October 25, 2017

Anchorage Elder Law Lawyer:  5 Red Flags of Financial Abuse

The elderly are too often targets of unscrupulous individuals who may try to take an unsuspecting senior’s money. Seniors are especially vulnerable as they become less cognitively able and thus more dependent on other adults. Unfortunately, elder financial abuse is common in Alaska. Here are some red flags to watch out for with your elderly relative: 

New friends who aren’t peers. If someone new comes into your older loved one’s life, and they’re not a peer but somehow have really dazzled your relative, this may indicate someone who wants more than friendship. While it’s not impossible for seniors to make friends with people from all different walks of life, if your relative has a new friend who is significantly younger, or even from a different country, this may be a sign of someone targeting your relative.

Relatives who appear to have had a sudden windfall. If a senior’s relative who doesn’t normally have a lot of disposable income is spending more, or has recently purchased something lavish, this may be a sign of financial abuse. This is especially true if this relative has been known to be manipulative or has a history of borrowing money without returning it.

Suddenly unable to balance a checkbook or manage finances. If your senior relative is competent and otherwise generally good at paying bills on time and managing his or her bank accounts, and then suddenly isn’t, it could be a sign of financial abuse, especially if checks appear to have been written, but the corresponding bills are consistently unpaid. Ask your senior relative to get check images from their bank to find out where the money went.

Checks or cash gone without explanation. Checks missing altogether, people in your senior’s life writing checks to themselves, cash disappearing without corresponding receipts, and your senior relative consistently running out of cash may mean that someone else is wrongfully benefitting from your elderly loved one.

Sudden changes to a will or estate plan. If your loved one has recently changed a will or estate plan to either include a new person or to give the bulk of the estate to one person in particular, this may be a sign of financial abuse. Note that it’s perfectly normal for an individual to leave everything to their spouse or even to disinherit a relative for cause. However, suddenly favoring one child, or one unrelated individual while leaving the others in the cold is abnormal and may indicate that the new beneficiary has undue influence over your senior relative.

What can you do? Unfortunately, if your relative is of sound mind, it’s up to them to recognize and stop the abuse. However, you can always seek the advice of an elder law lawyer in Anchorage to find out what the laws are and what you can do to protect your relative. The lawyer can advise you on how to protect your elderly relative and possibly recover any money wrongfully taken.


October 18, 2017

Anchorage Special Needs Lawyer: Special Needs Planning for Divorced Families

When it comes to creating a special needs plan for a loved one with disabilities, it’s the hope that all family members are in agreement and ideally on the same page. But, even if everyone is working together, there can be issues when the parents are divorced. Often, there are separate estates, separate finances, and other factors to consider for both parents when creating trusts and other care plans for children with special needs. By facing the following challenges now, divorced parents have the best chance of creating solid plans for the future:

Understand that you two may have distinct financial and familial obligations. Remarriage and new families may make less money available for special needs planning. One parent may rely on the other to financially back any plans without fully understanding whether the other parent can do what is expected. Since divorced parents’ finances are separate, one parent cannot obligate the other to invest in or pay for something. Also, considering that lump sum inheritances can disqualify your child with special needs from receiving SSI and Medicaid, it’s best to make sure neither of you will accidentally undermine the other’s planning due to unintended consequences of your estate.

Work out any differences in opinion or desired outcomes. Parents may not want the same the thing for their adult child with disabilities, even though they both want the best. This can result in fights and disputes, which can turn ugly and contentious if not resolved. Hiring an Anchorage lawyer to handle your child’s special needs plan means having a knowledgeable neutral party working in the best interest of your child, no matter what happens between the two of you.

Decide if one parent should take the lead. If a child with disabilities primarily lives with one parent who is more involved in the child’s ongoing care, then it may be in the best interest of the child for the more involved parent to take the lead and do the lion’s share of the planning. If one parent takes on more responsibility, that parent should strive to keep the other in the loop, while the other pledges support, both emotional and financial.

Make sure all families know what’s going on. Your child may have family members on both sides that don’t communicate with each other or know what’s planned. More importantly, they may have siblings, half-siblings, and step-siblings who may be very concerned about your plans, and especially with any lack of planning. Just because you’ve asked one or all of your children to take over for you when you’re gone, doesn’t mean they can just slip into your place, even if they have the time and means to do so. All parties who would be interested should be kept in the loop to avoid any arguments or fights over your child’s plan when you’re gone.

