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Old 10-01-2021, 11:23 AM   #21
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So has anyone found an Estate Planning attorney that doesn't just use software to spit out a huge document with tons of unrelated stuff to pad it and make it look impressive?

If so, how do you find these? The one my FIL/MIL used couldn't even explain the docs he himself delivered (he didn't write them, a computer did) some 25 years earlier. And the new ones had inconsistencies that I had to review with them twice before they changed them, the first time they just told me I was wrong.

I don't have much faith in recommendations from the general public, most don't know what to ask. Unless they are specific that the attorney gave then what they wanted w/o the fluff.

-ERD50
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Old 10-01-2021, 11:31 AM   #22
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This subject is important to me. We've been to several seminars and we DO think we need a living trust (or whatever it's called). We went to a lawyer who offered a "package" deal, but there were just too many questions and they didn't seem interested in helping us find the answers. They made it seem like "one size fits all" but it doesn't. Biggest issue for me is how to find someone to manage the trust as WE WANT after the second one dies. The law office said "Well just choose your most responsible child." That's when we knew we were in trouble. YMMV
@Dash Man is right. You need a respected specialist attorney and a corporate trustee.

As I have said before, DW retired as an SVP in a megabank trusts & estates department. Finding the right attorney is tough. There was one guy who held himself out as an expert where DW's legal beagles just groaned when any of his documents came in. Best case would be to get a couple of names from a judge in a probate division. But an interview ("They made it seem like "one size fits all" but it doesn't. ... we knew we were in trouble....") can reveal a lot. Interview several.

Re family member as trustee this is a recipe for destroying relationships if the trustee has any flexibility in distributions, which they should. In our case we have a corporate trustee and a good, younger, friend as "Trust Protector." She is not burdened as a co-trustee might be but she has review authority and the ability to fire and replace the trustee. "Trust Protector" is apparently a relatively new idea and is not codified in all states' laws. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protector_(trust)

We have designated Schwab as our trustee too. We have a long and happy relationship with the company and their fees are substantially less than a bank would charge.
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Old 10-01-2021, 03:19 PM   #23
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Man I've learned a lot already from your comments. Looks very complex.
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Old 10-01-2021, 03:34 PM   #24
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Man I've learned a lot already from your comments. Looks very complex.
It is more a function of what assets you have. I our case, other than the house, everything is in an account. Each account is a TOD (transfer on death) to the beneficiaries and to successor beneficiaries.
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Old 10-01-2021, 03:56 PM   #25
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It is more a function of what assets you have. I our case, other than the house, everything is in an account. Each account is a TOD (transfer on death) to the beneficiaries and to successor beneficiaries.

Depending on the state, TOD may be problematic. Here in PA where there is an inheritance tax, and the Inheritance tax return must be filed by the executor or responsible party. If there is no executor, the person receiving the funds must file the Inheritance tax return. If that person is irresponsible or is simply not aware, it can come back to bite them in penalties and interest.
A final income tax return also has to be filed for the deceased by the executor.
Banks may freeze the accounts until proof is provided all taxes have been paid. So having a single responsible party will more likely ensure a smooth process distributing the assets.
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Old 10-01-2021, 04:17 PM   #26
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From experience of being executor of an estate, having all the accounts, annuities, property, etc set to TOD/POD is great, as long as 1 bank account that pays the bills regularly (checking account) is not set as TOD/POD.

This allows the executor to pay bills, cash checks, etc for the estate/deceased. Then distribute the remaining after the tax return is completed (and refund paid).

It was just luck for us, but has worked out well. Bulk of estate is distributed quick and easy, and the checking account handles the bills and will be distributed next year.

Had everything been a TOD/POD it would be awkward trying to get the beneficiaries to pay for various bills.
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Old 10-01-2021, 04:24 PM   #27
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It is more a function of what assets you have. I our case, other than the house, everything is in an account. Each account is a TOD (transfer on death) to the beneficiaries and to successor beneficiaries.
That's what I've done. Cheaper than a trust, and in most accounts, I can quickly and easily change it online. My state even allows the house to have a TOD, though I had to go down to the county courthouse to file it, so it's not quite as easy to change, but I don't have plans for that. I did discuss this with an estate attorney, and she grudgingly admitted this was sufficient for me in my current situation. I'm not in PA, so I don't run into Dash man's issue.

I like the ability to change, because I have most going to my son, but not all. My IRAs go to him so there's only one person who has to deal with those rules, and I can "rebalance" the taxable account TOD to make sure it's in the range I want to give him and other.

The downside to that is that if I start to lose my mental facilities, it would be that easy for someone to con me into changing it to them. I don't have a ready solution to that.
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Old 10-01-2021, 04:28 PM   #28
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From experience of being executor of an estate, having all the accounts, annuities, property, etc set to TOD/POD is great, as long as 1 bank account that pays the bills regularly (checking account) is not set as TOD/POD.

