Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Using Horse Sense in Indiana Estate Planning

“The Indiana equine industry is an important component of the Indiana economy, a report from Purdue Extension pointed out, serving a variety of needs, including:
  • racing
  • showing (second largest use in Indiana)
  • recreation (largest use in Indiana)
  • work counts the horse population in our state at approximately 140,000. And, “while it may be a dream for you to be able to watch horses graze peacefully outside of your house’s back window, the website cautions, “a lot more goes into it than simply picking out a horse ranch for sale and buying it.”

A lot more also goes into estate planning when it comes to horse ownership. “What happens to your horse in the time between your death and probate of your will?”, attorney Karen L. Perch asks. “Will your wishes regarding care of your horse be enforceable?”.

Since 2005, Indiana residents have had the option of creating a trust for the benefit of pets. The purpose of an equine trust is to make sure that after its owner’s death, a horse continues to enjoy the quality of care to which it is accustomed. One important specialty aspect of our work at Geyer Law is dedicated to helping clients provide for equine pets.

Any equine trust will include several elements:
  • The animal is placed in a revocable (or irrevocable) living trust.
  • A sum of money to support the animal is assigned to the trust.
  • Specific instructions concerning the care of the horse are included in the trust document, including vet visits, and how the horse is to boarded, groomed, and maintained.
  • Instructions specify who is to receive money left over after the animal has died.
  • A person is named to own and take care of the pet in the event of your disability or death.
  • Instructions specify how the beneficiary will take physical possession of the pet.
“Everyone with a horse should have a horse trust in addition to the other estate planning documents,” one Massachusetts estate planning attorney colleague asserts. At Geyer Law, we agree. With our empathetic and compassionate approach, we understand that horse owners feel the need to provide for the ongoing care of pets who have brought pleasure and joy to their lives.

 - by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Big Age Difference Between Spouses Demands Extra Estate Planning Initiatives

“Sizable age gaps (between spouses) can create special challenges from a financial and retirement planning standpoint,Christine Benz points out in Morningstar. Why?
  1. They may need to plan for different retirement dates.
  2. They need to plan for different life expectancies, which affects portfolio withdrawal strategies and Social Security filings..
 When it comes to planning their retirement portfolio, Benz advises, “couples with big age gaps should craft their plans to accommodate the partner with the longest life expectancy.”  A big age differential would also mean the couple will need to be significantly more conservative with their initial withdrawal amount to ensure that their assets last throughout the younger spouse’s longer time horizon, she adds.

Separating assets:
There may be situations where each partner would want to separately manage and draw from their own pools of assets, Benz explains, which is particularly common if spouses each have children from previous marriages.

Converting the younger spouse’s IRA to a Roth:
When a spouse has a longer time horizon, that increases the likelihood that the long-term tax benefits of the Roth will offset the taxes paid on conversion.

Delaying Social Security filing:
If the older partner had the higher income over his/her lifetime, but the lifetime benefits for the surviving spouse.

Long-term care planning:
Long term care insurance is particularly important for spouses with a  big age difference. Single individuals can rely on Medicaid to shoulder their long term care costs if they exhaust their financial resources, Benz notes, but “long term care expenses for an older spouse can have disastrous effects for the financial well-being of the younger partner.”

Time planning:
If the older spouse retires, while the younger one keeps working, hard feelings can develop.  It’s important for the couple to set clear expectations for their new roles and for how their time – and their money – will be spent, Kerri Anne Renzulli points out in Financial Planning magazine.

Estate planning:
As estate planning and elder law attorneys at Geyer Law, we know the special challenges faced by couples with a big age gap. Working as a team with our clients’ tax, insurance, and financial planning advisors, we help couples contend with all those moving parts. And while one primary goal of estate planning is the protection and passing on of wealth, we take a lifetime planning approach, helping couples with a big age gap deal with all the moving parts of their combined situation.

 - by Rebecca W. Geyer

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Introducing...New Geyer Law Associate Jennifer Hammond

Their whole lives, Tom and Sara Smith had worked hard. Although hardly wealthy, the couple had lovingly accumulated assets which they had hoped to leave to their children and grandchildren. Now medical problems had become a challenge. Tom had survived cancer, but his heart condition meant he needed skilled care at home while Sara continued to run their business. How could they take advantage of Medicaid benefits, yet avoid dissipating all of their hard-earned assets? As the younger and healthier of the pair, Sara would need them for her own financial security... 