Special needs planning in Alaska can be just as unique as your own family. Contact an Anchorage special needs lawyer when you’re ready to start planning. He or she has the experience and knowledge to work with challenges like divorced and blended families to create the right plan for your child and your family.


October 12, 2017

Anchorage Will Lawyer: A Life Estate Can Prevent Your New Spouse and Adult Kids from Fighting Over Your House When You’re Gone

A common concern for those who have remarried is that they still want to leave the bulk of their estate to their adult children without abandoning their current spouse. The solution? Create a life estate. A life estate is a tenancy that allows a person to use a property for the rest of their natural life, but not own the property.

For example, Larry in Alaska lives with his second wife, Jane, and stepchildren on the ancestral farm he inherited after both his parents died. Larry wants the house to go to his children, but he’s afraid that if he wills the house to them and he dies first, they’ll make Jane leave. If he leaves it to his wife, the house goes to his stepchildren when she dies. However, Larry could plan his estate by giving Jane a life estate, with the farm reverting to his heirs when she dies.

Quick facts about life estates:

A life estate doesn’t:

Give the possessor ownership. Those who have life estates don’t own the property. They’re tenants for the rest of their lives, and unless there are other rules restricting the use of the property, they can use the properties as they wish. For example, if Larry gives Jane a life estate, she can’t turn around and sell the property.

Give the possessor the right to sell or significantly change the property. Likewise, since Jane doesn’t own the property, she can’t make significant changes to it. She can’t take the house down and put up a motel, pave the cornfields, or even put an attached garage on the land. This is called waste.

Give anyone else the power to dispossess whoever has the life estate. As long as Jane isn’t causing waste to the farm, then her stepchildren, Larry’s adult children from a previous marriage, may not remove her from the property. Since she’s also a life tenant, they have to respect her tenancy. This means they can’t intrude, trespass, or disrupt her ability to live peacefully on the property. For example, the children can’t decide to rent the fields to another farmer.

A life estate does:

Allow the possessor to rent the property. Jane can rent out the farm for as long as she has the life estate. For example, if Jane moves away but decides to rent the farm to her brother, she can rent it to him for as long as she lives. He’s still bound by the same rules as she to not change or destroy the property.

Allow the possessor to sell their interest ONLY. Jane can even sell her life estate if she wishes. She can’t sell the property, however, since she doesn’t own it. So long as the buyer knows they’re not buying the property but the life estate, then the sale is legal.

If you’re in a similar situation, contact an Anchorage will lawyer to consider setting up a life estate so you can best take care of everyone whom you consider family.


October 5, 2017

Anchorage Probate Lawyer: Can Beneficiaries Demand a Formal Accounting of an Estate?

An estate administrator has a duty to manage the estate and do so in the best interest of the beneficiaries. However, not every administrator acts in good faith, and even when they do, disputes and discrepancies can make a beneficiary want to know exactly where the assets are and where they’re going.

 What duty does an administrator owe to the beneficiaries of an estate?

An administrator of an estate in Anchorage has what’s called a fiduciary duty to the estate’s beneficiaries. To have a fiduciary duty means to have a duty to act in good faith at all times when it comes to administering something on behalf of another person. Fiduciary duty requires the administrator to act according to a set of rules or laws, and a person with a fiduciary duty may not break those rules even if the beneficiaries ask them to do so. In Anchorage, an administrator of an estate must only spend or reallocate assets for the benefit of the estate. There may be civil consequences for breaching fiduciary duty.

However, if an administrator is suspected of acting in bad faith, as in acting against the interests of the beneficiaries, or suspected of being negligent, the beneficiaries have a right to ask for an accounting.

What is an accounting, and why do I want one?

An accounting is a detailed explanation of how the assets in an estate are controlled, how money is spent, why money has been spent, and what assets remain. An accounting shows who the estate’s creditors may be, how and when they’re paid, and what debts remain.

A beneficiary may seek an accounting to know the current status of an estate. A beneficiary may be suspicious of an administrator’s ability to administer the estate and about what they’ve done so far. For example, a beneficiary stands to inherit a house, but it goes into foreclosure because there weren’t enough assets in the estate to pay the mortgage. The beneficiary didn’t know that, or was sure there were enough assets to pay the mortgage, so the beneficiary wants an accounting to show why there was no money to pay the mortgage.

