Saturday, December 21, 2013

Using A Personal Property Memorandum in Estate Planning

A recent Wall Street Journal article entitled "How to Avoid Estate Fights Among Your Heirs" (Andrea Coombes, Dec. 15, 2013), highlighted one useful estate planning tool, the personal property memorandum:
[G]iven that family heirlooms can spark fiery conflicts, create a memorandum that details how you want to divvy up your personal property. ....

The memorandum describes who shall receive specific items. The will then references the memorandum; for example, "I direct my executor to distribute my tangible personal property in accordance with a signed and dated memorandum to be found with this will." Relatives may be unhappy with your decisions, but they're less likely to be angry at each other.

Make sure your executor knows where to find the memorandum, and be specific about items. In one example, a woman said her diamond ring should go to a daughter, but she didn't clarify which diamond ring, says Ms. Olsavsky. Attaching photos of the item and referencing each photo in your memorandum can help.

Another way to prevent arguments after you're gone: Give items away before you die.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Lifetime Estate Tax and Gift Tax Exclusion Amount Increases for 2014

The lifetime estate and gift tax exclusion amount (also called the unified credit amount, or exemption amount, or applicable exclusion amount) will increase in 2014 from $5.25 to $5.34 million per person. The annual gifting exclusion amount will remain at $14,000 per donor per donee.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

"Estate Planning" Versus "A Will" or "A Trust"

This short article[1], published September 4, 2013, may help you to understand the difference between what clients often think they need, "a will" or "a trust", and what they likely need instead: an estate plan. The process by which an estate plan is implemented is, of course, called estate planning.

[1] Andrea Murad,, September 4, 2013.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Online Legal Form Creates Legal Problem for Landlord

A North Carolina landlord who is being sued by the state’s Attorney General over security deposit violations says his lease is to blame. . . . In a news interview, he explains that he found the form lease on a realtors’ website, and did not realize that the security deposit provisions in the form contradicted current security deposit laws in North Carolina.

Other landlords can learn from the mistake. When using online rental forms, be sure to choose forms from a source that has both state-specific and up-to-date forms. One problem with using forms from websites is the difficulty in determining whether the law has changed since the form was posted.

It’s always a good idea to run the online form past an attorney before using it for the first time. That way, you catch any mistakes early on, before mass-producing the problem for every tenant.

The Attorney General says he will be seeking a $5,000 penalty against the landlord for each security deposit violation.
Landlord Says Lease Form to Blame for Legal Woes, American Apartment Owners Association, August 22, 2013.