American Legion News
Across the nation, members of the American Legion Family led efforts to bring Thanksgiving meals to members of their communities.
And, in some cases, they also provided a holiday experience for future U.S. servicemembers.
American Legion posts in Illinois opened their facilities to recruits going through basic training at Naval Station Great Lakes. Similar efforts took place in Florida with Navy recruits and in New Jersey with U.S. Coast Guard recruits.
In the Chicago area, American Legion Post 208 (Arlington Heights), Post 525 (Mount Prospect) and Post 974 (Franklin Park) all hosted Navy recruits, bussing them in from their training facility for a break from basic training. The recruits were provided with multi-course Thanksgiving meals, entertainment, games and an opportunity to call family and friends back home.
Post 208 has hosted the recruits for 23 years. One of this year's guests, Indianapolis native Jason Webb, appreciated the chance to call home. "I got to hear my mother's voice, she was happy," Webb said. "I told her I was going to see her soon. She knows I'm almost done."
In Pensacola, Fla., 25 sailors from NAS Pensacola Corry Station received a Thanksgiving meal from American Legion Post 340.
"I'm sure they are really missing their family. This is their first time away," Post 340 Legion Family member Mary Willemstein said. "They miss being around their family and we try to be a family to them."
And in New Jersey, 50 cadets from the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May were Thanksgiving guests of American Legion Clark-Eliason Post 352 in Somers Point. The post provided lunch and dinner, including a traditional Thanksgiving meal, while the recruits also were able to play games and watch football. It was the 15th year Post 352 has hosted the recruits.
Recruits arrived at the American Legion at 11:30 a.m. sharp and were planning to stick around into the evening enjoying food, mingling with veterans, playing games and watching the NFL on the three TVs behind the bar.
"Because they are away from home, we can feed them like they're family, because we're the closest thing to family," Post 352 Commander Robert Frolow said. "It's nice. It lets them be much more comfortable. You're away from home, but you're really not away from home."
The following are a few other examples of how the Legion Family stepped up to assist others over Thanksgiving. Posts are urged to share their stories and pictures at www.legiontown.org.
In Safford, Swift-Murphy Post 32 continued its more than 40-year tradition of hosting a community Thanksgiving dinner. The post prepared 30 turkeys and 22 hams, serving more than 500 meals. Of those, 200 were delivered to homebound seniors, as well as first responders working on Thanksgiving.
In Salinas, American Legion Post 31 served more than 800 meals to the community, as well as provided to-go meals. More than 30 volunteers contributed to the effort.
In Fountain, American Legion Post 38 hosted a free Thanksgiving dinner for the public. And earlier in the month, members of American Legion Riders Chapter 38 delivered Thanksgiving baskets to families in need.
In Lewes, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 17 provided gift cards to 30 families in need identified by local schools.
In Delray Beach, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 65 donated five Thanksgiving dinner baskets to families in need.
In Worth, Marrs-Meyer Post 991's Legion Family provided 43 homes with Thanksgiving baskets that included a frozen turkey, ground beef, chicken and non-perishables.
In Polk City, American Legion Riders Chapter 232's 12th annual Holiday for Heroes event delivered 450 meal boxes to local veterans. The boxes included turkeys, potatoes, vegetables, rolls and pies.
In Cambridge, Dorchester Auxiliary Unit 91's annual Thanksgiving dinner provided 200 dinners to post members, as well as local first responders. The unit also delivered meals to Legion Family members and other veterans who were homebound, ill or in a nursing home.
In Gloucester, Capt. Lester S. Wass American Legion Post 3 prepared its annual Thanksgiving dinner that provided nearly 700 delivered meals to residents of Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester, Essex, Ipswich, Wenham and Hamilton.
In Pleasant Valley, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 789 donated 25 pies to the Village Ecumenical Ministries Food Pantry to use in the pantry's Thanksgiving basket giveaway.
In Erie, American Legion Post 571 and the Wesleyville Hose Company teamed up to provide a free Thanksgiving Day dinner to members of the community. The idea for the meal was a collaboration between Post 571 Legionnaire Frank Hall and Wesleyville Hose Company Fire Chief Pete Kloszewski.
