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Cautela Corporation
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Have you found yourself telling someone - or agreeing with someone - that big money is ruining our democracy? It seems a common assertion (at least among those of us with modest pocketbooks) but our representatives have yet to change the status quo in Washington. These representatives were elected to work for the American people; and they are quite capable of writing laws that can reign in big money, that curtail lobbying, and that create transparency. Efforts to make these changes by some candidates who previously campaigned on promises to do so have tended to lose traction once those representatives were engulfed by the system where big money is in place. Those candidates need more support, and we can continue to VOTE into office people who will work together for these changes.

Once again, it is election time - and an opportunity to VOTE - to use our voices to take representatives out of office who are maintaining a partisan regime that makes no effort to collaborate with others and to find workable solutions for the country as a whole, including removing big money from politics.

Big money has been in politics for years and becomes more entrenched as each year passes. Less than a year after the resignation of Richard Nixon, at a bill signing ceremony in 1974 which placed spending limits on election campaigns, President Gerald Ford said that “The unpleasant truth is that big money influence has come to play an unseeming role in our electoral process. This bill will help to right that wrong.” It was only two years after that bill was put in place that the wind was taken out of it when the Supreme Court ruled in Buckley v. Valeo that mandating spending limits in elections represented an unconstitutional limit on free speech. Since then we have had Citizens United vs. Federal Election and McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission which have completely undermined attempts on campaign finance reform. Citizens United boldly held that political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, and the government may not keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections. This gave big business through their corporations and unions the same First Amendment protection of an individual citizen, establishing a new precedent in finding that an entity, a structured business organization, could donate unlimited amounts to campaigns which it collected from persons whose identities could remain secret and undisclosed. We now see advertisements from all manner of organizations whose names give us no sense of alarm, and who present slanted viewpoints that may appear reasonable and legitimate. Of course, we are used to the fierce rhetoric of campaigns, the disrespect and no holds-barred approach that have become common tactics.

As depressing as the campaign season can be, it is very encouraging to find that research does not support the idea that negative campaigning is effective in winning votes. In fact, research is showing that a negative ad is one of the strongest prompts to have someone change a channel. There is not even reliable evidence that negative campaigning depresses voter turnout; however, it does seem to lower feelings of political effectiveness and trust in government. If this creates indifference, it may well influence voter turnout although it is not tied yet to research statistics. Fact-checks, on the other hand, are influencing people’s assessments of the accuracy, usefulness, and tone of negative political ads. Studies are showing that fact-checks tend to sway citizens’ likelihood of accepting the claims made in the advertisements and fact-checks challenging the truthfulness of the claims of the negative commercial are more powerful than positive fact-checks. Despite research findings, the use of negative ads has continued to increase. Why those producing these campaign ads neglect to acknowledge the intelligence of the people who will be viewing the ads is a curious factor.

On more than one occasion I have heard America described as a capitalistic democracy because it is money that controls the system and not the people. This does not have to be the case. 2016 demographics show that there was a 230,585,915 voter eligible population (this excludes those in prison and on parole who are not eligible to vote). Of the almost 230.6 million people who could vote, only 138.8 million people cast ballots – about 60% of voters. This does not have to be our standard. 100% of voters can make huge changes in who is put into office and who is taken out of office. If we want representatives who collaborate, who work together for the benefit of all citizens and not for big money interests, we can work together to make ourselves heard in an election. Every voice matters but it is only counted if you VOTE. Cast a ballot. 100% of voter voices would be a huge wake-up call to those in office. The more frequently representatives are taken out of office for failure to act for the benefit of all citizens, the more we will see new people step up to fill those vacancies; the kind of people that we are calling out for. Every two years the entire structure in Washington can be overturned by the people's VOTE.
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Dying without a will, well, to be truthful, can be ugly. Probate court, and feuding family members is not what most want for their families after their passing. Whether your spouse has passed on, or you just never married, or you have a partner, it really doesn’t matter - it’s always wise to write a will to make sure your belongings and assets are passed on appropriately.

