Wednesday, July 27, 2016

How Does Dollar Cost Averaging Relate to Estate Planning?

“Lump sums can come from several different sources – a pension payout, inheritance, the sale of property or a business, or even winning the lottery,” observes financial advisor Jennifer, of Portfolio Solutions. In the debate about whether dollar cost averaging is the best way to invest (spreading out investment buys over months and years as opposed to making a one-time big contribution to a portfolio), Jennifer takes a practical stance: “You invest money as it becomes available to you,” she states.

The theory of Dollar Cost Averaging, explains long time financial planning professional Tom McAllister, “is to have an average purchase price per share that is less than the average price of the shares over time.” Aware that some investment advisors recommend the use of DCA when making a lump sum investment such as with an inheritance, McAllister says that, although on the surface this advice may seem logical and appropriate, “the answer lies in the fact that long term investors would be better off investing every dollar as soon as possible”.

Why is that so? Stock markets historically have gone up 75% of the time and down just 25% of the time.  So, McAllister concludes, “all other things being equal, using dollar cost averaging instead of making an immediate purchase with all your available investable funds actually means you are likely to buy shares at higher and higher prices as time goes by.”

For most of our clients who own large estates and who envision leaving sizeable assets to the next generation, the Dollar Cost Averaging debate might be the least of their concerns. Studies have found, reports Kiplinger, that 70% of the time, family fortunes are lost from one generation to the next, with assets totally gone 90% of the time by the third generation.

Over our years of working with our estate planning clients, Geyer & Associates has come to an important realization: estate planning is really about the next generation rather than about one’s own. That means that, along with passing on assets, estate planning is about passing on wisdom about money management to younger family members.
“Many people, when they think about estate planning, think it’s a way of giving away their stuff,” Deborah Jacobs, author of Estate Planning Smarts, remarks. As estate planning attorneys, what we realize more and more every day we help clients make decisions, is that your estate plan represents a chance for you to make a very unique and very personal sum-up statement, and to pass along your value system to your beneficiaries along with your “stuff”!

Who knows if that discussion about the pros and cons of Dollar Cost Averaging might serve as a “jumping-off place” for a discussion about handling money wisely over time…

- by Rebecca W. Geyer

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Prince's Estate Poses Ongoing Estate Settlement Challenge

Two and a half months after Prince’s death, the distribution of his estate seems no clearer. The list of those claiming they deserve a share of the inheritance from late singer Prince Rogers Nelson appears to be growing by the day.

The basic problem? Prince died without a will, according to court documents filed by his sister back in April of this year.

While there’s a whole lot more to estate planning than just a will (as our attorneys at Geyer & Associates often explain), the will is the most basic testamentary document, primarily because it makes a person’s intentions clear.

A will, for example, would have designated which beneficiaries would receive a share (and how big a share) of the estate. Without the will, the laws of intestacy (lack of a will) prevail. Since Prince was a resident of Minnesota, his property will be distributed according to Minnesota state law. Had Prince been married, the spouse would have been first in line to inherit, followed by his children. But, with Prince having died unmarried and with no children, the next in line will be brothers and sisters. And, it happens that, under Minnesota law, half-siblings are treated the same as siblings when it comes to inheritances.

“Besides his one full sister, Tyka Nelson, and a half-dozen known half-siblings or their descendants,” explained USA Today, “others claiming to be half-siblings to Prince or his secret children have come forward.”

Prince’s exact net worth has yet to be made clear, but the size of the estate is probably in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and growing every day.  Not only did Prince own extensive real estate properties in and around Minneapolis, his millions of sound tracks, albums, and copyrights are constantly increasing in value as revenue continues to accrue from the sales of his music.

 The big issues:
  • This coming January, the estate is due to pay as much as 57% of its value in federal and state taxes.
  • The estate is not allowed to earn revenue from the marketing of Prince’s music until the heirs are named.
  • Some who are claiming to be half-siblings have named as their mutual parent different men from Prince’s know father, John Nelson (who is deceased). DNA tests may be required of these claimants.
Meanwhile, over the past couple of months, although the estate administrator examined thousands of boxes of documents in four locations, no will has been found.