This allows the executor to pay bills, cash checks, etc for the estate/deceased. Then distribute the remaining after the tax return is completed (and refund paid).

It was just luck for us, but has worked out well. Bulk of estate is distributed quick and easy, and the checking account handles the bills and will be distributed next year.

Had everything been a TOD/POD it would be awkward trying to get the beneficiaries to pay for various bills.
My hope is that the checking account with POD can be left open, pay bills and accept refunds for a while, then be distributed to beneficiaries later when it's quiescent.

I need to check with the bank to see if they can convert it over to an estate account or if they'll just be willing to leave it open for a while for various bills and credits.
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Old 10-01-2021, 04:33 PM   #29
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This will be a start to learn for me to ask a few question. My land is something I want to hand down and it needs to be done right and as simple as it can be.
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Old 10-01-2021, 04:40 PM   #30
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This subject is important to me. We've been to several seminars and we DO think we need a living trust (or whatever it's called). We went to a lawyer who offered a "package" deal, but there were just too many questions and they didn't seem interested in helping us find the answers. They made it seem like "one size fits all" but it doesn't. Biggest issue for me is how to find someone to manage the trust as WE WANT after the second one dies. The law office said "Well just choose your most responsible child." That's when we knew we were in trouble. YMMV


I canít say for sure because I decided I didnít need a trust and my sibling who probably does need one wonít pay to set it up. They quoted about $3k. I did learn quite a bit though from the seminars and the book. It occurred to me that the successor trustee is likely to need help from the attorney that set up the trustÖ.another expense for the estate. One of the seminar attorneys claimed to provide some group and individual support to trustees at no charge. It was said that the biggest issue is that grantors set up the trust but never get around to funding (e.g. real estate has to be returned in the name of the trust). One guy says their service includes returning one property. Additional properties are extra and out of state is extra also.
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Old 10-01-2021, 04:40 PM   #31
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So has anyone found an Estate Planning attorney that doesn't just use software to spit out a huge document with tons of unrelated stuff to pad it and make it look impressive?

If so, how do you find these? The one my FIL/MIL used couldn't even explain the docs he himself delivered (he didn't write them, a computer did) some 25 years earlier. And the new ones had inconsistencies that I had to review with them twice before they changed them, the first time they just told me I was wrong.

I don't have much faith in recommendations from the general public, most don't know what to ask. Unless they are specific that the attorney gave then what they wanted w/o the fluff.

-ERD50

The "padding/fluff" you speak of is usually there because of previous issues or to cover all bases. I won't get into the specifics of estate attorneys, but there are good ones out there and using one is pretty important IMHO.

Malpractice claims are pretty high for estate planning attorneys...this is an indicator that it CAN be a very complicated area of the law. *IF* an attorney is unable to explain the documents that they are presenting, then this is malpractice and SHOULD be reported as such to the respective bar association (or other entity that oversees licensing).

I have a very good friend that has been doing estate planning for well over 25 years and could spend DAYS telling stories of estate planning gone wrong.
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Old 10-01-2021, 04:48 PM   #32
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My hope is that the checking account with POD can be left open, pay bills and accept refunds for a while, then be distributed to beneficiaries later when it's quiescent.

I need to check with the bank to see if they can convert it over to an estate account or if they'll just be willing to leave it open for a while for various bills and credits.
Maybe don't have that account set up as POD/TOD?
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Old 10-01-2021, 04:50 PM   #33
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My hope is that the checking account with POD can be left open, pay bills and accept refunds for a while, then be distributed to beneficiaries later when it's quiescent.

I need to check with the bank to see if they can convert it over to an estate account or if they'll just be willing to leave it open for a while for various bills and credits.
NOT LEGAL ADVICE: The bank will most likely NOT do this. If they did, odds are they would be breaking the law. Opening the estate account can be done pretty quick (usually with a death certificate) and the bank can then direct any debits to draw from THAT account. NOT LEGAL ADVICE
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Old 10-01-2021, 05:10 PM   #34
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NOT LEGAL ADVICE: The bank will most likely NOT do this. If they did, odds are they would be breaking the law. Opening the estate account can be done pretty quick (usually with a death certificate) and the bank can then direct any debits to draw from THAT account. NOT LEGAL ADVICE
Not LEGAL advice, but good advice.

When DM passed it was pretty simple to open a new account. She had another account, but I am pretty sure we opened a new one for the estate.
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Old 10-01-2021, 05:35 PM   #35
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So has anyone found an Estate Planning attorney that doesn't just use software to spit out a huge document with tons of unrelated stuff to pad it and make it look impressive?