If you don’t appoint someone to manage your estate, it is possible that a relative may step up to manage things – or perhaps a friend – or even a creditor in some cases.  If no one steps up, any financial accounts will be turned over to the State of Arizona as unclaimed property after a certain number of years has past.  If and when an heir discovers property being held by the State, that heir will have to go through certain procedures to claim the property.  Other property like personal or real property, may just languish or be taken advantage of by others; real property may end up on State lists for property tax sales when taxes have remained delinquent over a number of years.

If no one knows who your relatives are, it can be an added expense to your estate to try and locate those relatives, if there is any one who steps up to try and manage the estate.  The Court will not try to find your heirs; some one else must request authority from the Court to take possession of the estate and to conduct an investigation to find them.

Believe it or not, more than 50 percent of people still don’t have a will.  It seems obvious that most people just don’t think about it – or don’t want to think about it. They may still be young or perhaps they have never suffered an illness which often brings up our thoughts about immortality and our estate.

Certain people never reach one of those obvious points in their lives to write one. If you are unmarried in middle age, do not have children and have never had a devastating disease or brush with death, making plans for what happens to your assets if you’re not around may not feel pressing.

One day though, you may hit a certain age when you just say to yourself “Who’s going to take all this when I’m gone?” At some point the thought comes to mind.

What Do You Do?

For most middle Americans, who don’t want to set up a trust plan, and just need to pass things on to a family member or loved one, it’s a simple process, but it should be well thought out. Will this person be a good steward of what I leave them, will they sell it or worse, throw it all away? All aspects should be considered.

If you prefer to prepare your own legal forms when possible, keep legal costs down, and be assured that all legal formalities are correct, check our interactive on-line Legal Form Library. In addition to information and resources at the site, our form finder will help you make sure you’re searching for the correct will to write for your circumstances.
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What is Net Neutrality? The two Commissioners who dissented on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 3-2 vote to repeal net neutrality explained it well. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel candidly stated her dissent and the potential effects of the repeal on neutrality: “Net neutrality is internet freedom. I support that freedom. I dissent from this rash decision to roll back net neutrality rules. I dissent from the corrupt process that has brought us to this point. And I dissent from the contempt this agency has shown our citizens in pursuing this path today. This decision puts the Federal Communications Commission on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public. . . . As a result of today’s misguided action, our broadband providers will get extraordinary new power from this agency. They will have the power to block websites, throttle services, and censor online content. They will have the right to discriminate and favor the internet traffic of those companies with whom they have pay-for-play arrangements and the right to consign all others to a slow and bumpy road. . . .” FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn stated, after the vote: “I dissent. I dissent from this fiercely-spun, legally-lightweight, consumer-harming, corporate-enabling Destroying Internet Freedom Order. I dissent, because I am among the millions who is outraged. Outraged, because the FCC pulls its own teeth, abdicating responsibility to protect the nation’s broadband consumers. Why are we witnessing such an unprecedented groundswell of public support, for keeping the 2015 net neutrality protections in place? Because the public can plainly see, that a soon-to-be-toothless FCC, is handing the keys to the Internet – the Internet, one of the most remarkable, empowering, enabling inventions of our lifetime – over to a handful of multi-billion dollar corporations. And if past is prologue, those very same broadband internet service providers, that the majority says you should trust to do right by you, will put profits and shareholder returns above, what is best for you. . . .” This vote is another hand-over to big money. We have seen this happen continually over many years, money manipulating elections and government at every level from local to national. I encourage you to voice your concerns to representatives at this step to remove neutral ground on the internet - and make sure you are a registered voter - ready to voice your ideas and opinions at up-coming elections. For more information on the potential impact of this vote visit this site.
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What are digital assets? Do you have digital assets? Are digital assets important to consider with estate planning?

