Seminar this Wednesday: Estate Planning for Blended Families

I’ll be presenting a seminar at the Orem Public Library on Estate Planning for Blended Families.
When                 Wed, April 5, 7pm – 8pm
Where                Orem Public Library, Media Auditorium (map)
Description       Couples with blended families face special challenges when it comes to making sure that stocks, bonds, real estate, and other property and family heirlooms go to the right persons at the right time when a spouse dies. This seminar will address such issues and discuss ways to solve them, using wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents.
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Hope to see you there.

Estate Planning Seminar at Orem Public Library

I’m presenting a seminar at the public library in Orem, Utah tomorrow, Wednesday, March 1st at 7 PM. The topic will be “Wills, Trusts, and Other Documents Necessary to a Good Estate Plan.” I’d love to see you there.

Unfortunately, I just learned that the library’s calendar was hacked yesterday, so you’ll have to trust me on this one.

Estate Planning Seminar at Pleasant Grove Library

I’ll be presenting a seminar on DIY — Do It Yourself — Estate Planning at the Pleasant Grove Library on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at 7 PM. Come an enjoy the discussion. The address is 30 E Center St, Pleasant Grove.

If you have a question about wills, trusts, and other aspects of estate planning, maybe I can answer it.

Caregivers, Does this Describe You?

Northwestern Mutual recently published a survey of caregivers, those who take care of the infirm and aged. Among other things, this is what they found, according to Financial Advisor magazine:

Caregivers comprise a massive population segment, with 40 percent of the survey’s 1,003 respondents saying they were caregivers. Another 20 percent expect to step into that role.

While only 25 percent of future caregivers thought of financial support as a key attribute of caregiving, 64 percent of current caregivers ended up providing some level of financial support to their charges. Expenses related to giving care comprised nearly one-third of their budgets, according to the current caregivers.

Most future caregivers, 70 percent, expect to incur financial costs, yet only 60 percent said that they were equipped to handle the potential financial aspects of caregiving. (Emphasis supplied)

Just one more reason for people–both caregivers and those who will need it–to plan for the future. Long-term care insurance, life insurance, trust planning anyone?

Don’t Put Off Till Tomorrow . . .

lightbulbYesterday I read an interview in the April 2016 issue of WealthCounsel Quarterly with Neel Shah, a business and estate planning attorney in Monroe, New Jersey. The last interview question was of particular interest to me, because occasionally I find myself wondering whether I’m simply selling something when I encourage people to do their estate and business planning, preferably with me. By simply selling I mean selling something they don’t really need. I know better, of course. I’ve seen too many cases where what should have been planned hadn’t been, and people got hurt, loved ones left in a lurch as a consequence.

And I’m not alone, I discovered–yet again. In response to the question, “Can you point to a particular experience that has changed the way you approach your practice?” Shah told the story of a client who had come to him to do some simple will planning. He was young, in the prime of his life. He had some 20 interconnected businesses. They all seemed to be doing well, and the client, Shah says, “looked like he was on top of the world.”

Less than six weeks later, the client was dead–before Shah and he had been able to do much planning. It was then that Shaw discovered that all was not well. The client’s businesses were in hock–for those unfamiliar with the term, they were in debt up to their gills. His personal life wasn’t much better. He had a child from a short-term relationship and other family members he wanted to provide for with his wealth, but in short order his “empire” came crashing down, his dreams for others unfulfilled. As Shaw reports:

“What I saw in that client was the prototypical business owner who simple couldn’t make time to get his planning in order. He had told me that he wanted to provide for his nieces and nephews and he believed–and all evidence supported–that he had many more years ahead of him. His example showed me just how quickly and dramatically things can change.

“By seeing through that client how fragile life can be, now I don’t hesitate to grab a client by the collar and shake them into reality. I also don’t feel like I’m ‘selling’ anything anymore. I feel a lot more like an emergency room physician, telling clients that their business is in dire need of help. After seeing what happens when clients drag their feet, I now have a greater sense of urgency on their behalf. It has made me more passionate in my conversations with clients, and more aggressive in advocating the importance of moving ahead to get good planning in place.”

Somewhere else on this site, I write that the cost of planning is greatly outweighed by the cost of not planning. This story vividly illustrates that point. I could tell more. Want to hear them?

Quote for the Day

“While many people have an inherent aversion to talking about both death and taxes, leaving a positive legacy is something we all care about. Unfortunately, numerous studies show that over 50% of Americans have no estate plan, no will and no medical directives. Why do so many people fail to properly plan for what happens at the end of their life? Simon & Garfunkel may have gotten to the heart of things in one of their songs: So I’ll continue to continue to pretend / My life will never end….

“The tragedy of failing to properly plan is not visited upon the dead. It is the living that suffer its unexpected and unforgiving consequences. By failing to properly plan, many of us are creating problems for our loved ones that do not exist. Estate planning sounds as if it is for the über-wealthy when in fact it applies to everyone. Below are some of the areas that need to be addressed as a part of the estate planning process.”

John J. Scroggin, AEP, J.D., LL.M., Wall Street Journal

Some Things I Learned Answering Questions on a Forum for Asking Legal Questions

Yikes_2016-03-07_0843So I sometimes forget that everybody’s smart, just on different subjects. For example, I don’t know much about physics. My teachers tried, but my head could only hold so much gravity and speed of light and such. Well, today I was online in an online forum where non-lawyers posed legal questions to attorneys. These were real life people experiencing real life problems that involved the law in some way or the other.

