Posted May 27, 2016 in Estate Planning by Michael Lonich.


May 27, 2016
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In the wake of rock & roll legend Prince’s untimely death, a number of issues have arisen regarding his estate plan – or lack thereof.  One of the biggest issues is that none of the charities that Prince donated to throughout his life will inherit from his approximately 150 million dollar estate.

CNN Political Commentator, friend, and philanthropic partner of Prince, Van Jones, described Prince as “The Silent Angel.”*  During Prince’s lifetime, he anonymously donated millions of dollars to dozens of charities.  Unfortunately, since Prince died without a will, the charities that used to receive substantial donations from Prince will inherit nothing.  Instead, his estate will be distributed pursuant to Minnesota’s intestacy laws.  For those who die without a will, intestacy laws are a state’s default estate plan.  The estate is usually distributed among the decedent’s heirs.  Prince dying intestate is strange because of the the size of his estate, and his propensity to give to charity.

It is uncommon for someone with an estate as big as Prince’s to not do any kind of estate planning.  In fact, those with big estates often do what is referred to as “advanced estate planning.” One advanced estate planning practice is to create a charitable trust.  A charitable trust is an estate planning vehicle that can fulfill your philanthropic endeavors, all the while, having your estate receive beneficial tax treatment.  There are generally two kinds of people that set up charitable trusts: those who are charitably inclined and those who take advantage of the tax benefits.

For those who are charitably inclined, a charitable trust can and should be tailored to accomplishing your philanthropic undertakings.  A charitable trust allows an individual to make charitable donations during life and after death.  Setting up a charitable trust is a way to ensure that a charity will continue to receive donations after the settlor has passed away.  Other benefits of creating a charitable trust, and an estate plan, include, but are not limited to, avoiding probate, minimizing conflict during trust administration, and fulfilling the settlor’s intent.

For those who are primarily tax-driven, there are various tax benefits of which one can take advantage.  In short, there are different kinds of charitable trusts.  Each receives different kinds of tax treatment, has different formation requirements, and other distinguishing characteristics.  If creating a charitable trust is something that you want to do, or are at least considering, meeting with an experienced estate planning attorney is imperative, because estate planning requires expertise and precision when determining which avenues should be taken.  Had Prince set up a charitable trust during his life, not only would the charities that relied upon his generous donations be taken care of, but his estate would be taking advantage of the tax benefits.

Unless a will is found, we will never know how Prince would have wanted his estate to be distributed. It is likely that he would have had wanted a portion of it to go to charity.  If you possess a philanthropic disposition, creating a charitable trust is something that should definitely be considered.  A few of the benefits of creating a charitable trust are accomplishing your charitable goals, helping those who need it, and receiving tax benefits.

If you are interested in creating a charitable trust or have any questions regarding your current estate plan, please contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Lonich Patton Erlich Policastri for further information.  The attorneys at Lonich Patton Erlich Policastri have decades of experience handling complex estate planning matters, including charitable trusts, and we are happy to offer you a free consultation.  Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results.  While this post may detail general legal issues, it is not legal advice.  Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.


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7 Tips to Keep Your Sanity in Custody Litigation

Posted May 2, 2016 in Family Law by Michael Lonich.

In her memoir “Yes Please,” comedian Amy Poehler likened divorce to “spreading everything you care about on a blanket and then tossing the whole thing up in the air.” Undeniably, the end of a relationship is devastating for all involved, especially for the children of the relationship. Sometimes, parents separate with the best of intentions, promising to keep the peace for the sake of the children–with varying degrees of success. An unfortunate reality is that divorce and custody litigation is taxing on children of any age, and exposure to conflict can have lasting and serious repercussions. In fact, studies show that children exposed to a contentious divorce are more likely to struggle academically, socially, and emotionally.*

This post contains tips to decrease conflict and keep you (and your family) sane during custody litigation.

1.  Be Flexible.

Life after separation is uncomfortable for both parents and children. On top of arranging separate housing and sorting such issues as payment of household bills and the sale of the family home, you and your ex must negotiate a temporary visitation schedule. This is no small order! In approaching this challenge, flexibility is key. Remember, initial temporary custody arrangements are just that—temporary—and will be fine-tuned over time. Consider taking advantage of the free custody mediation services available in some counties through Family Court Services, where a neutral mediator will help you and your ex formulate a visitation schedule.

2.  Communication is Key.

Hostility strains communication. Children adjusting to divorce will benefit from their parents maintaining healthy lines of communication. While face-to-face communication with your ex may be difficult, luckily there are many alternatives. Consider designating a “family notebook” to travels in your child’s backpack or overnight bag. You and your ex can write (peaceful) notes to one another, detailing the status of homework and projects, sleep and nap schedules, snacks and meals eaten by the kids during visits, and health-related concerns. Or, consider using Our Family Wizard which is a web and app-based custody tool that helps parents with scheduling and communicating (and is frequently ordered by family court judges).

3.  Choose your Words Carefully.

Think of your child as a sponge. He or she will soak up everything you say and do, especially during this unstable time. For this reason, no matter how tempting it may be, do not “vent” or criticize the other parent in the presence of your children, or discuss the ongoing litigation. To help your children understand the changes your family is undergoing, and offer a safe space for your children to discuss these changes, consider family or individual counseling.

4.  Practice the Golden Rule…Even if Your Ex Doesn’t.

Treat your ex as you wish to be treated, even if he or she does not return the favor. Retaliating against your ex by withholding contact with the children will breed further tension and conflict. To that end, difficult though it may be, try to take the high road. Show respect and flexibility to your ex, even if he or she is seemingly unwilling to offer the same courtesy. Ultimately, the court will see you as the more reasonable parent.

5.  Be Cautious When Introducing New Partners.

Err on the side of caution when introducing a new boyfriend or girlfriend to your children. It can be difficult for children to process the end of their parents’ marriage, and the introduction of a new partner too soon may cause confusion and anxiety. It may also heighten conflict with your children (or resentment from your ex). Even if your children adore your new partner, if the new relationship is short lived, then your children may face even more difficult change. Consider waiting until the initial uncertainty of the custody litigation—and your new relationship—has passed before introducing a new partner.

6.  Go Back to School.

It’s never too late to learn. There are an abundance of parenting classes offered on a variety of topics (from parenting an infant to relating with a teenager). The courts often order one or both parties to participate in a parenting class. Consider voluntarily enrolling in a class at the beginning of the case. Not only will it impress the judge, by honing your own parenting skills, you will also develop coping mechanisms and learn to navigate conflict.

7.  Be Patient and Change Will Come.

Change will not happen overnight. Separating from the parent of your child will undoubtedly cause a period of unhappiness and uncertainty. However unpleasant, this time shall pass. Be patient, and change for the better will come.

If you need help navigating your custody litigation, the Certified Family Law Specialists at Lonich Patton Erlich Policastri have decades of experience handling complex family law matters. Please contact the Certified Family Law Specialists at Lonich Patton Erlich Policastri for further information.  Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results.  While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice.  Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.

*Source: Children of divorce in the 1990s: An update of the Amato and Keith (1991) meta-analysis. Amato, Paul R. Journal of Family Psychology, Vol 15(3), Sep 2001, 355-370.


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