Digital assets are materials owned by a business or individual that can include text, graphic, audio, video, animations, and photos. For business owners, digital properties such as domain names, intellectual property, blogs or even social media content like videos on a YouTube channel can be valuable assets. A digital asset created by an employee of a business is owned by that business; a digital asset that is custom developed by an outside contractor for a business who contracted for and purchased that digital asset is owned by the business. Images that are scanned into a computer are also assets owned by the business or an individual as long as it is an original work; otherwise copyrights or patent rights come into play.

Another definition of a digital asset is: “Some thing that has value, it can be owned, but has no physical presence”. Sounds like a good riddle. For another summary of basic examples see this page at simplicable.com.

Do you have a personal Facebook page or a business page? As of March 2017 statistics show there are over 1.94 billion monthly active Facebook users worldwide. These users all must have an account to log in and use Facebook. As of February 2017 statistics show 65 million Facebook business pages. There are innumerable social medial sites and data storage sites where digital assets can be kept. Facebook is a leader and it is growing all the time, but also consider YouTube, Linked In, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumbler, among others.

Think about what you post and store on social media sites. Often we do not realize how all-encompassing our digital assets can be. Whether you only keep personal photos, notes or commentary on a site or you have a business page that is marketing and providing product, services and information - what happens to this data and who has access to it after your death?

In Arizona the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act provides that a user may use an online tool provided by the custodian of a social media site authorizing it to disclose to a designated recipient (or not to disclose) some or all of the user’s digital assets. In cases where such a tool is not provided by the custodian of a site, the user may allow or prohibit in a will, trust, power of attorney or other instrument an authorization to disclose to a fiduciary either some of, or all of, the user’s digital assets. These legal provisions override any contrary provision in a terms-of-service agreement with the site. (A.R.S. § 14-13104) http://www.azleg.gov/viewdocument/?docName=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.azleg.gov%2Fars%2F14%2F13104.htm


While this Act well defines the scope of authority and disclosure requirements, the time and expense to enforce it can be problematic over state lines whether you have a court order or simply want to reach and establish access authority with persons who exist somewhere behind layers of technological administrative walls. Have you ever attempted to communicate with a department at Facebook or resolve a problem through its administration channels? Necessity may streamline the process of access by an agent of the user over time as social media and other data storage sites find it is an increasing demand but we are not there yet.

There are resources that promote and provide forms of digital wills but these wills are not recognized in all states. A valid will in Arizona must meet specific statutory requirements; it must be executed under certain criteria. A will in Arizona can contain a provision which provides for a “digital executor” or similar fiduciary and outlines his or her authority; a will in Arizona can also incorporate another document which conveys this authority. Provisions in a will can state who will receive ownership of, access to and control of digital assets, and it can distinguish personal from business assets.

Even with the appointment of a digital executor, another consideration is whether your general executor or personal representative can access all of your paperless accounts and retrieve asset or liability information that no longer come in the mail. A personal representative has obligations to identify assets and liabilities, to make appropriate value assessments, and to manage and pay outstanding creditors. Have you provided your nominee with the information necessary to administer your estate efficiently? Distinguish what information and access your personal representative will need and what information and access a digital executor will need.

When granting authority to a personal representative or a digital executor, each individual will need to be given access to certain log-in and password information or directions on where to locate this information; you certainly do not want to write this information in a will that may become public record. Privacy concerns do not dissipate at death.

You also want to give a digital executor some direction on how you want digital assets managed and/or shut down. If you have a password saver, your executor should have access to that tool; particularly with the frequent and growing requirements to change account passwords on various sites and to use specific types and numbers of characters. Granting an executor or agent authorization to manage digital assets is not an easy task without log-in and password information. Of course, a digital executor or agent must be selected with great care since that person will have access to all of your personal and/or business information but without a digital executor or agent the burden of accessing and managing digital assets can be egregious. Your spouse, a relative or business associate can be delegated these types of responsibilities; you can also authorize more than one person to manage certain assets and/or accounts. You can request or direct under a will that your personal representative authorize a particular person or persons to manage certain digital assets.

