Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Holiday Sounds: Tinkle of Bells and Talk of Estate Planning


“We get it: there's no easy way to start talking about estate planning. And who wants to spoil the holidays with morbid talk about what's going to happen after a family member dies?”  Christopher Coble asks. “Then, again, when else are you going to do it? The holidays are one of the few times you can get most of the family together, and maybe the holiday spirit will make everyone a little more patient, understanding, and generous,” Coble adds.

 At Geyer Law, we’ve found over the years, while holiday family gatherings may not be where estate planning issues are actually brought up, those very gatherings serve as triggers, bringing clients in seeking answers to various family-related “what-to-do-about” questions.
Mary Foston-English, MFT, assistant director of Stanford’s Faculty and Staff Help Center, explains that the complications in family relationships, always present, are exacerbated by the stress of the holidays. Divorce and custody disputes, increased awareness of physical and mental illnesses in family members, all seem to come to the forefront at family gatherings.

While holding a family meeting to discuss estate planning may not be what you want to do at the actual holiday gathering, it is wise to plan such a meeting following the holiday, while everyone is still “thinking family”. With everyone together, it’s easier to plan the logistics of the meeting and set a convenient time, so that you can invite your financial advisor, estate planning attorney, and CPA to that meeting if possible.
The purpose? Explaining your vision to your heirs while you’re still around to explain things, the HuckBouma blog points out. “By attaching your values to your estate planning and involving your family in the process, your estate plan now becomes a family plan, minimizing the risk of conflict.”

“Estate planning can go well beyond simply who/what will get your assets.  Other considerations include values, taxes, medical care, charitable gifts, educational trusts, pets and more,” Gary Altman, an attorney in Virginia so importantly adds.

Amen to that. Our objective at Geyer Law is to take the mystery out of the estate planning process so that individuals and families have peace of mind rather than confusion when facing the disability or death of a loved one.

While nobody wants to think about death or disability, establishing an estate plan is one of the most important steps you can take. Proper estate planning not only puts you in charge of your finances, it spares your loved ones of the expense, delay and frustration associated with managing your affairs when you pass away or become disabled.

Turn those “leftover” warm feelings from the holiday family gathering into an estate planning action plan!

- by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates blog team

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Estate Planning to Take Care of Caregivers

“Companies Need to Care for Their Caregivers” is the headline of an article in a recent issue of the AARP Bulletin. Employers need to create caregiver-friendly workplaces, is the concept, and to that end, AARP has teamed up with the Northeast Business Group on Health to produce an online assessment tool at workandcaregiving.org to measure how well employers are doing to provide assistance to caregivers.

Estate planning attorneys need to help parents take care of their caregiving adult children as well, according to Kathryn Adams, writing about the impact of caregiving on adult children for the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys. “The costs associated with caregiving add up over time and often put adult children in a difficult position.  While they’re spending money caring for their parents, it often means they’re unable to put money into their own retirement funds.”  Aside from out of pocket costs, she points out, many caregivers must take time off from work to administer care or at least to drive parents to doctors’ appointments.

How much money are caregivers spending on average? Adams provides some eye-opening statistics:
  • Nearly half spend more than $5,000 annually
  • 16% spend as much as $9.999
  • 11% spend as much as $19,999
  • 5% are spending as much as $49,999
Parents who want to compensate their child for taking on the burden of caregiving may do so in several ways, Elder Law Guides explains.
  1. A parent can leave the child an additional amount through a will or trust. (“If a parent chooses to go this route, it is important that the parent explain his or her reasoning to any other children or family members that might be upset.”)
  2. If a parent doesn’t have cash to compensate the child, the parent may transfer the house to that caregiver, (either through an outright transfer, retaining a life estate for him/herself, or through creating joint ownership).
  3. If the parent qualifies for life insurance, the child can be made beneficiary.
 None of these options is without ramifications and considerations that must be thoroughly weighed. At Geyer Law, we discuss:
  • Medicaid planning advantages of different transfers and other tactics
  • Tax consequences of different strategies
Proper estate planning not only puts you in charge of your finances, it can also spare your loved ones - both the caretaking and the other heirs -  the expense, delay and frustration associated with managing your affairs when you pass away.

Estate planning should be done to take care of caretakers!