If so, how do you find these? The one my FIL/MIL used couldn't even explain the docs he himself delivered (he didn't write them, a computer did) some 25 years earlier. And the new ones had inconsistencies that I had to review with them twice before they changed them, the first time they just told me I was wrong.

I don't have much faith in recommendations from the general public, most don't know what to ask. Unless they are specific that the attorney gave then what they wanted w/o the fluff.

-ERD50
Well.....I got a free copy for 30 days of 4Trust and created all of our Estate Planning docs. Yup, legalese requires a lot of boiler plate and fluff, but the software specifically uses your State Tax laws and codes to cite the specific required statements. The software drives questions to get the correct type and nature of the trust and subsequent provisions. The old Clayton provision is a typical one for those with more than the state exemption and it is important that the surviving spouse has freedom to use assets as outlined in the specific subsequent trust structures. This requires a few pages of terms. Whether or not you enable an IRA beneficiary trust is one of your decisions, something to consider with current tax laws. We are considering the benefits of an Intentionally Defective Grantor Trust now, which could help with the horrible state death taxes here in WA.

My friends who are lawyers typically use the firms software AND folks who can understand it to create their trusts/wills. It can be very specific when you reside in states like WA and OR.

To the point, it may take a bit of paper to create something to preserve wealth. A simple trust will lead possibly to missed estate tax avoidance.
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Old 10-01-2021, 05:41 PM   #36
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Nice example of Clayton provision;
https://www.rcalaw.com/webfiles/Clayton%20Election.pdf
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Old 10-01-2021, 05:44 PM   #37
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The "padding/fluff" you speak of is usually there because of previous issues or to cover all bases. I won't get into the specifics of estate attorneys, but there are good ones out there and using one is pretty important IMHO.
<snip>

I have a very good friend that has been doing estate planning for well over 25 years and could spend DAYS telling stories of estate planning gone wrong.
I created a Revocable Trust when I was married to DH and did new documents after he died. I'm still not sure a trust is worth the trouble but I have one. By the time I created the new one the previous attorney had retired but I was impressed with the questions both asked, clearly based on horror stories they'd encountered. (First attorney told me a couple with no personally identifiable details.)
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Old 10-01-2021, 07:29 PM   #38
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The "padding/fluff" you speak of is usually there because of previous issues or to cover all bases. I won't get into the specifics of estate attorneys, but there are good ones out there and using one is pretty important IMHO.

Malpractice claims are pretty high for estate planning attorneys...this is an indicator that it CAN be a very complicated area of the law. *IF* an attorney is unable to explain the documents that they are presenting, then this is malpractice and SHOULD be reported as such to the respective bar association (or other entity that oversees licensing).

I have a very good friend that has been doing estate planning for well over 25 years and could spend DAYS telling stories of estate planning gone wrong.
I understand there can be a lot of ifs/ands/or/buts, and those need to be covered.

I'm talking about pages that go into esoteric details on what the successor trustees can do. It spells out that they can use options, and a whole list of complex financial instruments. The successor trustees don't know anything about options, margin or these other instruments. It should all fit under the "reasonable man" principle, just invest the money conservatively and keep it diversified. There was even a couple pages about being allowed to set up some sort of Conservation District Investment or something? Like normal people are going to do that? They just want to settle the estate, or provide for the trustee if they become unable.

It becomes like the product warnings now that are 3 pages long - filled with things like "don't use this toaster in the bathtub". So much fluff that the meat gets lost.

-ERD50
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Old 10-01-2021, 07:34 PM   #39
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In my travels through this subject, I did decide one thing. I want a significant sized law firm to be involved. We went to one seminar where the lawyer making the presentation seemed quite knowledgeable but he was the only actual lawyer in the firm (a few paralegals and a clerk, perhaps.) I realize a "big" firm may not give as personal service, but with only one lawyer, it's possible your situation would just end up in a file cabinet in a storage locker. YMMV
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Old 10-01-2021, 07:45 PM   #40
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Maybe don't have that account set up as POD/TOD?
Could do that, but then it becomes a probate item. I'm hoping for small estate summary process, and there are asset limits to that.

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NOT LEGAL ADVICE: The bank will most likely NOT do this. If they did, odds are they would be breaking the law. Opening the estate account can be done pretty quick (usually with a death certificate) and the bank can then direct any debits to draw from THAT account. NOT LEGAL ADVICE
Was hoping to keep it simple, and had read somewhere before that banks could just roll the account over and make it an estate account.

Interestingly, the same bank left a joint account open for over a year after one of the joint owners died, so maybe things are more flexible/practical around here.

Not challenging, just curious - what sorts of laws would be broken? Assuming the debits and credits were all ordinary and legitimate (like Social Security, cable bills, etc. of the decedent).
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