Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Nine New Strategic Partnerships for Veterans

At Geyer & Associates, where an important area of our practice is Veteran’s Benefits, we were all very thankful this Veterans’ Day to learn of the latest announcement from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA announced no fewer than nine new strategic partnerships, which are newly formed relationships between private companies and government designed to improve the lives of veterans and their families, and facilitate personal services some veterans may not be able to access on their own.
“Since we’ve named strategic partnerships as one of our five MyVA strategies,” said Secretary Robert A. McDonald, “I’m happy to report we’ve established partnerships at unprecedented rate to tackle a myriad of different Veteran needs.”

Cardinal Health “Operation: Support our Heroes” - 
Cardinal Health has pledged to donate 2,000 care packages (consisting of toiletries and other personal hygiene items), as well as other consumer health products to VA facilities for distribution to homeless Veterans. 

Downs Designs Dreams –
Downs Designs Dreams designs clothing specifically for individuals with disabilities.  To date, Downs Designs Dreams has already donated 166 pairs of jeans to Veterans through this partnership, representing an investment of $8,610.

Dream Foundation –
Dream Foundation honors Veterans by fulfilling their final dream towards the end of life. VA social work staff will coordinate referrals to support dream fulfilment for Veterans experiencing life-limited illnesses.

First Quality Enterprises –
First Quality Enterprises is teaming up with the VA to donate baby products to pregnant women Veterans through VA’s maternity care coordinators.

Hair Cuttery –
Hair Cuttery is sponsoring their annual “Share-A-Haircut” program.  For every adult haircut purchased in any Hair Cuttery salon on Veterans Day, Nov 11th, Hair Cuttery will donate 2 free haircut certificates for VA patients who may otherwise be unable to get this type of professional service.  All Hair Cuttery locations are participating and will honor the certificates through January 25, 2017.

The Jonas Center for Nursing and Veterans Healthcare –
This partnership builds and supports a network of current and former VA Jonas Nursing Scholars to focus on Veteran-specific healthcare needs.

NCR Corporation –

This year’s Veteran’s Day parade features NCR’s self-service kiosks in New York, N.Y. and Los Angeles, Calif., providing a point-of-service for all veterans (rural, homeless, economically disadvantaged, and medically disabled) and their spouses and dependents, via NCR’s world-class self-service technology.

Project Hero –

Through this partnership, VA Mental Health and Recreation Therapy resources will be made available to Veterans participating in Project Hero’s “Ride 2 Recovery” research programs.

United Through Reading –

UTR unites families facing physical separation by facilitating the bonding experience of reading aloud together. They offer an opportunity for military service members and Veterans to video record a book for children or grandchildren who are located elsewhere. The child receives a copy of the book with the video to read along.

In the last 18 months, Geyer & Associates’attorneys have learned that the VA’s partnerships and collaborations have brought in more than $300 million in investments and in-kind services to support America’s veterans. Kudos to the VA and the participating corporations, we say!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Transportation Options for Indiana Seniors

CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions is a not-for-profit agency, one of 700 Area Agencies on Aging nationwide. CICOA is not a government agency, but oversees state and federal funds and private donations to provide information, advocacy and support services for older adults, people with disabilities, and family caregivers.
To take advantage of CICOA transportation services in Indiana, you must:
  • Be at least 60 years old
  • Live and travel in Marion County
There are essentially four types of Way2Go services to help Indiana seniors “get where they need to go”:

1. Shuttle services:
CICOA provides scheduled shuttles from various senior apartment complexes to grocery stores, banks, shopping centers, and other locations, at a cost of $2 per consumer per round trip.

2. Discount taxi fares:
Half-price taxi fare is provided through Indianapolis Yellow Cab. The system works through coupons, which may be bought via mail, phone, or in person for up to $35 (retail value $50).

3. Door2Door:
Door2Door transportation provides rides for medical appointments, pharmacy needs and grocery shopping within Marion County. Transportation is available Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. The cost is $5.00 per consumer for each roundtrip.

4. Wheelchair transportation:
Older adults who use wheelchairs can receive transportation vouchers through Indianapolis Yellow Cab for $6.00 per voucher, each good for a one-way trip for any purpose within Marion County. Drivers assist seniors from inside the doorway of their dwellings to entering and exiting the taxi, and getting inside the door at the destination.

“As parents get older, attempts to hold on to our independence can be at odds with even the most well-intentioned ‘suggestions’ from our children. We want to be cared about, but fear being cared for,” writes Clare Berman in the Atlantic, discussing “what aging parents want from their kids. “There’s a fine line between caring and controlling—but older adults and their grown children often disagree on where it is,” she remarks.

Here in Indiana, helping elderly parents connect with the CICOA Way2Go transportation options and discounts may be one way to stay within that fine line!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Post Halloween Estate Planning Horror Stories

“Tales of estate planning gone wrong makes for juicy reading and a lot of head shaking, but there are also commonsense lessons we can take from these estate planning mistakes,” writes Denver estate planning attorney Dan McKenzie.