Now let me be crystal clear: I don’t think these people are dumb. To repeat: we are all “smart,” just on different things. I happen to know a lot about the law, but boy am I at a loss about some other subjects (heck, even about some legal subjects). With that, here are a few things I learned while answering questions:

  1. Many, if not most people, don’t realize that estate taxes are no longer a concern for most of us. Did you know that you and your spouse must be worth almost $11 million before the tax man comes knocking? Yes, you may need to do some planning to make sure you take full advantage of that $11 million threshold, but still.
  2. Many people don’t realize that the First Amendment doesn’t protect them from employers, friends, parents, and the like from infringing on their free speech rights. No, the First Amendment protects us from the government infringing on our rights. And even then the right is not absolute.
  3. More than a few people confuse a living will with a plain old will, also known as a last will and testament. A living will is a document that tells your family and doctor whether you want life support and such should you become incapacity and unable to speak for yourself. A will or last will and testament is what you use to appoint guardians for your children and to give your property away when you die. You can read more here.
  4. A lot of people–especially people down on their luck financially–aren’t aware of the legal resources available to them that are free or at a reduced cost, nor are they aware of the state agencies that might be of help to them–child protective or family services, for example. For the record, in Wyoming you can go to the Wyoming State Bar to find free or reduced-rate legal services. In Utah, you should go here.  In Wyoming, you can find child and family services here.  In Utah, you’ll find them here.
  5. Finally, too many people are way too quick to pull the trigger; that is, they get angry and immediately shout “Medic!!!” I mean, “Lawyer!!!” To those I say, try to work out your problems by yourself and amicably first, especially if it’s family, then resort to the law. But the corollary to that is, if the proper response is legal, then hire an attorney. Trust me on that one.

Now where do I go to find out how fast the speed of light was back in the days of horse and buggy?

Estate Planning: Are You Prepared for Incapacity?

Not too long ago, estate planning was all about the estate tax tail wagging a sometimes reluctant dog. That was unfortunate for a number of reasons, among them, the focus on estate taxes caused planners to look beyond all those who had no estate tax problem. Likewise, those without that estate tax problem walked around unaware that they probably should do some planning nonetheless.DSC02461

Did I just describe you? If so, maybe it’s time think again about the need to do some estate planning.

Though avoiding estate taxes still motivates some (very well off) people to plan, the driving force behind estate planning these days for most people is one or more of the following. The desire to

  • Maintain control of their property while they’re alive and well;
  • Provide for themselves and their loved ones if they become disabled or incapacitated;
  • Give what they have
    • To whom they want,
    • The way they want,
    • When they want, and
  • Minimize the impact of professional fees, court costs, and taxes–typically income taxes first, then estate.

That second item, the one about providing for your family if you’re disabled or otherwise  incapacitated, is a big one. Did you know that a 20 year old has a 1 in 4 chance of becoming disabled before they retire? It gets worse with age. According to a 2005 AARP study,

The lifetime probability facing a 65 year old of developing a disability in at least two primary activities of daily living for at least three months or becoming cognitively impaired is 44 percent for males turning age 65 and 72 percent for females. Therefore, women face a 64 percent higher risk than do men.

A well-drafted estate plan will address those probabilities and ensure that you and your loved ones are better able to deal with a disability or mental incapacity should it happen. That plan will include

  1. The designation of a trustee and/or agent to manage your property while you’re unable;
  2. A living will, so your doctor and loved ones will know what you want done when you’re unable to communicate; and
  3. A health care power of attorney, so your health care agent can do what you would do in the same circumstances–if you were able.

Those last two items collectively are known in Utah and Wyoming as an advance health care directive by the way. Do you have one in place? Do you have a trustee or agent to manage your property in case you no longer can? Then maybe it’s time to do some estate planning.

 

 

DocuBank: Estate Planning and Health Care Documents at Your Fingertips

I recently became affiliated with DocuBank, a firm that allows my clients and me to store my and my clients to safely and securely store our estate planning documents, including our living wills, health care directives, and HIPAA authorizations. In turn, your and my doctor or the hospital in whose beds we might by lying in can access those records and, we hope, follow our wishes outlined in the relevant documents.

To help make this happen–and fast–DocuBank also provides you and me wallet-sized cards with a summary of our information and phone numbers and the like. It’s pretty nifty. Price well. And, something you should consider using to store your important documents.

Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, and Such: The Problem of Staleness

Remember when you were in your teens and still driving your parents’s cars? Every Friday night, it was the same routine, “Dad, Mom, can I use the car tonight?” And either the keys would come flying your way–or they wouldn’t. But when they did, you were off in a flash and out for the night.

IMG_2773Did you ever try to take advantage of that permission slip a day or two later? You know, as in, “Well, they gave me permission on Friday, it must be okay today”? I’ll bet you tried something like that at least once. I know I did. What was the result?

For me, it was a lecture and, if I recall correctly, my car privileges were revoked or some such. Why? The conditions that prevailed when my parents gave me the keys on Friday no longer existed on Tuesday. Now, Mom needed one car to go to a church function. Dad needed the other car to do business 20 miles away. In other words, my permission slip had grown stale.

Ever eaten stale food? Last night I cooked some boxed scalloped potatoes that were way past their “best-used-by date,” as in five years past. I can still taste the taste of stale in my mouth. Yuck.

Staleness can be a problem with powers of attorney, living wills, and the like as well. According to Jeremiah Barlow, an attorney with WealthCounsel.com, many financial institutions and hospitals won’t accept a power attorney, living will, and other such document if they’re more than two or three years old because, well, conditions may have changed. The principal–the person granting the power to the agent–may no longer have the need for an agent–the person granted the power–to do things for him. Or he may want someone else to do it.

Or, as the financial institution or hospital may be thinking, maybe the power of attorney or living will has been revoked or changed by the principal.

And so, it’s good practice to update–literally–any of those documents you may have signed years ago. Make them fresh again, so your bank or hospital will accept them. Update them, so they work when they’re supposed to.

 

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