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Articles written by Kenneth Kirk

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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 that, the answer was easy. If it was less than $1...

 

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 was nominated for a number of other Oscars and...

 

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 was taking more than half of what you saved....

 

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 you are an accountant, I apologize because I know...

 

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 House.” It followed the travails of a group of...

 

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 attorney (POAs, for short). I mentioned in last...

 

'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 really helpful. Actually it passed two bills I...

 

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 the U.S. One reason is that many of those laws are...

 

'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 didn’t even call when I had my heart attack.”...

 

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 terms of estate planning? Financial writers and e...

 

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, which can be a little bit challenging but is usually...

 

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 face. “I still have to go through probate, even if...

 

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 that, alas, doesn’t have a simple answer. Here are...

 

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 was this: when it comes to estate planning, the...

 

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 will done right away. Why is that such a problem?...

 

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