"We have been both been deployed, and sometimes you just do not have somewhere to go, and it sure beats having to sit down and have a Hungry-Man Dinner while sitting by yourself," Hall said. "We need to have comradeship and that is what the purpose of this is."
Hall also praised all those who helped make the meal possible. "The community response has been amazing, the response by the American Legion Family, Wesleyville Hose Company, the entire Borough of Wesleyville, Harborcreek and Lawrence Park has been unbelievable," he said. "I could not be more proud of the community right now."
In Spring Branch, American Legion Post 654 was one of four locations taking part in Operation Turkey. In less than two hours, the post facilitated the delivery of more than 2,700 to area residents in need and first responders who worked on Thanksgiving Day.
In Williamstown, American Legion Post 159 hosted its 18th free Thanksgiving dinner, as well as delivered meals to Williamstown and Waverly residents.
"It feels really heartwarming, and it feels amazing to touch so many people in the community," Post 159 Legion Family member Darla Van Horn said. "I said earlier this year that donations this year have been immense from all the sports teams, local businesses, families have just turned out in droves to turn them in. And we really feel it's important to share this Thanksgiving with so many people in any way we can coming in, having them pick up meals, or delivering something to their area locally."
In Saratoga, members of American Legion Post 54 staged its fourth late-day free potluck buffet dinner that was open to members, friends and the public. The post provided five turkeys and one ham, while Legion Family members and others were invited to bring in a side dish. More than 60 people attended the meal.
What happens when two comedians walk into a virtual podcast studio?
Hilarity ensues as it does when professional comedian and Air Force veteran PT Bratton appears as the special guest on this week's episode of The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast. Bratton joins fellow comedian and podcast co-host Ashley Gutermuth and co-host Amy Forsythe.
It's not all jokes, however, as the discussion also includes talk of using comedy to improve mental wellness. Bratton and Gutermuth support The American Legion Be the One mission to end veteran suicide.
"The mission by The American Legion to get behind veteran suicide is one I wholeheartedly support," he said. "There's purpose in us being here. And sometimes we lose sight of that. Not everyone is going to be a professional comedian. But I found my purpose in making people laugh."
They are inspired by the feedback they receive from veterans at their shows.
"If we can help just a little bit to give people hope, to give them enough to make it another day, I think we're making a positive impact," Bratton said. "That's what keeps me going."
As founder and CEO of Clean Comedy Connection, Bratton combines his advocacy for comedy as a mental health wellness strategy with producing clean comedy experiences all over the country. He also serves as a comedy instructor with Armed Services Arts Partnership, where he learned the ropes as a comedian
Just before he was about to get laid off, he went to a comedy show and met a newly minted comedian who went through a comedy boot camp for veterans.
"It gave me the foundation of joke telling and joke writing," he said. "It's been an amazing ride. I've even done comedy at the White House. It's been a blessing."
Bratton served more than 10 years in the Air Force as a military policeman and special agent with the Office of Special Investigations. He recalled time he spent serving in Japan during the winter.
"They don't shovel the streets," he said. "You know how we shovel and put chemicals down to break down the ice? They may shovel it. But if they do, they leave a thin layer of ice. It adds to the adventure."
While in the Air Force, Bratton was among those who shined a positive light no matter the circumstances. "Sometimes things go wrong and you need someone on the team to help you power through it."
Additionally, Gutermuth and Forsythe also discuss:
• The importance of employing military spouses.
• The role of influencers as a way to boost recruiting efforts.
• The American Legion Blood Donor program, which has been in existence since 1946.
Check out this week's episode, which is among more than 210 Tango Alpha Lima podcasts available in both audio and video formats here. You can also download episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Play or other major podcast-hosting sites. The video version is available at the Legion's YouTube channel.
Dear American Legion Family and Friends,
Let me say this in the clearest terms possible: Veterans should feel safe and confident when filing for claims, knowing that no matter who they choose for representation, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has reviewed, approved and accredited that party.
