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As inheritances fall, a boom in disputes
Seattle Post Intelligencer ^ | November 30, 2002 | HOPE YEN

Posted on 11/30/2002 1:34:31 AM PST by sarcasm

NEW YORK -- As an estate planning attorney, Les Kotzer said he was taught to focus on helping clients save money. That view changed, he said, after a visit one day from a baby boomer couple.

The husband and wife, both in their 50s, were smartly dressed, but later revealed their luxury car was leased and their home "mortgaged to the hilt." When Kotzer asked what the husband did for a living, they explained he was a "waiter."

"The wife said, 'He's waiting for the inheritance,' " said Kotzer, of Thornhill, Ontario. "A lot of boomers are depending on what their parents have saved all these years to pay off their debts and loans.

"Within that dynamic, you see problems."

Kotzer, co-author of "The Family Fight: Planning to Avoid It," said the couple are typical of many boomers who expect to inherit money from their parents. They might be disappointed, he said, because the family assets have dwindled, or their parents haven't given them any information about their finances or about their wills.

And many times, boomers find they're fighting with siblings and other family members over who gets how much.

A whole industry of financial planning and attorney services has cropped up aimed specifically at avoiding such problems after a parent's death, ranging from extensive will planning to counseling on how seniors can best communicate inheritance decisions to their children.

The problems can start, some planners say, because boomers have a different attitude toward money than their parents.

"Where the older people were savers, because they were Depression-era children and adults, baby boomers had more. We tend to be more the credit card generation," said Debra Kroll, director of Temple Law School's Elderly Law Project in Philadelphia. "So baby boomers often depend on their parents' assets."

And many seniors actually have fewer assets to pass on. The bear market has ravaged many stock portfolios, while their other savings have been depleted by the high costs of nursing homes, long-term care and prescription drugs.

Problems also arise because of changes in the family structure. The increase in divorce and remarriage over the past two decades has created confusion as to the rights of stepchildren and second spouses in wills, experts say.

"This is a very financially lucrative area for attorneys. It didn't used to be," Kroll said. "Children are encouraging parents to do estate planning to wind up with the money. ... This field is expanding based on that."

The result: Lawyers and financial planners are starting to focus less on documenting exactly what a senior wants to say in a will, and are spending more time asking detailed questions about their boomer children, such as financial status, living situation and relationship with siblings.

Kotzer says he now counsels clients specifically with the goal of avoiding family disputes, even if the method of distributing assets results in higher tax costs.

For example, he notes that many parents wish to reward children who care for them in old age. He suggests parents give gifts to the child while still alive, even it means paying a hefty gift tax, and then allot equal shares in the will to avoid sibling disputes after death.

"Some of the times when people do planning to save taxes, they don't realize they could be hurting their family," Kotzer said. "My practice is geared toward saving the family."

Some financial planners also act as family counselors, encouraging parents to include children early on in estate planning meetings, so they understand exactly who is getting what and why.

Or, if that proves too uncomfortable for a senior, financial advisers suggest filming a videotape that can shown after a will is read to help explain the parents' decisions.

"I think the advisers can work with the family as a whole and that takes a different skill -- a counseling background or talent in bringing together people," said Sharon Burns, executive director of the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education, based in Upper Arlington, Ohio.