How do I get an accounting?

In Alaska, a formal accounting is an accounting granted through the court. An informal accounting can be made upon request. If a beneficiary requests an informal accounting directly from the administrator, the administrator is obligated to give one. It may not be extremely detailed, but it should at least offer an overview of what’s happening.

A formal accounting is granted by the court, and may be requested by the court if there’s suspicion that the administrator has mismanaged the estate, or if there’s a legal dispute over the estate. Alaska has specific laws regarding formal accountings. 


September 28, 2017

What Happens if I Don’t Have a Will? An Introduction to Alaska Intestacy Law


Dying intestate, or without a will, is very common. If you die without a will, your property will go through probate and is then distributed according to Alaska’s intestacy laws.

Intestacy laws govern intestate property. They go into effect unless there is a valid will to testify to the deceased’s wishes or an established estate plan. In intestate inheritance, a spouse is first in line, then children, then their children, and so on. When there are no heirs in the direct bloodline, the heirs are the parents, then siblings, then nieces and nephews, and so on.

Here are some common events that may happen if you die intestate:

Your immediate next of kin, whoever they are, will likely inherit your property first: lock, stock, and barrel. If you die intestate, everything goes to your next of kin. Your next of kin are the people who have the closest relation to you. If you’re married, then that’s your spouse. If you’re not married, your closest blood relations or equivalent, will inherit your property.


That son- or daughter-in-law you don’t like will get your property before that niece or nephew you do like. Marital property owned by your children is governed by the laws of the states they live in, not you. If they live in a communal property state, an inheritance is separate property so long as it is not commingled. While the laws are different in every state, property acquired by gift or inheritance during marriage by either spouse is separate property, but it is very easy to commingle and then become part of the community and subject to a 50/50 division.


Your heirs could be hit with inheritance taxes (that could have been avoided). The relatives who inherit from you may be subject to a large inheritance tax (both on the federal and state level), depending on the size of the estate and the state where the assets in question are held. While this won’t wipe out their inheritance completely, proper estate planning could have made this a non-issue. For example, an Anchorage estate lawyer could have helped you create a trust that would have minimized your loved ones’ exposure to taxes.


A little bit of money up for grabs has a very cooling effect on interfamilial relationships. In a perfect world, family members would all get along, never be jealous, and always do right by each other. This isn’t a perfect world. Intestacy laws don’t take into account the relationships the deceased had with anyone or what the deceased orally promised to someone. Even if widowed Uncle Bob told you he wanted you to have his ’65 Thunderbird, without a will, the car is going to his son…who doesn’t even have a driver’s license.

If you wish to dispute an intestacy inheritance, contact an Anchorage estate lawyer for assistance. They can counsel you on your rights and what course of action you can take, if any, to prove a valid claim to the estate. 


September 21, 1027

Anchorage Will and Trust Lawyer: The Person Who Provides for You Suddenly Dies. What Happens to You?

When the primary breadwinner dies, his or her surviving spouse, domestic partner and minor children can find themselves without the necessary resources to maintain their current lifestyle. If you find yourself in this position, you do have options.

Under Alaska laws, you have entitlements in regard to a place to live, use of personal property, and a family allowance. A family allowance is a court-authorized payment to dependent loved ones of the person who has passed. To receive the allowance, the person must have been dependent on the resources of the deceased prior to his or her death. This can include parents and adult children of the deceased. The allowance can be paid during the Anchorage probate process, and it can be paid from any asset within the estate. If you are in need of a family allowance, contact a qualified <insert city> probate lawyer today for help.

Here are a few things you should know about the Family Allowance Benefit:

  • A spouse, minor children, or an adult dependent child or a dependent parent of the deceased may be eligible.
  • There is often a set time period for the allowance; typically, 12 months.
  • Known creditors must be notified of the petition for family allowance.
  •  Any petition more than $1,000 per month must include an itemized estimate of anticipated monthly expenses.
  • The petition must also include the estimated gross and net estate and an estimate of unpaid claims.
  • Unless the person named in the petition is incapacitated, the petition must list income from all sources outside of the estate as well as the person’s personal property.

