Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Introducing...New Geyer Law Associate Jennifer Hammond

Their whole lives, Tom and Sara Smith had worked hard. Although hardly wealthy, the couple had lovingly accumulated assets which they had hoped to leave to their children and grandchildren. Now medical problems had become a challenge. Tom had survived cancer, but his heart condition meant he needed skilled care at home while Sara continued to run their business. How could they take advantage of Medicaid benefits, yet avoid dissipating all of their hard-earned assets? As the younger and healthier of the pair, Sara would need them for her own financial security... 

For estate planning and elder law attorney Jennifer J. Hammond, it’s all about preserving seniors’ assets while utilizing the social safety net available to families. With a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work (B.S.W.) and Certification in Case Management, she had briefly considered becoming an adoption attorney prior to earning her J.D. Interning for Rebecca last year, (Rebecca had been Jennifer’s one-time North Central H.S. classmate!), she realized her mission was advocating for families in a different stage of life; through helping adult family members get prepared - for contingencies and certainties. 

Planning for Tom and Sara (fictionalized names) involved an unusually complex area of the law, the Medicaid Waiver program. Indiana actually offers eight different HCBS (Home and Community-Based Services) programs, and Jennifer’s knowledge and legal work resulted in Tom’s being able to receive skilled care at home and avoid being forced to enter a facility… 

Jennifer also feels strongly about advocating for families through proper estate planning.  “At the very least,” Sheryl Nance-Nash writes in Forbes, “think of estate planning as a way to reduce familial stress when you’re no longer in a position to make decisions.”  Hammond certainly agrees.

Jennifer herself has been in several decision-making roles, both as a mother and a professional.  She has experience as a paralegal, legal secretary, and family law assistant at three law firms, and as a case manager for a home-based counseling agency under contract with the Marion County Office of Family and Children.  She also was the Business Manager of a local church, and spent a summer volunteering with the Senior Law Project at Indiana Legal Services.

Advocacy for families through estate planning and elder law is Jennifer L. Hammond’s career mission, and the law firm of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates is certainly proud to welcome its newest associate.
- by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates Blog Team

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

An Estate Planning Lawyer's Overarching Role - Being a Leader

“There are many potential roles that can be filled by a financial life planner” Stephen Brody writes in the Journal of Financial Planning. “The overarching role, however, is being a leader,” Brody  asserts, quoting John Quincy Adams’ statement: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”

Reading through this highly insightful article, I could not help but draw a strong parallel with the relationships our estate planning attorneys have forged with clients over the years, and realize that each of the leadership theories named in Brody’s article has played out in our day-to-day professional lives.

  • Adaptive leadership (AL) involves three steps: observing events and patterns, interpreting those, and designing interventions. Each client situation is unique; many involve delicate and sensitive issues such as premarital agreements, same sex marriage matters, special needs children, advance directives, and guardianship. Family dynamics are often changing and sensitive; as advisors, we need to provide strong direction, but always with a soft touch.
  • Authentic leadership (AUL) involves being open and honest in presenting one’s true self to others, and leading with a compassion for people. Compassion demands timely responsiveness – it is our policy to respond to all clients communications on the day they are received, and we offer house calls and flexible appointment times.
  • Servant leadership (SL) involves drawing out and development the best and highest within people from the inside out. We understand the challenges, fears, and family dynamics that often come into play with legal issues, and try to assist clients in addressing their particular goals and concerns based on their “best selves”.
  • Transformational leadership (TL) encourages followers to rise above transactional considerations and pursue a higher purpose. Transformation is concerned with emotions, standards, and long-term goals. In order to offer quality advice to our clients, we must first be committed to the highest standards of knowledge in both estate planning law and all the overlapping areas of expertise.

At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, we know we play many roles, with the overarching role of serving as leaders.

- by Rebecca Geyer

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

When Paying Taxes Isn't a One-Time-a-Year Task

“For many retirees, paying taxes isn’t a one-time-a-year task”, a recent issue of Kiplinger’s Retirement Report points out. Even after taking care of their 2018 tax return, many seniors will need to work on their Form 1040-ES to pay estimated 2019 taxes, with the first quarterly payment due in April.

One thing that is true all year round, but which becomes most obvious as year-end approaches, is this: tax law and estate planning overlap. Just as tax attorneys and CPAs must regularly take into account their clients’ estate planning goals, we as estate planning and elder law attorneys must think about the tax ramifications of the planning we do with our clients.

At Geyer Law, part of our responsibility includes staying familiar with the laws that relate to the tax aspects of:
  • wills and trusts
  • social security benefits
  • medical and long term care benefits
  • Medicare
  • life insurance
  • pensions and other retirement plans
  • real estate property
  • charitable gifts
  • college planning for children and grandchildren
  • veterans’ benefits
 What’s more, since quite a number of our Geyer Law clients are business owners, we must work in cooperation with their insurance, tax, and financial planning advisors on their:
  • choice of business entity
  • internal corporate documents
  • liability issues
  • succession planning,
all of which relate to their estate planning. Proper succession planning is crucial for business situations, because of the three what ifs: the death, disability, or retirement of a current owner.  

For those old enough to remember the song lyrics, there’s a real parallel here:  “Love and marriage, love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage.” The “marriage” of tax planning and estate planning is not just a one-time-a-year task!
- by Rebecca W. Geyer

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Year-End Planning - Where Estate and Tax Planning Meet for Seniors

For all of us, falling leaves are a reminder that, as year-end approaches, we need to make sure all our tax-related i’s are dotted and our t’s crossed. Year end is also a time when tax planning and estate planning are most inter-related for seniors.

As the AARP book The Other Talk points out, “The kids will need to know the location of your most recent seven years of tax returns.” Why?

  1. for IRS queries while you’re still here
  2. for determining the extent of assets in your estate and filing a final income tax and estate return and/or a revocable trust return.

Author Tim Prosch urges elders not to procrastinate when it comes to making notebooks for each adult child. “The more information your kids have, and the sooner they get it, the better for you and for them.” Documents that could go into the notebooks, in addition to those seven years’ tax returns, might include:

  • will
  • trust
  • advance directives (durable healthcare power of attorney and living will)
  • summary list of all doctors – along with contact information- and medical advisors
  • contact information of all key advisors
  • insurance information for life, health, home, vehicle, and boat insurance
  • banking information
  • inventory of current investments
  • credit card information
  • burial and funeral arrangement information

End-of-year planning also means IRA planning. After reaching age 70 ½, owners of IRA and other tax-deferred retirement accounts must take an annual RMD (Required Minimum Distribution).  The account values as of December 31 of 2017 are used to calculate this year’s RMD, Bob Carlson reminds us in Forbes. Carlson cautions the RMD rules are not simple ones, and are, in fact, “the source of many mistakes and oversights by account beneficiaries, resulting in lost opportunities, extra taxes, and penalties.”

It happens often – we’ll be talking to clients here at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates about their estate planning and mention the RMD requirement.  While they will have heard about the RMD, many will have forgotten the way the rules work. While at Geyer Law we do not offer tax preparation,(instead working together with clients’ tax advisors to craft a unified plan), IRAs represent one area where there is a large overlap between tax planning and estate planning.

Year-end is that time of year when we’re reminded that the distribution of assets out of IRA
accounts,  whether to the owners while they are still alive or to their beneficiaries after they’ve passed on – even when there is a notebook prepared -  is no simple matter.

- by Rebecca W. Geyer