For People with Firearms: A Look into Gun Trusts in Estate Planning

If you own any firearms, one of the questions you’ll need to address is how to include them legally in your estate.

You might have only one or two guns, or maybe it’s a larger collection. Regardless, there are legal issues with transferring these to your beneficiaries in the event of your incapacitation or death. For example, you might have beneficiaries who can’t legally own or operate firearms. But even if they are eligible, there are still restrictions and a transfer process that need attention and care. You or your beneficiaries could face serious criminal charges if you don’t account for the legal issues.

The role of gun trusts

As discussed in a recent article from Investment News, gun trusts can facilitate the legal transfer of firearms from one individual to another (they might also make the process of purchasing firearms go a little more smoothly, as the trust itself can serve as the entity that buys the firearms). By using the trust, you often don’t need as much paperwork or as many steps towards making the transfer from one gun owner to another.

When it comes to establishing a gun trust, you need to work with attorneys who understand estate law and the relevant state and federal laws for gun ownership, transfers, and sales. For example, even if you live in Texas, you might want to leave one of your guns to a family member who lives in Oregon or Utah. What are the legalities of transferring a gun across state lines? What are the gun laws for those states? (For instance, are certain types of firearms and ammunition illegal in another state?)

The trust document itself can lay out specific guidelines and restrictions for trustees and beneficiaries, so that they’re less likely to accidentally break the law.

Another important point from the Investment News article is that even if you decide not to transfer your firearms, you can make provisions in a trust for their legal sale, with the money going to your beneficiaries.

If you have any questions about this issue, don’t hesitate to contact us. With legal guidance, you can make informed decisions about what to do with your firearms while complying with all the legalities.

Francesca Hilton Passes Away

Francesca Hilton died at the age of 67 on January 6, 2015.  Francesca was the only child of well-known actress Zsa Zsa Gabor and hotel magnate, Conrad Hilton.  Francesca had fallen on hard times prior to her death, living in her car from time to time in and around Los Angeles, California.

Francesca had sought financial relief from her mother, however Zsa Zsa is currently under a guardianship and unable to make such decisions.  Prinz von Anhalt, Francesca’s step-father and Zsa Zsa’s current spouse, is the Court-appointed Guardian and cannot use any of Zsa Zsa’s money  to support Francesca.  In an effort to support herself, Francesca had been working on a book and her  long-time publicist was hoping for a book deal.

Francesca’s predicament raises a key issue that many should consider.  When parents become incapacitated and a guardianship is created, they cannot continue to support their children in any form.  The guardianship process is overseen by the Court to ensure that all of the guardianship assets are used to support the incapacitated person.  Even if a child or other family member demonstrates a pattern of support from the incapacitated person, the Court will not allow those assets to be given to the child or family member.

If you or someone you know have questions concerning guardianship or the guardianship process contact the experienced attorneys at Ford + Bergner LLP today.

Have You Updated Your Will Lately?

No one ever likes to think about his or her death and what it will do to the family. As devastating as the topic is, you still need to consider everything that could  happen whenever that time comes. When you think about everything that may occur, you should consider putting a will together. You will want the right people in charge of your personal belongings, finances, and other assets when that time does come.

When you update your will on a regular basis, you are ensuring yourself and your family that everything will be accounted for. All of your wishes will also be carried out when your family knows you have a will. When you have your will prepared by a professional, this ensures that your family members will be protected from having any burdens or difficulties when it comes to your finances.

Here are some things to consider when you are preparing to draft a will or update it regularly:

Consult With An Attorney 

  • It can certainly be overwhelming and challenging when you are considering writing a will. When things are a bit overwhelming people tend to put those things on hold and say they will wait until a later time. However, creating will should not be put on hold. In this case, it will be better for you to team up with an attorney. An attorney can be by your side through the entire process, and he or she will make sure every part of your will is accurate and complete.

Make Sure Everything Is Accurate And Updated

  • Make sure you have listed any valuables and assets that you plan to leave behind. Throughout the years, if you acquire additional assets, make sure you remember to update that list. You should also make sure you have a good idea of what those valuables are worth. Whenever you buy additional property, acquire additional finances, or buy insurance coverage, continue to update the list as necessary.

Whenever there is a significant change in your life, you should make changes to your will.  An attorney can provide you with the resources and tools you need in order to have a will that will make things easier on your family. Contact us when you need assistance or advice.

Have You Considered Estate Planning Being One Of Your Goals For The New Year?

The start of a new years is always a good time to take a good look at your estate planning documents. You should review these documents to make sure everything is planned according to your wishes.

Your goals and wishes for your estate planning can change over the years. Several personal reasons, such as the addition of a new child or grandchild, divorce, marriage, death or injury can affect your estate planning for the new year. When you review your estate planning documents, you should consider more than just the property you own and the assets you own, but you should also consider the people who those assets will be distributed among.

You may not want to consider planning for death at the beginning of the new year, but it is better to plan ahead or update your old estate planning documents before it is too late. You should make these documents, if you consider yourself to be youthful and even if you think that you do not have enough assets and property to leave a will. Everyone who has children, assets, and property of any type of value should have estate planning documents stored somewhere.

Creating your estate plan will give clear information to your family members on what you want to happen with your things. If a will is not left, all of your property could be passed over according to your state law. A will is of significant value and importance when a person needs someone to watch over their children and care for them until they are old enough to care for themselves. Sometimes these documents are put on hold because parents do not want to think about leaving their children to be cared for someone else.

