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Serving Clients in Edmond, OK
and the Surrounding Area

When to Use a QTIP Trust

estate planning faqUsing trusts in an estate plan protects assets and financial legacies, explains Yahoo! Finance in a recent article titled “How Does a QTIP Trust Work? Married couples often use a QTIP trust to allow the grantor, the person creating the trust, to set aside assets for their spouse and establishing some control over the assets after the grantor has passed.

If you are concerned about what might happen to your spouse after you have died, a QTIP can provide some reassurance.

What is a Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trust? A QTIP lets one spouse provide income for another and can be used to pass assets to other beneficiaries, including children. The QTIP has some similarities to a marital trust, which is also used to hold assets belonging to a spouse. However, the marital trust is not as restrictive as a QTIP. When the grantor of the QTIP dies, their assets are transferred into the trust, which then provides income for the surviving spouse.

How does a QTIP Trust Work? QTIPs are types of irrevocable trusts. Once assets are transferred to the trust, in most cases, the transfer can’t be reversed. This is especially useful for second marriages, where there are children from a prior marriage. The QTIP allows the grantor the ability to provide for their second spouse and protect children from the previous marriage.

Assets can be transferred to the QTIP when it is created, or they can be transferred at the time of death. Usually this is done through the creation of a separate will.

You’ll need to name a trustee for the QTIP, who will manage the trust and oversee distributions. You should also name a successor trustee, in case the original trustee cannot serve.

The spouse of a grantor is considered a lifetime beneficiary, as they may draw on the trust income as long as they are living. When the surviving spouse passes, the people who receive the assets left in the trust, or “remainder,” are known as “remainder beneficiaries.” They may be children from a prior marriage, or anyone else named by the grantor.

The surviving spouse benefits from the QTIP because it provides an income stream. Assets held in a QTIP may be investment properties and taxable investment accounts. The estate benefits from the QTIP because assets qualify for the marital deduction and are excluded from the estate at the grantor’s death. When the surviving spouse dies, the QTIP trust is dissolved, and assets are passed to remainder beneficiaries. At this point, assets in the trust are included in the surviving spouse’s estate for estate tax purposes.

A QTIP, and the separate will for it, should be established with an estate planning attorney to ensure it works with the rest of your estate plan. This is especially important when there are children from second marriages in the family.

Reference: Yahoo! Finance (July 30, 2021) “How Does a QTIP Trust Work?

 

What You Need to Know about Probate

Edmond estate planning when divorcedWe often read about celebrities who die without an estate and how everything they own must go through probate. The article titled “What to know about probate” from wmur.com explains what that means, and what you need to understand about wills, probate and estate planning.

Probate is a process used to prove that a person’s will is valid and to supervise how their estate is handled. It involves a court that focuses on this area. Much about the process depends upon the state in which it’s taking place, since these laws vary from state to state.

When someone dies without a will, they have failed to provide instructions for the distribution of their property. Their assets will still be distributed, but the laws of the state will determine what happens next. The state follows intestacy laws, which outline pre-set patterns of distributing property. In one state, property will go to the spouse and children. In others, the spouse may get everything.

Other decisions are made for your family when there is no will. If you have not named an executor, the court will appoint someone to oversee your estate. The court will also appoint a person to raise your children, if no guardian has been named for minor children. A family member may be chosen, but it may not be the family member you wanted to raise your kids, or it may be a stranger in a foster home.

Another reason to have a will is that probate can take a few months, or, depending on where you live, a few years, to complete. If there is litigation, and not having a will makes that more likely, it would take longer and will undoubtedly cost more. While this is going on, assets may lose value and heirs may suffer from not having access to assets.

What you need to know about probate will also consider the cost.  Probate is also costly. There are legal notices to be published, court fees, executor fees and bond premiums, appraisal fees and attorney expenses.

Having an estate plan also means tax planning. While the federal estate tax as of this writing is $11.7 million per individual, it will not be that high forever. If the proposals to lower the federal estate tax to $3.5 million per person come to pass, will your estate escape estate taxes? What about your state’s estate or inheritance taxes?

Probate is also a very public process. Once a will is admitted as valid by the court, it becomes a public document. Anyone and everyone can view it and learn about your net worth and who got what.

