Articles written by Kenneth Kirk


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  • Mr. Monk and the survivorship clause

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|Jun 1, 2024

    I love the old detective show “Monk”. The comedy/drama/mystery still delights me when I see it on the back channels, and Tony Shalhoub gave the defective detective just the right dose of humanity and humor. I always wait in eager anticipation for the “here’s what happened” moment at the end. One particular episode, titled “Mr. Monk Is At Your Service,” featured an estate planning twist. A wealthy couple each had children from prior marriages, a son in his case and two daughters in hers. They ha...

  • Why is it so hard to find a lawyer in Alaska?

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|May 1, 2024

    In the movie “War of the Roses”, a lawyer (played by Danny DeVito) mentions that he charges $450 per hour. This was in 1989, but even then, as a young attorney just starting out, the number seemed startling. “Why,” I thought to myself in the darkened theater, “do lawyers cost so much?” I learned part of the answer pretty quickly. The lawyer doesn't get to put all of that money right into his pocket. There are a lot of expenses that go with running a law office, such as rent, secretarial...

  • It may be time for a legal spring cleaning

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|Apr 1, 2024

    Sometimes the near future is predictable, and sometimes it ain't. I was planning to write another column about the filing requirements which would apply to nearly all small corporations and LLCs under the new Corporate Transparency Act. But then, about a week ago as I am writing this, a federal judge ruled that the CTA was unconstitutional. I could easily write a whole column on how that works, and what the likelihood is of it being overturned, but by the time you read about it that would...

  • An Alaskan tale of lawyers and strip clubs

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|Mar 1, 2024

    This month's column features a probate fight over a strip joint. Now that I have your attention, I have to confess that the case, which was reported recently from the Alaska Supreme Court, has little to do with the strip joint itself. In fact, in the written decision it is merely referred to as a “Fairbanks cabaret”. A more cynical individual might suspect that the reason they called it that, and made no reference to the fact that the establishment was fairly well known to be a place where wom...

  • The dreaded CTA is here

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|Feb 1, 2024

    What’s your favorite dystopian fiction? Can you imagine a future like 1984, where the government watches and controls every aspect of your life? Or more like Brave New World, where the government uses sex, drugs and entertainment to keep the populace docile? Maybe Mad Max is more your style, with a barren post-apocalyptic landscape? Or do you go for Idiocracy, in which the world has just become dumber and dumber? Why am I asking these questions? Because I just went through filing my initial r...

  • The big executor question: Who to pick?

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|Jan 1, 2024

    When you were a kid, there was a standard protocol for choosing sides in a pickup game. The two best players—and everybody knew who they were—did some little contest to see who would pick first. If it was basketball, whoever made a shot first got to choose first. In baseball they did that funny thing where they went hand over hand on the bat. And then they took turns picking the players for their team. Of course there were only a limited number of choices for each pick, namely whoever was sta...

  • Getting back to the basics about wills

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|Dec 1, 2023

    I enjoy watching the presidential debates every four years. I think the first one I saw was Carter-Ford in 1976, when I wasn’t even old enough to vote. But there is a common mistake that candidates make in these debates. They assume that everyone watching knows about all of the stuff which the political reporters have been talking about all week. A lot of the most critical swing voters —the ones who are actually watching to decide who to vote for, as opposed to just rooting for their fav...

  • Oh no! Not Revenue Ruling 2023-2!

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|Nov 1, 2023

    The most interesting thing about Twitter is that they changed their name to “X” and yet the ZZ Top song, “I Heard it on the X” has not been trending. But that has nothing to do with my topic today, so I’ll move on. The second most interesting thing about Twitter is that you get these conversations among experts in a particular field, but people who don’t know anything about that field get to wander in and out of the conversation. That can be fun, but it also leads to confusion and misinformat...