Of course, it’s always best if we can learn from OPM (other people’s mistakes) rather than our own, and we’ve included the following post-Halloween horror stories in our Geyer Law blog with an eye towards edification rather than scare.
  • Examining the trust document of a new client, the attorney noticed that the trust was set to give $50,000 to each of two people.  The client, however, had no idea who those people were! What had happened was that an adviser unfamiliar with estate planning had cut and pasted text from a sample document, without altering the names to fit this very client.  Moral: Trust documents should be examined and updated frequently.
  • Brandon had received a multi-million dollar settlement after being in an accident. The money was held in a trust. Brandon named his wife Emily as 80% beneficiary of the trust, with remaining family members named as beneficiaries of the remaining 20%. Ten years into the marriage, Emily filed for divorce, but two days before the divorce decree was filed, Brandon became ill and died. Since, under Arizona law, the divorce was not final until the filing, Emily inherited $14.4 million dollar, while all the other family members divided $3.6 million. Moral: When filing for divorce, change your estate plan immediately.
  • When the brokerage firm asked Susan to name a beneficiary for her IRA account, she reasoned that naming her estate would make it easier for heirs to settle her affairs. The result was that, when Susan died, her IRA money was tied up in probate and eventually went towards paying off her credit card debt and “upside down” mortgage loan. None of the special “stretch” IRA tax deferral techniques could be used by Susan’s heirs, who lost out on continuing to earn compound interest for years to come.  Moral: Do not name your estate as your IRA beneficiary.
  • Harry’s combined Durable Power of Attorney and Designation of Healthcare Representative named his daughter as representative, since he was alienated from his son. The daughter took care of Harry in her home and paid for home healthcare professionals to come in. When the daughter felt it was time to move her father into a facility, the son filed a petition to be named caregiver, on condition he be paid a monthly amount equal to the home healthcare fees the daughter had been paying. There was extensive and costly litigation in the dispute between the two children. Moral: Discuss your family situation and develop a specific contingency plan.
Estate planning is not about documents,” Jeffrey Cramer reminds his clients – “It’s about results.”

At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, we agree. Life's journey is fraught with changes that require careful planning, we tell our clients. It’s not about documents – it’s about protecting protect the people most important to you and the assets you worked a lifetime to achieve.

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

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Stretch IRAs Add Flexibility to an Estate Plan

Stretching is very important, Health Fitness Revolution reminds us. Stretching decreases the risk of injury, improves our energy levels, even encourages an optimistic outlook. The primary reason stretching is so vital is that it is important for flexibility.

In the financial and estate planning world, stretch IRAs can be important for flexibility as well. When an IRA is stretched, that means it can be passed from one generation to the next – and even to a third or fourth generation - while growing in a tax-free or tax-deferred environment.

How does the stretch work?
When an IRA account owner dies, the beneficiary(s) are eligible to re-title the account(s) as inherited IRA(s). Each beneficiary can then then begin taking Required Minimum Distributions based on their OWN ages, rather than having to take the entire sum all at once and paying tax on the balance.

“The stretch IRA, when implemented properly, can be one of the great vehicles for transferring wealth to your heirs, maintaining the tax-deferred status of the bulk of your account until much later,” says Jim Blankenship, writing in Forbes. Blankenship lists some common mistakes people make with stretch IRAs, including:

1.  Not properly titling the account.
The title should read “John Doe IRA (deceased Jan. 1, 2009) FBO Janie Brown”.

2.  Doing a rollover rather than a trustee-to-trustee transfer.
The beneficiary should NOT receive a payment made out in his or her own name.

3.  Neglecting timely transfer.
Funds must be transferred before the end of the year following the year of the deceased owner’s death.
4.  Failing to take RMD for the year of death.
The RMD distribution for the diseased must be taken before the amount is transferred to the inherited IRA.
5.  Missing or neglecting RMD payments.
If the beneficiary forgets to take the RMD in timely fashion, the five-year rule could kick in, meaning the entire balance would need to be distributed within five years.
6.  Not properly designating the beneficiary. 
Beneficiary must be identifiable (not “as stated in will” or “any beneficiary of the trust”).

Beneficiary designations are all about you and the things you want to accomplish in your planning.  Each situation is different, but the attorneys at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates want you to keep in mind:
  • Your estate might be your worst IRA beneficiary choice.
  • Selecting the proper IRA beneficiary designations may not be a do-it-yourself affair.
  • Stretch IRAs add flexibility to your estate plan!

- By Rebecca W. Geyer

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Co-Signing Someone Else's Loan May Not Be the Smartest Estate Plan

“Here’s some good money advice: Don’t cosign someone else’s loan,” writes Jean Chatzky in the AARP Magazine. Chatzky cites a new survey from showing that:
  • 38% of cosigners lost money because the primary borrower defaulted
  • 28% saw their own credit score drop
  • 26% reported that their relationship with the borrower soured
What are some alternatives if you really want to help out?
  1. Help the borrower with a larger down payment on a car rather than cosigning for the financing itself.
  2. If the loan is for college, max out federal PLUS loans (where cosigners aren’t usually required) before looking at private loans. If you’re banking on being released as a co-signer after your child’s/friend’s credit situation improves, think twice, says Geoeff Williams in U.S. News. Consider this: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that 90% of private student loan borrowers who applied to have their co-signer released from the contract were turned down.
If you’ve made the decision to co-sign despite all the cautions, Williams advises, take these steps to help yield a good outcome:
  • Set up email and text alerts to let you know when payments are due or late.
  • Arrange with the lender to be notified immediately before a default, so your credit isn’t impaired.
One mom took things a step further, Williams relates, making clear to her kids that if they missed one payment, she would have the bank repossess their cars.

At Geyer & Associates, discussions about to-dos and not-to-dos when it comes to helping adult children, including how to leave them assets as part of an inheritance, are an everyday occurrence.

“Most parents want to treat their children fairly, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they should receive equal shares of your estate,” says Reasons you may want to give more to one child than another include:
  • One earns much less money than the others 
  • One child has been taking care of you during an illness
  • One has children with special needs
If you can afford it, your estate plan can include giving children some of their inheritance now, adds, particularly if their needs are pressing now. 

Wouldn’t it be far better to give them direct help than to co-signing their loans?.

- by Cory Judd of Rebecca W. Geyer blog team