Digital assets are important to consider during estate planning. Think of the many safety features installed around all our digital assets. The log-in and passwords for on-line accounts; the code (or fingerprint now) for our phones, the codes for our laptops and computers. If you have not provided someone with information about how to access digital assets, it is likely that those applications and accounts may not be accessed - or that they will be accessed only after the expenditure of much time and effort - and cost to your estate. The battle between privacy and access confronts us in our daily lives; it can be very stringent and aggravating depending on accounts, circumstances and personal preferences. Consider the circumstances that are left for family and business, if digital assets are left out of the estate planning equation, and make appropriate plans.
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We have heard about off-shore bank accounts and shell companies for decades. We have seen scandals revealed over the years. However, the revelations made by the Panama Papers (11.5 million documents) have been explosive because of the extent of information made public. According to an in-depth article written by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the leaked data covers a period from 1977 through the end of 2015, and provides a “day-to-day, decade-by-decade look at how dark money flows through the global financial system, breeding crime and stripping national treasuries of tax revenues”.

Services of the offshore industry, of course, are legal if and when they are used by law abiding individuals. The leaked papers, however, “show that banks, law firms and other offshore players have often failed to follow legal requirements that they make sure their clients are not involved in criminal enterprises, tax dodging or political corruption. In some instances, the files show, offshore middlemen have protected themselves and their clients by concealing suspect transactions or manipulating official records.”

Politicians, celebrities, wealthy businessmen are found right along side known and suspect criminals in this Panama money trail with its hidden dens of secrecy now brought to light. The leaked files demonstrate that Mossack Fonseca, (the Panama Law Firm that established the shell companies) consistently employed unethical practices in the records management of client companies, it obstructed investigations that arose over the years and covered up its activities to avoid implication in illegal schemes. Just a few of the points reported in the ICIJ article include:

"The files include a convicted money launderer who claimed he’d arranged a $50,000 illegal campaign contribution used to pay the Watergate burglars, 29 billionaires featured in Forbes Magazine’s list of the world’s 500 richest people and movie star Jackie Chan, who has at least six companies managed through the law firm."

"As with many of Mossack Fonseca’s clients, there is no evidence that Chan used his companies for improper purposes. Having an offshore company isn’t illegal. For some international business transactions, it’s a logical choice."

"The Mossack Fonseca documents indicate, however, that the firm’s customers have included Ponzi schemers, drug kingpins, tax evaders and at least one jailed sex offender. A U.S. businessman convicted of traveling to Russia to have sex with underage orphans signed papers for an offshore company while he was serving his prison sentence in New Jersey, the records show."

"The files contain new details about major scandals ranging from England’s most infamous gold heist to the bribery allegations convulsing FIFA, the body that rules international soccer."

A New York Times article offers a good a summary of the information revealed by the Panama Papers as well as some of the fall out from the publications -- all made through a group of global news organizations, including the ICIJ.  The New York Times article comments that these publications exposed how some of the world’s most powerful people were said to have used offshore bank accounts to conceal their wealth or avoid taxes:

“The articles said nearly 215,000 offshore shell companies and 14,153 clients were tied to Mossack Fonseca. They linked 143 politicians, their families and close associates — including 12 highly placed political leaders — to the use of tax havens to shield vast wealth."

"Among those linked to involvement in offshore companies were President Macri of Argentina; President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine; Mr. Gunnlaugsson, then the prime minister of Iceland; Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan; King Salman of Saudi Arabia; the former emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, and its former prime minister, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani; and the Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi, according to the consortium.
The cellist Sergei Roldugin, a close friend of Mr. Putin’s, was named in the documents. The Guardian described Mr. Roldugin as being at the center of a $2 billion scheme “in which money from Russian state banks is hidden offshore.”