If you intend to petition the court for a Family Allowance Benefit, it is prudent to find an Anchorage probate and trust administration attorney who is experienced in assisting families in this way. If you live in the Anchorage area, contact our office today at (907) 334-9200 and schedule a consultation.


September 14, 2017

Keep it in the Family: Anchorage Estate Planning and Family Businesses


Giving your children and grandchildren the legacy and pride of a family business can keep your nose to the grindstone for decades. Financial security, family harmony, and growing wealth together are some of the benefits of a family business. Legacies are meant to outlive the legacy makers. If you’re a business owner in Alaska, don’t hesitate to consult an estate lawyer to help you plan for the future.

No one would blame you for wanting to put off estate planning; after all, time is money, and you’d rather be building your business and enjoying the fruit of your labor. However, a smooth transition planned by an Anchorage estate lawyer saves time and money in the long run.

Passing your business on to your loved ones takes more than simply stating that you’d like your children to inherit your business. Essentially, bestowing a business to your children may make them subject to a hefty gift tax that may greatly diminish their gain. You can avoid this pitfall and protect your wealth by having a lawyer help you plan your estate so your heirs get as much of your estate as possible.

An Anchorage estate lawyer knows Alaska business and estate law. He or she will remain objective and allow you to plan as you see fit. For example, your lawyer will help you create an equitable distribution among your children. However, if you don’t want to split your business evenly between all your children, or if you want to leave different assets to the children, an estate lawyer can help you with that, too.

Say you have two adult children who help you run the business, but one minor child still in junior high school. You want to make sure your children have what they need upon your passing. Your adult children will inherit and run the business, but there’s no expectation for your minor child to decide now if she wants to work in the family business. Your Anchorage estate lawyer can help you create a trust for your youngest child so she benefits from the business without working for it or having a controlling interest.

An estate lawyer can also discuss the possibility of restructuring your company to ensure that company assets go to your children. If you have a sole proprietorship, your lawyer may discuss forming a corporation so you can separate the business’s assets and liabilities from your personal assets and liabilities, and portion interest into shares to divide equally among your children.

Consulting and hiring a Anchorage estate lawyer is not just good for your peace of mind, but for the ongoing health of your business by shielding it from loss when you pass on. If you have questions about how to get started, contact our Anchorage law firm at (907) 334-9200 to schedule a consultation.


September 8. 2017

Preliminary Do’s and Don’ts for Special Needs Planning in Anchorage County


Special needs planning in Alaska can be daunting if you’re just starting. However, an Anchorage special needs lawyer can save you the headache of planning and the worry over whether your plan will be executed properly. If you’re new to special needs planning and aren’t sure where to start, check out these do’s and don’ts for starting estate planning for your child with disabilities.


DO consult an Anchorage special needs lawyer. Estate planning can be complex and downright overwhelming. What seems like a small error or omission can cause your plans to be executed in a different manner than you intended, or not at all. A special needs lawyer in Anchorage County understands both estate planning and special needs. He or she can help you create the best plan for your child so that your plans are executed as you intend.


DO plan while you’re still healthy. Even if you’re relatively young, accidents may happen, and life has a way of diverting our attention from our plans. Planning when you have less stress, both mental and financial, is best for making sound decisions. In fact, it’s best to plan while your child with disabilities is still relatively young, too, so you have plenty of time to choose the best options as he or she approaches adulthood.


DO let other family members know about the plan. A will is a legal instrument and may be your final word, but to avoid confusion and conflict, let your family know your plans for your child with disabilities as soon as you formalize them. A dispute over an estate in Alaska may require lengthy legal action that can stall or stop your will or plans.


DON’T assume siblings or other family members can simply take over for you. If your plans require the involvement of adult siblings or other family members, not only should you let them know, but you should make sure they’re honestly ready and able to become agents and fulfill your wishes. Well-meaning family members may agree without understanding what’s involved, or agree only to make you happy. Neither helps you or your special needs child in the end.


DON’T have someone unfamiliar with your adult child’s needs act as agent of his or her plan. Special needs plans are tailored to the individual child. For example, it may not be obvious to someone that your child needs to live somewhere where he or she can interact with peers on a daily basis, or somewhere that will bus them back and forth to their job or extra-curricular activities.