Prince’s estate continues to pose an ongoing estate settlement challenge. A will would have, at the very least, helped clarify how Prince wanted his affairs handled.
- by Corrina A. Smith

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Veterans' Benefits Claims Process Can Be Fraught With Obstacles

When we’re assisting our clients who are wartime veterans or surviving spouses of wartime veterans obtain the VA benefits they deserve, we go in knowing that is no easy task.

Of course, part of the difficulty is a natural result of the sheer size of the Veterans Administration, which serves nearly 4.5 million recipients of compensation and pension benefits.  In the past four years alone, VBA has added more than one million veterans to its compensation rolls.

Similar to the process of claiming Medicaid benefits, there are many hurdles and barriers that claimants must navigate along the way of qualifying for benefits. Even with our attorneys’ years of experience and with all our special VA benefits training, it’s no simple task to help our clients streamline the very cumbersome VA benefits claims process.

Unfortunately, a number of the problems Indiana clients continue to experience in dealing with the Veterans’ Administration have do with inefficiencies in the Indianapolis VA office.

The Indianapolis VA Regional Office is located in the Minton-Capehart Federal Building in downtown Indy, employing more than 400 people to administer federal compensation, rehabilitation and employment benefits to some 500,000 recipients in our state.

A WISH-TV reporter who interviewed the assistant director of the Indianapolis VA was told that the office was working to pare down the case load backlog, with an average wait time of 93 days for responses to claims, with the average appeal taking 287 days.  If benefits are at first denied, and new evidence is presented on appeal, it can take long than 400 days, the VA admitted!.

In a 2015 report on wait times at Veterans Affairs Regional Offices, Indianapolis was listed as #8 on the Ten Worst list, with average wait time reported as 237 days.  Catherine Trombley, an employee of the VA and herself a veteran, comments sadly on the VA’s own blog: “The VA’s current appeal system is 80 years old….The current appeals system is broken and it is failing you.”

“The length of time it takes to complete a claim depends on several factors, such as the type of claim filed, complexity of your disability(ies), the number of disabilities you claim, and the availability of evidence needed to decide your claim,” explains the website of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

Especially when dealing with a less-than-ideal system such as the Indianapolis VA, it helps to enlist professional assistance in navigating the qualification process.  At Geyer & Associates, we assist our clients in filing ready-to-rate claims to minimize the processing time needed for the VA to make a decision on benefits.

- by  Kimberly Lewis of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Veterans' Benefits - at Geyer Law, We Want You to Know

“We want you to know how VBA is performing on behalf of our nation’s Veterans, their families, and their survivors” is the opening sentence on the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs website. Here’s the big picture, according to the VBA:
  • VBA currently serves nearly 4.5 million Veterans who receive either compensation or pension benefits.
  • In the past four years alone, VBA has added more than one million Veterans to its compensation rolls (which is more, the website points out, than active duty Army, Navy, Marine and Coast Guard combined).
  • In 2015, VBA delivered more than $63.5 billion in compensation and pension benefits.
As a very important aspect of our law practice at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, we assist wartime veterans and surviving spouses of wartime veterans obtain the VA benefits they deserve. As Tevye remarks ruefully in “Fiddler on the Roof”, though, “It isn’t easy!
  • Many veterans and their families are simply unaware that they could be eligible for a wide range of benefits through the United States Department of Veteran Affairs even if they did not directly retire from the military or suffer injuries in the line of duty.
  • Similar to the process of claiming Medicaid benefits, there are many hurdles and barriers along the way of qualifying for benefits under the VA programs. Experienced legal advice from professionals with special VA benefits training can help streamline the very cumbersome VA benefits claims process.
As an overview of the program, Basic Pension benefits are for wartime veterans or their surviving spouses who meet the following criteria:
  • The veteran served at least 90 days active service with at least one of those days served during a wartime period.
  • The veteran was honorably discharged.
  • The claimant has limited income and assets.
  • The claimant is over 65 or has a permanent and total disability not caused by willful misconduct.
There are two allowances that can increase the amount of the basic benefits. (An individual can qualify for either allowance, but not for both.)

1. Housebound Allowance: Claimants are unable to leave the house for employment purposes.
2. Aid & Attendance Allowance: Claimants require assistance with at least two activities of daily living or require residence in a protective environment.

Just as the VBA wants you to know how it is performing on behalf of our nation’s Veterans, their families, and their survivors, we at Geyer & Associates want you to know how to claim the benefits you may deserve.

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