With all these drawbacks, are there good reasons to allow your estate to go through probate? In some cases, yes. If multiple wills have been found, probate will be needed to establish which will is the correct one. If the will is confusing or complex, probate could provide the clarity needed to settle the estate. If beneficiaries are litigious, probate may be the voice of authority to quell some (but not all) disputes. And if the estate has no money and a lot of debt, it may be the probate court that sorts out the situation.

Every estate is different. Therefore, it is important to speak with an estate planning attorney to have a will, power of attorney and any health care directives created and properly executed. Every few years, these documents should be reviewed and revised to keep up with changes in the law and in your personal life.

Reference: wmur.com (July 29, 2021) “What to know about probate”

 

What Not to Do with an Estate Plan

Having a good estate plan is critical to ensure that your family is well taken care of after you are gone. Working with an experienced estate planning attorney remains the best way to be sure that your assets are distributed as you want and in the most tax-efficient way possible. A recent article titled “Estate Planning mistakes to avoid” from Urology Times looks at the fine points.

An out-of-date estate plan. Life is all about change. Your estate plan needs to reflect those changes. Just as you prepare taxes every year, your estate plan should be reviewed every year. Here are trigger events that should also spur a review:

  • Parents die and can no longer be beneficiaries or guardians of minor children.
  • Children marry or divorce or have children of their own.
  • Your own remarriage or divorce.
  • A significant change in your asset levels, good or bad.
  • Buying or selling real estate or other large transactions.

Neglecting to update an estate plan correctly. Scratching out a provision in a will and initialing it does not make the change valid. This never works, no matter what your know-it-all brother-in-law says. If you want to make a change, visit an estate planning attorney.

Relying on joint tenancy to avoid probate. When you bought your home, someone probably advised you to title the home using joint tenancy to avoid probate. That only works when the first spouse dies. When the surviving spouse dies, they own the home entirely. The home goes through probate.

Failing to coordinate your will and trusts. All your wills and trusts and any other estate planning documents need to be reviewed to be sure they work together. If you create a trust and transfer assets to it, but your will states that the asset now held in the trust should be gifted to a nephew, then you’ve opened the door to delays, family dissent and possibly litigation.

Not titling assets correctly. How assets are titled reflects their ownership. If your home, bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, vehicles and other properties are titled properly, you’ve done your homework. Next, check on beneficiary designations for any asset. Beneficiary designations allow assets to pass directly to the beneficiary. Review these designations annually. If your will says one thing and the beneficiary designation says another, the beneficiary designation wins.

Not naming successor or contingent beneficiaries. If you’ve named a beneficiary on an account—such as your life insurance—and the beneficiary dies, the proceeds could go to your estate and become taxable. Naming an alternate and successor for all the key roles in your estate plan, including beneficiaries, trustees and guardians, offers another layer of certainty to your estate plan.

Neglecting to address health care directives. It may be easier to decide who gets the family vacation home than who will decide to keep you on or take you off life-support systems. However, this is necessary to protect your wishes and prevent family disasters. Health care proxy, advance care directive and end-of-life planning documents tell your loved ones what your wishes are. Without them, the family may be left guessing what to do.

Forgetting to update Power of Attorney. Review this critical document to be sure of two things: the person you named to manage your affairs is still the person you want, and the documents are relatively recent. Some financial institutions balk at older POA forms, and others will outright refuse to accept them. Some states, like New York, have changed POA rules to make it harder for POAs to be denied, but in other states there still can be problems, if the POA is old.

Reference: Urology Times (July 29, 2021) “Estate Planning mistakes to avoid”

 

Checklist for Estate Plan’s Success

Is there a checklist for estate plan’s success and that can make it easer to accomplish?  We know why estate planning for your assets, family and legacy falls through the cracks. It’s not the thing a new parent wants to think about while cuddling a newborn, or a grandparent wants to think about as they prepare for a family get-together. However, this is an important thing to take care of advises a recent article from Kiplinger titled “2021 Estate Planning Checkup: Is Your Estate Plan Up to Date?  

Every four years, or every time a trigger event occurs—birth, death, marriage, divorce, relocation—the estate plan needs to be reviewed. Reviewing an estate plan is a relatively straightforward matter and neglecting it could lead to undoing strategic tax plans and unnecessary costs.  Outlined below are some things that could be used as a checklist for estate plan’s success.

