Thursday, December 31, 2015

Finding Your Space for Disability Parking

Disability parking placards allow you to park in areas designated for disabled drivers. Before applying for a handicap placard for your car, be certain you meet the criteria set by your Department of Motor Vehicles, says Melissa Crumish of If you’re an Indiana resident or an out-of-state resident receiving treatment in Indiana, you’re be eligible for a placard if:
  •  You have a temporary or permanent physical disability that requires you to use a  wheelchair, walker, braces or crutches
  •  You have temporarily or permanently lost the use of one or both legs
  •  You are certified by a doctor as being severely restricted in mobility, either temporarily or  permanently, by a heart condition, arthritis or orthopedic or neurological impairment
  •  You are permanently blind or visually impaired
  •  You transport eligible handicapped persons
  •  You are a certified disabled veteran
A disabled person who is eligible may use the placard in any vehicle in which he or she is riding, with the placard itself displayed on the vehicle’s dashboard. It is against the law to misrepresent your eligibility for a placard or to use the placard when no one in the car at the time is eligible, caution the authors of Indiana Laws of Aging.

So how do you go about acquiring a disability placard?
You fill out State Form 42070 (Application for Disability Parking Placard or Disability Plate).  The form must be certified by a physician with a valid and unrestricted license.  The form may be returned to the address shown on it or to any Indiana license branch..

This application may be downloaded from the website

How much does a placard cost?
A temporary disability placard costs $5.00 and is valid for six months or up until the date indicated by the certifying physician is reached, whichever comes first.  A permanent disability placard is free.

What about lost, stolen, or destroyed placards?
No fee is charged to issue a duplicate card to someone who is permanently disabled. Temporary placards cost $5 to reissue.

What’s the difference between a disability license plate and a disability placard?
A license plate is for your personal use on your own car. A placard can be moved from one vehicle to another.

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

Monday, December 28, 2015

Elder Law and Estate Planning - All About People

Completing her studies at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Columbus, Indiana native wasn’t sure exactly what specialty area of the law she wanted to make her life’s work. She knew only that her career needed to be devoted to helping people. True to that intention, she spent years serving on countless boards of non-profit groups and clubs. Most recently in law school, Lewis served on the executive board of the pro bono Tenants Assistance and was an active member in the pro bono Immigration Project and Women in the Law Society.

When it came time for her to clerk for the summer, Lewis asked friends and colleagues for recommendations. Serendipitously, she was steered to Geyer & Associates, where she served as a summer associate both her 1L and 2L summers. Learning, to her delight, the extent to which the Geyer & Associates’ mantra “Compassionate Counsel for Every Generation” had become an integral part of every aspect in the practice, Lewis knew she had found the right place to launch her career. 

Today, as Geyer & Associates’ newest associate attorney, Ms. Lewis is a member of the Indiana State Bar Association, where she has become active in the Elder Law and Probate, Trust & Real Property Sections.  Ms. Lewis is also an active member of the Indianapolis Bar Association, where she participates in the Estate Planning and Administration Section and its Women and the Law Division.

Kimberly Lewis has gotten involved in the local community since joining Geyer & Associates, joining OneZone, the Hamilton Country Chamber of Commerce and its Young Professionals Division.

Lewis’ excitement over finishing law school and launching her law career was marred when, earlier this year, she lost her own beloved father. Lewis hopes the experience of losing a loved one and serving as administrator for his estate will help her better guide clients through the process of estate administration and make her a better attorney.

Every day, Kimberly Lewis becomes more and more involved in her work in elder law, estate planning and estate administration at Geyer & Associates.  As she’d always imagined as a student, elder law and estate planning are all about helping people.

- by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team

Kimberly Lewis

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Directives for Home and Hospital

Documents appointing an agent to act and providing instructions about your health care wishes when you are not able to make them yourself are called health care advance directives, explains Charles Sabatino, director of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging.

There are several different types of advance directive documents, and it’s very important to understand how each of these documents functions, and to document your wishes appropriately.  Indiana’s most recent advance directive is the POST form.  The Indiana POST Program went into effect in July of 2013, for persons with advance chronic progressive disease, frailty, or terminal conditions. Unlike a living will, which may be used by any adult, the POST form is not intended for persons with a long life expectancy, and it must be executed in conjunction with a physician and the individual (or the individual's Authorized Representative, Guardian or Power of Attorney).

An individual with a POST form should expect that the declarations on the form be complied with across all healthcare settings, which means that the form is legally acceptable by EMS Providers,  extended care facilities, hospitals and hospice Care.

The POST form has six sections which allow a patient to determine the type of care he or she wishes to receive based upon his/her medical condition:

Section A:      Code Status - does the patient want full resuscitation or not?
Section B:      Level of Medical Intervention – does the patient want full medical intervention such as IVs, fluids, and cardiac interventions, or limited medical intervention with only pain medication and items to help keep the patient comfortable?
Section C:     Antibiotics – does the patient wish to receive antibiotics or not?
Section D:     Artificial nutrition – does the patient want food via artificial means?
Section E:     Documents that a discussion occurred with the patient or the 
                      representative with appropriate signatures
Section F:      Physician signature and identifiers

A recent landmark study by the Institute of Medicine concluded that 70% of older adults facing treatment decisions are incapable of making those decisions themselves. At Geyer & Associates, we believe YOU have the right (and the obligation - to yourself and your loved ones) to choose who will make health care decisions should you become incapacitated.

Advance directives ensure that your wishes will be respected and carried out.

by Rebecca W. Geyer

Monday, December 21, 2015

Directives Need To Be Done in Advance

“Advance care planning is a process for setting goals and plans with respect to medical care and treatment,” explains Charles Sabatino, director of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging. Documents appointing a representative and setting forth instructions about your health care wishes when you are not able to make them yourself are called advance directives.

Advance directive documents include:

1.   Living will – allows you to determine if you want your life artificially prolonged by tubes and machines;

2.   Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney – allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself;

3.   Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment – allows individuals with a chronic or terminal illness or chronic frailty to determine the scope and extent of treatment they wish to received related to the illness from which they suffer.

Sabatino wants to debunk many of the myths and misunderstandings people have about advance directives:

Myth: Each state has its own form and you have to use that form for your document to be valid.  Truth: Most states do not require a particular form, but there may be witnessing requirements for documents.

Myth: Advance directives are legally binding and doctors have to follow them.
Truth: Doctors can refuse to comply with your wishes if they consider them medically inappropriate, but they have an obligation to help transfer you to another health care provider who will comply. 

Myth: An advance directive means “do not treat”.

Truth: The document can express both what you want and what you don’t want.  You should always be given “palliative care” to keep you pain-free and comfortable, addressing medical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs.

Myth: If I name a health care proxy or representative, I will be giving up the right to make my own decisions. 
Truth: You always have the right to override the decision or revoke the directive.

Myth: If my advance directive says “do not resuscitate”, emergency technicians will not resuscitate me if 911 is called.
Truth: EMS must attempt to resuscitate you and transport you to a hospital except in the case of people with terminal illnesses who have in place out-of-hospital DNR orders.

Myth: Advance directives are only for older people.

Truth: Every adult should have an advance directive.

Directives need to be done in advance!  We encourage all individuals to have health care documents in place, and even more importantly, to discuss their specific wishes with their family.

- by Corinna A Smith of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates

Friday, December 18, 2015

Social Ssecurity Strategy and Your Estate Plan

If you’re part of a couple and younger than age 62, some new rules about Social Security that were included in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 may have you making some changes in your estate plan.
(Older than that? Well, if you’re going to be turning 66 by April of 2016, there might still be time to take advantage of the Social Security system before the new rules take effect.)

Quick review of what’s going away:
  • The earliest age to claim retirement Social Security benefits is 62.
  • “Full retirement age” is 66 for those born between 1943 and 1954, 67 for those born in 1960 or later.
  • The latest age to claim maximum benefits is age 70.
  • “File and suspend” strategy: An individual waiting to file until full retirement age had the option to elect the spousal benefit (one-half of his or her spouse’s social security amount) as early as age 62 and then switch to the worker’s benefit by age 70.Meanwhile, the worker’s benefit would continue to increase with deferral credits, allowing them to draw more at age 70.