That is why The American Legion opposes the PLUS (Preserving Lawful Utilization of Services for Veterans) Act. If enacted, the PLUS Act would transition our system of securing benefits for disabled veterans to an unregulated profit-driven industry.
Currently, there are unaccredited third parties that present themselves to veterans as legitimate claims service companies to assist veterans in obtaining their earned benefits. The PLUS Act aims to legalize these companies by allowing automatic accreditation after 90 days regardless of whether VA has completed its verification process. The VA-accreditation program exists to ensure that veterans and their family members receive appropriate representation on their VA benefits claims. The American Legion wants to hold bad actors accountable, not give them a free pass to prey on veterans.
Our team is working hard to protect all veterans from the PLUS Act. In September 2023, The American Legion sent a letter of opposition to the congressional representatives sponsoring the Plus Act and I personally voiced our opposition during my congressional visits just last month.
However, there is legislation that would help veterans elude the clutches of bad actors. In an effort to protect our nation's veterans, The American Legion supports the Governing Unaccredited Representatives Defrauding (GUARD) VA Benefits Act. The legislation would reinstate criminal penalties for unaccredited claim representatives who charge unauthorized fees while assisting veterans with filing a claim for VA disability compensation benefits.
The American Legion continues to muster support to protect all veterans and their families from claims sharks. Join us in telling Congress to support the GUARD Act.
Daniel J. Seehafer
The American Legion
Wisconsin nonprofit Custom Canines trains and provides service dogs to veterans at no charge. With the cost of training a service dog reaching upwards of $26,000, the nonprofit asked The American Legion in La Crosse County if they could help in funding.
The seven Legion posts in the county got behind the mission and made a competition out of it. The post that raised the most money for Custom Canines would win naming rights for the next service dog and present the canine to the recipient veteran during a ceremony at the respective post. Fundraising efforts got underway over the summer and ended this past Veterans Day.
The Legion posts in La Crosse County fully funded a service dog with $30,000 raised. And American Legion Post 51 in West Salem, Wis., won the competition with the largest donation of $13,000.
Post 51 Commander Benjamin VanHorn said it was easy for everyone to get behind Custom Canines' ask. "It's a local Wisconsin nonprofit trying to help local veterans. And that's our post. If we are going to help, there's no questions asked from the Auxiliary or Sons of The American Legion."
VanHorn added that the post has honorary members who are ineligible for membership in the Legion but still support Post 51's missions. "We treat them like family. And when you tell them that, ‘Hey, we are going to raise money to support the fully funding of a dog to help a local veteran,' there's no question involved. They are all in. They're behind the mission 100 percent, and it makes fundraising much easier."
Post 51 held dinners every Monday evening to raise funds for the service dog that were spearheaded by Jim Gilbertson, the post service officer. When VanHorn presented the fundraising effort to post members, Gilbertson "loved it. He took that and ran," VanHorn said. Gilbertson passed away unexpectedly in September. But the dinners continued in his honor.
"We all pitched in and kept those dinners going," VanHorn said.
Post 51 presented Custom Canines with a check on Nov. 20 during a ceremony held at the post. During the presentation, post members announced that they are going to name the service dog Gilby in honor of their friend and service officer, Jim Gilbertson.
"I think he (Gilbertson) would be proud," VanHorn said.
VanHorn is appreciative of the fundraising success that was made possible by Post 51's Legion Family and community. The success "boils down to the four pillars" of The American Legion, he said. "If you have the four pillars of The American Legion in place, the community involvement and membership will be there. And the post has been very good about pushing the pillars and that's the reason why we have such good community support."
And now, a financial burden has been lifted off Custom Canines thanks to the La Crosse County American Legion and its community. The $30,000 donation "was pretty amazing. It was a big thing," VanHorn said.
The American Legion's annual Holiday Blood Donor Drive is currently underway and runs through Dec. 31. During this time, American Legion Family members are encouraged to give blood and host blood drives as part of the American Legion Blood Donor Program – an organizational effort that has existed since 1946 to help a lifesaving cause. Learn more at legion.org/security/blood.