DON’T wait to have your plan go into effect when you or the other parent dies. Should you or the other parent become incapacitated or incompetent, the estate plan won’t be executed, even though your child will then need the plan to go into effect. An Alaska estate lawyer can help you decide when to put your plan into effect to ensure that your child is properly cared for.


If you have questions or would like help getting started with your own special needs plan, contact our office at (907) 334-9200 to schedule a consultation.


August 28, 2017

Anchorage Elder Law Attorney Warns: “Adult Children May Be Responsible for Their Parent’s Nursing Home Bill!”

Most people don’t realize the high cost of nursing home care until an aging parent’s health declines to the point that they need to move into one. As an Anchorage elder law attorney, I can’t stress enough that this is a really bad time to learn that your family could need to come up with almost $100,000 per year for a room that is not covered by Medicare or private health insurance.


Considering the astronomical costs, it’s easy to see how a nursing home stay can deplete your parent’s assets seemingly overnight. So, the obvious question is, “What happens when their money is gone?”


In some cases, government programs such as Medicaid will pay. That’s provided that your parent’s facility even accepts Medicaid, or has an available “Medicaid bed” when their money runs out.


However, more recently, nursing homes are turning to Filial Responsibility laws which force children to pay their parents’ nursing home bills.  Such laws exist in 30 states and have been on the books for years, but rarely enforced—until now.


Filial responsibility laws state that adult children of a destitute parent have a legal obligation to pay for the necessities of the parent if they are unable to pay for themselves. In these cases, the courts do not need to divide the liability evenly between children but may choose to sue the child who has the greatest ability to pay the debt.


Consider a recent Pennsylvania case where an adult son was sued because his elderly mother left the country while still owing $93,000 to her nursing home. The mother had actually filed an application for Medicaid to help cover the costs, but the application had not yet been approved at the time the nursing home demanded payment.  The son argued that he should not be responsible for the debt, especially since he didn’t sign the admission form or any other nursing home documents to begin with--but his responsibility to pay the entire bill was still upheld under such laws.


Our Anchorage elder law attorneys never want to see this happen to local families.  Therefore, to protect against the enforcement of filial responsibility laws, we encourage all seniors to prepare a comprehensive estate and long-term care plan so that if a nursing home is needed, the assets of the senior are protected. And, such a plan will also help ensure that the cost of nursing home care cannot be passed down to adult children when the parent can no longer pay or passes away.


Long-term care planning and asset protection laws can be complex, so be sure to meet with an experienced elder law attorney when creating your plan. If you’d like to meet with one of our Anchorage elder law attorneys for help getting started, feel free to contact us at (907) 334-0902.  


August 18, 2017

Anchorage Will Lawyers: How to Handle the Disposition of Your Remains

Funeral planning is not a pleasant experience, especially when you’re pre-planning your own. But, Anchorage will lawyers stress that it’s important to have your wishes in writing for after you pass away, since you won’t be around to let anyone know what you want done once you’re gone.

Do you want to be buried or cremated? Do you want a traditional funeral or a celebration of life gathering? Is there a certain person who you know will carry out your wishes when you’re gone? These are important questions that you should have answers to, and more importantly, questions that your loved ones should know the answers to as well.

Anchorage will lawyers often find that clients believe funeral instructions come as part of their Last Will and Testament – but this is not generally the case. A Last Will and Testament can direct how your assets and property are distributed and who should be named as guardians of your underage children, if necessary, but it will not typically direct what should be done with your body after you pass away or how your funeral arrangements should be handled.

In order to do this, you will need a Disposition of Remains – this document allows you to state what you would like done with your body after you’ve passed away, what type of funeral, if any, you’d like to have, and who should be contacted in the event of your death. You can make this document as detailed as you’d like, and unless there are unforeseen circumstances, your wishes will most likely be carried out.

For example, singer David Bowie wished that his remains would be flown to Bali after his death so that they may be cremated in a Buddhist ritual. Unfortunately, this could not be done for logistical reasons – which Bowie prepared for. Instead, his body was cremated, and his ashes were scattered in Bali, which Bowie requested in the event that his remains could not be cremated on the island.