"Financial advisers need to thoroughly delve into the family issues, such as what are the relationships and whether there are children who have special needs," she said.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
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1 posted on 11/30/2002 1:34:31 AM PST by sarcasm
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To: sarcasm
I have noted a trend in the WWII group. They don't have wills (I guess they figure the State can best decide where their assets belong); they love Medicare even when they can afford to pay, and they think if they made it to 80 that they can live forever. (Not that there's anything wrong with that).
2 posted on 11/30/2002 1:49:19 AM PST by widowithfoursons
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To: widowithfoursons
I don't think not having a will is anymore prevelant among the WWII age group than any other group. They love Medicare even when they can afford to pay because they paid for Medicare through their payroll taxes. What do you mean if they live to 80 they think they can live forever?
3 posted on 11/30/2002 4:01:18 AM PST by ItisaReligionofPeace
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To: sarcasm
Remember that one - major - reason that boomers have so little equity compared to their parents at the same age is that taxes are so high in order to give even the most-affluent senior every conceivable program. Today's seniors didn't have to pay so much taxes for programs for affluent ancestors!
4 posted on 11/30/2002 4:30:30 AM PST by glc1173@aol.com
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To: glc1173@aol.com
Thank You for pointing that out. Where my husband works, Granny drives up in her Mercedes, stomps up to the desk, and demands her mediscare co-pay for her Prozac, even though her information sheet lists her yearly income at 6 figures, and she has never worked a day in her life. Many of the "greatest generation" have become the "you owe me" generation. My parents would be shamed if they were here to see this (and no, my siblings and I never expected them to leave us money). What ever happened to making your own money and your own way?
5 posted on 11/30/2002 5:00:02 AM PST by Texan5
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To: sarcasm
This looks like just another racket for attorneys to exploit for money, especially if the prohibitions against frivolous lawsuits get stiffer. Which I hope they will...
6 posted on 11/30/2002 5:03:15 AM PST by Texan5
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To: Clemenza; PARodrig; rmlew; firebrand; Yehuda; RaceBannon
These people are morons, as are most people that believe that the good times will last forever. I bet they don't even carry a spare tire in the trunk of their car thinking they will never get a flat tire.
7 posted on 11/30/2002 5:10:39 AM PST by Cacique
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To: Cacique
They keep those little (useless) donut things in the spare compartment, and when they have a flat, try to use them to drive home in the next state, not having read the fine print that tells you the damn thing is only good for 50 miles or so. Then they call a road service when the donut goes up in smoke, and put a real spare tire and $3000,00 worth of towing charges on their (maxed) Mastercard.....
8 posted on 11/30/2002 5:38:20 AM PST by Texan5
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To: Texan5
What ever happened to making your own money and your own way?

FDR changed that idea in the 30's, and it has only gotten worse since then.

9 posted on 11/30/2002 5:51:05 AM PST by leadpenny
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To: glc1173@aol.com
Remember that one - major - reason that boomers have so little equity compared to their parents at the same age is that taxes are so high in order to give even the most-affluent senior every conceivable program. Today's seniors didn't have to pay so much taxes for programs for affluent ancestors!

Disagree with you. Seniors didn't buy on credit; didn't pay a lot of interest. Paid cash for things other than house, car.

Boomers use plastic for everything and pay as much to banks each month as to Uncle Sam.

Boomers suffer from "instant gratification" and aren't even aware of what they can afford from what they should live without.

Grannies knew the difference; did more with less, IMO.

10 posted on 11/30/2002 5:52:46 AM PST by lonestar
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To: sarcasm
Inheritance fights, perhaps second only to divorce & custody fights, are the nastiest form of litigation. People really become over-involved in squeezing the last drop out of the old rind. In many instances, if they spent as much effort in taking care of grandma as they do in squabbling over the inheritance, grandma would still be with us.

Someone I know now has been keeping up an inheritance fight over her mother's estate for six years since her mother's death. She is entitled by the will to an equal share with her two sisters - uncommonly generous of mom considering that this one hardly visited while the two sisters shared the caretaking duties for a decade. The two sisters, being in the same state with mom's will and assets, are the executors. They pretty much offered a quick three-way division, but my friend is obsessed with the notion that the sisters have padded their expense accounts or something -- if they did, it couldn't be by much, they're charging a tenth of what a bank or lawyer would charge. My friend, against everyone's advice, is spending 100% of her money to fuss over 5% of her mom's money, and, while this prolonged litigation is going on, the entire estate is boiling away (because the sisters are legally entitled to pay their legal fees out of the estate) so even if she wins, my friend's one-third will be much less than what she was originally offered. I should add that by carrying on (and on and on) this lawsuit, my friend is no longer being spoken to by ANY of her relatives.

One of the reasons that inheritances are now so unreliable (if, indeed, they were ever reliable) is that people are now living so much longer after retirement. They live long enough to use up their savings. They could live for years in a nursing home environment, and nursing homes charge the earth (and to qualify for a public subsidy for nursing home care, the elderly person must become pauperized), leaving very little to inherit. There is also the possibility that an aged parent might remarry, which would shift the majority of the inheritance to the spouse.