  • ILITs, A/B trusts and other legal artifacts

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|Oct 1, 2023

    I recently spoke to a family who had an unpleasant surprise after the father died. Everything was going smoothly as far as transfers, until they contacted the life insurance company. That was when they were told that there was something called an ILIT which was the beneficiary of the life insurance policy. What, they asked me, is an ILIT? I was a bit taken by surprise, because I hadn’t seen an ILIT in quite a few years. It stands for Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust, and it is usually p...

  • The deer in the headlights moment

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|Sep 1, 2023

    When people come to see me for the first time, they are usually emotionally prepared to deal with the unpleasant question of what happens to their stuff when they die. I mean, really, nobody schedules an appointment with an estate planner to have a will or trust done, and is shocked to be asked that question. That’s why you’re there, right? What they are not always prepared for is a follow-up question: What happens if any of your children has died before you? Some people are ready for that one...

  • New reporting guidelines and your LLC

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|Aug 1, 2023

    Two months ago in this column, I wrote about the new Corporate Transparency Act. Don’t worry, you don’t need to dig that issue out from the bottom of the birdcage, I’ll summarize it here. Starting next year, nearly every Limited Liability Company (LLC for short) and corporation, other than the really big ones, will have to periodically file reports with the federal government, showing among other things the ownership of the entity. They exempted the big companies, but not the small ones. If yo...

  • Trusts and assets: Getting it all in there

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|Jul 1, 2023

    Some years ago I had a meeting with a woman who had created a trust, using another lawyer, a few years earlier. She had questions about the trust, which I was able to answer, and it turned out that it still did what she wanted. But when I asked her whether everything was in the trust that needed to be, she looked puzzled. So I turned to my computer and pulled up the property records. Both her home, and her rental property, were still in her own name. As were, apparently, all of her accounts and...

  • Something big is coming, and soon

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|Jun 1, 2023

    I really dislike all of the sensationalism out there. Everywhere you look, it’s teaser, click-bait, outrage-inducing headlines and hotlinks, exaggerating or even outright lying to get you to look. If something online says “NBA World Reacts to Horrifying News About LeBron James”, the actual story will be that three people on Twitter noted that his free-throw percentage is down slightly. The result of this constant bombardment is that most of us develop a kind of defensive shell against this...

  • Family members who kill, in Hollywood and real life

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|May 1, 2023

    One of my guilty pleasures is watching the latest celebrity “trial of the month” on Court TV, and I definitely tracked the recent Alex Murdaugh murder trial. If you haven’t been following it, Alex Murdaugh was a powerful lawyer in South Carolina, who is accused of murdering his wife and his 22-year-old son. He claimed he was elsewhere at the time of the murder, but police found a cell phone on one of the victims, with video taken just before the murders, and you can hear Alex’s voice in the back...

  • A hunk, a hunk of burning litigation

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|Apr 1, 2023

    A long time ago – around the time I was born, actually – there was a young man from Mississippi who had some success as a singer. He bought a nice house in Memphis, married a beautiful actress, and had a daughter. And then at the age of 42 he died, leaving most of his assets in trust for his then-young daughter. I'm talking, of course, about Elvis Presley. You might have picked up in the news recently that his daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, died unexpectedly at the age of 54. You might or mig...

  • A neat little trick to avoid taxes

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|Mar 1, 2023

    Taxes can really take a bite out of your estate. You worked hard, you saved some of what you made instead of spending it all, and from what’s left, Uncle Sam might just take nearly 40%. Forty percent. Yeah, almost that much. I’m not really talking about the estate tax here. Yes, the federal estate tax (call it “death tax” if you prefer) is a flat 40% rate. But it only applies if your estate is more than $13 million. Or if you are a married couple, if they handle it right, $26 million. With apolo...

  • An inspiring lesson from South Fork ranch

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|Feb 1, 2023

    When I was in college – still a young and callow fellow – the TV show “Dallas” premiered, and I became a fan. A few seasons in, there was a scene that affected my career. If you don’t remember the show, it featured a couple of brothers who were in the oil business in Texas. Bobby Ewing was the sincere, likeable younger brother. J. R. Ewing was the evil, manipulative older brother. The other characters included their regular nemesis, Cliff Barnes, a crusading lawyer who just happened to be Bob...