The “file and suspend” strategy allowed couples to collect some money in additional income now, and still benefit from the increase in benefits later. “Without the ability to get that spousal benefit to supplement their other income, many couples wouldn't have been able to delay taking the worker's primary benefit until a later age, missing out on higher benefits for the rest of their lives. The alternative would have been to give up on spousal benefits potentially for years, costing tens of thousands of dollars in lost Social Security payments,” explains Dan Caplinger of

The new budget deal eliminates those “file and suspend” benefits, because, if the primary worker suspends, his or her spouse or children (who are getting benefits based on that worker’s earnings history) will have their benefits suspended as well.
While the attorneys at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates do not offer tax advice, estate planning and tax planning overlap. At Geyer & Associates our goal is to coordinate our efforts with those of other advisors in order to address all aspects of clients’ financial plan.  We can assist you in maximizing your Social Security benefits to achieve the most income during your retirement years.
- by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates blog team

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Is Making an Anatomical Gift Part of Your Estate Plan?

As we provide in-depth counseling to individuals and families, Geyer & Associates fields many questions about the most personal type of bequest any person can make to another – an anatomical gift.

The authors of the Indiana Laws of Aging Handbook discuss the medical need for anatomical gifts. There is a need for not only organ transplants such as heart, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, liver, and intestines, but also a need for tissues such as cornea, skin, bone marrow, heart valves and connective tissue to treat otherwise catastrophic illnesses. “Donation of one’s (entire) body can, if appropriately planned, reduce or eliminate funeral and interment costs,” they add.

Who can make an anatomical gift in Indiana for a transplant or for use in medical education or science?
  • Any individual of sound mind who is at least 18 years of age
  • Persons under 18 who have the consent of a parent or guardian
  • A family member or guardian after your death

There are several ways in which you can direct that an anatomical gift be made:

  • In your will
  • By completing a donor card
  • By indicating your wish on your driver’s license
  • In a document signed by you and by two witnesses
    (Remember, you can change or revoke a gift at any time.)
Regardless of how you indicate the gift, the Handbook authors advise you should discuss your wishes with your family, with caregivers, and with one of the following organizations:
  1. Indiana Organ Procurement Organization
  2. Indiana Lions Eye & Tissue Transplant Bank
  3. I.U. School of Medicine Anatomical Education Program
  4. General Organ Donation Information (national)

One of the most frequently asked questions of I.U Anatomical Education Program’s staff is “Do whole-body anatomical gift donors typically have a funeral?“  The answer: “Some people have a funeral service after which the body is brought to the Anatomical Education Program; others have the body brought to the Medical Center, with a memorial service at a church or funeral home at a later time.”

At Geyer & Associates, we can discuss your organ donation options with you and ensure that your wishes are carried out at your death.
- by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates blog team

Friday, December 11, 2015

Is Your Safety Deposit Box in Sync With Your Estate Plan?

“Renting a bank safe-deposit box can help secure important personal documents, collectibles, and
family heirlooms," says Paul Bomberger of, "but it's important to make
wise decisions about what goes in the box and to stipulate who has access to it."

Items experts recommend storing in a safety-deposit box include, Bomberger says:
  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates
  • Insurance policies
  • Property deeds
  • Rare coins
  • Jewelry
  • Irreplaceable family photos
  • Stock or bond certificates
  • Foreign currency

Items that should be left out of the box include:
  • Cash (it will not be insured by FDIC)
  • Wills (a court order usually is needed to retrieve it once the box holder dies)*
  • Insurance cards (you need to be able to access these quickly)

When clients of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates request that we keep their documents, we retain their originals in a fireproof area, and we keep electronic copies that are backed up every fifteen minutes.

Who has access to a bank safe-deposit box while the box holder is alive?
  • All people whose names are listed on the signature card at the bank
  • An individual who has power of attorney for the box holder

Who has access after the box holder dies?
  • Anyone who is a co-renter of the box
  • A trustee appointed to oversee assets in the trust. The probate courts may require the items in the personal box to be reviewed under probate to determine if they are qualified as trust assets or not. This is why naming the trust as the owner is the best move.
  • The executor of the estate (but not necessarily immediately)

Many people don’t realize this: a power of attorney loses authority to act on your behalf upon your death.  This means that unless a co-renter is listed on the box, probate will likely be needed to open and access the box’s contents.
At Geyer & Associates, we can assist with the proper management of your documents, and the titling of your assets, including safe deposit boxes.

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

Thursday, December 10, 2015

When Going Joint Causes Problems

Joint ownership - whether of property or of bank and investment accounts - is convenient.  And yes, joint ownership of assets is one way to avoid probate.  But as we often find it necessary to remind our clients, it’s important to understand the consequences of joint ownership.

The authors of the Indiana Laws of Aging Handbook agree. They remind readers that there may be some unintended consequences when property is held jointly:

  • There may be tax consequences in any transfer of change of ownership in real estate.
  • Any party to a joint account may withdraw all or part of the funds without the consent of the other.
  • You cannot assume that money left in a joint account will be divided according to the provisions in your will.
  • If, after your death, your bills and expenses cannot be satisfied by other assets in your estate, your joint bank accounts can be used to cover allowable expenses and taxes.
In Your Living Trust & Estate Plan, Harvey J. Platt points out three more potential hazards of joint ownership:

  • The creation of a joint interest may be subject to gift taxes.
  • If joint owners die simultaneously, assets could pass to those not intended (absent a valid will or living trust, the nearest blood relatives of each joint owners would each receive half the value of the account).  
  • From an estate tax point of view, there is a very distinct potential downside to joint ownership of property - the “stepped-up value” factor of the property is lost. What does that mean? When an individual property owner dies, the income tax basis value of the property for estate tax purposes is increased to the fair market value at the time of the owner’s death (or in certain cases, the value six months after death). That “step-up” can reduce or even eliminate capital gains tax on the property.
Joint ownership of property has its advantages, to be sure, including convenience and probate avoidance. It also, as shown here, carries with it distinct downsides. At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, our goal is to tailor each estate plan to take advantage of joint ownership while stepping around the pitfalls!.

- by Rebecca W. Geyer

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Going Joint

“It’s important to understand the consequences of joint ownership of property,” caution the authors of the Indiana Laws of Aging Handbook. At Geyer & Associates, we agree. As we provide in-depth counseling to individuals and families, we find that in many instances joint ownership seems in accordance with clients’ objectives, but it should not be used as a substitute for a will or trust. 

There are three basic types of co-ownership of property:
  1. Joint ownership with right of survivorship
  2. Tenancies in common
  3. Community property (this applies in only nine states, not including Indiana)

Real estate ownership
It’s common for spouses to hold title to their home or other real estate in joint name with rights of survivorship. Under this arrangement, upon the death of either spouse, the property passes automatically to the other (no matter what the will might say to the contrary).  Two individuals not married to each other can hold property in this way as well.

Two people, whether married to each other or not, can also share ownership of property as tenants in common. When one dies, ownership of the property does not pass automatically to the other, but follows the instructions in the deceased person’s will.

Bank accounts
Spouses often have joint bank accounts and investment accounts. It’s also quite common for older people to have joint accounts with a child or other trusted relative.  Sometimes this is done for convenience, because the older person might have trouble getting to the bank or is anticipating an illness or recovery from surgery. As the Indiana Laws of Aging Handbook points out, “Typically the elderly person has no intention of giving the child or relative any rights to take and keep the money now.”

Under Indiana law, any party to a joint account may withdraw all or part of the funds without the consent of the other. Any money remaining in the account when one joint owner dies belongs to the survivor named in the account (even if the will says otherwise).

Bank accounts may also be set up as “Transfer on death” (TOD) or “pay on death” (POD), which is like putting a beneficiary designation on a bank account. Money in such accounts remains the sole property of the person who opened the account, and stays completely in that person’s control during his/her lifetime. Only upon death is money transferred to the persons named as recipients.

Joint ownership of property has its advantages, including convenience and probate avoidance. It also, as Harvey J. Platt points out in Your Living Trust & Estate Plan,  carries with it distinct downsides. We’ll be discussing some of those downsides in our next blog post….

- by Corrina A. Smith of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Guardianship - Yes or No?

