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Lexington Probate and Estate Administration Law Blog

Was a loved one tricked into signing a will?

Unfortunately, fraud knows almost no bounds, and so people will resort to fraud in order to alter a will or an estate plan. This may become clear during the estate administration process, when most of the family is shocked by the contents of the will and one person clearly benefits from it more than anyone else.

So, how does this fraud occur? Here's one example:

  • A son sees a father's will. He's not happy with what he is being given and decides to cut out his other two siblings.
  • The son works with the father on his estate planning documents. These include things like a medical power of attorney, an advance medical directive and a legal power of attorney.
  • The son drafts a new will that drastically reduces what the other two siblings get. He brings that will to his father, tells him it's a power of attorney and asks him to sign and date it.
  • The father trusts the son and doesn't read the document. After all, they both talked extensively about what the power of attorney should do and the son kindly offered to help.
  • The father then signs and dates the new will. Shortly after that, he passes away.

Estate planning requires you to set clear goals

We recently discussed the purpose of estate valuation. This is an important part of the estate plan. If you are in the process of planning out the estate so that your loved ones have a plan when you pass away, you might come to realize that the valuation is vitally important.

Most people who are coming up with their estate plans want to make sure that their loved ones aren't left with a large tax burden. There are ways that you can set up an estate to minimize the tax burden, so make sure that you include this in your goals for the plan if necessary.

The value of the estate is a huge consideration

One of the things that people might have to do when they are dealing with an estate is have the value calculated. This isn't something that is always easy but it is often necessary. There are two ways to determine the value of the estate. One is the date of death value and the other is the alternative valuation date method.

The date of death valuation is just what is sounds like. It is the value of the estate on the date the person died. This can be determined by looking at bank statements, other dated financial documents and appraisals.

Take steps to ensure your estate plan is clearly conveyed

Your estate plan must reflect your wishes for the assets you've amassed during your life. It is imperative that you think carefully about how you will convey these wishes, because your estate plan must be presented in a clear and legally binding manner.

When you are thinking about your assets, you must determine the best way to divvy them up. Some people might opt for a will, but others will rely on trusts. There are several considerations that impact which of these you choose. Some of the most pressing are the tax implications of each option. Another is the cost of having the estate go through probate court. We can discuss your goals for your estate and help you plan accordingly.

U.S. DOT to Require Drug Testing for 4 Opioids

On November 13, 2017, the Department of Transportation (DOT) published a final rule (82 FR 52229) that added hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone to the federal drug testing program for drivers of commercial motor vehicles. Beginning January 1, 2018, drivers will be tested for these substances, commonly known as OxyContin®, Percodan®, Percocet®, Vicodin®, Lortab®, Norco®, Dilaudid®, and Exalgo®. The DOT drug testing panel already includes marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, phencyclidine (PCP), and opiates.

DOT drug testing regulations and subsequent revisions have typically concurred with workplace testing programs established by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). DOT, like HHS, decided to include these semi-synthetic opioids in an attempt to "address the nation-wide epidemic of opioid abuse." DOT also noted that the drugs are already included in tests conducted by many transportation employers' non-DOT testing programs.

Reasons to discuss your estate plan at a family gathering

The holidays are a time when families get together. In some cases, this means that people who haven't seen each other all year long are once again together. Even though it might seem like it isn't really a good idea, these gatherings might be a time when you get people together to let them know what's in your estate plan.

Having this discussion now might seem morbid, but it gives heirs and beneficiaries, as well as anyone who is interested in your medical care, a chance to find out what you have planned. They can ask questions if they aren't sure about what you would want or what you mean by part of the plan.

Estate planning from an heir's perspective

Many people who think about estate planning think about things from the creator's perspective. Some people don't stop to think about what estate planning means for the heirs and beneficiaries. It is important to think about both sides when thinking about this process.

If you are a person who is going to receive an inheritance, you should make sure that you take the time to plan ahead for this. It is all too easy to get the windfall and blow it all right away instead of taking the time to ensure you are using it responsibly.

Estate planning in the absence of heirs

Everyone assumes that people who don't have any living family members don't need to create an estate plan. This is far from the truth. Just because you don't have any heirs right now doesn't mean that you have to let the state seize your assets upon your death.

Instead of placing your estate's future in the hands of the state's intestate laws, you can take action to ensure that you have a plan in place for your assets. You must think carefully about where you want them to go.

Don't overlook creating your estate plan while you are healthy

Estate planning is easy to overlook since most people don't think about their death. While this is understandable, it can cause problems if something does happen to you. Only around 40 percent of American adults have taken the time to get an estate plan set up. That figure increases to around 81 percent for people who are 72 years old or older, which is a good thing.

We understand why you might be apprehensive about creating an estate plan. Maybe you feel like you would be borrowing trouble and that something is more likely to happen to you if you have it done. Maybe you just haven't made the time to get things together. which is the reason 47 percent of adults who haven't made a will cited when asked why they didn't have one. You might even realize that you do need an estate plan, but you just haven't made the move to get it done. Maybe you don't think you have enough assets, which was the reason given by 29 percent of adults who don't have a will.

Inheritance and estate plans can all come full circle

Finding out that you are going to get an inheritance is a big boost. Even if the inheritance isn't particularly large, it is a morale boost to know that your loved one cared about you enough to leave you something. Now, it is time to plan what you are going to do.

In our recent blog post, we discussed how there are special considerations for inheritances in divorces. This brings up the important point of making sure that you aren't wasting your inheritance or doing things that are going to rip it from you.

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