Moving to a new state? Estate laws are different from state to state, so what works in one state may not be considered valid in another. You’ll also want to update your address, and make sure that family and advisors know where your last will can be found in your new home.

Changes in the law. The last five years have seen an inordinate number of changes to laws that impact retirement accounts and taxes. One big example is the SECURE Act, which eliminated the Stretch IRA, requiring heirs to empty inherited IRA accounts in ten years, instead of over their lifetimes. A strategy that worked great a few years ago no longer works. However, there are other means of protecting your heirs and retirement accounts.

Do you have a Power of Attorney? A POA gives a person you authorize the ability to manage your financial, business, personal and legal affairs, if you become incapacitated. If the POA is old, a bank or investment company may balk at allowing your representative to act on your behalf. If you have one, make sure it’s up to date and the person you named is still the person you want. If you need to make a change, it’s very important that you put it in writing and notify the proper parties.

Health Care Power of Attorney needs to be updated as well. Marriage does not automatically authorize your spouse to speak with doctors, obtain medical records or make medical decisions on your behalf. If you have strong opinions about what procedures you do and do not want, the Health Care POA can document your wishes.

Last Will and Testament is Essential. Your last will needs regular review throughout your lifetime. Has the person you named as an executor four years ago remained in your life, or moved to another state? A last will also names an executor for your property and a guardian for minor children. It also needs to have trust provisions to pay for your children’s upbringing and to protect their inheritance.

Speaking of Trusts. If your estate plan includes trusts, review trustee and successor appointments to be sure they are still appropriate. You should also check on estate and inheritance taxes to ensure that the estate will be able to cover these costs. If you have an irrevocable trust, confirm that the trustee is still ready and able to carry out the duties, including administration, management and tax returns.

Gifting in the Estate Plan. Laws concerning charitable giving also change, so be sure your gifting strategies are still appropriate for your estate. An estate plan review is also a good time to review the organizations you wish to support.

Reference: Kiplinger (July 28, 2021) “2021 Estate Planning Checkup: Is Your Estate Plan Up to Date?

 

What Hobbies Add Years to Your Life?

Edmond estate planning for retireesResearch shows that some hobbies have such a powerful impact on your well-being that they can add years — or even decades — to your life! Money Talks News’ recent article entitled “7 Hobbies That Help You Live Longer” gives us a few hobbies that science says may increase your life span, and can help answer the question what hobbies add years to your life.

  1. Reading. Stress is a big source of health problems that shorten lives. Try picking up a book and escaping into another world. This can decrease your stress levels by 68%, according to a study out of the University of Sussex. It only takes a few minutes for reading to start working its magic. That’s because the human mind has to concentrate on reading. This distraction eases the tensions in muscles and the heart.
  2. Gardening. A number of studies show that the physical activity of gardening — combined with being in a lush, green atmosphere — can enhance and extend life. People in their 60s with green thumbs decrease their risk of developing dementia by 36%, according to research from Australia.
  3. Cooking. Restaurant and processed foods are no good for your health. They can contribute to life-shortening illnesses, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. However, people who make meals from scratch are much more apt to eat a healthier diet. The more often you cook at home each week, the higher you’ll tend to score on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Healthy Eating Index. University of Washington researchers say: “Home-cooked dinners were associated with greater dietary guideline compliance, without significant increase in food expenditures. By contrast, frequent eating out was associated with higher expenditures and lower compliance.”
  4. Listening to music. Research shows that regularly attending concerts can add years to your life. One study found just 20 minutes of listening can increase your sense of well-being by up to 21%. In particular, concert attendance increases:
  • Feelings of self-worth by 25%
  • Feelings of closeness to others by 25%; and
  • Mental stimulation by 75%.

The study concluded that such positive feelings could increase your lifespan by up to nine years. According to Fagan, “Our research showcases the profound impact gigs have on feelings of health, happiness and well-being — with regular attendance being the key.”  There are other hobbies to consider when thinking about the question of what hobbies add years to your life.