When a person can no longer manage property or provide self-care, a guardianship may be appropriate,” explains the Indiana Laws of Aging Handbook. On the other hand, the Indiana Bar Foundation authors caution, “Sometimes guardianships are unnecessarily imposed on persons who are capable of making their own decisions.”

What, exactly does the term “guardian” mean? A guardian is someone appointed by a court to make decisions for an incapacitated person.  In Indiana, conservator and guardian mean the same thing.
Who can serve as guardian or conservator?
  • Any capable adult
  • A county Division of Family and Children
  • A private charity
  • A corporation

What makes a person “incapacitated”? They are incapable of providing self care, of managing their property, or both, due to:
  • Infirmity
  • Insanity
  • Mental illness
  • Alcoholism
  • Excessive drug use

“Old age is never a basis upon which guardianship can be granted,” the authors stress.
And what is more, a person who has one or more of the problems listed above is not necessarily incapacitated, because, even people with one of those conditions might be capable of providing self care and managing their own affairs..

Any interested person may file a petition for the appointment of a guardian of an incapacitated person, but the filer will not necessarily be the person who will be appointed guardian. Notice that a petition has been filed must go to:
  • The person alleged to be incapacitated
  • Parents
  • Spouse
  • Adult children
  • At least one person closely related by blood or marriage (of there are no living parents, spouse, or adult children)

“The court should always look to the least restrictive alternative available to protect the interests of the incapacitated person,” creating limited guardianship wherever appropriate to encourage the self-improvement, self-reliance and independence of the protected person, the Handbook authors caution.

- by Rebecca W. Geyer

Monday, November 30, 2015

Leaving Room for Charity in Your Estate Plan

Building charitable giving into your estate plan is a wonderful way to extend your generosity and leave a meaningful legacy.  And it’s not just for the very wealthy, says Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, President of the Charles Schwab Foundation.

Do you want to benefit a charitable organization or cause?  Your estate plan can provide for such organizations in a variety of ways, not only upon death, but even during your lifetime. At Geyer & Associates, we find that many of our clients are interested in doing just that, particularly once they learn that planned giving programs can be a win-win.  Not only can they benefit causes meaningful to them, our clients find, they can:
  •  receive a stream of income during their own lives
  • earn higher investment yields
  • reduce capital gains taxes
  • reduce estate taxes.
There are several different categories of charitable planning, each carrying its own special combination of “selfish” and “selfless” benefits:

1. Making an outright gift to a charity or to several charities through a will or trust can benefit the charity and possibly reduce the size of a taxable estate, potentially increasing the amount heirs receive.

2. Donating retirement plan assets to charity. When a charity is the beneficiary of an IRA or other retirement account, the money goes 100% to that charity, because charities are exempt from income and estate taxes. “Less is more”, with fewer actual dollars packing more of a charitable giving “punch”.  Meanwhile, non-qualified (non-retirement account) assets, which don’t carry such a heavy tax burden, can be left to family members.

3. Making a split-interest or “combo” gift. You want to donate assets to a charity, but you need to retain some benefits for yourself. Benefits to you might reducing capital gains tax on the assets you transfer into a charitable trust, plus an income during your retirement years.

Accomplishing practical estate planning solutions is the goal for the attorneys of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates.  When a well-constructed estate plan leaves room for worthy causes to benefit while still protecting family members, we consider that an estate planning success story!

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

Friday, November 27, 2015

Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid - Being Disorganized

This month’s Hoosier Estate Planning blog posts are focused on celebrities who made estate planning mistakes. (Since these stories have been covered in the media – in contrast to the strict confidentiality in which Geyer & Associates’ clients’ estate planning conversations are held – they make good “textbooks” on mistakes to avoid. Interestingly enough, Michael Jackson is an example of someone who “did it right” when it came to organizing his affairs….
“People often have multiple bank accounts, investment accounts, insurance policies, and assets, and U.S.News. “For someone who runs a business, that task gets even more complicated,” she adds. Michael Jackson WAS his own family business, Palmer says. He had memorabilia, rights to Beatles’ songs, and royalties to albums, in addition to all his own financial and personal assets.

Yet, despite all this complexity, (and despite being a man who lived so controversial a life), says Jane Bennet Clark in Kiplinger’s, Michael Jackson did something surprisingly sensible before his death – he set up a smart estate plan:
that can complicate matters for those trying to make sense of an estate,” says Kimberly Palmer, writing in
  •  He transferred his property, including cars, bank accounts, and real estate it the Michael Jackson Family Trust, maintaining control as trustee. 
  • He set up his will to “pour over”, so that any property remaining outside the trust at his death would be added to the trust. 
  • He created a legal framework for naming a guardian for his children, along with a backup guardian.
  • He named an attorney and a business executive as co-executors of his well and co-trustees of the trust (Despite a challenge by a family member, Jackson’s wishes were upheld by the court).
The attorneys of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, PC are dedicated to providing in-depth counseling to individuals and families to accomplish practical estate planning solutions in a timely and cost-effective manner. We work to understand your particular goals and concerns so that we can design an estate plan that accomplishes your objectives. Our focus is on helping you get organized!

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid - Choosing the Wrong Guardian

Continuing our November Hoosier Estate Planning focus on celebrity estate planning mistakes, today we talk about providing guardianship provisions for minor children...

Anna Nicole Smith’s heirs argued over the care of her daughter. Failure to choose the correct guardians for minor children as part of an estate plan turns out to be one of the most common sources of tension in families, Kimberly Palmer, writing in U.S. News, points out.

At Geyer & Associates, we know that appointing guardians for minor children is a deeply personal decision.  At the same time, while this task is one of the most important things to accomplish, it is also one of the most challenging.

Lewis Saret, writing in Forbes, lists several factors parents should consider when selecting a guardian:
  •  The age of the child. Older and more mature children should be afforded some input in the process, Saret says.
  • The willingness of guardians to serve - and their ability to meet the physical and economic demands of raising an additional child.
  • Religion/moral values/child-rearing philosophy of the proposed guardians – are these compatible with those of the parents?
  • Guardians’ own family situations – are they single? Married? Do they have children of their own?
  • Economic implications. Guardians are not legally obligated to support wards out of their own pockets. Would the guardians need to move into a larger residence? Employ housekeepers or childcare providers?
The guardianship provisions in your will document your choice for  the guardian(s) and successor guardians of your children, and that choice has precedence under Indiana law.. However, even after those choices are made, Indiana requires court approval of the guardianship to ensure the best interests of the child are being met.
Another mistake is leaving assets to children as soon as they achieve majority.  When Robin Williams died in 2014, leaving an estate valued at $50 million, his trust provided for the children to receive significant assets beginning when each child turned age 21.  It’s important to consider the problems caused when young adults receive big chunks of money.  Not continuing the trust for longer also fails to protect the assets from potential creditors of the children, or could subject the inheritance to division with an ex-spouse if the child later divorces. Actor James Gandolfini made the same mistake, providing for his daughter to receive 20% of his estate (estimated at $70-80 million) at age 21!

As estate planning attorneys, we know careful planning is needed to protect the people most important to you, including your children. Choosing the right guardians for minor children, and determining the best ways to protect them from financial pitfalls, is one of the most important, challenging, and rewarding aspects of estate planning.

- by Corinna A. Smith of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid - Not Anticipating Challenges

This November, many of our Hoosier Estate Planning blog posts are devoted to highlighting estate planning pitfalls to avoid. Some big mistakes made by celebrities help make the point…
Not every plan follows the usual pattern of leaving assets to family members and favorite charities. If your wishes involve arrangements that are somewhat different from the “normal”, it may become important for your heirs to prove you were mentally competent at the time you created this unique estate plan.

Hotel tycoon Leona Helmsley cut two of her grandchildren out of her $5 billion estate, and left $12 million for her dog.  The grandchildren sued, claiming that Helmsley had not been mentally fit at the time she created her will and trust. The lesson, says Forbes contributor Erik Carter, is this:  If you’re planning do anything unusual that might leave family members disgruntled, have an attorney, and perhaps even a physician, conduct an evaluation attesting to your mental capacity to make a will.

A second example Carter cites is blues singer Etta James, whose spouse and son fought over James’ competency to sign a power of attorney. Sign your power of attorney, Carter advises clients, long before you need it.