For estate planning and elder law attorney Jennifer J. Hammond, it’s all about preserving seniors’ assets while utilizing the social safety net available to families. With a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work (B.S.W.) and Certification in Case Management, she had briefly considered becoming an adoption attorney prior to earning her J.D. Interning for Rebecca last year, (Rebecca had been Jennifer’s one-time North Central H.S. classmate!), she realized her mission was advocating for families in a different stage of life; through helping adult family members get prepared - for contingencies and certainties. 

Planning for Tom and Sara (fictionalized names) involved an unusually complex area of the law, the Medicaid Waiver program. Indiana actually offers eight different HCBS (Home and Community-Based Services) programs, and Jennifer’s knowledge and legal work resulted in Tom’s being able to receive skilled care at home and avoid being forced to enter a facility… 

Jennifer also feels strongly about advocating for families through proper estate planning.  “At the very least,” Sheryl Nance-Nash writes in Forbes, “think of estate planning as a way to reduce familial stress when you’re no longer in a position to make decisions.”  Hammond certainly agrees.

Jennifer herself has been in several decision-making roles, both as a mother and a professional.  She has experience as a paralegal, legal secretary, and family law assistant at three law firms, and as a case manager for a home-based counseling agency under contract with the Marion County Office of Family and Children.  She also was the Business Manager of a local church, and spent a summer volunteering with the Senior Law Project at Indiana Legal Services.

Advocacy for families through estate planning and elder law is Jennifer L. Hammond’s career mission, and the law firm of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates is certainly proud to welcome its newest associate.
- by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates Blog Team

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

An Estate Planning Lawyer's Overarching Role - Being a Leader

“There are many potential roles that can be filled by a financial life planner” Stephen Brody writes in the Journal of Financial Planning. “The overarching role, however, is being a leader,” Brody  asserts, quoting John Quincy Adams’ statement: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”

Reading through this highly insightful article, I could not help but draw a strong parallel with the relationships our estate planning attorneys have forged with clients over the years, and realize that each of the leadership theories named in Brody’s article has played out in our day-to-day professional lives.

  • Adaptive leadership (AL) involves three steps: observing events and patterns, interpreting those, and designing interventions. Each client situation is unique; many involve delicate and sensitive issues such as premarital agreements, same sex marriage matters, special needs children, advance directives, and guardianship. Family dynamics are often changing and sensitive; as advisors, we need to provide strong direction, but always with a soft touch.
  • Authentic leadership (AUL) involves being open and honest in presenting one’s true self to others, and leading with a compassion for people. Compassion demands timely responsiveness – it is our policy to respond to all clients communications on the day they are received, and we offer house calls and flexible appointment times.
  • Servant leadership (SL) involves drawing out and development the best and highest within people from the inside out. We understand the challenges, fears, and family dynamics that often come into play with legal issues, and try to assist clients in addressing their particular goals and concerns based on their “best selves”.
  • Transformational leadership (TL) encourages followers to rise above transactional considerations and pursue a higher purpose. Transformation is concerned with emotions, standards, and long-term goals. In order to offer quality advice to our clients, we must first be committed to the highest standards of knowledge in both estate planning law and all the overlapping areas of expertise.

At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, we know we play many roles, with the overarching role of serving as leaders.

- by Rebecca Geyer

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

When Paying Taxes Isn't a One-Time-a-Year Task

“For many retirees, paying taxes isn’t a one-time-a-year task”, a recent issue of Kiplinger’s Retirement Report points out. Even after taking care of their 2018 tax return, many seniors will need to work on their Form 1040-ES to pay estimated 2019 taxes, with the first quarterly payment due in April.

One thing that is true all year round, but which becomes most obvious as year-end approaches, is this: tax law and estate planning overlap. Just as tax attorneys and CPAs must regularly take into account their clients’ estate planning goals, we as estate planning and elder law attorneys must think about the tax ramifications of the planning we do with our clients.

At Geyer Law, part of our responsibility includes staying familiar with the laws that relate to the tax aspects of:
  • wills and trusts
  • social security benefits
  • medical and long term care benefits
  • Medicare
  • life insurance
  • pensions and other retirement plans
  • real estate property
  • charitable gifts
  • college planning for children and grandchildren
  • veterans’ benefits
 What’s more, since quite a number of our Geyer Law clients are business owners, we must work in cooperation with their insurance, tax, and financial planning advisors on their:
  • choice of business entity
  • internal corporate documents
  • liability issues
  • succession planning,
all of which relate to their estate planning. Proper succession planning is crucial for business situations, because of the three what ifs: the death, disability, or retirement of a current owner.  