  1. Volunteering. Helping others is another great hobby to extend your life, but only if your motives are pure. A study published in the journal Health Psychology found that volunteering extends life, but with a strange caveat, according to the American Psychological Association:

“Volunteers lived longer than people who didn’t volunteer, if they reported altruistic values or a desire for social connections as the main reasons for wanting to volunteer, according to the study. People who said they volunteered for their own personal satisfaction had the same mortality rate four years later as people who did not volunteer at all, according to the study.”

Researchers think that proper motivation is key to getting the most out of volunteering because it buffers volunteers from stressors, like impingement on the volunteer’s time and lack of pay, which are part of doing good works.

  1. Walking. This hobby can have a profound impact on your health, and those who take brisk walks might live up to 20 years longer than couch potatoes, according to a Mayo Clinic study. Again, it’s brisk walking — at least three miles per hour or 100 steps a minute — is required to get the life-extending benefits.
  2. Owning a pet. A lot of research has found that pet owners enjoy many health benefits from being around their furry friends. For example, a meta-analysis of studies published between 1950 and 2019 found that dog owners had a 24% risk reduction for death from any cause. The benefit is even more pronounced for seniors with existing heart problems. The study authors believe walking a dog — and getting a little extra exercise — may play a big role in these improved health outcomes. Another study in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology found that people who own cats have a reduced risk of death from heart attack or stroke.

Reference: Money Talks News (Aug. 20, 2021) “7 Hobbies That Help You Live Longer”

 

What Foods Should I Avoid after 50?

Business Owners and Restarant Owners in EdmondMany may ask what foods should I avoid after 50?  To get healthy and try to focus less on making certain foods verboten and more on how your health is more important than the sugar spike or instant satiety they offer. AARP’s recent article entitled “5 Foods to Skip After 50” says when possible, just say no to the following:

Fried foods. In answering the question what foods should I avoid after 50 one of the first foods to avoid is saturated fat. Saturated fat can have a negative impact on blood cholesterol. Try a side salad instead of restaurant fries, and when looking at labels, know that a 200-calorie serving of food should have no more than two grams of saturated fat.

Sugary drinks. This category isn’t just soft drinks. It includes bottled teas, fancy coffee drinks and those “fresh” lemonades. They all can be loaded with the sweet stuff. In fact, the 16-ounce chai latte at Starbucks, one of its most popular drinks, has 42 grams of sugar! Your goal should be to limit your added sugar intake to 10% or less of total daily calories. So, for a 2,000-calorie daily diet, that’d be no more than 200 calories, or 50 grams of added sugar per day.

Packaged foods with sneaky sugars. Hidden sugars can be found in things like pasta sauces, yogurt, granola bars, instant oatmeal and breakfast cereals. Excess sugar can put stress on organs, like the pancreas and liver. This can increase blood sugar and blood triglyceride levels and raise the risk of fatty liver disease. Sugars also increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and the incidence and prevalence of this goes up as we get older. At a time in life when every calorie should be nutrient-dense, added sugar adds calories we don’t need.

High-sodium instant meals. This includes foods like frozen pizzas. Experts say that 75% of people over 60 have high blood pressure, and even if you’re on meds, you want to lower your sodium intake. A total of  75% of the salt in our diet comes from processed foods, not the saltshaker. A simple way to spot low-sodium foods is to look for those in which sodium is 5% or less of the daily value, so anything in the 20% range is high-sodium. Try to limit yourself to 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.

Ultra-processed snacks. Unfortunately, most of what we eat is processed, and it’s the ultra-processed foods that you should eliminate from your diet. Try minimally processed foods like bagged greens, diced vegetables and nuts. Canned tomatoes and frozen fruit and vegetables are also a super way to enjoy produce processed at peak quality and freshness. However, many ready-to-eat, processed foods like cake mixes, snack chips, ketchup, sweetened yogurt and “meat lovers” frozen pizzas add food coloring, sodium, preservatives and other additives that aren’t good for you.

Reference: AARP (Aug. 6, 2021) “5 Foods to Skip After 50”

 

Responsibilities of Trustees

Responsibilities of trustees or executors is something to be aware of.  Being a fiduciary requires putting the interest of the beneficiary over your own interests, no matter what. The person in charge of managing a trust, the trustee, has a fiduciary duty to the beneficiary, which is described by the terms of the trust. This is explained in a recent article titled “Estate Planning: Executors, executrix and personal representatives” from nwitimes.com.