The Panama Papers were leaked to the media and reports began to appear in print only a few days ago - and governments around the globe are already launching investigations into possible financial wrongdoing. Quick action for governments. It is reported that the U.S. Treasury Department intends to soon issue a long-delayed rule forcing banks to seek the identities of people behind shell-company account holders. Will this reduce risks of money laundering, terror finance and other crimes by identifying people who clandestinely control legal entities? Will it help identify the individuals and motives of those seeking to influence policy, opinion or elections? It can be a good start - demanding transparency - revealing the money trail - and whether it comes from defrauded pension funds, ponzi schemes or actual legal activity.
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BE COMFORTABLE WITH NOT SCARED INTO ESTATE PLANNING.
This marketing material appears in my [Arizona] mail box at least one or twice a year and, having worked in the legal field over 30 years, I cringe each time I see it. (Photo emphasis added).
Living Trusts can be excellent estate planning documents. However, depending on your circumstances, personal disposition, and the size and nature of your estate assets, it may or not be the most effective planning strategy. Many people favor the idea of a trust because it "avoids probate in the courts". However, there are many ways that property can be designated to pass to successors without requiring a probate or a trust. Establishing a Living Trust may just be the right tool for you, but I hope that you are never scared into creating one.
These types of marketing materials are designed to generate concern with exaggeration and implied consequences. I invite you to look at each of the points used to target your business and propel you to request "FREE INFORMATION ON HOW TO AVOID THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN PROBATE COSTS". The marketing lines are restated below as • "CAPS" just as they are presented in the solicitation, and followed by my comments to, hopefully, offer a little more clarity.
• "A RECENT STUDY FOUND THAT: 90% OF ESTATES WILL GO THROUGH PROBATE"
There is no reference to who made this study and where it can be found. However, probate of estates in Arizona is required by statute only if the value of the assets held in the decedent’s name exceed certain values: currently $75,000.00 in personal property and $100,000.00 in real estate. In Arizona a successor or a beneficiary named under a Will can collect personal property or transfer title to real property by a summary affidavit process that eliminates the time and expense of a court administration. Property which passes to designated beneficiaries or surviving tenants is not counted in calculations for purposes of determining the value of a decedent’s estate when using an affidavit procedure; such property passes directly to that surviving tenant or named beneficiary. Only "property subject to probate" is counted in calculating the estate values; in other words, property titled in the decedent’s name without designated beneficiaries or joint tenants. There are circumstances where these summary procedures may not be convenient or practical for an estate but as a general rule, the summary process works well and eliminates the needs for many probate administrations. Decedent’s with assets held in his or her name which exceed the noted amounts and have no designated beneficiaries or surviving joint tenants will go through a probate administration.
• "AND THAT 49% OF THE FILES EXAMINED IN ARIZONA WERE STILL IN PROBATE PROCESS AFTER ONE YEAR.
There are thousands of probates filed in Arizona during any year. Because of administrative requirements, it is not unusual for an estate to be open for a year. Very simple estates can often be closed within 6 to 8 months. There are different factors that come into play which affect the time frame of an administration. A Personal Representative (executor) must: (1) identify all property and values at death; (2) produce an inventory of this asset information within 3 months and provide it to all interested parties; (3) notify known and potential creditors who are allowed to submit claims for outstanding debts over a four month period; (4)assess, pay and/or make determinations on creditor matters; (5) address final tax matters and insure that appropriate requirements are met; (6) make an accounting of the assets, all income and expenses, including professional fees of the personal representative and legal fees, if any, unless beneficiaries waive the requirement for an accounting; and (7) distribution the balance of property after payment of debts and expenses. This does not preclude transfer and distribution of the bulk of an estate inside of a year while other matters such as tax filings are pending.
Factors which affect the time an estate may be open include: problems with creditors, disputes regarding debts and/or negotiation of debts; collection and/or sale of certain types of personal property; marketing real estate at reasonable prices; real property located out of state; concluding tax requirements. Every estate is different.
The Trustee of a Trust is similarly charged with these duties and whether or not a Trust estate is fully administered and closed within a year also depends on these same types of matters which must be addressed. A Personal Representative must file Proof of Notice or Compliance that he or she has completed tasks. A Trustee must provide information to beneficiaries within a reasonable time only when that information is requested. The Trust administration typically is not monitored by the Court unless a beneficiary files a proceeding to request Court oversight or address issues which have arisen. A Trustee does have a legal obligation to account for the administration of the Trust estate to its beneficiaries.
Whether or not a probate or a trust administration is open for more than a year does not necessary mean the estate has not been administered efficiently or professionally. That is dependent on the Personal Representative or the Trustee and/or the circumstances each must address in the administration.
