Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Estate Planning Dos and Don'ts Following a Divorce



Divorce is a complex and deeply personal process, and, at Geyer Law, we do all we can to help make the process as painless as possible. We know that, while all our clients can benefit from qualified estate planning advice, there are special issues that need to be considered following a divorce.
Assets
In most cases, spouses in the process of dissolving their marriage no longer wish to have the soon-to-be- ex-spouse inherit their assets. And, when there are children, neither parent wants those kids to be disinherited in the event the other were remarry. What that means is that beneficiary designations will need to be changed on:
  • Wills
  • Employer retirement plans
  • IRA accounts
  • Life insurance policies
  • Annuities
  • Health savings accounts
  • Trusts
Powers of attorney
In most divorce situations, the two parties no longer want to leave health and financial decisions in the hands of the ex-spouse. Documents that need to be amended include:
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney
  • Durable Power of Attorney
Child Custody and Guardianship
Several questions must be fully explored:
  • Does the non-custodial parent wish to (and is he/she fit to) raise the child if the custodial parent dies or becomes incapacitated?
  • What happens if the ex-spouse remarries?
  • Are there concerns that the ex-spouse will not use the support monies for certain purposes such as private school tuition?
Focusing forward
Staying focused on the details of the future, not on the mistakes and hurts of the past, is the best way to defuse feelings of anger and betrayal. Indiana is a “no-fault state”, which means the court will not consider behaviors leading up to the divorce, requiring only that one of the parties believes that the marriage is irreconcilably broken.

Divorce time is by definition, a hard time, no doubt about it. Sound legal counsel from a qualified attorney – and each party needs his/her own lawyer – is needed to navigate all the issues and obtain the best outcomes for everyone involved.

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

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

When It Comes To Medicaid, the Question Is - Is It Covered?

“To be or not to be? That is the question,” Shakespeare’s Hamlet mused.  When it comes to Medicaid eligibility, however, there’s a whole ‘nuther question to ask: “Is it counted?”
Medicaid is a joint federal-state government program which helps make medical coverage more affordable. For eligible residents of Indiana, Medicaid helps pay for services such as:
  • hospital care
  • clinical services
  • visits to physicians and nurse practitioners
  • lab tests
  • x-rays
  • nursing home care
  • prescription drug coverage
For our Geyer Law estate planning and elder care clients, the big concern is whether an individual must spend down all of his or her assets in order to qualify to receive Medicaid benefits. Will I lose my home? Will our life savings disappear?

Enter Medicaid planning. With careful, knowledgeable advanced planning, it is possible to obtain Medicaid eligibility and still preserve assets. As elder law attorneys, we choose from an arsenal of planning tools to qualify an individual for Medicaid while yet protecting assets for a healthy spouse or for children. Special Medicaid planning tactics may include:
  • gifting
  • trusts
  • long term care insurance
  • annuities
  • promissory notes
  • reverse mortgage
In practice, the National Care Planning Council explains, Medicaid comes into play for seniors when there is a need for nursing home care. “Most older people do not have the income necessary to cover nursing home costs, especially if there is a healthy spouse living at home.”

In fact, many of the features of Medicaid are designed to protect the spouse of a Medicaid applicant or beneficiary who needs coverage for long-term services and supports in either an institution or a home or other community-based setting, from becoming impoverished.

On the other hand, in order to make sure there are enough resources to help those who are truly in need of assistance, there are some very strict Medicaid rules.  For example:

1.   Medicaid beneficiaries will be denied coverage if they have transferred assets for less than fair market value during the five-year period preceding their Medicaid application. 
2...State Medicaid programs must recover from a Medicaid enrollee's estate the cost of certain benefits paid.

In determining eligibility for Medicaid benefits, Medicaid measures two things: income and “resources” (assets). Income includes: pensions, social security, income from annuities, rental income, interest, dividends, capital gains distributions. Income eligibility for Medicaid is determined on a monthly basis (income that is not periodic is counted in the month it becomes available).

The rules are too complicated to cover in one blog post.  The point to remember is   When it comes to Medicaid eligibility, “Will it be counted?” The attorneys at Geyer Law can help you answer this important question.


- by Rebecca W. Geyer

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Estate Planning for Modern Families No "Leave-It-To-Beaver" Task

“We don’t all look like the conventional nuclear family once famously depicted in ‘Leave It To Beaver’, a Raymond James’ Point of View article observes, pointing out factors such as:
  • the legalization of same-sex marriage
  • an increase in the number of non-married couples
  • advances in reproductive technology
  • the steady divorce rate, including “gray divorces”
  • the increase in blended families
This list illustrates just how complex modern estate planning has become.  Raymond James’ advice: “Rather than set something in stone, think of your estate plan as a living document that should evolve as your life does.”

At Geyer Law, we couldn’t agree more.  As we talk with clients, we find the discussions expanding to cover a variety of situations and topics:

Step parent adoption
If biological parents become incapacitated or die, step parent adoption can be a saving factor.  The consent of both biological parents is needed; a child over 14 must also consent.