Understanding the responsibilities of the trustees requires a review of the trust documents, which can be long and complicated. An estate planning attorney will be able to review documents and explain the directions if the trust is a particularly complex one.

If the trust is a basic revocable living trust used to avoid having assets in the estate go through probate, duties are likely to be similar to those of a personal representative, also known as the executor. This is the person in charge of carrying out the directions in a last will.

A simple explanation of executor responsibilities is gathering the assets, filing tax returns, and paying creditors. The executor files for an EIN number, which functions like a Social Security number for the estate. The executor opens an estate bank account to hold assets that are not transferred directly to named beneficiaries. And the executor files the last tax returns for the decedent for the last year in which he or she was living, and an estate tax return. There’s more to it, but those are the basic tasks.

A person tasked with administering a trust for the benefit of another person must give great attention to detail. The instructions and terms of the trust must be followed to the letter, with no room for interpretation. Thinking you know what someone else wanted, despite what was written in the trust, is asking for trouble.

If there are investment duties involved, which is common when a trust contains significant assets managed in an investment portfolio, it will be best to work with a professional advisor. Investment duties may be subject to the Prudent Investor Act, or they may include the name of a specific advisor who was managing the accounts before the person died.

If there is room for any discretion whatsoever in the trust, be careful to document every decision. If the trust says you can distribute principal based on the needs of the beneficiary, document why you did or did not make the distribution. Don’t just hand over funds because the beneficiary asked for them. Make decisions based on sound reasoning and document your reasons.

Being asked to serve as a trustee reflects trust. It is also a serious responsibility, and one to be performed with great care.

Reference: nwitimes.com (July 18, 2021) “Estate Planning: Executors, executrix and personal representatives”

 

What’s a QTIP Trust?

Many may ask what’s a QTIP Trust?  A QTIP trust (qualified terminable interest property trust) lets a grantor provide assets in a “safe spot” for a surviving spouse but still control what happens to those assets once that surviving spouse passes away. A QTIP trust can offer financial reassurance if you’re concerned about what would happen to your spouse after you’re gone.

Yahoo Finance’s recent article entitled “How Does a QTIP Trust Work?” explains that a qualified terminable interest property trust allows one spouse to provide income for another. This type of trust can also be used to pass on assets to other beneficiaries, including children. This typa of trust is a type of irrevocable trust, so once you transfer assets to the trust, that transfer typically can’t be reversed.

With a QTIP trust, your spouse is considered to be a lifetime beneficiary: he or she can draw on trust income for life. Those who receive the assets held in the trust once the surviving spouse passes away are called remainder beneficiaries. These may be children from a previous relationship. A surviving spouse primarily benefits from a QTIP trust because of the income he or she can get from it. The surviving spouse would have limited or no access to the underlying assets in the trust but would still benefit from any income it generates.

As far as tax benefits, a QTIP trust lets the assets qualify for the marital deduction, so any assets in the trust are excluded from your estate for tax purposes once you pass away. When the surviving spouse dies, the QTIP trust is dissolved, and the assets are transferred to the remainder beneficiaries. Then the assets held in the trust would be included in the surviving spouse’s estate for tax purposes. It’s a very attractive feature because you can use the trust to manage estate taxes for a surviving spouse. Any tax obligation owing when the surviving spouse passes away would be passed on to the remainder beneficiaries.

This might be a good option if your current marriage isn’t your first, and you have children from a previous relationship. With this trust, your current spouse won’t be financially stranded if something happens to you. Plus, you can ensure that your kids from the previous relationship inherit your assets held in the QTIP. Also, a QTIP trust might be the answer if you’re concerned about what your current spouse might do with your assets if inherited outright. This trust can ensure that your spouse is not able to use your assets in a way that goes against your wishes after you’re gone.

Finally, they can be wise when you’re married and have children from a previous marriage. Ask an experienced estate planning attorney about the benefits of creating a QTIP trust and how it might work in your specific situation.

Reference: Yahoo Finance (July 30, 2021) “How Does a QTIP Trust Work?”

 

Why Do I Need a Will Like Yesterday?

Legacy and estate planning for children in EdmondWhy do I need a will like yesterday?  A recent Gallup poll found that fewer than half of Americans (46%) have a last will that states the way in which their assets are to be handled after their death.

