Why is Ashton Kutcher So Stingy with his Kids’ Inheritance?

Ashton Kutcher said, “My kids are living a really privileged life, and they don’t even know it.”

The actor has an estimated net worth of $200 million.

Business Insider’s recent article, “Ashton Kutcher says he’s not setting up a trust fund for his kids, and his parenting approach echoes what billionaires like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have said,” reports that Kutcher’s parenting approach is similar to other well-known wealthy individuals. Elton John, Sting and Simon Cowell have all revealed they don’t plan to leave their children a lot of money. Instead, they plan to emphasize educating them on the value of hard work.

Likewise, many billionaires aren’t leaving their children much money. For example, Bill Gates has announced that he would leave $10 million to each of his three children. That’s just a fraction of his $108 billion net worth.

In a 2013 Reddit “Ask Me Anything” forum, Gates said: “I definitely think leaving kids massive amounts of money is not a favor to them. Warren Buffett was part of an article in Fortune talking about this in 1986 before I met him, and it made me think about it and decide he was right.”

Mr. Buffett said he has pledged 100% of his estimated $87.3 billion fortune to various charities. Instead of giving each of his three children millions or billions, he’s promised to give about $2.1 billion of Berkshire Hathaway stock to each of his children’s charities.

Buffett’s decision might arise from his views on dynastic wealth, or the pattern of families passing money down from one generation to the next. Buffet has been vocal about his efforts to decrease the vast wealth sitting in the hands of a few influential people.

“Dynastic wealth, the enemy of a meritocracy, is on the rise,” Buffett said in 2007. “Equality of opportunity has been on the decline.”

Older generations might consider restricting their children’s access to family wealth because of highly visible heirs and so-called trust-fund babies, who show off their wealth on social media. Trusts should be structured so that children don’t have total free access to their inheritance. The trust can specify the terms for which distributions can be made. Parents may want to include provisions to ensure that any trust can be modified in the future.

Reference: Business Insider (November 10, 2019) “Ashton Kutcher says he’s not setting up a trust fund for his kids, and his parenting approach echoes what billionaires like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have said”

 

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What Is an Ethical Will and Should You Consider Making One?

When an estate planning attorney suggests that clients create ethical wills, they aren’t asking the clients to create another last will and testament. Instead, it is to create something that can explain their intentions to their loved ones. According to the article “How to create an ethical will” from Herald Net, a ethical will is also known as a legacy letter.

This can be a kind and loving gift to your family, since it allows you to express your feelings and thoughts. If you’re not accustomed to sharing your feelings, that will make it even more special to your loved ones. It’s an opportunity to say all the things you never felt comfortable saying in person. You may want to express your wishes, regrets and gratitude. You may also want to pass long the life lessons that have been valuable for you.

An ethical will also provides an opportunity for you to explain how you came to the decisions you did about your will or trust and the money and possessions you are passing along. You might want to explain why a certain child is being given a piece of artwork or why another is being left assets in a trust and not an outright gift.

If you are more comfortable with making a video, you can also do that. An audio or video recording often becomes a treasured piece of family history, since it allows generations who may have never met you to see and hear you.

Start by writing down some notes about what matters to you and what you think you might want to share with the family. Take your time. Remember you aren’t writing the Great American Novel but creating a gift of love.

Once you’ve gathered your thoughts, move on to the next draft. Once it’s complete, to keep this document safe and in a secure location. If you have a waterproof and fireproof safe where you keep important papers in the home, the ethical will should also go in there. Remember that safe deposit boxes are sealed at death if not titled in a living trust name, so if you want your loved ones to read this, it should probably not go in the safe deposit box.

One last thought—some people like to share their ethical will with family and friends, while they are still living. This allows them to enjoy their reactions and have a discussion about whatever they have shared in the document. Others prefer to wait until after they have passed. It’s a very personal decision.

Talk with your estate planning attorney about how the ethical will works with your estate plan.  Make sure there’s nothing in the ethical will that contradicts your last will and testament or living trust. That could create problems for the family.

Reference: Herald Net (Nov. 6, 2029) “How to create an ethical will”

 

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What’s Better, A Living Trust or a Will?

Everyone knows what a last will and testament is. However, a will is not always the best way to distribute your assets, explains the Times Herald-Record in the article “Living trusts are better choice than wills.” Most people think that by having a will alone, they will make it clear who they want to receive their assets when they die. However, wills are used by the court in a proceeding called “probate,” if the only estate plan you have is a will. The court proceeding is to establish that the will is valid. Depending upon where you live, probate can take over a year before assets are distributed to beneficiaries.

Certain family members must receive notifications, when a will is submitted to probate. Some people will receive notices, even if they are not mentioned in the will. This can lead to all kinds of awkward situations, especially from estranged or unknown relatives. The person who is the executor of the will is required to locate these relatives, and until they are found and notified, the probate process comes to a standstill.

There are instances where a judge will allow a legal notice to be published in a local newspaper, after valid attempts to find relatives aren’t successful. If there is a disabled beneficiary, a minor beneficiary, a relative or beneficiary who can’t be located, or a relative who has been incarcerated, the judge often appoints lawyers to represent these parties’ interests and the estate pays for the attorney’s fees.

Depending on the situation, the executor may be required to furnish a family tree, or a friend of the decedent must sign an affidavit attesting that the person never had any children.

Thinking of disinheriting a child? Anyone who is disinherited in a will, receives a notice about that and is legally permitted to contest the will. That can lead to years of expensive litigation, including discovery demands, depositions, motions and possibly a trial. Like most litigation, will contests usually end in a settlement. The disinherited relative often gets a share of the inheritance, even when the decedent didn’t want them to get anything.

For many families, a living trust is a better alternative. They also serve as disability planning, naming people who will manage the assets of the trust, in case of incapacity. They are private documents, so their information does not become public knowledge, like the details of a will. Since the courts aren’t involved, the trust can start to be distributed almost immediately.

A qualified estate planning attorney will help you determine what estate planning tools will work best to achieve your goals, while maintaining your privacy and ensuring that assets pass to heirs in a discrete manner. A trust can also keep the estate protected long term for the beneficiaries to protect them from lawsuits and divorces.

Reference: Times Herald-Record (Oct. 26, 2019) “Living trusts are better choice than wills”

 

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