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Wills and Inheritance
Old 04-04-2021, 02:44 PM   #1
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Wills and Inheritance

I'm 59 and have been retired for 7 years. I've become comfortable with my retirement finances and now I'm worrying about wills, estate planing and inheritance. I'm single and don't have any children so I will be leaving money to my nieces and some charities. I have a basic will from a long time ago and have beneficiaries on all my accounts, but the value of my house and the size of the estate means that some extra planning is probably necessary. I am giving money up to the annual limits and if I have the opportunity I will give away large amounts before I die, but that's something that we often can't plan for.

I'm interested in what other people have done. Did you use online software or a local lawyer and if so how did you choose them. Did you use your lawyer as the executor or ask a friend or relative to do it?
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Old 04-04-2021, 02:51 PM   #2
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I'm 59 and have been retired for 7 years. I've become comfortable with my retirement finances and now I'm worrying about wills, estate planing and inheritance. I'm single and don't have any children so I will be leaving money to my nieces and some charities. I have a basic will from a long time ago and have beneficiaries on all my accounts, but the value of my house and the size of the estate means that some extra planning is probably necessary. I am giving money up to the annual limits and if I have the opportunity I will give away large amounts before I die, but that's something that we often can't plan for.



I'm interested in what other people have done. Did you use online software or a local lawyer and if so how did you choose them. Did you use your lawyer as the executor or ask a friend or relative to do it?

I recommend finding an attorney that specializes in estate planning.
I have both a sister-in-law and Schwab as co-trustees of the estate. Schwab along with my attorney will guide my sister-in-law for the immediate family decisions and issues and Schwab will manage the heavy duty finance and tax issues. My attorney has the power of being a protector and can fire Schwab if they don’t do their job, which is unlikely.
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Old 04-04-2021, 02:59 PM   #3
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Unless you also do your own appendectomies, work your network and find a good attorney that specializes in trusts & estates and is in your state. If you have a relationship with a charity they may have names for you to check, too. It may also be prudent to bring in a CPA with estate expertise. Look at these costs as a % of your estate and a good investment to make sure your wishes are honored.
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Old 04-04-2021, 03:38 PM   #4
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Unless you also do your own appendectomies, work your network and find a good attorney that specializes in trusts & estates and is in your state. If you have a relationship with a charity they may have names for you to check, too. It may also be prudent to bring in a CPA with estate expertise. Look at these costs as a % of your estate and a good investment to make sure your wishes are honored.
I know this is good advice...what sort of fees are reasonable for an attorney to be the executor. I know when my mother died I was glad that the attorney did everything as dealing with taxes and selling the house were the last things I wanted to do, but that was in the UK.
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Old 04-04-2021, 03:54 PM   #5
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I’m your age and in exactly the same situation (single, no kids, leaving most to nieces/nephews). I live in a small city and it was easy to find a good attorney via recommendations from friends. He specializes in estates and elder law. I used him to redo all my parents legal documents about 6 years ago. About 5 years ago, I had him redo all of mine. Like you, most of my assets are in financial accounts with POD beneficiaries. However, my house and vehicle are outside that, so the will can be used to define that.

I chose to ask my oldest (and most responsible, trusted) niece to be my executor. She agreed. I also am rewarding her for doing the work by leaving her a larger percentage of my TOD accounts than the other 9 nieces and nephews will get. She also gets 2 shares of the proceeds from the sale of the house/car where the others get one share.

I keep all the info she will need to deal with this in a 3-ring binder and have walked her thru what is in the notebook and where to find it in my house. She does not know the actual amounts in my accounts. She probably has figured out that I do alright having retired at 56 and living how I do.

I also urged her to hire the same attorney if she needs help in sorting it all out upon my death.

That is my approach.
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Old 04-04-2021, 03:56 PM   #6
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I'm 59 and have been retired for 7 years. I've become comfortable with my retirement finances and now I'm worrying about wills, estate planing and inheritance. I'm single and don't have any children so I will be leaving money to my nieces and some charities. I have a basic will from a long time ago and have beneficiaries on all my accounts, but the value of my house and the size of the estate means that some extra planning is probably necessary. I am giving money up to the annual limits and if I have the opportunity I will give away large amounts before I die, but that's something that we often can't plan for.

I'm interested in what other people have done. Did you use online software or a local lawyer and if so how did you choose them. Did you use your lawyer as the executor or ask a friend or relative to do it?
Oh my word. If you have an appreciable assets you should get a professional. You don't know - what you don't know.

Word of mouth; online research as to qualifications, reviews (but pay more attention to the bad reviews than the good ones).

You can make calls to get estimates for an update of the will and trust. There is no way to tell what attorneys fees will be 50 years in the future, when you pass at 109.

