Like any other person executing an estate plan, recently deceased actor Philip Seymour Hoffman certainly thought about what made most sense for his loved ones and sought to fashion a plan that best promoted their interests.
Were Hoffman still alive today and privy to advice from a proven estate planning attorney, he would likely want to revisit the plan he did execute, since its results could have been bettered with select modifications.
We mention Hoffman and his estate today not because he was a noted celebrity, but, rather, because media stories relating to widely known figures are often instructive for the general public.
"You want people to remember you for the good things you did, not the mess you left."
So says one financial planner, who undoubtedly echoes the sentiments of many of his professional peers.
Experienced estate planning attorneys without doubt agree with the above comment, having seen the huge difference in outcome that sound estate planning -- or lack thereof -- typically makes following a person's death or incapacitating illness.
In a recent media article, an estate planning attorney relates some poignant details about his family history, noting his mother's advancing dementia in later years and her final days in a nursing home.
That experience, coupled with the financial stresses he saw his father go through to defray the costs of a mere four months in the home, left a lasting impression on Arthur Bergeron.
Bergeron is now a practicing elder law attorney in Massachusetts who flatly proclaims, "I'm proud of what I do."
Age demographics other than baby boomers (boomers being of the post-World War II baby surge from 1946 through 1964) might sometimes feel slighted by all the attention that seems to be paid to that group. In virtually every realm of interest, from politics to social mores, stories abound concerning how boomers feel, how they differ from other groups, how they will fare going forward and so forth.
There are valid reasons for all that attention, given the estimated 79 million boomers across the country. A New York Times article discussing -- you guessed it! -- boomers recently focused on an interesting subject that affects boomers in a quite singular way.
Namely, that is inheritances, with the Times noting that "there have never been as many heirs with as much money as now."
One might reasonably think that, when it comes to estate administration, things are materially different in most respects for super wealthy individuals and families and their more "common" counterparts.
There is certainly some degree of truth to that in particular instances, of course, but estate planning for the less wealthy is often quite similar to that engaged in by wealthier persons. One financial commentator notes that "there are core issues and instruments that are used in all estate planning."
Here's a hypothetical that closely approximates reality for many families in Texas and across the country.
You were married for a number of years and had three kids from the union. You and your spouse were wise and frugal, thus managing to squirrel away substantial assets over the years you were together. When you divorced, you got your fair share.
Now you are newly married, for a second time. The same is true for your new spouse, who also has three children and various assets carried over free and clear from a prior marriage.
You know it when you see it.
That adage pertains to a few select things in life, as it likely does for many Americans when it comes to an artifact connected with Farrah Fawcett, the iconic actress who died in 2009.
That artifact is a painting -- two copies, actually -- done of Fawcett by the equally famous and iconic artist Andy Warhol, who has also passed away.
The paintings live on, with one of them belonging to the University of Texas and the other recently being determined by a jury verdict to belong to Fawcett's one-time husband, actor Ryan O'Neal.
You'd virtually have to be an alien to be unaware that Americans across the country, including in Texas, are flat-out animal lovers.
Reportedly, one or more animals reside in nearly seven of every 10 households in the United States.
Indeed, that makes for a lot of cherished family companions.
Here is an important question to pose internally from time to time for any Texas resident or person elsewhere who has, with assistance from an experienced estate administration attorney, crafted a well-tailored estate plan: How often should that plan be revisited and tweaked?
Boilerplate answers to that question -- once a year, every five years, when family membership changes -- are not very useful in the realm of estate planning, because, of course, every case is different.
For example, some people have a modest amount of wealth and no kids; perhaps a main goal in their planning is to secure long-term care when they are older. In such a case, Medicaid planning might feature heavily in their consultations with their attorney, with a central focus being on legally shielding their estate to the fullest extent possible from recovery for care provided.
Don't be surprised during a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney if talk turns to beneficiary designations. Many people flatly fail to think about the persons they have selected to receive assets from various sources. Sometimes they insert a name and never revisit the matter, notwithstanding a passage of years and highly modified circumstances. Sometimes they fail to even consider the matter, providing for no beneficiary all.
Not being accurate and up to date on beneficiary details can have unanticipated results, often of an extreme magnitude.
Consider the following, for example. A spouse states in his or her will that certain assets will go to the current spouse in the event of death. Upon death, though, it is revealed that a former spouse is listed as the beneficiary in documents that control those assets.
Former spouse prevails, notwithstanding the will.