate taxation.

The thing is that many people assume that estate tax is for the rich. What many don't understand is that estate tax is one of those areas of law that fluctuates and that it's very possible that the amount of estate tax exemption in a year of one's death could be lower than anticipated.

Additionally, many people think that if they get an asset out of their probated estate, it won't be taxed. So they create revocable living trusts, thinking that the assets in that trust won't be taxed. That's simply not true.

Translation: If you've got assets that total around the million dollar mark, you might want to think about proper tax planning .

Why Online Wills and Free Will Templates Might Not Work

Many people day that you can get a will drafted for next to nothing these days, simply by logging on to a service that cranks them out, or by buying online forms.

In fact, many people even download online forms for wills off the Internet, free of charge.

That’s all fine if you’ve got a simple estate with very few items. Why pay an estate planning lawyer to draft a will that may cost more than your assets on hand, right?

But if you’re dealing with a larger estate, then drafting a will from an online template isn’t the wisest thing.

There are many reasons why it’s not wise. Let’s give you a few reasons.

A Quick Primer in ILITS: Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts

Let's talk about life insurance and estate planning.

Life insurance is a way to ensure that your loved ones have assets and funds if you pass away. It's a great financial planning tool. But how does it play into estate planning?

For one, life insurance proceeds can provide your estate with some liquidity to pay your estate administration costs. These could include estate taxes, probate fees and liabilities of the estate.

This can be a huge benefit for those whose estates do not have ready and liquid funds to pay off their expenses.