Also, executor's fees may be set by statute. Attorneys' fees tend to be on top of that. If you want the executor to be the attorney, be prepared for some type of waiver/ acknowledgement of the additional fees which would be imposed.
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Old 04-04-2021, 04:02 PM   #7
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The problem with will writers, trust writers, etc is you won't know if it was actually a good investment until you are gone. All you can do is believe in your decisions and hope they will be good enough.
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Old 04-04-2021, 04:20 PM   #8
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I’m your age and in exactly the same situation (single, no kids, leaving most to nieces/nephews). I live in a small city and it was easy to find a good attorney via recommendations from friends. He specializes in estates and elder law. I used him to redo all my parents legal documents about 6 years ago. About 5 years ago, I had him redo all of mine. Like you, most of my assets are in financial accounts with POD beneficiaries. However, my house and vehicle are outside that, so the will can be used to define that.

I chose to ask my oldest (and most responsible, trusted) niece to be my executor. She agreed. I also am rewarding her for doing the work by leaving her a larger percentage of my TOD accounts than the other 9 nieces and nephews will get. She also gets 2 shares of the proceeds from the sale of the house/car where the others get one share.

I keep all the info she will need to deal with this in a 3-ring binder and have walked her thru what is in the notebook and where to find it in my house. She does not know the actual amounts in my accounts. She probably has figured out that I do alright having retired at 56 and living how I do.

I also urged her to hire the same attorney if she needs help in sorting it all out upon my death.

That is my approach.
That sounds sensible. One thing I didn't mention is that my heirs are all back in the UK and so they don't know about US stuff and importantly it can be difficult for non-US citizens to navigate the US system. I think that really pushes me into using a lawyer as the executor. I have some good friends who could do it, but they are all as old as me and so I might run out of them.
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Old 04-04-2021, 04:23 PM   #9
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I know this is good advice...what sort of fees are reasonable for an attorney to be the executor. ...
Fees are going to vary; ask about fees from each attorney you interview. DW was an SVP and business unit manager for a megabank, so she know all the attorneys. IIRC our plan might have been $4-5K initially and it gets a tuneup with changes in family situation, changes in tax law, changes in our choices, ... A few $K each time. Our attorney flat-rates the work, so other than the initial shock there are no surprises.

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The problem with will writers, trust writers, etc is you won't know if it was actually a good investment until you are gone. All you can do is believe in your decisions and hope they will be good enough.
Excellent point. DW knew a couple of attorneys who held themselves out at experts but the legal staff shuddered when documents done by them came in. All you can do is the best that you can. Consult non-specialist attorneys, judges if you know any, CPAs, etc. In our metro area the city magazine publishes a "super lawyers" list every year based only on recommendations from other lawyers. Whatever names you come up with, check with the state bar association for disciplinary history, talk to them and interview at least a few in person. You can't necessarily judge their technical expertise but you can tell whether they are giving you canned BS or are actually listening to you and what is important to you.
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Old 04-04-2021, 04:44 PM   #10
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That sounds sensible. One thing I didn't mention is that my heirs are all back in the UK and so they don't know about US stuff and importantly it can be difficult for non-US citizens to navigate the US system. I think that really pushes me into using a lawyer as the executor. I have some good friends who could do it, but they are all as old as me and so I might run out of them.
I remember as a teenager when my parents got a letter in the mail. It said to phone a certain lawyer as X had died and they were in the Will.
It was a $50K surprise in the mail

Thankfully this person had an honest executor, as my parents never would have known if the letter had not arrived.

So please tell your relatives/friends/etc that they are mentioned in your Will.

Just imagine if the postman had lost the letter, or the lawyer was dishonest, or the lawyer's clerk was dishonest/forgetful/lazy.

My parents had very little so that $50K was a huge help to them.
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Old 04-04-2021, 04:48 PM   #11
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I'm interested in what other people have done. Did you use online software or a local lawyer and if so how did you choose them. Did you use your lawyer as the executor or ask a friend or relative to do it?
FWIW our estate planning attorney recommended a trust and family as trustee, we ended up using my cousin. It sounds like the cost of advice would be a small fraction of the value of the estate so it makes sense to me to get help. You call poll strangers on the internet about what they have done but I don't see how they would know how if their plan worked out.
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Old 04-04-2021, 11:07 PM   #12
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I am a huge proponent of Estate Planning.. wills, POAs, Medical Directives, etc.

My opinion is based on an unfortunate situation with my DM. She suffered a stroke at 68. 3 weeks prior, she and my DF had purchased a plot of land for their retirement home & finalized their Estate Planning. It was a horrible time for all involved (I have two brothers). Because a plan had been laid out, everything was straight forward. It made difficult decisions easy, during a very difficult time. Maybe "decisions" isn't the correct verbiage.. we were following her wishes.