In addition, Anchorage will lawyers warn that extraordinary or outlandish disposition wishes, such as scattering ashes at Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride, cannot be legally enforced. It’s important to keep a realistic view of what should happen after you pass away, as well as to make sure that you are not putting your loved ones in a tight spot between carrying out your wishes and possibly breaking the law. An Anchorage will lawyer can give you guidance as to what type of conditions may or may not be enforceable in your documented Disposition of Remains.

If you have any questions about the Disposition of Remains, or you want to review your estate plan to make sure that your wishes have the best chance of being carried out, please contact us at (907) 334-0902 to set up a consultation. 


August 9, 2017

Parents of Disabled Children: These 4 Critical Components Should Be Part of Your Anchorage Special Needs Planning

When you have a child that may require a lifetime of assistance and care, extra attention must be given to planning their future.    Our Anchorage special needs planning lawyers work with parents every day to ensure their disabled children have necessary estate and transition plans in place for total peace of mind in this area. A solid plan allows the child’s emotional, financial, and medical needs to be met now, and also in the future, as he or she transitions into adulthood, or loses a parent/caregiver someday.

When planning for a child with special needs or disabilities, a “Do-It-Yourself” or basic estate plan is simply not enough.  Our Anchorage special needs planning attorneys urge parents to consider four additional planning strategies and legal tools beyond a traditional will and trust:

Life Insurance – If possible, both parents should maintain life insurance policies. This is true even if one parent serves as the child’s primary caregiver and does not work outside the home. Doing so will help ensure that enough financial resources are available to maintain your child’s lifestyle and care if you pass away.  However, make sure to talk with an experienced Anchorage special needs attorney before purchasing your policy.  You’ll want to structure your policy in such a way that a payout to your child would not kick them off their Medicaid or other important benefits if something happens to you.

Guardian Nominations – Carefully choose who will serve as your child’s guardian in the event one or both parents pass away. Further, the guardian should have a clear understanding of your child’s needs so that they are prepared to serve if called upon. After that decision is made, you should legally document your choice with a will.  Remember, if you don’t legally choose a guardian, the courts will make this decision for you.  Don’t take that chance.

Special Needs Trust – A special needs trust is a specialized estate planning tool that allows parents to set aside assets for their child’s benefit while still maintaining their government benefits.  You will also have the ability to appoint a Trustee whom you trust to manage the funds that your child needs to live on. This is a complex document that should be created by an attorney experienced in this area of the law.

Adult Conservatorship- When your child turns 18, you will likely need to pursue a full or limited conservatorship with the Anchorage courts.  Without having a conservatorship in place, you may be unable to make personal, financial or medical decisions for your adult child, regardless of his or her disabilities.  If your child is high functioning and found to have the capacity to understand and sign legal documents, you may be able to get around a full conservatorship using other tools such as Powers of Attorneys and Healthcare Directives.

When your child has disabilities and is fully dependent on you or others for a lifetime of care, it’s critical to take every legal and financial precaution now to ensure the child has a life of protection and security later.  If you need assistance setting up your special needs plan, contact our Anchorage law firm at (907) 334-0902 for assistance. 


August 3, 2017

Anchorage Trust Lawyer: Consider Using a Trust to Protect Your Child’s Inheritance from Divorce

You’ve worked hard to leave your children a financial legacy, and the last thing you want is for half of your child’s inheritance to walk out the door with an ex-spouse if he or she gets divorced someday. But, under today’s laws, that could actually happen if you don’t safeguard your family’s assets and plan ahead.

Although it isn’t pleasant to think about, you may have to take legal action to ensure that your married child inherits the assets you planned to leave them. In many circumstances, an Anchorage trust lawyer will recommend that clients leave assets to their children in a trust. Passing down your assets in a trust can keep them separate and out of reach from a divorcing spouse, as well as other creditors that may be knocking on your child’s door. If any of the following describe your child(ren), we highly recommend that you consider a trust.

Your child is unmarried.

If your child is currently unmarried, there is a good chance that he or she will be married at some point in the future. Since there is no way to know whether or not that marriage will be successful, it is a good idea to keep their assets protected in a trust—just in case. 

Your child is newly married.

If you are or have been married, you know that there will be many bumps in the road. There’s really no crystal ball here, but again, putting your child’s inheritance into a trust now will give you the peace of mind knowing that half the funds won’t walk out the door with your ex-son or daughter-in-law if things go south at any point in the marriage.