  • Taxes, Heisenberg and the Uncertainty Principle

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|Jan 1, 2023

    Many years ago, a physicist named Werner Heisenberg formulated a rule called the “Heisenberg uncertainty principle.” No, it has nothing to do with cooking meth. It is a useful principle in physics, and it has to do with not being able to accurately measure the position of an object, and its direction, at the same time. But for my purposes today, we don’t need to get too far into the science. For scientists, a recognition of uncertainty – the limitations of measurement, the effect that measuri...

  • Over the river and through the woods

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|Dec 1, 2022

    This issue of the Senior Voice will be coming out at the beginning of the holiday season. For many of us, that means enjoying time with grandchildren. I don’t know who first said that “grandchildren are God’s reward for not killing your teenagers,” but I can certainly relate to that. And with apologies to those readers who don’t have grandkids, they certainly bring life and meaning at this time of year. One of the nice things about grandchildren is that we don’t have to take care of them all of...

  • The wild life and death of Anne Heche

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|Nov 1, 2022

    Here we go again: another celebrity estate mess. You have probably heard of Anne Heche. Even I knew who she was, and I don’t follow celebrity gossip or go to the movies that often. But even I have seen “Men in Trees”. And anybody who has been to the movies in the last 20 years has probably seen her on the screen. And if you don’t remember seeing her on TV or in the movies, you can’t help but have heard about her stormy personal life. She had significant mental health issues, including one very p...

  • Storming the inheritance Bastille

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|Oct 1, 2022

    I was watching a Korean comedy series recently online, called “Extraordinary Attorney Woo”. It is about a brilliant but significantly autistic woman who becomes a lawyer. If you don’t mind reading subtitles (or alternatively, if you speak Korean) I can highly recommend it. One episode involves an inheritance dispute. After the father dies, the two older brothers convince the youngest brother that under Korean law, the oldest brother get the largest percentage of the estate, the second broth...

  • DIY, outdated estate plans and what you don't know

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|Sep 1, 2022

    I meet a lot of people who try to “do it themselves,” putting together their own wills, trusts or other estate planning documents from some website or kit, or just by copying something a friend had. Nine times out of 10 (okay, maybe 5 out of 7) there is something in that paperwork which is completely contrary to what the client actually wanted. They didn’t realize there was an issue. The problem is, they didn’t understand the boilerplate. There was some legalese in there, which they thought...

  • Dickens, codicils and the Underwood

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|Aug 1, 2022

    In a corner of my office is an old Underwood typewriter. It was built sometime around the 1920s, it weighs a ton, and there is no electricity involved in its operation. The keys still work, but if I used it the ribbon would tear. Why is it there? Because it was from the law office of Howard Kirk, my grandfather. Having the typewriter there is a useful reminder, for me, of my family heritage in the practice of law. But it also serves another function. On those days when the computer is driving...

  • People don't read instructions

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|Jul 1, 2022

    A long time ago, in a land far, far away (well, Juneau is pretty far away) there was a group of legislators who tried to do the right thing. They wanted to update and improve the laws about what happens when someone can’t make their own decisions about medical care. And as part of that change, they wanted to offer a form people could use, so that people could say for themselves who would make those decisions for them. They wrestled with this for four long years. And finally, one day, they had i...

  • Actions, including financial, always have consequences

    Kenneth Kirk, For Senior Voice|Jun 1, 2022

    Here’s a very common question I am asked: “How much can I give my kids while I’m alive?” The correct answer is “How much ya got? You can give it all away to them”. It's true. This is still a more-or-less free country, and if you own it, you have the right to give it away. But that doesn't mean there aren't consequences if you do. Every action has consequences, even if you have the right to take that action. You have a right to wear satanic symbols on your T-shirt, but that doesn't mean they c...

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