It is unbearable for a parent to think about this, but it is necessary for your children to be cared for properly. If you do not have documents that outline what you want to happen to your children, the court can make decisions on who will care for their children, even if you have asked a friend or family member to step in.

People have different resolutions and goals for the new year, but have you considered making estate planning one of those goals? If you need assistance with your estate plans, contact us.

Four reasons you should work on your estate planning during the holiday season

It’s likely that you have many plans lined up for the holiday season. Drawing up new estate planning documents or updating existing documents will hopefully be a part of your holiday schedule. If you haven’t yet given serious thought to your estate, or if you’ve been delaying necessary changes to it, please don’t delay.

The following are four reasons the holidays are ideal for estate planning.

1) You’re meeting with loved ones. If you’re meeting up with your loved ones over the holidays, it’s a great opportunity to discuss estate planning issues with them. When possible, you should discuss your estate with people you trust, so that they can give you feedback and also be better prepared to step into any future roles you’re designating for them, such as guardian, trustee, executor or beneficiary of certain assets.

2) It’s a good time of year to take stock of things. During the winter holidays, many people reflect on the past year and how their needs and priorities may have changed (in part because of major life events such as weddings and births). Your estate planning is an expression of what you want your legacy to be and how you hope to care for yourself and your beneficiaries. Think about whether your current estate plans reflect your values and priorities.

3) You’re thinking about your taxes for the coming year. As you consider the amount you need to pay for taxes on various assets (and the amount of taxes on your estate should you pass away) you might want to make revisions to your estate planning – including the formation of certain trusts to better shield your assets.

4) You’ve acquired new significant assets. Perhaps as a holiday season gift, you now have a new car or a new home, or you’ve acquired some other valuable item. How will you include these in your estate plan?

Be sure to contact us to make the most of your holiday season estate planning. We will help make sure that your estate plans are clear and thorough, reflecting your wishes and beneficial to you and your loved ones.

You’re a Trustee….Now What?

We recently posted about an article that ran in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “The Trouble with Trustees,” in which the Journal described the problems that trust beneficiaries can have when clashes arise with their trustees.  While the article did a great job of describing what a trust beneficiary should do to address conflicts, it did not spend much time discussing how the trustee should handle those disputes.

In many cases, being named as someone’s trustee carries a certain level of honor.  Your parents, sibling, close friend, or trusted business associate asks you to serve as the trustee for their child, grandchild, parent, or sibling because they need someone with “good sense” to manage the money for their loved one.  Unfortunately, with the honor of being trusted comes the duty of fulfilling a difficult role.

As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, the trustee and the trust’s beneficiaries can frequently have disputes over issues affecting the trust.  At Ford + Bergner, we have represented countless trustees in these types of disputes, but we also represent trustees before any dispute arises with the hope that we can avoid the chance for a future dispute.  We recommend the following:

1.    The Trustee should regularly contact the Trust beneficiar(ies) to find out if there are issues that he needs to address.

2.    The Trustee should prepare an accounting every year and make copies of the accounting available to the Trust beneficiaries.  The accounting provides good information to the beneficiaries, and it puts them on notice to contact the trustee if they perceive that there are any problems.

3.    The Trustee should regularly meet (quarterly or semi-annually) with the financial advisors managing the trust’s assets to confirm that investment objectives are being achieved.

4.    The Trustee should employ a reputable estate and trust attorney to represent them through the entire length of their service as a trustee.  Although it seems like serving as trustee should just require “good sense,” it is a minefield of potential problems that need the expertise of a competent attorney.

Ford + Bergner represents trustees on a frequent basis.  If you find that you are the trustee of a trust, we would be glad to represent you in any current dispute with a beneficiary or in administering the trust correctly to avoid any future disputes.

The Trouble With Trustees

The November 22-23 weekend investor section of The Wall Street Journal includes  an article entitled “The Trouble with Trustees,” which is a lengthy article discussing how both trustees and beneficiaries of a trust can manage the delicate relationship that can be strained when they clash over how to invest and/or spend the trust’s money.

A Trust is established by one person for the benefit of another person(s), but rather than giving the money outright to the beneficiary, the person creating the trust asks a third party (the trustee) to hold the money or property for the benefit of the beneficiary(ies).  The trust’s creator has considerable flexibility in controlling the terms of the trust and how the trustee should manage, invest, and/or distribute the Trust’s assets and income.

Not surprisingly, the Trust’s beneficiaries can often disagree with the trustee’s decisions.  For instance, when the beneficiary asks the trustee for a new Porsche but the trustee decides that a more economical Honda should suffice, a clash may occur between the beneficiary and the trustee over which car should be purchased.

Ford + Bergner has represented countless clients in disputes over trusts.  Below is a sample of the types of disagreements that arise between trustees and beneficiaries:

1.    Disagreement over the trustee’s accounting for the assets and income.

2.    Disagreement over the way that the trustee has invested the trust’s assets.

3.    Disagreement over how the income is divided between the multiple beneficiaries of the Trust.

4.    Disagreement over how much of the income/assets should be distributed in a particular year.

The Wall Street Journal article encourages trust beneficiaries to regularly review the accounting provided by the trustees.  It also suggests that the beneficiaries should regularly stay in contact with the trustee and keep notes from those conversations.  For trustees, maintaining accurate and complete financial records is important, and the prudent trustee should always treat the trust beneficiaries with respect, regardless of the request.

If you are either the trustee or the beneficiary of a trust and find that you are in a dispute over the Trust, the attorneys at Ford + Bergner will be happy to assist you.