“Proper execution of a legal instrument requires that the person signing have sufficient mental capacity to understand the implications of the document,” explains
One side of that issue, the authors go on to explain, is that “capacity” isn’t a rigid black line, where either you have it or you don’t. In fact, a client’s abilities can change from day to day, depending on the course of an illness, on fatigue levels, and on the effects of medication.

At Geyer & Associates, we deal with many different situations. If the client’s wishes are ‘typical” (say giving the estate to the spouse, and then to the children equally, should the spouse not survive the client), it may be less important to prove capacity. But what if a client wants to give her estate entirely to one child, with nothing passing to the other children? We suspect a challenge to our client’s mental competence might later arise.

As elderlawanswers points out, “Doctors and psychiatrists cannot themselves make a determination as to whether an individual has capacity to undertake a legal commitment, but they can provide a professional evaluation of the person that will help an attorney make this decision.”

The question that our attorneys must clients answer as we’re working together on estate planning documents, is this: “Is anyone likely to challenge this transaction?”
- by  Rebecca W. Geyer

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid - Trying DIY

This month in our Hoosier Estate Planning blog, we’re highlighting pitfalls to avoid by recalling some big mistakes made by celebrities…
Ten years ago, when Chief Justice Warren Burger died, his estate was worth $1.8 million. There’s something to be said for brevity, says Ashlea Ebeling in Forbes magazine, but in the case of Burger, writing his own 176-word will cost the family dearly. $450,000 was paid in estate taxes. To add insult to injury, the executor had to pay to get approved to perform duties such as selling real estate (something a well-drafted document would have allowed for without court approval.)

“Yes, it can be painful to pay for estate planning,” Deborah L Jacobs of the Forbes staff allows.
After all, she says, the benefits of a plan are delayed, and you don’t live to see them anyway!
And, in theory, she adds, you can use books or software and websites that spew out documents for free.

The trouble with do-it-yourself planning, Jacobs points out, is that even if your situation seems simple, there are many oddball things a layman wouldn’t think of that can go wrong, especially with a will, and these mistakes can end up costing your heirs a lot more (including in terms of aggravation) than you save in legal fees on the front end.

The value a lawyer adds is in big part related to spotting pitfalls or opportunities unique to your situation, Jacobs adds. If you still want to use do-it-yourself software, advises Jonathan G. Blattmachr of InterActive Legal, consider hiring a lawyer to review your self-prepared documents.

At Geyer & Associates, we think life’s journey is fraught with changes that take place long before a person departs this world leaving an estate to manage. These changes (such as marriage, divorce, children, a new business, retirement, and incapacity) require careful planning to protect the people most important to you and the assets you’ve worked to achieve.

Creating a change-responsive estate plan is hardly a one-time nor a do-it-yourself project!

- by  Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid - Conflicting Directions

 We’re devoting several of our Hoosier Estate Planning blogs this month to estate planning mistakes made by celebrities.  We hope our clients learn from these stories and avoid making those same mistakes.
In his will, famous baseball player Ted Williams said he wished to be cremated. But his children from a second marriage produced a note written by Williams saying his wished to be put in biostatis (“frozen”) after his death. Williams’ eldest daughter fought to have the body unfrozen and cremated, but gave up the fight when she ran out of money.

The lesson here:  If you change your mind about your burial wishes, do two things:

1. Change your will, either by adding a codicil to the original will, or having a new will created; or
2. Create a special document with instructions about:
  •  Whether you want a funeral of memorial service and if so, where it should be held
  •  Whether you want to be cremated
  • Where you want to be buried or where you would like your ashes stored, distributed, or disposed of.
As the attorneys at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates have often seen, by the time a will or trust is located and read, family members may have gone ahead and made decisions about the disposition of remains and about the service.  Even when the directions are not conflicting, too often, they are simply not found in time!

In contrast to the case of Ted Williams, it’s interesting to note that singer Janis Joplin updated her will with instructions for $2,500 to be set aside for a party in her honor.

Where there’s a will – and where there are documents with instructions – there’s a way to make sure your funeral wishes are carried out.

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

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid - No Updating

As a way of helping our clients learn from other’s mistakes, we’re devoting several of our blog posts this month to describe estate planning pitfalls by recalling some big mistakes made by celebrities.
Unlike music legend Jimi Hendrix, who died at 27 without a will, actor Heath Ledger had prepared a will.  Unfortunately, that will was written three years before Ledger died at age 28, prior to his relationship with Michelle Williams and the birth of their daughter, Matilda Rose. The will left everything to Ledger’s sister and to his parents.

The lesson here: Once you’ve drafted the will, it’s important to keep it up to date to make sure it still meets your needs and that your property will be distributed according to your wishes. When should you consider writing a new will?
  •  You get married or divorced 
  • You are unmarried, but have a new partner
  • The amount of money and property you own significantly changes
  • You move to another state (not all states recognize out-of-state Wills as valid)
  •  Your executor or a significant beneficiary in your will dies
  • There is a birth or adoption of a child in your family
  •  You change your mind about the provisions in your will.
  •  Guardians whom you’ve appointed to care for your children become ill or die

Of course, at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, we explain that there are other documents besides the will that are key in creating a comprehensive estate plan, including:
  •  Trusts
  • General Durable Power of Attorney
  • Appointment of Health Care Representative
  •  HIPAA Authorization
  •  Living Will

As changing life circumstances dictate, all of the documents need to be updated. The lesson suggested in our celebrity estate planning stories is simple:

Where there’s a will – one that is updated as circumstances change - there’s a way to avoid unintended estate consequences!

By Corrina of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates

Monday, November 9, 2015

Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid - Missing Will

We can all learn from our mistakes, but it’s better to learn from others’ mistakes, I think you’ll agree. This month in our Hoosier Estate Planning blog, we’re learning about pitfalls to avoid by recalling some big estate planning mistakes made by celebrities.

When Olympic sprinter Florence Griffith-Joyner died at age 38, her husband couldn’t find her original will, and therefore failed to file it with the probate court within 30 days of her death as required under California law. (In Indiana, the will is probated in the country where the deceased person lived at the time of his or her death and should be filed within three years of an individual’s death). Joyner’s mother got into a dispute with the husband over a promise Flo-Jo had made that her mother could live in their house the rest of her life. Since the original will was never filed, the judge eventually appointed a third party to administer the estate.

A will is for making one’s wishes known.  “Writing your will may be one of the most important things you’ll ever do.  A properly drafted will can help ensure that your property is divided the way you intended and benefits the people you intended,” explains. But what if there is no will to be found? The laws of intestacy (no last will and testament) kick in, which may mean the person’s real wishes are never carried out.

In fact, an original last will and testament is needed, not only a copy.  Before the court can accept a copy, as the Virginia Supreme Court clarified earlier this year, the person representing the deceased “must overcome a presumption that the original was destroyed by the testator with the intent of revoking the last will.”

So, not only is it important to document your wishes in a will, your loved ones must be able to find it! “Tell at least two people you trust where to find your will,” cautions Ashlea Ebeling of Forbes.

Possible places to store documents include bank safety deposit boxes, a cabinet at home, or a fire-resistant lock box. Sometimes clients of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates request that we keep their documents. We retain the originals in a fireproof area, and we keep electronic copies that are backed up every fifteen minutes.

It’s important to avoid the mistake of the missing will!

By Rebecca W. Geyer

Friday, November 6, 2015

Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid - No Will

Music legend Jimi Hendrix was only 27 when he died.  It’s always tragic when someone loses his life at such a young age; in Hendrix’s case, his death was also a financial tragedy for his close brother, Leon.  Why? Jimi died without a will, and, under California state law, their father, Al, inherited everything.  According to Forbes, Al went on to build his son’s musical legacy into an $80 million venture.  Then, in his own will, Al cut out Leon and Leon’s family, leaving everything to his own adopted daughter from a later marriage.

“While people often think that only the elderly need to have a will, it is advisable for adults of all ages to have one, points out. “Without a will, your wishes will be irrelevant, and the state will decide how to distribute your estate.”

“A will is a legal document that comes into effect on your death.  By making a will, you are deciding who should look after your affairs after you’ve died. You also decide who should benefit from the estate and who should not,” Lucy Thomas teaches in  Yet, according to United Way, more than 60% of people in our country die without a will.