In 2022, American Legion posts had 59,835 donors donate 100,786 pints of blood.
If your American Legion post, district or department is interested in hosting a blood drive in your community, the American Red Cross recommends visiting this link to learn more about how to start the process. Additional information about blood donations can also be found at:
- American Red Cross, redcrossblood.org
- American Association of Blood Banks, aabb.org
- Council of Community Blood Centers, givingblood.org
The American Legion Blood Donor Program recognizes departments in two areas for blood donation efforts: post participation and individual Legionnaire participation. Post participation awards are given to departments with the highest number of participating posts. Individual participation awards are given to departments with the highest percentage of individuals giving blood to the program.
In his role as national chairman of the Sons of The American Legion's Americanism Commission, Chris Casey challenged the SAL National Executive Committee to take the commission's goals back to their respective detachments.
It's a challenge Casey and the rest of the Legion Family at Benson (Neb.) Post 112 is meeting.
Members of SAL Squadron 112 led a flag etiquette ceremony at Pawnee Elementary School on Nov. 18. The event allowed fifth-graders at the school to learn how to properly fold a flag as well as what the American flag represents.
"These classes assist in driving home Americanism for these young people," said Casey, who is also adjutant for Squadron 112 and the Detachment of Nebraska.
"The American Legion has urged Congress to approve an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would allow Congress to prohibit the physical desecration of the U.S. flag. That amendment has not progressed and may never do so in today's political climate," Casey added. "These classes help shape the view of young people and develop their reverence for the flag. When these young students become the elected representatives of the people, they will get a flag protection amendment passed. They will do so because of the great respect that was instilled in them by The American Legion."
"We have had our security officer working with our students to raise and lower the flag each day, but I don't think that our students truly understood the significance and the meaning behind the raising and lowering of the flag, and how we fold and store the flag," Pawnee Elementary Principal Cheryl Prine told KMTV. "… This opportunity not only educates the students but will bring about some reverence and respect for what they are doing."
Chip Ganassi Racing announced today that Linus Lundqvist will pilot the No. 8 American Legion Honda throughout the 2024 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season.
Lundqvist, 24, signed a multi-year deal with Chip Ganassi Racing on Aug. 31 after setting the fastest lap times in two of his first three INDYCAR races. Officially embarking on the 2024 season as a rookie, he is set to take on the full calendar primarily sporting The American Legion's red, white and blue Be The One livery, including the historic 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
"We are thrilled to build off the championship season with Chip Ganassi Racing and form this new relationship with a talented young driver in Linus Lundqvist," American Legion Chief Marketing Officer Dean Kessel said. "Linus' enthusiasm and personality stood out to our team since day one, and I am confident that he will be a quality ambassador for our organization and the Be The One platform. Our collective focus continues to extend beyond the racetrack, and we will continue to lead the charge to end veteran suicide."
"I'm incredibly excited to be partnering with The American Legion for the 2024 INDYCAR season," Linus Lundqvist said. "To move on to the next chapter and to be connected to the veteran community makes it even more special. A major thank you to Dean and The American Legion for this opportunity. I am privileged to be able to represent such an impactful organization and I am looking forward to our work together with Be The One."
"I am very much looking forward to Linus getting on the track to show the kind of driver that we all believe he will be," Chip Ganassi said. "In addition, I believe Linus' off-track presence will match well with the strong partnership we have with The American Legion. Over the last three seasons it has been a tremendous honor to work alongside The American Legion in our shared mission to save veteran lives. So, stepping into 2024 with Linus piloting the 8 car our expectations are rather high and I am very much looking forward to our first official race together in March."
The number one issue facing the veteran community is suicide, according to the National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report. It is estimated that 17 veterans take their lives each day. The American Legion instituted the Be The One initiative to activate a national platform aimed at reducing the rate of veteran suicide. Be The One is focused on destigmatizing asking for mental health support and providing peer-to-peer support and resources in local communities.