Modification of parenting plans after a divorce
Even if both ex-spouses agree on changes to the order, those changes are not official until the court agrees.

Same-sex marriages
Although same-sex marriage is legal throughout the United States, not  all states have updated their laws to reflect this change., There is a potential for legal issues when laws have not been updated, and non-married couples must still create documents to protect their partners’ rights.

Advance directives
With rapidly developing medical technology, elder health law is evolving.  One relatively new development, for example, is the opportunity to include an “override option” in healthcare documents.

Guardianships
In personal injury cases of coma, brain injury, or severe trauma, a guardianship might need to be created to provide care for an incapacitated adult.

No, we don’t all look like “Leave-It-To-Beaver” families, and our clients don’t need cookie-cutter estate plans.  At Geyer Law, we see ourselves as a resource for clients, combining clear, concise – and situation-differentiated – legal solutions.
- by  Scott Watanabe of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Helping Veterans and Surviving Spouses Obtain the Benefits They Deserve

A very important part of our law practice at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates is providing assistance to veterans and their surviving spouses  to help them obtain the VA benefits they deserve. The Department of Veterans Affairs is made up of three areas. Our firm’s focus is with the Veteran’s Benefits Administration.

“For tax purposes, a veteran is an individual who has served at least 24 continuous months in active duty and has not been released with “dishonorable” status upon discharge,” explains thesimpledollar.com’s “Ultimate Tax Guide for Veterans”. Spouses, children, and parents of a deceased or disabled veteran are also eligible for benefits, which include but are not limited to:
  • Disability Pension
  • Disability Compensation
  • Education and Training Allowances
  • Dependents and Survivors
  • Life Insurance
  • Housing Grants
  • Compensated Work Therapy Program
Not only is service-connected disability compensation tax-free on both federal and state levels, disabled veterans may be eligible to claim a federal tax refund, based on two situations:
  1. There has been a retroactive determination of an increase in the disability benefit
  2. The combat-disabled veteran has been granted combat-related special compensation, after an award for concurrent retirement and disability.
According to Leo Shane III, writing in Military Times, “The sweeping tax reform measure passed by Republican lawmakers this week includes few items specific to service members, but significant repercussions for military families in years to come. While some of the rules for mortgage interest deductions have been changed in the new tax reform plan, with some deductions for moving expenses eliminated, there is an exemption for military families who often have to move frequently, Shane points out.

We at Geyer Law are focused on helping veterans and their families understand – and claim - the benefits they deserve.

- by Rebecca W. Geyer

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

"Translating" the New Tax Law for Geyer Law Clients

On Friday, December 22, 2017, President Donald Trump signed a new tax bill, formally named the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017“. The 500-page long document covers many, many aspects of taxation and the economy.  Realizing that our clients and blog readers are not interested in learning all the thousands and thousands of details, however, over the coming weeks and months we will be writing about the little ways in which this big change in the tax law is likely to affect your estate and healthcare planning.


Let’s begin with federal estate taxes.
The 2017 federal estate-tax exemption thresholds are $5.49 million for individuals and $10.98 million for married couples. If you die with assets worth less than those amounts, you don’t owe any estate tax. On January 1, 2018 these thresholds doubled to $11.2 million for individuals and  $22.4 million for couples. These exemption amounts are scheduled to increase with inflation each year until 2025. On January 1, 2026, the exemption amounts are scheduled to revert to the 2017 levels, adjusted for inflation. The highest marginal federal estate and gift tax rates will remain at 40% and the GST tax rate will remain a flat 40%.  For some Geyer Law clients, this will lessen the need for tax planning, and estate planning documents should be reviewed to remove outdated tax language. 
New opportunities in education planning.
529 plans, also known as “qualified tuition plans”, have been expanded. In addition to using them to fund college expenses, parents may now use them to pay for K-12 education tuition and related educational materials and tutoring. What’s not new, but very beneficial, is that 529 contributions grow tax free and can be withdrawn tax free as long as the money is used for “qualified educational expenses”. What’s more, the IRS allows you to “front load” a 529 plan with an amount equal to five years’ worth of annual gift tax exclusions ($75,000 in 2018); the annual gift tax exclusion is $15,000 in 2018) with no gift tax consequences.

Planning opportunities for business owners.
Owners of closely-held businesses have special needs, yet are often too busy developing their business to address the legal issues necessary to ensure their continued success. At Geyer Law, we advise clients on critical business planning issues, and the new tax code provides several new planning opportunities. Our clients who are independent contractors and small business owners, for example, will now benefit from a pass-through deduction of 20% business income, while both pass-through and corporate business owners will be able to write off 100% of the cost of capital expenses for five years.

Charitable contributions.
For 2018-2015, the limit on the deduction for cash donations to charities is raised from 50% to 60% of Adjusted Gross Income. The increased deduction can serve as an important benefit to be considered in the in-depth charitable planning counseling we offer our clients.
Continue to follow this blog over the coming weeks and month, as we continue to offer insights into the effects of the new tax law on estate and healthcare planning.

- by Rebecca W. Geyer