With a new administration in Washington, come increased attention to our tax laws, including laws that tax assets when people die. For estate planning attorneys, this increased interest bring with it the possibility that changes may come which will impact their clients., and which may change the way they should be planning for clients in the future.
Clichés about “avoiding probate” and “protecting your assets” are recited ad nauseum at the so-called “educational seminars” (aka sales presentations) put on nightly by lawyers and financial planners in eateries across Michigan. It isn’t surprising that people show up to these presentations. Probate law is complicated, and people understandably want to feel informed before they spend money and make important decisions about how their assets are distributed at their death. Unfortunately, for the most part, these free-dinner seminar programs are the only place they can go for information.
In litigation involving the financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, timing is often everything. Let’s say, for instance, that Dad really likes his new caregiver. So much that his is “helping her out” financially. You smell trouble, and you’re probably right. The question is what to do, and more to the point: when to do it. The same question comes up when the concern about exploitation involves a sibling or a new spouse.
By the time I meet with clients (usually in their 50s or 60s, if not older), they have a pretty good idea of how
their children will make out: whether their marriages will be successful, whether they will have children, and what
their prospects are for a sound financial future. All this is good to know when preparing an estate plan.
Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of clients who have done well financially themselves, but who can see that their children
are never going to enjoy the same level of material success as they did. They love their children and grandchildren to death
— but they worry about how they will fare financially in the future. Typically these clients have two main concerns:
- Providing a mechanism to assure that their children will have
something to live on when those children are no longer able
- Providing their grandchildren with the ability to get a college
degree without being burdened with a large debt.
With respect to each of these concerns, there is more than one
way to approach the issue, and there are special considerations
with respect to each approach.