- by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Estate Planning for Owners of Indiana Family Farms


“Splitting up a family farm is hardly a simple process,” observes Matthew T. McClintock, J.D. of estateplanning.com. How true – each one of the areas of estate planning with which we deal at Geyer Law tends to be more complex when it comes to situations involving family farms. Here are some of the reasons why:
  • Often, one or two of the children are working on the farm, while others are not (and may have no interest in farming)
  • Because so much of the “estate” is in the form of land, you want to be sure your survivors have access to cash to settle your final expenses and support themselves.
  • Again, because there may be estate taxes to pay and because so much of the estate is in the form of property, it is important to have cash available. (While only relatively large estates will owe estate taxes, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average value of assets for larger family farms was about $4.5 million in 2014.).
McClintock describes three possible estate planning solutions for family farm owners who want to pass on the farming business to one heir without neglecting the others:
  1. The farming heir purchases the farm from the parents while they are still alive but are retiring from the farming business. The proceeds of the sale are incorporated into the parents’ estate plan and divided among all the heirs.
  2. The farming heir purchases the farm from the estate after the parents’ death. There might be an agreed-upon price built into the estate plan.
  3. Upon the parents’ death, the farm ownership is divided equally among the heirs, with the farming heir being given the right to rent the property from the other heirs for his/her lifetime or some other specific period of time.
In addition to these three tactics, families might consider purchasing life insurance to provide sufficient liquidity to pay any taxes due or to provide funds to non-farming children equivalent to the value of the land passing to the child who farms.

Revising the tax law, including the estate tax law, is a big topic of discussion in our country right now, and provisions are being discussed that would ease the tax burden on family farm owners. In fact, some measures have already been in place for years, such as allowing farm real estate to be valued at farm-use value rather than at its fair-market value, and an installment payment provision

No matter what further tax relief is enacted, or which method of estate planning is used, it’s crucial for a detailed, formal plan to be put in place, one that minimizes taxes, avoids disputes, and is hopefully perceived as “fair” by all the heirs.
- by Rebecca W. Geyer

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

November is National Caregivers Month


WHEREAS, over 90 million Americans today are family caregivers for their loved ones; and

WHEREAS, a large number of them are finding themselves providing care 24 hours a day/7 days a week; and

WHEREAS, although caregiving can be a rewarding experience, it is not without its consequences, such as stress, poor health, and caregiver burnout, and

WHEREAS, with the responsibility of family caregivers in our country growing every year, it is even more essential to encourage these heroes to take some time for respite so they may continue their mission of providing that loving care that only they can provide…

Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Mayor/Governor of City/State, does hereby recognize November 2017 as National Family Caregivers Month”.
“No one necessarily sets out to become a caregiver. It often just happens over time”, an AARP story published in the Indianapolis Star begins. How well we know, as our estate planning clients share their own stories with us.  Still some of the statistics provided by AARP were startling, even to our attorneys:
  • There are 45 million family caregivers in America
  • In Indiana, nearly 840,000 Hoosiers care for older parents, spouses, and children with disabilities
  • Hoosiers who provide unpaid care for a loved one are spending a combined 779 million hours a year doing so.
  • Today 40% of caregivers are male, 60% female.
For adult children who are unable to serve as caregivers themselves, the first two challenges facing children whose parents are in need of help include finding and hiring caregivers, then monitoring to be sure that the needed care is being provided, and in a kind, considerate way. 
The third challenge is the high cost of long term care. With proper advance planning, the attorneys at Geyer & Associates can help provide your loved one with proper care while helping your family avoid financial ruin.

We were very happy that, effective January of 2016, Indiana passed the CARE Act, requiring hospitals to issue “at home care plans” to at home caregivers and to help educate lay caregivers. Now, we are following proposals for national legislation called RAISE, the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage Family Caregivers Act, which would create an advisory council of representatives from the private and public sectors, including family caregivers, older adults and people with disabilities, health care providers, employers, state and local officials, and others to make recommendations regarding the national strategy.

Let’s all remember to salute family caregivers in November – and year round!


- by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates blog team

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Succession Planning Prevents Split-Ups and Family Divides

Famous designer Giorgio Armani has outlined a succession plan aimed at preventing his fashion empire from being split up, the Merced Sun Star reports. After he dies, Armani says, three people who he names will be put in charge of a foundation that he created last year both as a succession tool and as a vehicle for charity investments.

Choosing a successor can be as easy as appointing a family member or assistant to take the owner's place, Investopedia explains. “However, there may be several partners or family members from which the owner will have to choose, each with various strengths and weaknesses to be weighed and evaluated. Partners who do not need or want a successor may simply sell their portion of the business to their partners in a buy-sell agreement.”

Consider the role family businesses play in job creation: family companies are responsible for 60 percent of the jobs in America and nearly 80 percent of new jobs created, Michael Evans writes in Forbes. But uncertainty about whether junior members will have the aptitude and experience for running a company is the leading concern that family businesses have, Evans adds.

Succession planning isn’t easy, as Armani himself is learning. "Believe me, it is horrendous to decide what to leave to whom, if it is right or not right. Every five minutes, you are placed in front of a reality of a man to whom something could suddenly happen. This is true of everyone, but more so at 83," Armani said.