Within 6 months, my brothers & I had our own Estate Plans in place. Then we all communicated to each other (and our DF) what those plans/wishes are. To me, the communication is just as important as having the plan in place.
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Old 04-05-2021, 04:49 AM   #13
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The problem with will writers, trust writers, etc is you won't know if it was actually a good investment until you are gone. All you can do is believe in your decisions and hope they will be good enough.
Very true. I have seen them torn apart after the person died in the courtroom.
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Old 04-05-2021, 07:52 AM   #14
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We found our estate attorney by looking for ones in the area, then reading reviews from other locals. Then we met with her once for a small flat fee to discuss what she would do if we asked her to draw up a comprehensive estate plan, and we were very happy with her, so we went ahead and got HCPOAs, wills, pour-over RLTs, the works, for about $5K. She also gave us everything we needed to transfer our accounts and real property into the trust. We haven't revised it since because nothing has really changed, but should probably have a short check-up soon, it's been a few years.
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Old 04-05-2021, 08:46 AM   #15
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I have actually talked to a couple of estate lawyers and they all agree that my situation is very simple apart from the non-citizen heirs and potential executors. The one that seemed most thorough recommended a will, a revocable trust for the house and rental apartment to avoid probate and the usual medical directives, power of attorney and living will in case I become incapacitated, the difficulty with those is I'd like to have a family member on them and they are all across the Atlantic. Right now I don't have to worry about Federal Estate taxes, but I am well over the state estate tax threshold. I asked the lawyer about tax strategies and he said as I'm single "just either move to another state or spend or give your money away before you die" which was pretty much what I had concluded.

To set things up the cost is $1200 which I think is very reasonable. I need to ask and understand the executor fees.
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Old 04-05-2021, 10:39 AM   #16
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It's a shame that we have to go through the will preparation a number of times during our lives.

Changes can be required when the kids grow up and get on their own. Or when one gets married and/or has children. Or when we retire after FIRE'd. Or when heirs get divorce. Or if we have child problems--drugs, illegalities. Or when trusts are setup.

One will in a lifetime just seldom works for most family situations. What's really bad is when someone has a lifetime change like senility, and they don't have the judgement to change their wills when changes are warranted. (I saw a case of this recently.)
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Old 04-05-2021, 10:46 AM   #17
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... Changes can be required when the kids grow up and get on their own. Or when one gets married and/or has children. Or when we retire after FIRE'd. Or when heirs get divorce. Or if we have child problems--drugs, illegalities. Or when trusts are setup. ...
Or if a beneficiary dies, or when minor children beneficiaries reach adulthood, or when the gummint changes the tax laws, or when charitable intentions change, or, or, or ... It's a long list.

I generally avoid owning things that eat, but we do have a dog and we do have an estate plan. Unfortunately, dog food is cheaper than lawyers.
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Old 04-05-2021, 12:14 PM   #18
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... I asked the lawyer about tax strategies and he said as I'm single "just either move to another state or spend or give your money away before you die" which was pretty much what I had concluded.
I'm single too, and your plan sounds like mine.. I do plan to enjoy the fruits of my labors!

However, I also have children, who are currently minors. The plan (should I not complete my goal) is that they will receive equal shares of my estate in a staggered manner during their lives. I have a trust in place with this laid out. Once the youngest is a legal adult, I will have my will re-written. The other documents will remain as is, until the passing of my trustees.

My Great Uncle (my father's uncle) died an extremely rich man. He never married & had no kids of his own. He acquired a terminal illness, and knew he had months to live. Part of his plan was to gift all his nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews AND their spouses the max allowed under the gift tax, before he passed. I think that amount was $13k at the time. It's something I hope I can do for my lineage too.
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Old 04-05-2021, 12:26 PM   #19
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... However, I also have children, who are currently minors. The plan (should I not complete my goal) is that they will receive equal shares of my estate in a staggered manner during their lives. ...
Hopefully you have given your trustees some flexibility with this. For example, if a beneficiary becomes terminally ill, you would probably approve of your money being used for care and support. Or a beneficiary becoming disabled and needing home care. A completely fixed disbursement schedule prevents a trustee from modifying disbursement plans to suit unexpected events, at least short of going to court and asking the judge to change the rules of the trust.
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Old 04-05-2021, 01:14 PM   #20
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My Great Uncle (my father's uncle) died an extremely rich man. He never married & had no kids of his own. He acquired a terminal illness, and knew he had months to live. Part of his plan was to gift all his nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews AND their spouses the max allowed under the gift tax, before he passed. I think that amount was $13k at the time. It's something I hope I can do for my lineage too.
If you know when you will die then you can time the gifts just right. I'm already giving some money to my nieces and their children, but it isn't making a big dent in the value of the estate yet. But if I do get a heads up that the "grim reaper" is around the corner I can see me making $15k gifts to nieces, their husbands, kids and maybe even pets. I could make larger payments and if I don't go over the lifetime limit I don't think gift tax would apply, but the amounts over the annual gift limit would still count as part of the estate to determine if the state estate tax threshold is met...but I think in my state only the value of the remaining estate would be taxed.
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