Your child is in a rocky marriage.

Even if your child has been married a long time, their marriage could still be struggling. If you sense trouble and have a bad feeling about the future of their marriage, it may be a good idea to protect your child’s inheritance in a trust for all of the reasons listed above.

Trusts can be complex documents, and you will likely need the help of an estate planning attorney to set one up. If you have questions or you are ready to get started, contact our Anchorage trust lawyers at (907) 334-0902 to set up a consultation. 


August 14, 2015

Trustee Fees as Part of Special Needs Planning in Anchorage

In order to ensure proper use of funds, Anchorage special needs planning lawyers help their clients choose a trustee.  This person is put in charge of the special needs trust, and instead of providing money directly to the beneficiary (the child with special needs), the trustee will usually pay directly from the trust to service providers, housing officials, etc.  Some trusts are set up with the parents and the special needs planning lawyer in a way that provides payment to the trustee for taking on these responsibilities.

Sometimes, there is no mention of a fee in the trust paperwork, but the trustee is still entitled to payment, if desired.  There are several factors that should go into determining a suitable fee, whether it is stipulated in advance by those creating the trust or it is later determined that one is needed.  The complexity of the trust is certainly one of those considerations.  If there are numerous investments that need to be managed, for example, it would be appropriate to pay the trustee for the time and expertise involved.

The types of services the trustee provides also play into determining the fee.  More complex tasks, like the investment management mentioned above, would likely be paid at a higher rate than less complicated ones, such as paying monthly bills.  The trustee would be responsible for tracking his or her time, along with the service, in order to determine a fair fee. 

Occasionally, a trustee will pay for a good or service from personal money.  When that happens, the trustee can expect to be reimbursed out of the special needs trust by providing a receipt for money spent on the beneficiary’s behalf.  This type of payment is separate from the trustee’s fee and would not be treated the same.  That’s because the trustee’s fee is taxed as income.  On the trust’s end of things, the fee is a tax deduction.

Special needs planning lawyers in Anchorage are continually looking for the best ways to serve their clients and provide for the future.  Having a trustee in place is one method to ensure that funds are being used appropriately, and paying that trustee can be one way to ensure the job gets done right.

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JUNE 30, 2015

Anchorage Will and Trust Lawyer: Joan Rivers Estate Included a Pet Trust

When a celebrity passes away, Anchorage will and trust lawyers often watch for news of their affairs, hoping that the celebrity in question had a great estate plan in place.  With the recent loss of comedian Joan Rivers, it was reassuring to see that she had planned well for her loved ones, including her pets.

At the time of her death, Rivers’ estate was worth approximately $150 million, and she clearly knew that estate planning was no joking matter.  Most of her assets were left to her daughter Melissa and her grandson Cooper.  However, the celebrity also took the additional step of setting up a pet trust for her four dogs.

How Pet Trusts Work

Pet trusts have become somewhat popular these days, which is great news for companion animals who have been left behind.  Not only will the person creating the trust designate a guardian for the pets, he or she will also set aside funds for the animals’ upkeep.  There is also a trustee named who is in charge of the financial aspects of the trust.  In some cases, the guardian or caretaker is also the trustee, but in others a separate person is designated.  The trustee disperses funds to the guardian, lessening the likelihood of the guardian misusing the money for his or her own benefit.  An additional safeguard is to photograph or microchip your pets so that fraud cannot be committed later.

Better Than a Will

While your Anchorage will and trust lawyer may still encourage you to have a will in order to disperse your estate, those wanting to provide for their pets are probably better off creating an additional pet trust.  Animals are not allowed to own property, so leaving anything to a pet via your will is unlikely to work.  Instead, a pet trust is set up specifically for the animal’s benefit while having the oversight and management of actual humans.

The terms of trusts are not typically made public (one of the reasons Alaska will and trust lawyers like them so much), so it’s not really known how much Joan Rivers provided in her pet trust.  What is known is that her long-time assistant Jocelyn Pickett will be the dogs’ caretaker.  Many organizations are excited about the fact that such a high-profile celebrity has created a pet trust, hoping that it brings awareness to the possibility and improves the lives of animals whose owners pass away.

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