11 posted on 11/30/2002 6:10:47 AM PST by DonQ
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To: lonestar
I paid more this year in SS taxes than my father paid in the first 30 years of his SS taxes. I paid more in fed taxes than he paid in about the same perid of time. Sales taxes--he didn't pay for decades; user fees--he never heard of; likewise he never heard of state income taxes, etc., etc., etc.

Good for him, bad for me--oh, the first $10,000 a year for medical payments comes out of my pocket---his comes from the feds (whoops--me!).
12 posted on 11/30/2002 6:16:40 AM PST by Founding Father
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To: ItisaReligionofPeace
They love Medicare even when they can afford to pay because they paid for Medicare through their payroll taxes.

Yup. Payed pennies, reaped dollars. A GREAT investment for them. But another government Ponzi scheme about to implode.
13 posted on 11/30/2002 6:17:10 AM PST by Kozak
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To: lonestar
Grannies knew the difference; did more with less, IMO

For their generation, there was a direct connection between what they had and what they spent, always putting some aside. My mom's generation grew up during the depression of the '30s. She had no desire to depend on others for survival.

14 posted on 11/30/2002 6:24:41 AM PST by grania
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To: DonQ
One of the reasons that inheritances are now so unreliable (if, indeed, they were ever reliable) is that people are now living so much longer after retirement. They live long enough to use up their savings.

Good for them!! Better they spend the money on the world cruise they never took or a nice, safe car that will only be driven a few thousand miles a year then give it to the kids to spend on junk to fill their mini-mansions.

They could live for years in a nursing home environment, and nursing homes charge the earth (and to qualify for a public subsidy for nursing home care, the elderly person must become pauperized), leaving very little to inherit.

The solution here is simple. Some child could actually make a sacrifice, live with the elder folk, take care of their needs and take a fair montthly stipend to do that. Otherwise, let the nursing homes have the money.

There is also the possibility that an aged parent might remarry, which would shift the majority of the inheritance to the spouse

As far as that one goes, the kids should probably help plan the common law exchange of vows at the council on aging center, make it fancy, send them on a nice vacation, and make darn sure the wills are in order. No need to have more than one set of siblings fighting over the silverware.

15 posted on 11/30/2002 6:34:53 AM PST by grania
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To: Cacique
The way things are set up right now, most people will never see an inheritance, as the nursing-home and assisted-living industry will grab it all in the parents' last years. These wonderful helping corporations might as well have a mask and a gun.
16 posted on 11/30/2002 7:28:28 AM PST by firebrand
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To: sarcasm
When Kotzer asked what the husband did for a living, they explained he was a "waiter." "The wife said, 'He's waiting for the inheritance,' " said Kotzer, of Thornhill, Ontario. "A lot of boomers are depending on what their parents have saved all these years to pay off their debts and loans.

Also voted straight Democrat in the last election. I have zero sympathy for such people.

17 posted on 11/30/2002 8:59:31 AM PST by pabianice
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To: leadpenny
FDR changed that idea in the 30's, and it has only gotten worse since then.

Bingo!

18 posted on 11/30/2002 9:05:24 AM PST by Fiddlstix
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To: glc1173@aol.com
Remember that one - major - reason that boomers have so little equity compared to their parents at the same age is that taxes are so high in order to give even the most-affluent senior every conceivable program. Today's seniors didn't have to pay so much taxes for programs for affluent ancestors! 4 posted on 11/30/2002 4:30 AM PST by glc1173@aol.com [ Post Reply

Absolutely true! Some of these people bought their houses for around $5,000 back then. Added a few improvements throughout the decades, now same house would cost $100,000

19 posted on 11/30/2002 9:05:52 AM PST by timestax
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To: Kozak
Whether they paid pennies or not, the government took money out of their paychecks for years...they are entitled to have it returned from the program that the money was supposedly going to.
20 posted on 11/30/2002 9:08:27 AM PST by ItisaReligionofPeace
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To: DonQ
Although part of it is money, so much inheritance fights are emotionally driven. Before my Dad died, he explained to me and my Mother what his wishes were and put it in writing. My brother believes he's been wronged and there's nothing that's going to make him change his mind. If a parent leaves you less than another sibling, it's really not about the money, it's a hard pill to swallow that you are thought less of. I believe people can do whatever the hell they want to do with their money and children should respect it.
21 posted on 11/30/2002 9:10:20 AM PST by Hildy
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