Even young adults without families can benefit from having a Last Will and Testament, continues Few young adults are in a position to leave a financial legacy as valuable as Jimi Hendrix’s, you might be thinking. Yet, if there are any special personal possessions or assets you might want to go to particular family members or friends upon your death, with no legal document in place, those heirlooms and mementos might instead be sold at auction with the money going to the government.

Once you’ve drafted the will, it’s important to keep it up to date as your circumstances change.  At Geyer Law, we work with individuals of many different ages, and with people who find themselves in some very different situations.  We know each case demands very personalized attention and estate planning, beginning with a will!

Where there’s a will, there’s a way to avoid unintended estate consequences!`

By Corrina of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Is It Financially Smart for Older Couples to Marry? Maybe!

“Meet with an elder care attorney to see what your options are,” personal finance author Jane Bryant Quinn recommends, referring to the question of whether marriage is a good financial move for older couples.

Saying “I do”, Quinn points out, is the key to accessing state and federal spousal and survivor benefits. If one of the couple doesn’t qualify for Medicare on his or her own, marriage will allow them to access those benefits.

As spouses filing income taxes jointly, married couples may enjoy some tax savings, and a spouse inheriting an IRA account will get better tax benefits than an unmarried partner under Minimum Required Distribution rules, Quinn mentions.

On the other hand, “I don’t” can preserve widows’ and widowers’ pension benefits or veterans’ benefits that would be lost upon remarriage.

One very important potential disadvantage of tying the knot, Quinn warns, is that spouses can be held responsible for each other’s medical bills, potentially including bills for long-term care.

(The Indiana Supreme Court extended “secondary liability” to both spouses and found medical expenses to be a necessary expense. The debtor spouse retains primary liability for necessary expenses and is responsible for the entire medical debt they incur. If the cost of medical care exceeds the debtor spouse’s separate funds and the debtor spouse is dependent on a financially superior spouse, then secondary liability is imposed on the non-debtor spouse.)
This medical bill responsibility issue, Quinn is careful to point out, trumps any prenuptial agreements. A live-in partner would not be liable for the ill partner’s bills.

The case for marriage isn’t as solid as it often sounds,” concludes Quinn, “especially for older couples of any sex.  Sometimes it pays to live together in unwedded bliss.” Traditional values and romance often rule the decision, Quinn acknowledges.  Still, she cautions, if you decide to get married, “it is best to know how that choices affects your finances.”

At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, our lawyers work with couples of many different ages in very different situations.  We know each case demands very personalized estate and elder law planning, and we provide individualized recommendations to meet each client’s particular needs.
 - by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team

Friday, October 30, 2015

Estate Planning for GenX is No Simple Matter

Estate planning is no longer about just death and death taxes, Seth Kaplan and Josh Goldglantz point out in Financial Advisor magazine. That’s particularly the case with Generation X (those born between the early 1960s and the early 1980s). Just some of the issues Gen Xers have to contemplate, the authors point out, include:
  • Protection from potential claims by creditors
  • Personal income tax planning
  • Access to social media accounts
  • Digital assets, including domain names, email accounts, and bitcoins

Technology has everything to do with complicating Gen Xers’ affairs, as “social media have significantly changed the way we live and communicate with others”, Kaplan and Goldglantz add.

Access during the “virtual afterlife”:
  • Social media accounts often contain personal messages, photos, videos and other information of an extremely private nature.
  • Social media websites have strict privacy policies that bar even family members from having access to the accounts

Determination of assets:
  • With so much banking and bill payment happening online, it has become difficult for executors to determine the extent of a person’s assets after he or she dies.
  • Email services have strict user agreements protecting privacy of the accounts

A person may be in possession of far more digital assets than they realize, as this can include everything from music to movies and books purchased over the Internet, say the attorneys of the New York law firm of Connors & Sullivan.

Despite all these unique issues, “Gen X and Millennials often times consider estate planning to be unnecessary, because they believe they do not have enough assets to justify going through the estate planning process,” Courtney Babiak of Illinois’ Peterman Financial Group observes.

Thinking that dying only happens to old people is a stumbling block when trying to get younger folks to think about estate planning, quips Boston Certified Financial Planner Dee Lee. “No generation gets out of this world alive,” she warns.

At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, our lawyers advise members of different generations (and often advise several generations within a single family). We’re keenly aware that unique issues face GenXers.  We know estate planning for Generation X is no simple matter!
- by  Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

IRAs Pose Special Estate Planning Challenges

When it comes to estate planning, you might say assets are assets, except when those assets are in an Individual Retirement Account.  It’s not enough, for example, to simply divide your total assets equally among your three children – at least not if some of those assets are in an IRA. The rather complex laws and rules relating to the distribution of assets out of IRAs demand special care and attention, first in setting up the account, later in distributing the assets to heirs.

Those “special problems” become even more challenging when the beneficiary of the IRA is not a person or people, but an estate.

When an IRA owner dies, it will be necessary to determine if he or she died before or after beginning to take Required Minimum Distributions.  The Required Beginning Date, or RBD, is April 1st of the year after the IRA owner reaches age 70 ½.  Suppose Elise dies after her RBD, but before having taken her distribution, and the beneficiary is her estate.  The personal representative will need to request the distribution and income tax will be owed on it.

If the named beneficiaries of an IRA are individuals, the IRA distribution period can be “stretched out” over that person’s (or over the oldest of several persons’) life expectancy. That, of course, means less tax will be paid because the distributions will be small. If the estate (or a charity) is named as the IRA beneficiary, on the other hand, the assets will need to be distributed over a five year period at the maximum.

Very often, it is the personal representative (who may also be an heir) who is turning to the attorneys at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates for help sorting all this out.  Of course, the need for additional guidance is motivated by the desire to save on income taxes.

Will it be necessary to keep the estate open for many years if the distribution period is to be based on the deceased’s own life expectancy in order to preserve the tax deferral?  The answer is no. The inherited IRA can be distributed to the beneficiaries of the estate, using the value of the account as of Dec. 31st of the year before the transfers are made.  The beneficiary will still be required to take distributions in accordance with the applicable distribution period for the estate, but the estate itself can be closed.

IRAs can certainly pose special estate planning challenges!


- by  Rebecca W. Geyer

Friday, October 23, 2015

That Isn't to Say You Should Keep Everything

Yes, you can avoid many problems by securing your important documents, and telling your family where they are stored, concedes Saaabira Chaudhuri, writing in the Wall Street Journal. But that isn’t to say you should keep everything, she warns. “Sometimes people hold onto so many papers that loved ones can’t find the important ones easily.”
To prove the point, Chaudhuri tells the story of Jane B. and her 87-year old mother.  It took the pair an entire year to go through all the mom’s papers, “which included documents from eight bank accounts, utility bills from the 1950s and reams of cancelled checks.”  When the mother died in 2009, Ms. B. estimated that having the documents organized ahead of time “spared me from ordering an additional 15 copies of the death certificate and ‘years of time’!”

In addition to estate planning documents such as:

  • Will
  • Revocable trust
  • Letter of instruction
  • Durable financial power of attorney
  • Healthcare power of attorney,

other documents that can be important in helping family members settle your affairs include:

  • list of financial accounts and online log-in information
  • list of loans you made to others
  • tax returns for the most recent three years
  • safety deposit box information
  • life insurance policies, including those granted by your employer after retirement
  • list of pensions and annuities
  • marriage license
  • qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) from a divorce
  • child support, alimony and property settlements
  • list of important advisors such as accountant, attorney and financial advisor

The attorneys at Geyer Law know that organizing paperwork may mean culling the documents which are important. That isn’t to say you should keep everything; just what is necessary.

- by  Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Guyer blog team

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Leaving Lessons Along With Assets

Since estate planning is really about the next generation rather than about one’s own, it quite often occurs that our conversations with Geyer Law clients “branch off” into discussions about the best way to pass on wisdom about money management to younger family members.

And since in estate planning, more than in other types of legal discussions, we’re reminded how fleeting life can be and how precious time is, it gives us attorneys the chance to muse on the impact of time on the value of money.

