Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Scott Watanabe - Newest Additiion to Geyer Law

Settling family law disputes between parties outside of litigation is always best, Scott Watanabe, associate attorney at Geyer Law, firmly believes. Since protecting the best interests of children is the rightful focus in most divorce litigation, Watanabe is a strong proponent of alternative dispute resolution methods.

In the areas of estate and elder law, Watanabe knows, advance planning is key to preventing future misunderstandings and disputes. With the rapidity of new medical developments, elder health law is constantly evolving, he explains.  Since law school days, Watanabe has evinced a keen interest in elder health issues; as a member of the Health Law Review, he submitted a paper on Alzheimer’s.  He mentions one development in elder law that allows an “override” option in advance healthcare documents, in which an individual given healthcare power of attorney can override a Living Will order based on circumstances of the situation.

Clients too often focus on creating a will, losing sight of other, equally important, documents, Watanabe observes. Other clients believe living trusts are “must-haves” in estate planning. With the estate tax exemption levels so much higher now than in former years, testamentary trusts have become a better choice in many situations.

When it comes to Medicaid planning, there are two kinds, Watanabe observes wryly - crisis planning and long term planning. Myths about asset protection are rife, he adds; the fact is, with proper planning, many assets can be preserved.

Providing representation to all clients of all ages is high on Watanabe’s priority list. As a trained Guardian ad Litem and volunteer with Kid’s Voice of Indiana, he fights to protect the rights and the welfare of children; as an active member of the elder law section of the Indiana Bar Association and the Indianapolis Bar Association, he works on behalf of the elderly and their adult children. He has been an active participant in the Legal Aid system, and believes strongly in providing representation to clients in all financial circumstances.

Scott Watanabe is proud to be the newest member of the Indianapolis estate planning and elder law firm, Geyer Law, knowing that the firm is dedicated to offering a full range of options for families and individuals facing challenges and change.

by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Estate Planning for Those with, Well...Not--So-Big Estates

“While you may think that estate planning only applies to wealthy individuals with millions in assets who live on, well, estates…think again,” is the advice from LearnVest appearing in Forbes a few years back

Even though estate planning relates to incapacitation or death, it doesn’t need to be morbid, the authors continue. “In fact, it can actually be life-affirming, because the process will allow you to take a closer look at the people you most care about in life.”

“But how does my having an estate plan help 'those people' if I have no significant assets to leave them?” many wonder. Well, in two ways, actually: For those you leave behind, estate planning  helps make the administration of your estate after death as simple and as inexpensive as possible for your heirs.

At Geyer Law, we explain (often to parents who want to be sure their children are putting proper documents in place for their own young families) that a “small estate” under Indiana law is one with assets under $50,000. Estate administration for those estates can be administered without probate proceedings; instead a small estate affidavit may be used to collect assets.  “Instead of having a court hearing in front of a judge, you may need only to file a simple form or two and wait for a certain amount of time before distributing the assets,” legalconsumer.com explains.

Not all assets in an estate are counted when determining whether it is “small”.  Retirement plans,life insurance policies and annuities payable to beneficiaries other than the estate are not probate assets and do not count towards the $50,000 figure. Our Indiana estate planning attorneys must remind readers and clients that, even for those with very few assets, the goal is not only cost-cutting, but hassle-cutting; proving the estate qualifies as “small” involves legalities that can be avoided with proper, before-the-event planning.
For estates both large and small, the most important reason to do estate planning is to avoid unwanted results. In Indiana, if you die “intestate” (without a will), the laws of intestate succession will determine how your property is distributed. Here’s just one example of many:

         If a married person with children dies without a will, under Indiana’s intestate statute the  
       surviving spouse only receives half the property, and the decedent’s children receive the other
       half.  This is a different result than what is often intended or wanted.

At our law firm, we see that life’s journey is fraught with change – marriage, children, a new business, retirement, incapacity, death.  We explain that these changes require “careful planning to protect the people most important to you and the assets you’ve worked a lifetime to achieve.”

Estate planning is important in protecting assets, and small estate owners may not have many of those.  Still, there are always the people. They might be the reason estate planning for those with, well….not-so-big estates can be every bit as important.


- by Rebecca W. Geyer

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Holiday Sounds: Tinkle of Bells and Talk of Estate Planning


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Estate Planning to Take Care of Caregivers

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

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

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

Estate planning should be done to take care of caretakers!

- by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team