Surprisingly, the results of this survey have been nearly unchanged since 1990 at between 44% and 51%.

Real Simple’s recent article “6 Reasons You Need to Make a Will Now” says that one of the most common myths is that a last will isn’t needed if you want all of your assets to go to your family.  The list below will help answer the question of why do I need a will like yesterday?

  1. While the state has laws on what happens if you die without a last will, what if that’s not exactly how you want your estate to be distributed?
  2. Another major reason for creating a last will is to make certain that someone is named to care for your minor children. This may be one of the biggest reasons that you can answer the question of why do I need a will like yesterday.
  3. A last will lets you designate guardians to care for your children after your death. Without a guardian in a last will, a judge will decide who raises your children if you pass away. That judge likely would be someone who does not know you or your children or your family and friends. Without a last will, you will be allowing this “stranger” to make this life-changing decision for your children.
  4. Also, there are taxes. If you have a last will in place, it will minimize estate taxes your family may have to deal with. A comprehensive estate plan created with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney can reduce tax exposure by as much as 40%. This move alone can help avoid having to pay taxes on your income a second time.
  5. A last will isn’t just for your benefit. Your family will ultimately be most impacted by whether you took the time to draft up this important document. Creating a last will can give them some peace and comfort during a difficult time. In contrast, not having a last will leaves them with no guidance as to your wishes and can add to their burdens and stress during their grieving.
  6. Care and maintenance of pets. The law says that pets are just property. If you regard your pets as members of the family, then you can leave money to an individual whom you designate as the caregiver for your pet if it survives you. A last will lets you to give your pet to a chosen loved one. This simple step alone can help prevent your pet from going to a shelter.

Reference: Real Simple (June 25, 2021) “6 Reasons You Need to Make a Will Now”

 

Does Your Estate Require A Probate?

estate planning faqProbate is a court-supervised process intended to ensure the validity of a lasts will and to protect the distribution of assets after a person has died. Many will wonder does your estate require a probate?  If there is no last will, probate still takes place, according to the article “Probate—Courts protecting you after death” from Pauls Valley Democrat.

Every estate that owns property must be probated, unless the title or ownership of the property has been transferred before the person died by gift, if the property is owned jointly with another person, or if it passes by direct beneficiary designation. If a person died without a last will, probate still takes place, but the guidelines used are those of the state law where the person died.

In all cases, it’s better to have a last will and to decide for yourself how you want your assets distributed. For all you know, your state law may give everything you own to an estranged third cousin and her children, who are perfect strangers to you.

In deciding the question does your estate require a probate, it will require a probate if you die without a will.  If you don’t have a last will, which is referred to as dying “intestate,” the court decides who is going to serve as your administrator. This person will be in charge of distributing all of your worldly goods and taking care of the business part of settling your estate, like paying taxes, selling your home, etc. Without a last will, the court picks a person, and it might not be the person you would have wanted.

Here are the basic steps in probating an estate, once the probate petition is filed:

Initial hearing. This is where the court affirms its jurisdiction and identifies all known heirs, and the personal representative is identified.

Letters Testamentary. This document is issued to the personal representative. This is a judge signed document proving to others, like banks and investment custodians, that the personal representative is legally permitted to handle your property and act on behalf of your estate. It’s similar to a Power of Attorney.

Probate. This court process collects, identifies, and accounts for all assets of a decedent. The representative must be mindful to document any money going in and out of the estate during the administrative process.

Written notice must be given to all and any known heirs. This can lead to relatives and others believing they have a claim on your estate and to then challenge the provisions of your last will with the court.

Notice is also provided to creditors, who have at least 60 days after notice is provided to make a claim on the estate. This timeframe varies by jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions, these notices are published in local newspapers, once a week for two or more consecutive weeks. Once they receive fair notice, general creditors who fail to file a claim lose their right to ever file a claim on the estate.

An estate plan is created with an eye to minimizing taxes, maximizing privacy for the family and heirs, and transferring ownership of assets with as little red tape as possible. Failing to properly plan can lead to a probate taking months, and in some cases, years.

Reference: Pauls Valley Democrat (July 1, 2021) “Probate—Courts protecting you after death”

 

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