Monthly Archives:: July 2022

Using Assisted Reproductive Technology: What Happens to Unused Genetic Material at Your Death?

When a person dies and leaves behind frozen sperm, eggs, or embryos, who owns the genetic material after the person’s death, and who can use it? While the answers vary from state to state, in general, there is a distinction between who owns and controls gametes (i.e., eggs and sperm) as opposed to embryos. Your sperm or eggs are generally considered your own individual property, and therefore your intent as to how gametes are to be used controls their disposition after your death, so if you intend to allow your frozen genetic material to be used for reproduction after your death, you should make your intent clear in your estate plan. 

State laws that address the issue of embryos vary substantially. As discussed above, in Louisiana, an embryo is considered a legal person and cannot be intentionally destroyed. In Florida, however, any written agreement controls the disposition of the frozen genetic material. In the absence of an agreement, the person who provided the gametes controls their disposition, whereas a couple jointly decides the disposition of their embryo. If one member of the couple dies, the surviving member makes all decisions about the embryo’s disposition. READ MORE

How Estate Planning Can Reduce The High Cost Of Dying – Part 2

As anyone who has dealt with loss knows, when a loved one dies, those left behind face significant challenges, not only emotional and logistical but financial as well. Empathy was designed to help manage and streamline these responsibilities for grieving families. In addition to the app, in March 2022, Empathy released its first-ever Cost of Dying Report, which surveyed more than 2,000 Americans – each of whom had lost a loved one in the last five years – to get a clearer picture of dying’s the actual cost to families.

Last week, in part one of this series, we discussed some of the Cost Of Dying’s most notable findings and explained how proactive estate planning could dramatically reduce many of the financial, logistical, and emotional challenges for your loved ones following your death. Here in part two, we wrap up our summary of the report and outline more of the ways proactive planning can relieve the burden of your death for your family. READ MORE

Powerful Provisions in Your Financial Power of Attorney

In a financial power of attorney, you designate a trusted decision maker (agent or attorney-in-fact) to act on your behalf if you become disabled or unable to manage your financial affairs. Depending on the provisions you choose to include, your agent may have the power to buy and sell property, the power to invest, and powers regarding your retirement benefits. When you are selecting powers to give your agent, you should carefully consider the following three powers in particular: (1) the power to gift, (2) the power to make or change your estate plan, and (3) the power to prosecute and defend legal actions.

Depending on how it is written, the power to gift authorizes your agent to make gifts of your money and property to any person or organization on your behalf. On the one hand, this power could be quite beneficial because it can enable your family to accomplish necessary Medicaid and other public benefits eligibility planning after you become incapacitated. READ MORE

How Estate Planning Can Reduce The High Cost Of Dying – Part 1

According to Census figures, the pandemic caused the U.S. death rate to spike by nearly 20% between 2019 and 2020, the most significant increase in American mortality in 100 years. More than two years and 1 million deaths later, it’s more apparent that death is not only ever-present but a central and inevitable part of all our lives.

Yet, in what may be one of its few positive outcomes, some in the end-of-life industry believe that the pandemic’s massive loss of life has created an opportunity to transform the way we face death, grief, and all of the other issues that arise when we lose someone we love dearly. In fact, this sentiment is the mission of the new startup Empathy, an AI-based platform designed to help families navigate the logistical and emotional challenges following the death of a loved one. READ MORE

Three Things You Need to Know about Cryptocurrency and Your Estate Plan

Suppose you own cryptocurrency that has substantially increased in value or that you anticipate will substantially increase in value. In that case, it is essential to discuss with your estate planning attorney ways you can minimize potential income, estate, and gift tax consequences.

As cryptocurrency increases in popularity, more people have cryptocurrency holdings that must be considered part of their estate. Because cryptocurrencies are generally stored so that no personally identifying information is tied to them, owners of cryptocurrencies must inform their beneficiaries that these assets exist, or they could be lost forever at the owner’s death. READ MORE

5 Common Estate Planning Concerns For Your Second (Or More) Marriage

Whenever you merge two families into one, you will naturally encounter some challenges and conflict. To this end, blended families present several particularly challenging legal and financial issues from an estate planning perspective. Indeed, though all families should have an estate plan, planning is essential for those with blended families. 

Suppose you have a blended family, and something happens to you without a carefully considered estate plan. In that case, your loved ones are at risk of significant misunderstanding and conflict and having your assets tied up in court instead of passing to those you want to receive them. Unless you are okay with setting your loved ones up for heartache, confusion, and pain when something happens to you, you need an estate plan that’s intentionally designed by an experienced lawyer (not an online document service) to keep your loved ones out of court and out of conflict. READ MORE

Important Questions to Ask When Investing in a Vacation Property

According to the National Association of Home Builders, in 2018, there were approximately 7.5 million second homes, making up 5.5 percent of the total number of homes. These homes are not only real estate that must be planned for, managed, and maintained, they are also the birthplace of happy memories for you and your loved ones. Following are some significant estate planning questions to consider to ensure that your place of happy memories is protected.

The fate of your vacation property at your death largely depends on how it is currently owned. If you are the property’s sole owner or if you own it as a tenant in common with one or more other people, you need to decide what will happen to your interest in the property. Suppose you own the property with another person as joint tenants with rights of survivorship or with a spouse as tenants by the entirety. READ MORE

What You Need to Know About Collecting Life Insurance Proceeds

If you’re looking to collect life insurance proceeds as the policy’s beneficiary, the process is fairly simple. However, during the emotional period immediately following a loved one’s death, it can feel as if your entire world is falling apart, so it’s helpful to understand exactly what steps you need to take to access the insurance funds as quickly and easily as possible.

Not to mention, if you’ve been dependent on the person who died for financial support and/or you are responsible for paying for the funeral or other expenses, the need to access insurance money can be downright urgent. Plus, unlike other assets, an estate’s executor typically isn’t involved with collecting life insurance proceeds, since benefits pass directly to a beneficiary, so this is something you will need to handle yourself.   READ MORE

What Happens to My Spouse’s Debts at Their Death?

Most Americans have some debt. The obligation to pay debts does not go away when a person dies. While most debts are paid by the deceased’s estate (money and property owned by the decedent at their death) and do not transfer to a surviving spouse or other beneficiaries, in some cases, you may be responsible for paying off your deceased spouse’s creditor claims.

If the legal duty to pay off a spouse’s debt falls to you, it has implications for your finances, so you will want to be clear on the laws where you live. If debt collectors contact you, know that you have rights as well. You should discuss questions about your debt payment obligations and rights with an attorney who specializes in estate planning and administration. READ MORE