Chipman Mazzucco Emerson LLC

Danbury Legal Blog

Prioritize estate planning

People living in Connecticut and elsewhere often prefer to not consider their own mortality as well the mortality of those whom they love. Unfortunately, this very understandable aversion to the topic of death can lead to negative consequences for individuals and families.

Experts agree that estate planning is important for everyone at every stage of their adult lives. Even though many people have good reason to expect that they will live into old age, illness and accidents can, in some cases, cut a life short. In addition, while a person may survive a serious illness or accident, they may no longer be able to make decisions for themselves.

The title search turned up something wrong. What happens now?

Residential and commercial property purchases require a title search in order to ensure that you do not encounter any obstacles to owning the real estate free and clear. While most of these searches don't reveal any impediments to the buyer's ownership, it does happen.

If your title search reveals a problem with your property ownership, a legal process is in place to help clear the "cloud" on the title. What you may need is a quiet title action.

Protecting assets with a spendthrift trust

A trust is an appealing estate planning tool for individuals in Connecticut who want to pass assets along to children and other descendants. A trust fund can be set up in a way that carefully controls disbursements of money and other assets. The exact way disbursements are handled is largely dependent on preferences and a trust creator's (grantor's) knowledge of how their designated heirs are likely to handle such assets.

One option is a spendthrift trust. This type of trust is overseen by a trustee, which can be an individual or a corporate trustee. With this trust, an asset management company is typically hired to invest the trust's money after it's made irrevocable (when the grantor passes away). The designated beneficiary is not permitted to spend the trust's money until disbursements are actually received.

Why and how to name a trust as an IRA beneficiary

It is possible that an individual in Connecticut won't spend all the money in his or her IRA before passing. Therefore, individuals should create a plan to determine who would get the unspent funds. There can be many benefits to naming a trust as the beneficiary to an IRA account. For instance, the trust can designate who gets the funds and when they are to be distributed. That may provide a layer of oversight for those who may not manage their money properly.

Naming a trust as a beneficiary can also be helpful for those who are planning on leaving an IRA to a minor. Money inside of a trust is generally off-limits to creditors, which means that family members who are in debt may not be at risk of losing their inheritance. However, it may not be a good idea to leave an IRA to a trust if the money is going to a spouse.

Heirs generally don't need their own legal counsel

A beneficiary generally does not need an attorney during trust or estate administration proceedings. Typically, the representative of a Connecticut estate will represent a person who stands to collect money or assets from a deceased individual. The trustee will represent the beneficiary of a trust, and both the executor and trustee have a fiduciary duty to an heir. However, an heir may want to hire an attorney for the peace of mind that legal counsel may provide.

Even if an individual does hire an attorney, it generally won't cause tension between a beneficiary and the estate's representative. In many cases, an executor or trustee simply wants to make sure that an estate is settled or that a trust's instructions are carried out correctly. In some instances, the executor or trustee may get an attorney to help accomplish that goal in a timely manner.

Chronic conditions call for specific estate planning practices

The number of Americans who have chronic illnesses is on the rise and is expected to increase from more than 130 million to roughly 157 million by the year 2020. Approximately 25% of people from 65 to 74 years old in Connecticut and across the country have been impacted by chronic diseases. The percentage of people who are affected by chronic conditions increases sharply as people get older. The presence of a chronic illness in a person's life can complicate estate planning and should be addressed in planning documents.

Most estate planning instruments can be customized by a lawyer to meet the needs and goals of the client. Those who have a chronic illness might consider having a living will. A living will is a document that sets forth the healthcare wishes of the person, including end-of-life care. A person who has a chronic illness might want his or her living will to explain the specific illness. The document should also give broad instructions not related to the chronic condition.

Supreme Court decision allows profane trademark registrations

Businesses in Connecticut often look to protect themselves by registering a trademark for their brand of goods or services. In the past, federal law banned people from registering trademarks deemed "immoral" or "scandalous." This provision has been used over the years to prevent the registration of trademarks generally considered to contain foul language. However, the nation's highest court ruled on June 24 that the prohibition violates the First Amendment's free speech protections. The decision paves the way for a clothing company to trademark a name that bears resemblance to a common slang term.

The Trump administration argued in favor of the trademark prohibition, a law that had been upheld since 1905. A fashion designer, whose clothing trademark, "FUCT," was rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, prevailed in the case. While all nine Supreme Court justices concurred that the prohibition of "immoral" trademarks violated the right to freedom of expression, three justices said that the ban on "scandalous" trademarks should have been upheld. The ruling followed the line of reasoning of an earlier case in 2017 in which the high court struck down a ban on "disparaging" trademarks.

Nursing home agreements can be traps

Choosing a Connecticut nursing home is not a simple matter of looking at brochures and picking a place you can afford. Whether you are making the choice on your own or your family is helping, you certainly want to take the time to visit more than one facility, perhaps making numerous return visits before coming to a decision.

Even then, the process is not necessarily complete. Along with understanding the costs and benefits of the nursing home, you may face the confusing task of reading and signing an admission agreement. If your adult child is with you, he or she may also have documents to sign. Putting a signature to any of these documents without first obtaining a legal evaluation may be a devastating mistake.

Why succession planning is important

Business owners in Connecticut and elsewhere may not have a plan for what happens to their companies after they die. This can be problematic if there are no family members or trusted employees who can step up and run the business. Even if someone is willing to run the company, it may take time and effort to convince employees and customers to remain loyal to the organization. In many cases, the owner of a small business is also the face of the brand.

Therefore, it can be difficult to replace the goodwill and rapport that the owner had with customers and workers. If the deceased owner kept poor records, it can be hard to determine who the company's customers are or what its financial health is. It is not uncommon for business owners to create succession plans and then not communicate those plans to the chosen successors.

Why each spouse needs access to household data

Connecticut residents and others who are married should have access to financial records and other critical household data. In the event that a spouse passes away or becomes critically ill, it may be necessary to gain access to a computer or to an online bank account. Not having access to a device or an account may make it impossible to deactivate social media accounts or put a stop to automatic bill payments.

Having access to financial information may also make it easier for a spouse to manage money on his or her own. It isn't uncommon for one spouse to keep track of bills and take care of household financial issues. Individuals can start learning about their financial situation by reviewing bank statements or other documents that arrive in the mail.

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