The American Legion and Chip Ganassi Racing have maintained a partnership since 2021. The team has presented The American Legion primary livery for 28 races in that span accounting for 12 podiums and four wins. Lundqvist will join a worldclass roster of drivers to have represented The American Legion behind the wheel, including defending Rookie of the Year Marcus Armstrong, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, Indianapolis 500 Winner Tony Kanaan and two-time INDYCAR champion Alex Palou.
The 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship was won by Alex Palou last season, capturing his second Astor Cup adorned in The American Legion branding. "They (Chip Ganassi Racing) have rallied behind our mission, launching not only a brand last year, but also our Be The One platform, which is all about destigmatizing veterans asking for help," said Kessel after the Astor Cup was secured. "The visibility is off the chart and for our 1.6 million members across the country, this is amazing."
The American Legion and Chip Ganassi Racing also are teaming up for Giving Tuesday, a global generosity movement to help transform communities across the world on Nov. 28. Chip Ganassi Racing encourages you to think about The American Legion as your preferred charity during this season of generosity.
Chip Ganassi Racing and The American Legion will be launching their "12 Days of #VetsGiving" on Giving Tuesday, where 12 unique prize packages will be listed for auction with a buy-it-now option, as well. #VetsGiving was first launched by the team in 2022, where nearly $40,000 was raised. All proceeds will go directly to The American Legion.
Click here to watch Linus Lundqvist's recent visit to American Legion National Headquarters.
At its 2023 state convention, The American Legion Department of California established a department Gaming Committee to, in part, help promote camaraderie, improve mental health and aid recruiting efforts.
Immediate Past Department of California Commander Jere Romano, now the adjutant at Post 46 in Culver City, has taken that mission to heart. And with an assist from the non-profit Stack Up, he hopes to now create an esports league among fellow American Legion posts and other veteran service organizations.
Post 46 recently was the recipient of four gaming PCs through Stack Up, which was gifted with 150 gaming PCs from game developer/publisher and esports organizer Riot Games earlier this year to distribute.
Romano didn't hesitate to accept the PCs, noting that Stack Up founder/CEO Steve Machuga shared with him that after serving in Iraq in the U.S. Army's 2nd Infantry, he found when he came home that it was the gaming community that "kept him going," Romano said. "Coming out of the pandemic, a lot of the younger veterans were struggling with isolation and all that. What better way to address that and be that … suicide intervention. If we can create that gaming community within our posts, not only is it going to attract members to our posts, but it's also going to possibly stop one veteran from taking their lives."
Machuga, a member of American Legion Post 283 in Pacific Palisades, Calif., said Stack Up has been donating PCs to Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts with the hopes of creating "a sibling rivalry. And Jere is one of those guys that when he says he's going to do something, he does it. If I'm handing these machines to anyone, he's definitely somebody who I can rely on to make it happen."
Romano, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Reserve from 1986 to 1996, said seeing The American Legion become involved in the gaming community through its relationship with REGIMENT Gaming and its past work with Stack Up "is incredible. I've been tracking it, especially since REGIMENT Gaming came on board. We had to evolve as an organization with our newer membership coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan. This is our … that one bridge, that one connectivity that we have to not only introduce them to The American Legion, but also bring them into our extended family."
Both Machuga and Romano would like to see American Legion posts with gaming equipment join together to form an esports league that could possibly also include VFW posts and other VSOs.
"I believe in that vision," Romano said. "We talk about just simple competitiveness between posts, and that's where the conversation started. It's just something to bring the posts together. This is that new evolution of bringing everybody together. And simple competitiveness I think, will actually start bringing more and more cooperation between posts, and then areas and hopefully departments."
1. Two ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi rebel-controlled Yemen toward a US warship in the Gulf of Aden, after the US Navy responded to a distress call from a commercial tanker that had been seized by armed individuals, the US military said Sunday. The tanker, identified as the Central Park, had been carrying a cargo of phosphoric acid when its crew called for help that "they were under attack from an unknown entity," the US Central Command said in a statement.
2. Warships from the United States, South Korea and Japan trained near the Korean Peninsula over the weekend to better prepare for North Korean provocations, according to the South's military. The one-day exercise came four days after Pyongyang scrapped the Comprehensive Military Agreement, which has eased tensions at the border since 2018.