At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, we know that owners of closely-held businesses have special needs. The problem –the owners are so busy developing their business, they don’t have time to address the legal issues needed to ensure their continued success. We advise clients on
  • proper organizational structure
  • the use of buy-sell arrangements
  • corporate restructuring
  • tax reduction
  • succession planning
Typically, other professionals work as a team with our attorneys to design a complete plan.  We work closely with business owners’ insurance agents, tax professionals, and investment advisor to design a complete succession plan.

Properly designed business succession plans can help prevent two kinds of splits:  split-up of the business, and disputes among family members!

by Rebecca W. Geyer

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Generations Collide and Comfort in Estate Planning

“There’s a fine line between caring and controlling – but older adults and their grown children often disagree on where it is,” writes Claire Berman in the Atlantic. In the course of researching for a book about caring for aging parents, Berman interviewed geriatricians, social workers, administrators of assisted living facilities, and elder law attorneys.

As parents age, their attempts to hold on to their independence can be at odds with even the most well-intentioned suggestions from their adult children. “They are annoyed by children’s overprotectiveness, but appreciate the concern it expresses,” is what Berman discovered.

Wealthmanagement.com comes down firmly on the “Yes” side of the question: Should parents tell their adult children what’s in their estate planning documents? At a minimum, family members should be told:
  • where the documents are located
  • who are the key advisors (lawyers, accountants, financial advisors)
  • what immediate steps they might need to take if an unexpected death occurs. 
Losing a parent can be hard enough;there’s no reason to add additional confusion and potential harm by leaving the family completely in the dark. It’s particularly important to have a frank conversation if parents intend to leave unequal bequests. “If there are special arrangements between parents and one or more children, parents must recognize the ‘truth will out’” and it’s their responsibility, not their children’s, to explain why.”                 

But, even when estate planning considerations have been openly discussed, communication between seniors and their adult children about decisions prior to death can be difficult. Participants in a study at State University of New York at Albany expressed a strong desire for autonomy and connection in relations with their adult children, Berman relates.

“The main contradiction of elderly parents is experienced in terms of individual autonomy and in terms of a need for care by their adult children,” Tetyana Zelinska,  Professor of Psychology in Dragomanov University in the Ukraine explains. “But parents should not accept destructive relationships,” she advises.  It would be better, she says,to write a letter to an adult child in order to express a clear and explicit desire to build constructive and good relationships.”

At Geyer Law, we agree. Proper estate planning, particularly when the discussions involve both generations, helps put seniors in charge of their own finances, while at the same time sparing loved ones the expense, delay and frustration associated with managing affairs after an elderly parents has become disabled or passes away.
- by Rebecca W. Geyer

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Estate Planning Attorney Cautions Against Senior Fraud

“Some financial professionals use designations that imply that they are experts at helping seniors with financial issues,” the Securities and Exchange Commission website cautions. “Many seniors, however, don't understand the sets of initials that may follow the names of these financial professionals or the meaning of the titles - such as "senior specialist" or "retirement advisor" - they use to market themselves.” Often these titles don’t require any specific study or experience.

As estate planning attorneys at Geyer Law, we often deal with seniors, and are always chagrined to learn about the suffering scammers cause to their victims.
It’s not only the SEC that is concerned about the increasing number and types of scams targeting senior investors. The North American Securities Corporation’s ServeOurSeniors.org website tells seniors, “You’ve worked hard throughout your lifetime to build retirement security. As your first line of defense against investment fraud, NASAA members know scam artists will try to prey on seniors by offering ‘too good to be true’ investment schemes. Education and awareness are your best weapons in the fight against investment fraud.” 

NASAA offers a checklist of questions seniors should post to anyone attempting to sell them an investment product of any kind:
  • What products are you offering?
  • Who regulates or licenses this product or service?
  • How does this product meet my investment objectives?
  • What are the risks?
  • What written information will I receive about this investment before making a decision?
  • What license(s) do you hold that authorize you to sell this product or service?
FINRA (the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) views the protection of senior investors, as well as baby boomers who are retired or approaching retirement, as a top priority, because a large number of American investors are approaching retirement and control a substantial portion of investment assets. “Even if you have never been subjected to an investment fraudster’s sales pitch, you probably know someone who has. The more you know about the types of fraud and tactics used the better equipped you’ll be to avoid it,” FINRA warns.

“Stranger danger” seems to be all around us. In fact, at Geyer & Associates, we think protecting ourselves – and our aging parents – from scams has become a vital element in estate planning!  If you have questions or concerns about protecting yourself or a loved one, or how to address a fraud you discover, please contact our office.


- by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team