The National Endowment for Financial Education published a document on this very subject, comparing three different hypothetical scenarios:

  1. Scenario #1: Starting Early
    In this scenario, an individual saves $1,000 a year for ten years, starting at age 16 and going through age 25, then puts no more into the account.  By age 50, assuming an annualized 9% rate of return, the $10,000 would have grown to $131,010.
  2. Scenario #2: Starting Later
    This individual does not begin to save until he is 26 years old, but then saves $1,000 every year, investing a total of $25,000. At his age 50, making the same 9% assumption, the account is worth $84,701. With $15,000 more dollars in, the ending value is much, much less.
  3. Scenario #3: A Lifetime of investing
    The individual saves $1,000 each and every year beginning at his age 16 and continuing up to his age 50, investing a total of $35,000.  At age 50, the account would be worth $215.715.

Scenario #2 is missing the earliest ten years.  That is what makes the results of this scenario so disappointing compared to the other two.
When one of our Indiana estate planning clients asks us for wisdom to share with their children – we use this illustration from the National Endowment for Financial Education to teach about the impact of time on the value of money!

- by  Corrina A. Smith of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Can You Find Your Estate Planning Documents? Can They?

“A simple but important issue involved in estate planning is where to keep your legal documents after they are signed,” observes attorney Richard Silvester. Silvester himself recommends clients keep the originals of their own documents.  “Thirty years from now,” he cautions, “when the estate plan actually needs to be administered, it is almost certainly going to be easier to find your own paperwork than to find the attorney who prepared the documents.”

Be that as it may, when clients of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates request that we keep their documents, we retain their originals in a fireproof area, plus keep electronic copies that are backed up every fifteen minutes.

Silvester offers an important caution: Once you decide where to put your documents, take steps to remember where they are. Vitally important, he adds, is making sure someone other than yourself is able to find them.

Possible places to store documents include:
  • Safety deposit box at the bank (keeping photocopies in a binder for reference), although ensure some knows the location of the box and has access to it if you die
  • Desk drawer or cabinet at home
  • Fire-resistant lock box at home
One strange-sounding recommendation Silvester has heard is sealing important papers in plastic, then keeping them in the freezer compartment of your refrigerator.  The idea? The freezer is fire-resistant due to the insulation, and thieves would be unlikely to look there.

Whatever your decision, Silvester concludes, write it down, then give that written information to an adult child, friend, or neighbor.  For married couples, it’s important that each spouse knows the location of both wills.

Do photocopies have value? Possibly.  If nothing else, copies of a document held in different places can be compared against each other to prove that the original is legitimate.

“It isn’t enough to sign a bunch of papers establishing an estate plan and other end-of-life instructions.  You also have to make heirs aware of them and have the documents where they can find them, concludes Saabira Chaudhuri, writing in the Wall Street Journal.

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Life Insurance Can Be a Lifesaver if Paid at the Right Time

There is such a thing as doing the right thing, and for the right person, but at the wrong time; there is also such a thing as doing the right thing, but in the wrong way.

In the area of estate planning, life insurance is one of those right things that can go very wrong.  At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, we know how mistakes in planning can cause good intentions to have unwanted results.
“The proceeds of life insurance are often payable to a beneficiary at the wrong time,” writes Stephan Leimberg in How does Leimberg define “wrong” when it comes to the timing of a beneficiary’s receiving life insurance proceeds? “Before that person is emotionally, physically, or legally capable of handling it,” Leimberg explains.

Beneficiaries often receive proceeds in “the wrong manner,” he adds, meaning outright rather than being paid over a period of years or paid into a trust. 

And what if the beneficiary is no longer alive? Leimberg questions.  Often, no contingent beneficiary has been named.  The “Rule of 2” should be applied here, he advises.  In any legal instrument that will transfer property at death, there should be at least one backup recipient named.

Yet another “wrong thing” often found in using life insurance as part of an estate plan is naming the insured’s estate as beneficiary. Doing that, Leimberg explains, needlessly subjects the proceeds to claims by the insured’s creditors, and also can result in increased probate costs.  “In most estate planning situations, life insurance should be payable only to a named beneficiary, a trust, or a business entity,” he cautions.

One of the issues commonly seen at Geyer & Associates is the designation of minor children as life insurance beneficiaries.  Under Indiana law, if a minor child receives more than $10,000 in assets from a decedent, including life insurance proceeds, a guardianship must be opened for the child.  The inherited funds are typically placed in a restricted account, and the guardian must provide receipts to be reimbursed from the collected funds.  Any funds which remain in the account when the child turns 18 are paid directly to the child, which likely was not the decedent’s intent.  Properly designating beneficiaries and understanding the consequences of those designations is extremely important.

“Traditionally, insurance companies have required beneficiaries to file claims to receive benefits from life insurance policies.  That has meant that claims sometimes are never filed – perhaps because policy documents were lost, or because beneficiaries did not know a policy existed,” wrote Ann Carrns in the New York Times. A multistate task force was created by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to combat this very problem by routinely matching policyholder records with the death master file, but “the best way to avoid problems with life insurance claims is for policyholders to discuss policies with their beneficiaries,” she notes.

At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, PC, our estate planning attorneys know our clients all want to do the right things in the right way.  An important area of our work involves using life insurance as an estate planning tool.

With proper planning, life insurance can turn out to be a life saver for beneficiaries!

- by Rebecca Geyer

Monday, October 12, 2015

"Just Between Us" Intra-Family Loans

It is not uncommon for families to make loans to children or other family members in need of funds.  “Wealthy families often run a ‘family bank’ with advances to various family members as they have liquidity needs,” explains While it may be tempting to not charge interest when loaning funds to a family member, the IRS will impute interest if it is not charged.  The rate of interest on intra-family loans is generally lower than the prevailing market interest rate in commercial transactions, attorneys Steve R. Akers and Philip J. Hayes explain. The interest rate is based on AFR, the applicable federal rate, in turn based on market yield on Treasury bonds.

The estate planning attorneys at Geyer Law might help clients use these “just between us” loans in any of the following situations:
  • Non-recourse loans to children
  • Sales to children of property or business interests in exchange for a note
  • Loans to an estate
  • Loans to life insurance trusts
  • Home mortgages for family members
  • Loans as vehicles for gifts (payments on loan are forgiven)
Besides the fact that “just between us” loans typically carry an interest rate that is lower than that charged by commercial lenders at the time, what are the main reasons for using intra-family lending?
  • To keep interest payments in the family rather than having them be paid to outside lenders.
  • A family member may have such a poor credit history that he/she can’t qualify for a loan from a commercial lender
  • Borrowing from outside lenders may entail substantial closing costs and other expenses
  • The child borrowing the money might be able to invest it and earn much more of an after-tax return than the AFR rate on the note itself.
If the parent doesn’t need the money back, wouldn’t it be better to simply make a gift to the child rather than setting up an intra-family loan? Yes, in many cases:
  • There would be less of an accounting burden (no need to keep track of the interest as it accrues to make sure it is paid regularly or reported as income) 
  • Gifts remove assets from the parent’s estate for estate tax purposes
Each family’s situation is unique, and regardless of your financial status, our goal at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates is to accomplish your objectives and to provide for your family in the best way possible.

Intra-family loans are just one tool among many to be considered in the estate planning process.
- by Corrina A. Smith

Monday, October 5, 2015

Geyer Law Offers Special Seminar on Special Needs Children

Parents of special needs children face unique challenges and legal issues. Is your child eligible for governmental benefits?  Which ones? What educational opportunities are available for your child? How do you handle an institution which is non-compliant with your child's IEP (Individualized Education Program)? How do gifts and inheritances affect the governmental benefits for which your child is eligible? Among the most challenging questions is this one:  Who will care for and financially support your child following your death?

The law firm of  Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates is hosting a free seminar, "Children with Special Needs: a Time to Plan" on Wednesday evening, October 14, from 7-8:30 PM. The seminar will be held in the conference room of Geyer & Associates at 11550 North Meridian, Suite 200.  The panel of local professionals leading the discussion will include:

  • Board Certified Indiana trust and estate lawyer Rebecca W. Geyer
  • Estate planning attorney Corrina Smith
  • Evia financial advisor Dan Reichart
There is a complex maze of federal and state laws regarding governmental benefits for special needs individuals.  One important topic which will be covered at the seminar will be Supplemental Needs Trusts, unique planning devices that help provide for people with disabilities while still protecting their government entitlements.