3. Israel and Hamas appeared open to extending a cease-fire in Gaza that has halted their deadliest and most destructive war but is set to expire after today, with a fourth exchange of militant-held hostages for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel planned for later in the day. Israel has said it would extend the cease-fire by one day for every 10 additional hostages released. Hamas has also said it hopes to extend the four-day truce, which came into effect Friday after several weeks of indirect negotiations mediated by the United States, Qatar and Egypt.
4. Beijing claims the United States is pursuing a "hegemony" in the South China Sea after a Navy guided-missile destroyer steamed near a chain of islands there to dispute what it views as unlawful restrictions. The Hawaii-based USS Hopper sailed near the Paracel Islands to assert "navigational rights and freedoms," the U.S. 7th Fleet announced Sunday in a news release. China responded by calling the U.S. a "security risk creator" and said the operation was "ironclad evidence that it is pursuing ‘navigational hegemony' and "militarization of the South China Sea," Chinese air force Col. Tian Junli, Southern Theater Command spokesman, said in a news release.
5. Military scientists have identified the remains of an Indiana soldier who died in World War II when the tank he was commanding was struck by an anti-tank round during a battle in Germany. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced that the remains of U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Gene F. Walker of Richmond, Indiana, were identified in July, nearly 79 years after his death. Walker was 27 and commanded an M4 Sherman tank in November 1944 when his unit battled German forces near Hücheln, Germany, and his tank was struck by an anti-tank round.
"I am an heir of the decedent and here is his will." – Potential Heir
Business Owner passed away on April 5, 1976, with an estate of $2.5 billion. Many people appeared claiming "I am Business Owner's heir," and submitted wills with themselves as beneficiaries. The court finally determined seven years later that none of the wills were valid, and split the estate among 22 of the decedent's cousins. The costs and fees paid to lawyers during administration of Business Owner's estate were in the millions.
Probate Process When a person passes away, it is important to have an organized process to transfer their property. The probate process is an organized method to gather all of the property of the individual, pay bills, determine the appropriate beneficiaries to receive the property and make the actual transfer.
The probate process can be quite easy and rapid for small estates, or can last for many years with larger or more complicated estates. Most people do not spend much time thinking about probate. However, if they are potential beneficiaries, probate is a topic of great interest. To the 22 cousins who received multimillion-dollar inheritances, Business Owner's probate process was very interesting.
Probate Players There are at least four general categories of probate players. First, an executor or personal representative is the manager of the estate. Second, an estate attorney is involved to advise the executor or personal representative on all probate and legal matters. Third, a probate judge will rule on the validity of any will, review many of the actions of the executor and approve the final distributions. Finally, heirs will be the beneficiaries of the estate.
Probate Process The probate process involves eight separate steps to ensure an orderly transfer of all property to the right individuals. Let's assume that Ed Executor and Ellen Attorney were probating the estate of Business Owner.
1. Accept the Will: Ed or Ellen would normally submit the will to the court for probate. Usually, there is one final will accepted. However, there are many cases in which individuals wrote their own wills or there was a question about the validity of a given will, resulting in a wills contest. Eventually, the court will determine the validity and meaning of the will. However, for Business Owner's estate, none of the wills were valid and state law determined who received the $2.5 billion.
2. Locate Heirs: Because Business Owner did not have a valid will, Ed Executor needed to locate all of the heirs. However, the 22 cousins still needed to be approved by the court. Under state law, Business Owner's estate was transferred to his relatives. With $2.5 billion at stake, all of them had attorneys to ensure each cousin received the proper share. Even if Business Owner had signed a valid will, it would have been essential to locate all the heirs. In some cases, the selected recipients had passed away, and their share of the property was distributed to their children or other relatives.
3. Determine the Estate Assets and Values: Ed Executor was responsible for finding all of Business Owner's estate assets. These included real estate, bank accounts, securities accounts and other property. Because Business Owner's estate was taxable, all property was valued so that federal taxes could be paid. Finally, the balance of the estate was distributed to the 22 cousins.