• "UPON YOUR DEATH, PROBATE COSTS, COURT DELAYS AND ESTATE TAXES CAN BE A HEAVY BURDEN ON YOUR HEIRS TO PAY"
There are court costs involved in a probate. In Arizona the filing fees in different counties range from approximately $200.00-$250.00; certified copies of appointment documents are usually $27.50 for each copy and usually at least a few are required to collect assets and open bank accounts; publication requirements to creditors may run around $40.00 to $150.00 depending on the county of death; legal fees vary but even a fairly simple probate will typically range from $3,000.00 to $5,000.00. Legal fees to assist with the administration of a trust can be similar.
Court delays? Unless there are disputes among heirs, issues with creditors or problems collecting assets, there is usually very little that is scheduled to be heard or considered in a courtroom, if anything. Arizona provides for both informal and formal probates. The informal process rarely involves any type of appearance in court; it usually involves only court filings to affirm that various requirements have been completed, and usually the administration can be concluded very efficiently. Formal probates may be required for different reasons, most commonly: to submit a copy of a Will when the original has been lost; to appoint a Personal Representative when there are others of equal right to act; and to resolve disputes among heirs or beneficiaries. Formal processes that involve disputes can greatly lengthen an administration. The same is true when a dispute arises in a trust administration; until the dispute is resolved, in court, arbitration, mediation or otherwise, that administration (trust or probate) will not be concluded.
Estate taxes. Currently the 2015 estate tax exemption is 5.43 million per individual; the 2016 estate tax exemption is 5.45 million per individual; the exemption is applied in the year of death and the amounts change from year to year. (Certain gifting can reduce these amounts). Unless an estate is valued over the exemption amount effective at the time of death, there is no requirement for an Estate to file an Estate Tax Return. The value of an estate for Estate tax purposes includes joint tenancy property, life insurance, and other property with beneficiary designations which a decedent owned at the time he died; regardless of whether it transfers to another at the time of death. There are Fiduciary Income Tax Returns which may be required depending on the income received by the estate during its administration. These are income tax returns for an estate and often confused with Estate Tax Returns for large estates. Requirements to file Fiduciary Income Tax Returns apply both a Living Trust and a Probate Estate - depending on the income and reporting requirements for trusts and probate estates; the Personal Representative or the Trustee is responsible to see that appropriate tax returns are filed before an administration is completed.
• "AND IN PROBATE, YOUR PRIVATE FINANCIAL AFFAIRS BECOME PUBLIC RECORDS AVAILABLE TO ANYONE ON THE INTERNET!
Asset and financial documents typically do not have to be filed with the Court, and are often not filed in informal processes. The only required filing in an informal process is a Proof of Notice that tells the court such information has been compiled and provided to the parties entitled to that information. When financial information is filed in Court, the Court requires that information be filed in envelopes marked Confidential; only a Judge or an interested party has access to that information. I am not aware of any court in Arizona that will provide access to images of documents to the public through the internet. Attorneys registered to practice in specific courts have on-line access to certain information and can see those images on-line. The public cannot. In most counties there are index records available to the public which list documents filed in a case; a person must go to the courthouse to view an actual document, or arrange to purchase a copy, before he or she can see that document -- and it can only be seen if it is not restricted, sealed or filed in a confidential envelope.
• "Under Article 1 14-3101 OF THE ARIZONA PROBATE CODE, NO WILL IS EFFECTIVE TO PASS TITLE TO PROPERTY UNTIL PROBATED."
A misleading statement at best. Paragraph A of Section 14-3101 does address the "power of a person to leave property by will". The following is an excerpt:
14-3101. Devolution of estate at death; administration on deaths of husband and wife
A. The power of a person to leave property by will, and the rights of creditors, devisees and heirs to his property are subject to the restrictions and limitations contained in this title to facilitate the prompt settlement of estates. . . .
The "title" referenced is Title 14 of Arizona Revised Statutes which makes provision for the summary affidavit processes discussed above and acknowledges transfer of property outside of a Will by virtue of joint tenancy or beneficiary designation. There are many circumstances when a Will does need to be filed in Court and an administrator appointed to collect and distribute property to the successors. Successors or beneficiaries who collect personal property (having values less than $75,000.00) are entitled to that property pursuant to provisions of a Will without filing that Will in Court. Successors or beneficiaries who succeed to real property (having values less than $100,000.00) can transfer title by a summary Affidavit procedure which does require that the Affidavit of Succession and the Will be filed in Court; however, there is no probate administration; this is a one-time filing with a subsequent recording in the County to effect the title transfer.
• "THE ALTERNATIVE TO WILLS AND THE PROBATE PROCESS IS CALLED A LIVING TRUST."
A Living Trust may be a good alternative in many circumstances. Each individual and each family is a little different. If the estimated value of your estate is over 5 million, it is prudent to consult with an estate planning professional and assess your alternatives. Regardless of the size of your estate, the types of assets that you own and/or how you would like to see your estate distributed among beneficiaries are considerations when deciding what type of estate planning will best accomplish your purposes.
