As Americans live longer and have to stretch their retirement savings farther, many people die owing more money than they have. Increasingly, older Americans are in debt -- sometimes substantial debt. Almost a quarter of people over 75 are still making mortgage payments. When people who have more debt than assets die, their adult children are forced to deal with their parents' debt as they manage their estate.
Recently, we discussed the fact that many estate disputes involve stepmothers and their stepchildren. That's the case with the estate of music legend James Brown. The "Godfather of Soul" died just over 11 years ago, on Christmas Day 2006, after a complicated life that included drugs, multiple arrests and estrangement from some of his children.
A loved one named you as the agent (also known as an attorney-in-fact) for his or her power of attorney (POA). Now the time has come for you to act on your designated responsibilities.
Less than a year after the sudden death of Alan Thicke, the popular actor's two sons are embroiled in a legal battle with Thicke's widow over his living trust and the terms of his prenuptial agreement with his third wife. The 69-year-old, perhaps remembered by most people as the affable dad on the 1980s comedy Growing Pains, suffered a ruptured aorta while he was playing ice hockey in Burbank last December.
Many of our readers recall the bitter dispute between Casey Kasem's wife and his adult children in the year prior to his death. The former American Top 40 host was suffering from Lewy body dementia, among other medical conditions.
A debilitating injury or illness can occur at any time, even to young and seemingly-healthy people. When people are no longer able to look after their own interests, whether due to dementia or some other condition, and they don't have an estate plan designating someone to do so in their stead, it may be necessary to set up a conservatorship.
In California, married couples have what's known as a spousal fiduciary duty to one another under the state's Family Code. According to the code, the marital relationship "imposes the duty of the highest good faith and fair dealing on each spouse, and neither shall take unfair advantage of the other."
When a family member dies, even the closest of siblings can become estranged, especially when money or property is at stake. Probate issues have a way of bringing out siblings' stubbornness and reviving contentious emotional discussions as well. Because most siblings don't find themselves involved in probate litigation until they reach their 50s or 60s means that there's a lot of emotional baggage.
If you have a responsibility for someone's estate, whether that person is still alive or has passed away, you are likely a fiduciary. A fiduciary's specific title may be power of attorney, trustee, executor, conservator or agent.
Choosing someone to manage a trust is one of the most significant estate planning decisions you'll make. This is particularly true if you've set up a trust to provide for family members, both while you're still alive and after you're gone.