It is reassuring to know that the lives of special needs children can be improved through the use of special needs trust planning strategies!

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

Friday, October 2, 2015

Geyer Team Walks to End Alzheimer's

October 10th will find the attorneys and staff of Rebecca W. Geyer and Associates on the move at the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.  The world’s largest event to raise awareness and funding for Alzheimer’s care, support and research, the Walk is held annually in more than 600 communities across the nation.

Over the past sixteen years, as they’ve assisted clients with their estate planning and elder law needs, the Geyer Law attorneys and staff have come to appreciate the overwhelming challenges faced by Alzheimer’s patients and their families. A natural offshoot of the Geyer team’s empathetic and compassionate approach to elder law is their support of the Alzheimer’s Association through participation in the Walk.

“The Walk to End Alzheimer’s unites the entire community,” the Association explains.  That includes family, friends, co-workers, social and religious groups and more, in “a display of combined strength and dedication in the fight against this devastating disease.”

As part of their work as a full service estate planning and elder law firm in central Indiana, Rebecca Geyer, Corinna Smith and Kimberly Lewis have helped many family members of those afflicted with Alzheimer’s deal with guardianship, advanced directives, and end-of-life issues.  More than ever, they are committed not only to the advancement of research to eliminate Alzheimer’s, but to enhancing the care and support of all affected by this terrible disease.

Rain or shine, the Walk will begin at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on the morning of October 10th.  Thousands will participate as volunteers or walkers.  All registered walkers will receive a Promise Garden flower:
  •  Blue flowers represent those with Alzheimer’s or dementia
  • Purple is for someone who has lost a loved one to the disease
  • Yellow represents someone currently supporting or caring for someone with Alzheimer’s
  • Orange is for everyone who supports the cause

On October 10th, watch for Rebecca Geyer, Corinna, Kimberly Lewis, and Maria St. Clair as they walk because they envision a world without Alzheimer’s!

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

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place

Business consultants call it the “clean desk policy”. By having all employees clear their desks at the end of each work day, including documents, notes, business cards, and flash drives, the organization reduces the risk of information theft, fraud, and security breaches.

The real benefit comes in the form of peace of mind.  According to one report, a typical 1,000 person corporation can lose millions of dollars each year from the inability to locate and retrieve information, asserts. “A clean and tidy workspace makes your organization look efficient and presentable to anyone who decides to visit, including the auditors!”

Here at Geyer & Associates, where our attorneys counsel and represent executors and personal representatives on the proper settlement of an estate, we try to minimize stress at an already difficult time. We know that nothing has the capacity to increase stress more than not being able to easily access a loved one’s estate planning documents just when they are needed
As important as it is to create estate planning documents, where you keep those documents is equally important.  No document, however expertly drafted, can fulfill its intended function if it’s missing.
Not only must you ensure your family has clear instructions on where your original will, living trust and other estate planning documents are located, upon your death, they must be able to find the following:

  • life insurance policies
  • tax documents
  • bank, brokerage, and  retirement account  statements
  • credit card statements
  • stock certificates
  • keys to safety deposit boxes
  • passwords and user names for online accounts

But even before there is an “estate” in terms of passing on assets after a death, family members need to be able to find

  • living wills  or healthcare directives
  • long term care insurance policies
  • powers of attorney
  • health insurance cards
  • prescription information
  • names of physicians and specialists you see

In fact. you might consider currently providing copies of healthcare directives, health insurance cards, prescription information, and a list of your physicians to the people who are authorized to make decisions on your behalf.

The compassionate client care offered by the attorneys at Geyer Law includes helping answer the crucially important question:  Where should your original estate planning documents be stored?

In a safety deposit box at the bank or other financial institution? In a home safe?  At your estate planning attorney’s office?  In a secure online file?

Watch for more estate planning blog posts later this month, in which we examine the pros and cons of each of these options….

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

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Help! I've Just Become an Executor!

“Just as you’re beginning the painful and exhausting process of grieving for your parent’s death, you learn that you’ve basically become secretary of his or her death,” observes Lucy Mueller of “Being the executor of a will involves a process that’s as administrative as it is emotional,” Mueller continues, describing the appointment as executor as “a daunting undertaking, but also an honor.”  As executor, she explains, you are in charge of
  • Carrying out your late parent’s wishes for his or her estate
  • Disbursing assets
  • Settling debts
  • Letting the government know about the death
Here at Geyer & Associates, where our attorneys counsel and represent executors and personal representatives on the proper settlement of an estate, we try to minimize stress at an already difficult time.

Lucy Mueller offers a useful multi-step plan for executors:

Order 10-15 copies of the death certificate.
You will need these to transfer ownership and operating names on accounts and for cashing in insurance policies. Death certificates are typically purchased through the funeral home, but are also available for purchase from the county or state medical examiner’s office.  In Indiana, death certificates can be obtained online at
Figure out if the estate needs to go through probate.Probate is the court process of re-titling assets from the decedent to the beneficiaries.  If your parent did not set up a properly funded living trust or the assets in your parent’s individual name not passing by title or beneficiary designation exceed $50,000, Indiana requires a probate estate to be opened to officially appoint the personal representative, advertise to seek heirs and creditors, and collect and distribute assets.

Gather documents.
Locate all bank and brokerage accounts, safe deposit boxes, insurance policies, wills (including amendments and codicils to the will), trust documents, deeds, notes, statements, keys, passwords, pension statements, credit cards and statements, and any other asset or creditor information.

Read everything.
Personal papers, diaries, notes and letters can all reveal the location of property, money, and heirlooms.

Locate and inventory assets and personal property.
Hire an appraiser to determine the value of all personal and real property, and submit an inventory.

Consolidate accounts.
Close smaller bank accounts and transfer assets into the estate account.

Pay debts and taxes.
The executor is responsible for paying debts and taxes. Old credit cards must be cancelled.  If your parent was collecting Social Security benefits or a pension, notify the Social Security Administration and any pension companies of the death of your parent.

Disburse assets.
Distribute the assets to the beneficiaries, getting signed and dated receipts from them.  In the case of stocks and bonds, have the assets properly re-titled to the beneficiary’s name, making sure that the basis is reset to the date of death value to minimize capital gains taxes for the beneficiary should he or she later decide to sell the asset.

Being an executor requires time, patience, and attention to detail.  At Geyer & Associates, we provide guidance to executors and personal representatives to make the estate administration process run as smoothly as possible.

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

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Take Care in Selecting a Caregiver

“Did you know,” asks the Media Policy Center, “that today we have more parents to care for than children?” Eldercare has replaced childcare, the Center points out, as a leading healthcare issue.

Healthcare issues for elders comprise a vitally important aspect of our practice at Geyer & Associates. Today we focus on one of the most important decisions in elder care - the selection of caregivers.

“Most people who need help with their daily activities rely on unpaid care provided to them by family members and friends.  More and more, however, seniors and their families are recognizing the benefits of hiring caregivers, to help loved ones stay in their homes longer in comfort and safety, giving their families peace of mind,” Tennessee elder law attorney TimothyTakacs points out.

The best time to discuss care options with your parents is long before care is needed, cautions  At the very least, making sure there are durable health care proxy documents in place will allow medical and caregiving decisions to be made even if a parent is incapacitated.

The process of selecting a caregiver begins with assessing the types of care needed. Those might include household help, medical care, and personal care. Then comes the important interview process. Referrals might come from a doctor, hospital, or be based on word of mouth from people who have used that company. It’s important to meet and interview candidates, preferably in the home where care is to be provided, advises.

The Five Cs are five important characteristics you want to find in a caregiver , according to the SouthCarolina Department of Disabilities:

  • Competence
  • Caring
  • Compatibility
  • Cooperation
  • Communication offers a very useful list of issues to be discussed when interviewing a caregiver:

Experience:  Have you ever cared for someone with these conditions - memory problems, wheelchair bound, diabetic -  before? If so, please elaborate.

Transportion:  Does the individual have a clean driving record and reliable transportation and insurance?  How far away do they live?

Scheduling flexibility: Do you have other jobs? Do you have responsibility for others whose schedules would be affected if you needed to stay later?  Could you work weekends? Are you able and willing to help find coverage for days you need to take off?

Caregiving certifications and training: Besides caregiving training, do you have CPR or first aid training?