• "A LIVING TRUST TAKES LESS TIME TO SETTLE, IS LESS EXPENSIVE AND ALLOWS YOU TO MAINTAIN CONTROL OF YOUR ASSETS AT ALL TIMES–EVEN IF YOU SHOULD BECOME MENTALLY ILL OR PHYSICALLY INCAPACITATED. -AND KEEPS YOUR PRIVATE FINANCIAL AFFAIRS FROM PUBLIC VIEW."
A trust may take less time to settle than an estate. It depends on the size of the estate, the type of assets, the complexity of the distribution plan outlined in the trust, the creditors, the tax situations. It is common that the individual who creates a trust (know as a trustor or grantor or settlor) does maintain control of his or her assets as the trustee of the trust; and the trust is managed as you (the trustor) normally would manage your assets; the major change is that titles change to show ownership in the trust so that those assets can be distributed after a trustor’s death as outlined in the trust document. However, the trust must hold title to all of those assets.
It is all too common for an individual or company promoting trusts to only prepare deeds which transfer real property into the trust and then give the trustor a sheet of instructions on how to transfer other assets such as bank accounts, investment accounts and other property interests. Many individuals, for a variety of reasons, never follow-up and transfer these assets into the trust. It is also common for individuals to sell and/or purchase other real property and forget to title that real property in his or her name as trustee of a trust. The consequence is that, on death, there is a trust estate and a probate estate. The trust cannot manage and distribution property that is not titled in its name. It is important to understand how to manage a trust, if you select a trust as your estate planning method.
Initially, in most trusts, the trustor (person making the trust) is the initial trustee (and the beneficiary) managing his or her property. Among standard provisions in a living trust is one that provides for a successor trustee to step in to manage the trust either upon the death or incapacity trustor. If a trustor becomes mentally ill or incapacitated in a manner that inhibits the trustor from acting in his or her own interest, it is important that the nominee (successor trustee) selected by the trustor step in to manage the trust estate for the benefit of the trustor - to insure that the estate is protected and to provide for the needs of the trustor. Physical incapacity does not necessary mean a trustor is unable to manage a trust. A determination of incapacity, the type and extent of any mental illness or incapacity, are made by medical experts. One benefit of a trust is the ability to nominate the individuals you wish to care for you and manage your assets, if and when you are unable to do so. However, powers of attorney can also accomplish this purpose.
As discussed, the Courts have implemented measures to safeguard financial information of individuals - although the marketing highlights material several times to imply great concern about Privacy of financial information.
• "FOR FREE INFORMATION ON HOW TO AVOID THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN PROBATE COSTS, RETURN THIS POSTAGE PAID CARD TODAY. NO COST OR OBLIGATION."
As noted above, a fairly basic probate administration (not a summary process) which must comply with various statutory procedures can often cost $3,000.00 to $5,000.00; a more complex estate will incur higher legal fees. A trustee may or may not administer a trust estate at a lower cost. Both a personal representative and a trustee are entitled to reasonable compensation. The trustee, depending on his or her expertise, may or may not employ a legal professional or accountant to provide guidance in the administration; any professional hired by the trustee, of course, is an expense to the trust administration. An individual acting as a personal representative is required by statute to keep accurate time records of services/duties performed and charge a reasonable hourly rate within the customs and standards common in the local area. Individual trustees may charge an hourly rate for services/duties performed; or they may charge a percentage of the value of the trust estate being administered. Banks and trust companies, whether acting as a personal representative or a trustee, charge percentage fees based on the value of the estate being administered. An individual acting as personal representative or trustee may also waive fees, and this is not unusual in family situations.
• " *LIVING TRUSTS CAN HELP YOU AVOID UNECESSARY ESTATE TAXES THAT CAN REACH UP TO 40% OF YOUR ESTATE VALUE."
This highlighted clause in the material does at least star/asterisk the statement and provide a footnote in smaller type than that duplicated here (and without highlight) that: "AFTER EXEMPTION IS CALCULATED - NOT AFFILIATED WITH AARP OR ANY GOVERNMENT AGENCY."
Unless you are aware that the exemption amount is in excess of 5 million dollars, this might create much concern and pull you into further inquiry on the marketing.
Research into the company mailing these marketing materials did not reflect any complaints on work product which is good news. It may well be that its products are professionally prepared and administered and even that information is clarified for a consumer after a contact is established. I do not know. I do know that a consumer deserves accurate information in solicitations and not material edging on deception. Marketing material that focuses on scare tactics to snag a consumer in order to generate a profit to the marketeer is an affront to me - and it is the marketing material that is the subject of this article because of its deliberate misdirection. I encourage you to consult with a legal professional when you consider estate planning options, be informed, and be comfortable with your planning strategies. Ask questions.
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Dear Grandchild: About your inheritance, your family, your connections.

