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Articles written by Kenneth Kirk

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What we can learn from cracked ribs

Let me tell you a story. I promise I will eventually flounder my way to a relevant point. A few years back, on a cold winter day, I was out walking my dogs. At one point the boy dog suddenly began...

 

What's mine is mine, what's yours is ours

Remember 1987? If you lived here in Alaska, you might remember that it was the absolute nadir of the recession. Oil prices had dropped, jobs had gone away, houses had been abandoned. Generally...

 

Trust me, it ain't a trust if it ain't a trust

“I’m just gonna leave everything to Bubba,” says the gent across from me. “That's certainly doable,” I tell him. “But what's the reason you’re disinheriting your other kids?” “I’m...

 

The unexpected grandchild and your will

I grew up in the '70s. Back then, young people tended to sow their wild oats fairly indiscriminately. Sometimes, one of those wild oats sprouted. Those of you with grayer hair than mine, or at least...

 

Those Flowers for Algernon moments

I am going to begin this column with more than just a spoiler alert. If you have never read the short story “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes, put down this paper immediately. Go buy it, or...

 

Medicaid and Medicare: Same thing?

You like potato, I like potahto You like tomato, I like tomahto Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto Let’s call the whole thing off! The point the Gershwin brothers were making, I take it, was that...

 

Smaller sized estates may still require probate

Here’s another question I am asked regularly: how small does an estate have to be before it does not have to go through probate? Back when I was starting out, and in fact for quite a few years after...

 

Learn from this late actor's mistakes

If you go to the movies very often, you might have heard of an actor named Philip Seymour Hoffman. He was quite a talented character actor, he even won an Oscar for portraying Truman Capote, and he...

 

Sizing up inherited IRAs and income tax

When I first discovered the estate tax (or if you like, “death tax”), way back in the 1980s, the rate could be as high as 55 percent. That’s right, once you got above a certain level, Uncle Sam...

 

Your estate plan needs some wiggle room

Doing your own estate planning is not a good idea. There are a lot of mistakes people make when they try, and they usually don’t realize it. One example is what I call the “illiquid estate.” If...

 

When Dickens and Prince come together

This month’s column is about the novelist Charles Dickens, and the artist formerly known as Prince. Yes, there is a connection. Bear with me. Dickens, as you may know, wrote a novel called “Bleak...

 

Legal power of attorney not perfect, but beats the alternatives

Winston Churchill once said that democracy was a crappy system, until you consider the alternatives (I’m paraphrasing of course). When I hear that, it reminds me of the controversy over powers of...

 

'Disposition Directive' is a new legal must-have

All right, I gripe about the legislature as much as the next guy. On the other hand, I am also happy to give credit where credit is due. And this last session, the legislature passed a bill which is...

 

Sorry, joint tenancy is not allowed in Alaska

We Alaskans pride ourselves on being independent. But despite our “we don’t give a darn how they do it Outside” attitude, most of our state laws are the same as just about everywhere else in...

 

'No contest' clause may not be your answer

“And another thing,” says the client across from me, tapping his finger on the desk for emphasis, “I don’t want Junior to get anything. He’s an ingrate who broke his mama’s heart, and...

 

Have you covered your digital assets?

“Digital assets.” It’s the latest buzzword. It means the ownership interest you have in your online accounts. To a lawyer, it is a subset of “intellectual property”. But what does it mean in...

 

Native assets require special treatment

One of the things that makes estate planning interesting in Alaska is the high percentage of Native Americans here, compared to other states. Natives come from a different background culturally,...

 

What exactly does a will do?

“Avoid probate? I don’t have to worry about that; I have a will,” says the elder gent sitting across from me. “A will doesn’t avoid probate,” I tell him. A confused look comes over his...

 

Should you gift junior the house?

One of the questions every estate planner gets is, “should I just give my house to the kids while I’m alive, as opposed to having it go through an estate or trust?” It’s a simple question...

 

With estate planning, it ain't just about taxes

It was the mid-1980s. Ronald Reagan was in his second term, Tears for Fears was on the radio, and I was in law school in upstate New York, taking my first estate planning class. And what I learned...

 

The many dangers of the deathbed will

As an estate planner, there is one call I absolutely hate to get. It’s second only to hearing that a client has died, and in many ways worse. It’s the message that somebody in the hospital needs a...

 

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