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Pearson Bollman Law Common Estate Planning Mistakes


Richard Roller is a Quad Cities attorney licensed to practice in Iowa and Illinois. He helps traditional and non-traditional families address life issues, preserve assets, deal with death, and resolve conflicts, all the while building and preserving a lasting legacy. His plans are comprehensive and highly personalized to each client’s unique circumstances. Richard has prepared hundreds of plans for families and individuals to ensure their loved ones will have all the tools, instructions, and resources needed in the event of disability or death.

Richard obtained his undergraduate degree in chemistry, but upon graduation moved to Northwest Iowa to farm with his uncle on the family century farm. Due to the farm crisis of the 80s, he went back to the University of Iowa and obtained his juris doctorate degree with distinction in 1989. His first job out of law school gave him invaluable experience working in the trust department of Northwest Bank & Trust Company.

“During my time at the bank, I experienced the good and bad of estate planning. As a trust officer, I had to administer the trusts that other attorneys drafted. That experience made me a better drafter of estate plans because I now think through the entire life of the plan, not just the immediate moment. I knew that a good plan needed to ensure ease of working with the plan, perhaps years after the trust creator had become disabled or had died.”

Richard is a frequent speaker for education on topics of estate planning using trusts and wills. He enjoys telling people how to prepare for that time when needs arise because of illness or death. He receives great pleasure when explaining how to use the law and regulations to preserve assets in the event of a long-term illness that may result in nursing care. He especially likes to help his military veteran clients to obtain assistance with payment for medical expenses. As part of his commitment to educating the public, he speaks free of charge to professional organizations and community groups.

Richard has presented many seminars to his fellow attorneys, financial advisors, and accountants. He could be considered a national speaker, having been a guest lecturer at the Commodity Classic discussing farm succession strategies.

Richard started his own firm in 2002, focused on estate planning as more than just wills or trusts. He cares deeply about his clients who desire to leave a lasting legacy, providing planning that goes beyond just document preparation. His goal is to give his clients peace of mind. His mission is to help his clients plan for and protect the two most important things in their lives: everyone they love and everything they own. Recognizing that no two families are alike, he strives to provide customized advice to fulfill their specific goals and objectives. He utilizes a mixture of the latest technology and old-fashioned good sense to deliver consistent quality to his clients.

Richard also works with business owners in all aspects of their business matters, such as choosing the appropriate type of business entity, formation issues, tax matters, contract drafting, employment issues, and business succession planning matters.

Richard recently merged his firm with Pearson Bollman Law, which has offices in West Des Moines, Marion, Dubuque, and now, Bettendorf. The firm has five attorneys delivering estate planning, elder law, probate, and trust administration services throughout Iowa. They believe in a team approach and will work with your accountant and investment advisor to structure an estate plan to meet your goals.

If you are familiar with Richard from when he had his radio show, you heard him say many times that “those who plan get the best results.”

However, estate planning can be tricky business. It takes careful, thoughtful planning to be successful. It is not easy. This is why only about 36 percent of Americans currently have a will or a trust. That leaves 64 percent of Americans that have no planning at all. What is even more amazing, 55 percent of them have children, leaving the security and financial wellbeing of millions totally unprotected.

Without a document detailing how you want your estate divided and distributed, your assets could end up in the hands of a relative you haven’t spoken to in years, or your teenager could have access to a fat bank account before she has even the first clue about how to manage money wisely.

Here are some estate-planning mistakes, just to illustrate how important it is to do some planning.

  1. When it comes to administering an estate or trust, the biggest mistake is naming a personal representative who is not up to the task or just doesn’t play fair. When dealing with families and the various personalities and the old resentments and jealousy that are hiding below the surface, things can get complicated — quickly. Richard has seen in his own practice cases where unresolved feuds between siblings begin when mom and dad are gone. It’s one of the most common causes of litigation over an estate.

    “A few years back, I handled a case where the sibling who was named as the executor was engaged in a longstanding feud with the other sibling. Ideally, in a case like that, the parents would have named an objective, independent personal representative. This case I am thinking of would have had virtually no problems if the personal representative had been a corporate trustee, instead of one of the kids. But, that didn’t happen here. The suspicious feelings came roaring to the surface and a long legal battle ensued. A plan that leaves beneficiaries fighting is not a good plan, not a good legacy.”

  2. A second mistake is failing to maintain a valid will. Take a seemingly simple estate containing a bank account, or two, and a house, it’s crucial to have a will or a living trust.

    Otherwise, you may have no control over who will inherit your possessions. A case in point: take the case of a man whose wife had preceded him in death. They had owned all their property as joint tenants with right of survivorship. This is a common method of property ownership between married couples. Because he had no designation beyond his joint ownership with his wife, when he passed away, his estate was divided between his next of kin: a woman in another country, whom he’d never met, and a reclusive cousin.

    Bottom line: It seems obvious, but even a basic will that simply de-signates beneficiaries can protect your assets much better than having nothing at all.

  3. A third mistake is not planning for coveted items. As noted earlier, the parents are frequently the glue that holds families together, and once they pass away, issues among beneficiaries arise. Richard explained, “I’ve seen this happen many times when there is confusion about who should inherit certain heirlooms. A casea number of years ago comes to mind concerning a father’s gun collection.One of the sons lived in a city where the guns were not legal, so dad left the collection to the other son. The father failed to consider what other arrangements could be made to ensure that both sons received a portion of the collection.”

    So, the lesson here is to clearly write out exactly what you want to bestow to each heir, as well as the physical location of each item. Have the discussion with your heirs and be sure to write it down. It is hard to disprove a written document.

  4. A fourth mistake is not planning for incapacity or disability. Living wills, durable powers of attorney for health care decisions and durable power of attorney for financial decisions are a part of estate planning. Guardianship (over the body) and conservatorship (over the finances) proceedings are burdensome and expensive, but may be required for a person who does not have those documents and their decision-making capacity is so impaired that they are unable to make, communicate, or carry out important decisions concerning their own care and their financial affairs.

As you can see, there can be many pitfalls with an estate plan, and having an experienced estate planning attorney like Richard will provide you peace of mind that you have the proper plan in place for your loved ones. Pearson Bollman Law provides comprehensive, tailored estate planning services to meet all of their clients’ needs by assisting individuals, families and business owners with wills, trusts, elder law, medicaid planning, VA pension planning, special needs planning, guardianships/conservatorships, probate, trust administration, litigation, business formation, business succession planning, and farm succession planning.

If you have questions about any of our services or would like to schedule an initial consultation with Richard, please do not hesitate to contact him by phone at 563-355-8345 or by email at richard@pearsonbollmanlaw.com.