Background check: Are you willing to submit to a background check?

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 advanced planning, the attorneys at Geyer & Associates can help provide your loved one with proper care while helping your family avoid financial ruin.

- By Rebecca W. Geyer of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Post-Death Estate Planning Documents for Same-Sex Couples

Due to the recent legalization of same-sex marriage throughout the United States, same-sex couples now, more than ever, should have proper estate planning in place.  While same-sex marriage is legal in every state, many same-sex couples prefer to remain unwed, and careful consideration should be given to the estate planning documentation of these individuals.  Unwed same-sex couples need to specifically name their partner in documentation so that such partner may make decisions in the event of disability and death.  Married same-sex couples also need their estate plans reviewed.

 Here are some practical suggestions for preparing and updating documentation for same-sex couples in light of the Supreme Court’s decisions in Windsor and Obergefell:

  • Review estate planning to ensure the plan accomplishes the couple’s goals.  A spouse may have children which he or she wishes to benefit from a prior marriage in addition to leaving assets for his or her spouse.  A surviving same-sex spouse is now entitled to election rights against his or her spouse’s will which would entitle him or her to 1/3 of the personal property in his or her spouse’s estate and 25% of the net fair market value of the real estate which the deceased spouse owned.  In addition, the surviving spouse is entitled to a survivor’s allowance of $25,000 upon his or her spouse’s death.  If the couple wishes to benefit children in addition to the spouse, updates may need to be made to planning to account for or prevent the election against a will in order to accomplish the client’s goals.
  • Review life insurance situations.  Many same-sex couples have life insurance policies in place which were purchased to provide estate or inheritance tax liquidity at the death of the first spouse.  With the abolishment of most state inheritance taxes and the increase in the federal estate tax exemption, these insurance policies may no longer be needed.  A review of the couple’s insurance policies should be performed.  If the proceeds are still desired for other beneficiaries, perhaps those policies could be converted to second-to-die policies.  Beneficiary designations should also be reviewed to ensure the policy proceeds pay to the intended beneficiaries.  Remember that the beneficiary designation controls who receives insurance proceeds; those funds do not pass by will or trust.
  • Review beneficiary designations on all retirement plans. If a person wishes to leave his or her account to a beneficiary other than his or her spouse, the beneficiary form may need to be redone to provide for a spousal waiver if the couple is lawfully wed.  As with life insurance policies, the beneficiary designation controls who receives retirement plan proceeds, not a person’s will or trust.
  • Consider spousal survivor rights on annuities and pension plans.  Elections may now need to be redone if the couple is legally married.
  • Consider portability for federal estate tax purposes.  If a same-sex couple has assets which exceed one federal estate tax exemption (currently $5.43 million), it is now possible to carry over a deceased spouse’s unused federal estate tax exemption at his or her death to eliminate the payment of federal estate tax.  Also consider estate equalization to account for state estate tax issues in those states which still impose an estate or inheritance tax.  Estate equalization involves transferring assets between spouses so that each spouse has approximately the same size estate.
  • Consider utilizing non-probate strategies such as jointly owned property or Indiana’s Transfer On Death Act.  This strategy works well for both married and unmarried same-sex couples, and allows for assets of almost any kind to pass by beneficiary designation resulting in the avoidance of probate when a spouse dies.
  • Many same-sex couples own real estate jointly with rights of survivorship.  The implementation of the Baskin and Obergefell decisions should allow for same-sex couples to own property as tenants by the entirety (TBE).  TBE is a type of joint ownership reserved for married couples which provides asset protection for the real estate.  If one spouse be sued, the real estate is protected if held as TBE because the creditors of one spouse cannot force a sale of the property to collect on a debt of the other spouse. 

With laws regarding same sex couples evolving so quickly,  it is more important than ever for couples to carefully develop, execute, and review their estate plans!          

- by Rebecca W. Geyer of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Lifetime Estate Planning Documents for Same-Sex Couples

Despite the recognition of same-sex marriage in Indiana, it is still important for both married and unmarried same-sex couples to have estate planning documents in place.  In her recent presentations for the Indiana State Bar Association on the topic of “Estate Planning for Same-Sex Couples,” Rebecca Geyer discussed key estate issues for lesbian and gay couples, both married and unmarried.

At Geyer Law, our estate planning attorneys often explain that our document “tools” fall into two general categories: “Lifetime documents” govern events during life up until death, while “Post-life documents” govern what happens with our assets after death.  Here are some of the primary lifetime document “tools:

Durable Power of Attorney:
With this document, you – or your partner or spouse – are granting someone the ability to handle your financial affairs on your behalf should you become unable to handle transactions on your own. This document avoids the need to have the court appoint a guardian. 

Health Care Power of Attorney: If you become unable to make health care decisions for yourself, family members with differing viewpoints could give conflicting directions to health care providers.  Naming each other as health care representative means your wishes will be carried out in the way you’ve discussed.

Visitation Authorization: This document designates who is authorized to visit should you become hospitalized or institutionalized.  This is particularly important for non-married same-sex partners, especially if family members may not be supportive of your relationship and may try to keep your partner from visiting if you are hospitalized or in a medical facility.

Living Will: If you and your partner/spouse have specific preferences as to whether or not your life is artificially prolonged by tubes and machines, Indiana law gives you the right to set forth your specific wishes as to whether or not life-prolonging procedures should be withheld or withdrawn.  Along with the Health Care Power of Attorney, a Living Will is known as an Advanced Directive.

Funeral Planning Declaration: This document allows each of you to designate the other to carry out your instructions regarding the disposition of your remains, who you wish to provide funeral services, and what ceremonial arrangements you desire.

Domestic Partnership Agreement: If you are unmarried domestic partners, this document is a way to establish your joint intention about the relationship (similar to the pre-nuptial agreements used by traditional couples).  The agreement sets up a process for dividing your property in the event you decide to separate.

Even if you previously had estate planning documents drafted, make sure you have your documents reviewed in light of recent law changes.  Now that same-sex marriage is legal throughout the United States, your spouse may be entitled to a survivor’s allowance, the right to elect against your will, and may even be required to sign a waiver in order for you to leave benefits to someone other than your spouse.  It is a good idea to have your documentation reviewed to ensure that it still accomplishes your goals and that no changes are needed to make them current.

In serving many same-sex couples at Geyer, what we’ve found is that putting “lifetime documents in place is a path towards peace of mind.  This aspect of estate planning is about expressing what you want while you’re alive, both as individuals and as a couple.
- by Rebecca W. Geyer of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates

Sunday, September 13, 2015

In Light of Obergefell, Same-Sex Couples Should Review Their Employment and Retirement Benefits

As a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States, same-sex couples should consider reviewing their retirement benefits to ensure that their elections and beneficiary designations match their goals.  Implications of this landmark decision include the following for you and your spouse:

  • If either of you is in a qualified pension plan, the plan must now provide survivor benefits to your surviving same-sex spouse. Assuming the spouse who dies is vested in the retirement plan, the surviving spouse will receive a life annuity if the participating spouse elects for survivor benefits.
  • If you wish to designate someone other than your same-sex spouse as the beneficiary of your retirement plan, your spouse will now need to sign a written, notarized consent allowing you to name a non-spouse beneficiary.   
  • In the event of a divorce, you are now eligible to receive a portion of the other spouse’s retirement plan through a QDRO (qualified domestic relations order), and the assets remain tax-deferred for your spouse until distribution.
  • If you name your spouse as beneficiary of your IRA account, upon death, he or she will be able to assume the account—that is, treat it as his or her own. Until the legalization of gay marriage, a surviving same-sex partner could only establish a beneficial inherited IRA when he or she was named as a beneficiary, and he or she had to begin taking distributions the year after his or her partner died.  Under current law, a surviving same-sex spouse may roll over an inherited IRA into his or her existing IRA account or into a new account in his or her name, and he or she is not required to take a distribution until he or she reaches the age of 701/2.
  • Qualifying hardship distributions from a 401(k) plan will include distributions to pay for medical care, tuition, and burial costs for a same-sex spouse.

All of these changes mean that married same-sex couples should consult with their tax and legal advisors.  At Geyer Law, we know that tax planning and estate planning are intertwined and that nowhere is this truer than with same sex couples.