Chipman, Mazzucco, Land & Pennarola, LLC

Danbury Legal Blog

Aspects of an estate plan that need review

People in Connecticut who have estate plans might want to review those documentsperiodically. For example, a person who has created an estate plan with an eye to avoiding estate tax might want to review that plan since the exemption has increased.

There might need to be updates to the choices of beneficiaries or executor. The family situation might have changed, or a person might no longer want to be an executor. There should be a review of assets that are passed down by beneficiary designation such as retirement accounts. Life insurance policies should also be reviewed to make sure they are still funded and do not contain unexpected liabilities. If there is a trust, a person may have appointed a family member as a trustee, but this is a significant responsibility that might be better carried out by a professional. If the estate plan was created in another state, it may also need to be updated.

Commodores in a battle over name usage

Music fans in Connecticut may have heard that a former member of the Commodores has been sued for trademark infringement by Commodores Entertainment Corp. (CEC). According to the lawsuit, the former member began performing under the name 'The Commodores Experience featuring Thomas McClary." The lawsuit was filed in 2014, and McClary was barred by a court from using the name in 2016. A court later ruled that he couldn't refer to himself as the founder of the Commodores as it could be confusing to fans.

A court filing in April 2018 by the CEC also claims that the use of the Commodores name is confusing. Although the court ruled in favor of the CEC, it claims that McClary was still using the Commodores name on social media. The most recent legal action requests that McClary demonstrate why he isn't in contempt and should be sanctioned.

Has a chronic illness diagnosis left you feeling hopeless?

Suffering from a health issue typically affects everyone at some point in their lives. Of course, some problems may prove more severe than others, and you may have found yourself recently diagnosed with a chronic condition.

No matter what the issue may be, you may still feel as if you have come to a crossroads in life. You may need to come to terms with the fact that you will not have the ability to participate in certain activities, that you will have a shortened life expectancy or that you will likely need long-term care in the future. Of course, accepting these possibilities may not come easy.

Family complications can be an estate planning problem

The estate planning process can be complicated at times for people in Connecticut who want to ensure their families are taken care of after they pass away. However, internal family fighting can be one of the most concerning factors in estate planning; 44 percent of estate planning professionals surveyed by TD Wealth said that the biggest problem they face in planning for wills and wealth transfer is family division and disputes. While tax reforms can lead to changes in the way wealth is handled, family fighting can be emotionally intense, not merely legally complex.

Another 25 percent of estate planning professionals noted changes related to tax reform as an added complication in 2018, while 12 percent said that volatility in the stock market could make some planning and investment decisions more difficult. Professionals also discussed the various key estate planning documents and which ones were more contentious for their clients. While 17 percent said wills were the most difficult and 16 percent cited powers of attorney, over half said that designations of beneficiaries and child guardians were the most complicated for clients.

Brand protection during mergers and acquisitions

Business owners in Connecticut should take care how they handle mergers and acquisitions as the two business moves can impact how their brand is perceived. Combining two businesses can be a complicated process, significantly impacting brands. However, brands can be protected if they are managed carefully and strategically.

The end goal of merging two businesses is to enhance value. Senior leadership that share the same vision for the merged businesses is key. One of the issues that can arise with mergers is the conflict between different company and brand cultures. The focus on customer data can be used to bypass opinions and decisions based on emotions. Research can be conducted to determine the risks and opportunities that can occur when decisions are made about brand integration. Using customer information as a basis for a brand strategy will result in a more viable and cost-effective solution.

Estate planning needs can change over time

The emotional impact of estate planning can be difficult for many people in Connecticut; because it can deal with sometimes-complex family relationships as well as the fraught topic of death, many people do not want to revisit will planning too quickly. This means that once complete, many wills, trusts and other important estate documents are often filed away for years on end without change or review because people know that they have taken action to protect their assets and their family. However, ongoing legal changes, as well as life developments, can make it a priority to review one's estate plan.

When estate planning documents spend many years without review, intervening changes can make them outdated. For many people, life events can change how they want their assets to be distributed, while in other cases, changes to tax law could significantly benefit the estate and its beneficiaries. A review every 10 years or after major events can help to ensure that the estate plan is current.

Planning to stay home as you age

There are countless benefits of staying in your own home as long as possible as you age. Certainly, you want to be in a comfortable and familiar place where you still have some control over your schedule, your meals, your belongings and other lifestyle decisions. Your home also has memories and those personal touches you may have worked for years to achieve.

Nevertheless, when your health starts declining, staying in your home alone may not be the best option for you. If you have surgery planned or worry about the possibility of a degenerative condition in your future, thinking about your options now is a wise move, especially if your goal is to postpone going into a Connecticut nursing facility.

Popular terms overwhelmingly registered as trademarks

Many Connecticut business owners and entrepreneurs may be considering filing for a trademark for their own products and services. However, they could run into more difficulty than expected, as a new study has found that 81 percent of the most common 1,000 words in the English language are registered as single-word trademarks. The study's authors warned of the potential of future problems with the creation of brand names.

Published in the Harvard Law Review, the study looked at the 6.7 million applications for trademarks filed at the US Patent and Trademark Office between 1985 and 2016, as well as the 300,000 marks that were already registered prior to that period. When the scope of words is expanded, the percentage claimed as trademarks drops; for example, 62 percent of the 10,000 most common words are registered and 23.5 percent of the 86,408 most frequently used words. The researchers also noted that among the most common words that are not registered are many negative terms that would be unwanted by brands.

Mistakes to avoid with revocable trusts

One of the tools Connecticut residents can use in their estate plans is a revocable trust. However, it is important that they make the most of the investment they pay in legal fees to ensure that they are using the trust to its full potential and that their beneficiaries are able to take part in its value.

One mistake to be avoided is not moving the titles of assets to the trust. If the assets are not under the ownership of the trust, they will be subject to the probate process and the terms of the trust will be not able to be enforced for them. Funding a revocable trust requires changing the information on real estate deeds and recording them as required by local law. For vehicles, the titles will have to re-registered, specifying that the new owner is the trust.

Digital assets increasingly important in estate planning

Many Connecticut residents possess digital assets that could cause complications upon their deaths if not addressed in an estate plan. Email accounts could contain information and photographs of interest and emotional importance to heirs, and the executors of estates increasingly find that utility bills and banking are tied to online accounts. Access to these accounts is generally necessary to manage the financial affairs of an estate.

The laws on the books, however, are designed for the coordination and transfer of paper documents and physical property. An associate professor of law said that courts continue to develop approaches for handling digital assets, which remain largely controlled by technology companies that claim ownership of information within digital accounts. Even clearly written directions on providing access to an heir or executor might not override a company's terms of service. For example, Yahoo forbids access and terminates the accounts of dead people.

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Chipman, Mazzucco, Land & Pennarola, LLC
44 Old Ridgebury Road
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Danbury, CT 06810

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