For those old enough to remember the song lyrics, there’s a real parallel here:  “Love and marriage, love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage.” The “marriage” of tax planning and estate planning is not just a one-time-a-year task!
- by Rebecca W. Geyer

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Year-End Planning - Where Estate and Tax Planning Meet for Seniors

For all of us, falling leaves are a reminder that, as year-end approaches, we need to make sure all our tax-related i’s are dotted and our t’s crossed. Year end is also a time when tax planning and estate planning are most inter-related for seniors.

As the AARP book The Other Talk points out, “The kids will need to know the location of your most recent seven years of tax returns.” Why?

  1. for IRS queries while you’re still here
  2. for determining the extent of assets in your estate and filing a final income tax and estate return and/or a revocable trust return.

Author Tim Prosch urges elders not to procrastinate when it comes to making notebooks for each adult child. “The more information your kids have, and the sooner they get it, the better for you and for them.” Documents that could go into the notebooks, in addition to those seven years’ tax returns, might include:

  • will
  • trust
  • advance directives (durable healthcare power of attorney and living will)
  • summary list of all doctors – along with contact information- and medical advisors
  • contact information of all key advisors
  • insurance information for life, health, home, vehicle, and boat insurance
  • banking information
  • inventory of current investments
  • credit card information
  • burial and funeral arrangement information

End-of-year planning also means IRA planning. After reaching age 70 ½, owners of IRA and other tax-deferred retirement accounts must take an annual RMD (Required Minimum Distribution).  The account values as of December 31 of 2017 are used to calculate this year’s RMD, Bob Carlson reminds us in Forbes. Carlson cautions the RMD rules are not simple ones, and are, in fact, “the source of many mistakes and oversights by account beneficiaries, resulting in lost opportunities, extra taxes, and penalties.”

It happens often – we’ll be talking to clients here at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates about their estate planning and mention the RMD requirement.  While they will have heard about the RMD, many will have forgotten the way the rules work. While at Geyer Law we do not offer tax preparation,(instead working together with clients’ tax advisors to craft a unified plan), IRAs represent one area where there is a large overlap between tax planning and estate planning.

Year-end is that time of year when we’re reminded that the distribution of assets out of IRA
accounts,  whether to the owners while they are still alive or to their beneficiaries after they’ve passed on – even when there is a notebook prepared -  is no simple matter.

- by Rebecca W. Geyer

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Could Heirs Use a Conservatorship to Take Away Parents' Property?

“Seniors need to be aware that their children, siblings, and other heirs can sometimes try to use such a health condition as a way to gain legal control over their property,” cautions. “Seniors should be aware that they are vulnerable to involuntary conservatorships, guardianships, and related types of actions”. .

In “Guardianship in the U.S.: Protection or Exploitation?” author Emily Gurnon tells the sad-but-all-too-true story of Ginger Franklin, who, in 2008, had fallen down the stairs of her  Nashville-area townhouse, had been taken to the hospital with a severe brain injury. Since Franklin had not designated anyone to make decisions for her if she became incapacitated, her nearest relative, an aunt, was advised to petition the court for a guardian. The county appointed a lawyer as the guardian, and that person placed Franklin in a group home for seriously mentally ill adults.

When Franklin recovered and returned home seven weeks after the accident, the guardian informed her that she no longer had a home.  The court had granted permission for the guardian to sell her home and its contents. The owners of the group home forced her to work for no pay, while paying monthly rent and attorney fees to the guardian.
Finally, with the help of an advocate and media attention, Franklin fought the guardianship in court, winning her freedom in 2010 after two long years of having no legal rights. She now lives independently in the Nashville area and has sued the guardian.
In most circumstances, pennyborn continues, it is possible to avoid a conservatorship by granting a durable financial power of attorney to someone you trust while you still have capacity. You can also place assets into a living trust, appointing a successor trustee to manage the trust assets in the event of your incapacity.

At Geyer Law, the goal of each of our elder law attorneys is to accomplish your objectives and provide for your family in the best way possible, including keeping control of your assets in your own hands as long as you are able to make decisions.

Nobody wants to think that their heirs will not respect their wishes, but you need to take steps to protect your own interests and keep you in charge of your own finances. Proper estate planning is designed to do just that. At the same time, good planning is designed to spare your loved ones expense, delay, and frustration if you become disabled.

- by Rebecca W. Geyer