4. Pay Executor and Attorney: Not surprisingly, Ed Executor and Ellen Attorney were paid a large fee from Business Owner's estate. The costs for the probate process may be quite substantial, and the executor and attorney are always paid. Costs may be as low as 2% of the estate value or may range up to 7% or 8%. However, if there is an estate contest, costs can consume a large portion of the entire estate.
5. Make Debt Payments: After determining the nature of the property and the approximate value of Business Owner's estate, Ed Executor also advertised for any claims by creditors. The state probate law determines the period of time and the type of public notice to be given. If creditors do not file claims against the estate, they risk losing their ability to collect their debts. All debts and taxes are paid before the final distribution.
6. Resolve Controversies: Seven years of controversies in Business Owner's estate required continuous attention from Ed Executor and Ellen Attorney. Most of these centered on the submitted wills. If there are any controversies, such as a claim that the final will is invalid due to undue influence of a party who obtained the will, the court must determine the rights of all parties under the will and applicable state law. After seven years, the court decided that none of the wills in Business Owner's estate were valid.
7. File Income and Estate tax Returns: Because Business Owner's estate was $2.5 billion and produced income each year, Ed Executor had to file the final income tax return for Business Owner and annual income tax returns for the estate. Based upon the appraised valuation, Ed and Ellen also filed the estate tax return and paid the estate tax to the IRS.
8. Distribute Assets to Heirs: After seven years of court proceedings, payment of estate taxes, court costs, executor fees and attorney fees, the probate judge approved the final distribution order, and the 22 cousins of Business Owner received their inheritance.
Probate problems There are several negative results for which probate has a deservedly bad reputation. First, the process is public. Anyone can obtain the will of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and read her provisions for children Caroline and John Jr.
As was true for Business Owner's estate, the probate process may be both lengthy and expensive. Both time and money can easily be wasted in the bureaucracy of the process.
Probate is also as good and as bad as the judge involved. Judges are people, with the good and bad characteristics of humanity. Some are very dedicated and capable, and some are primarily interested in an early exit to the golf course in the afternoon. Depending on the quality of the judge, the probate process can be easy or quite challenging for the executor and estate attorney.
Finally, the existence of a substantial estate (such as that of Business Owner) invites relatives to submit claims and is fertile ground for developing probate controversies. If there is any question about the validity of the will or there are conflicting methods of transfer of the same property (joint tenancy with one person and attempting to transfer the same property through a will to a second person), a will contest and probate battle may occur.
Avoiding probate There are multiple methods used to avoid probate. These can be quite successful, but all methods must be coordinated carefully to be certain the overall plan works correctly.
1. Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship: Under property law, the surviving joint tenant owns the real estate.
2. Designated Beneficiary: An insurance policy, IRA, 401(k) or other qualified plan is transferred to the designated beneficiary. There is a contract with the insurance company or retirement plan custodian, and that person agrees to make the transfer to the individual or organization selected by the owner. Typical forms permit the selection of a primary beneficiary and also a contingent beneficiary.
3. Payable-on-Death (POD) Accounts: Most states that follow the Uniform Probate Code may allow a "POD" account. Most savings accounts, checking accounts and certificates of deposit are under state law permitted to be transferred to the "payable-on-death" recipient. Many states also permit transfer-on-death (TOD) deeds for real estate. The TOD deed is notarized and recorded. It transfers the property to the beneficiary when the owner passes away. Because real estate transfers may involve title and ownership issues, professional advice is recommended before a TOD deed is signed.
4. Revocable Living Trust: Perhaps the most popular method for avoiding probate is a revocable living trust. The grantor is taxable on the assets of the trust, but frequently will transfer a personal residence, securities accounts and other major assets into the trust. The assets in the trust avoid the probate process.
The American Legion's Planned Giving program is a way of establishing your legacy of support for the organization while providing for your current financial needs. Learn more about the process, and the variety of charitable programs you can benefit, at legion.org/plannedgiving. Clicking on "Learn more" will bring up an "E-newsletter" button, where you can sign up for regular information from Planned Giving.