Today Grandma told me she was going to take out the part in her Will where she was leaving you a gift. She said: “I never hear from her any more; don’t ever get any kind of thank you notes for sending gifts; kids these days just don’t do that.  Sometimes you don’t even know if they received the money or gifts you send.” Grandpa told me a few weeks ago: “Oh the grandkids are all in high school now; they all have cell phones; but do you think they might call me just to say hi or I love you or I miss you or thank you for the birthday gift. No.” . . . “My grandchildren are too busy with their own families now . . .  too busy with college . . . to busy with business . . . with careers . . .”  

These are things I hear often from Grandparents when they come to my office to talk about their Wills.  Do Grandparents usually leave gifts to Grandchildren in their Wills?  No, not always. It is more common that property passes first to children before it goes to grandchildren; sometimes there are gifts to both. Every situation is different; every family is different. 

Is inheritance a reason to stay in touch with Grandparents. No. This letter is a reminder about family and to let you know about things you do not hear from Grandma and Grandpa: about the hurt feelings; about being forgotten; about not mattering anymore to Grandchildren that they love.  

Grandchild, I am sorry but I’m not the one who can convince them that you do care or explain that you are just a different generation with other ways of thinking, communicating, living. Grandma and Grandpa come from a time before computers, cell phones and twitter. Grandma and Grandpa still sit down to write thank you notes after receiving a gift - or they send a card - or make a phone call. They have never believed a person would know how they felt or how thankful they were unless they told that person.

Grandchild, it is true that times are very different, but almost every Grandparent does have email and even cell phones - just maybe not for texting. With such easy access to quick communication, maybe you can spend a few minutes from time to time to keep those connections alive now; some day the connections will be gone. 

Lovingly,
A Grandma

PS: All my Grandmas and Grandpas are gone now.
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