Wednesday, May 15, 2019

VET TECH Provides New Options in Planning for Veterans

Since helping veterans and their surviving spouses obtain the benefits they deserve is a very important initiative at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, our attorneys were very interested to learn about VET TEC, the newest pilot program from the Department of Veterans Affairs. VET TEC stands for Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses. The purpose - equipping veterans with the skills and expertise needed to land jobs in the high tech industry.

The main difference between this new program and the Post 9/11 GI Bill is that VET TEC, which consists of computer coding “boot camps” and other intensive high-tech training courses, is designed to move vets into the job market much faster than traditional college programs.

In this very innovative “public-private” arrangement, companies actually providing the training will be industry-leading commercial tech firms, not government agencies. “Preferred providers” will have agreed to return all money received from the VA if their attendees do not find meaningful employment within 180 days of course completion.

In discussing these new possibilities with vets and their spouses, we explain that not only is the training itself paid for by the VA, but that monthly housing is also provided during the training. The program does not use or take away any benefits to which the veteran is entitled through the GI Bill. In fact, veterans will be paid a partial housing stipend even if they choose to take the training online!

High demand training areas for the VET TEC program will include:
  • computer software
  • information science
  • computer programming
  • media application
  • data processing
A very important part of our law practice at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates is providing assistance to veterans and surviving spouses of wartime veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs is made up of three areas, but our firm’s focus is with the Veteran’s Benefits Administration.

While it is commonly known that certain benefits are available for the brave men and women who served in our armed forces, many veterans (and their families) are unaware of some of those benefits. We want to do our part to make sure this new training program helps as many vets as possible find new careers in the high demand high tech industry.

 - by Rebecca W. Geyer

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Special Needs Planning

“Ongoing advances in medical research and technology will result in children with development disabilities of all kinds living well into adulthood,” Webber Barton Roscher reports on the American Bar Association website.  What that statistic means is that, as estate planning attorneys, we must help clients with special needs adult children provide for those children on a long-term basis, while still tending to their own retirement needs and planning for the inheritances they would like to leave to other children.

Special needs trusts
  • Assets held in a properly drafted special needs trust are not considered to be resources that are “available” to the beneficiary. Therefore, the benefits an adult child is receiving through the Social Security Supplemental Security Income program (SSI) and/or through Medicaid will not be jeopardized.
  • Special needs trusts can be funded during the life of the parent(s) or come into existence upon the death of the parent(s). Sometimes the funding for the trust comes from a life insurance policy on the parent, while the parents’ other assets become the inheritance left to the other children.
  • Funds that are held in a special needs trust are available for many different needs:

    • medical and dental expenses not covered by government programs
    • equipment
    • special dietary needs
    • insurance
    • education
    • vacations
    • recreation
  • When a child reaches adulthood, parents are no longer allowed to either make medical decisions on behalf of that child or manage assets on that child’s behalf. For that reason establishing a guardianship is a crucial step in the planning. Then, looking ahead, a successor guardian (or a series of guardians) will need to be named to take over in the event the parent becomes incapacitated and after the parent(s)’ death.
  • In the ABA article, Roscher makes a point about special needs planning that we, in our practice at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates believe is especially important:
“Any parent providing care has accumulated a wealth of knowledge about the programs and benefits for which his or her child is eligible.  Passing this information on to the next caregiver will ease the emotional transition that certainly will occur on the loss of a parent. All individuals who may be involved with the transition of care should be given a copy of the letter or statement of wishes.”

 - by Rebecca W. Geyer

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Stepping Up Your Estate Plan

“Step-up in cost basis is a pivotal factor in deciding whether your clients should gift during life as compared to bequeathing assets,” Philip Herzberg, CFP®. CTFA, AEP® advises financial planners. How true - at Geyer Law, tax basis is one topic that must be thoroughly discussed whenever client are discussing assets they wish to pass on to someone else. Why?

1. If an asset is gifted during the lifetime of the owner, the tax basis is generally the original purchase price. At some point, the recipient will be paying capital gains tax on the difference between that cost basis and the sale price.
2. If the present owner waits and arranges for the asset to pass to the recipient as an inheritance, the cost basis will ‘step up” to the fair market value at the time the inheritance is received. (Unless the asset appreciates further before the heir before the heir sells it, there might be no capital gains tax to pay.)

A step-up in basis, Investopedia explains, reflects the changed value of an inherited asset, and the step-up in basis rule changes tax liability for inherited assets in comparison to other assets. Investopedia offers a simple example: An investor purchases stock at $2 per share, and the shares grow to a value of $15 per share.  If those shares pass to an heir after the original investor dies, the cost basis for each share becomes the current market price of $15. Any capital gains tax paid in the future will be based on the increase over that $15 cost basis, not based on the increase over the original purchase price of $2. Had the investor gifted the shares when he or she was still alive, the recipient would have a cost basis of $2 per share and pay capital gains tax on any amount over $2 per share realized on the sale!

When a beneficiary inherits property from a decedent, Michael Kitces explains, the asset receives a step-up in basis to its value on the date of death – which is both a tax perk for inheritors, and a form of tax simplification (as beneficiaries otherwise may not know what the decedent’s original cost basis was anyway). In most cases, determining what the cost basis of the inherited property will be is fairly straightforward – the executor determines the value, and reports it on the Form 706 estate tax return. In fact, Kitces adds, there is a new Internal Revenue Code section, #6035, requiring executors to file a new Form 8971 to notify the IRS who the beneficiaries are, along with a Schedule A that informs both the IRS and the beneficiaries what their inherited cost basis will be.

Our experience at Geyer Law has been that unless proper planning was done by the person who has died, the heirs simply do not know where to begin, and we must provide estate administration services to guide families through the process. Those services include:

* commencing probate proceedings
* assisting with the evaluation and orderly payment of claims
* advising clients regarding title issues
* assisting with trust funding
* preparing tax returns
* valuation and taxation of property
* closing the proceedings

Proper estate planning not only puts you in charge of your finances, it can also spare your loved ones expense, frustration – and possibly, capital gains tax!.

 - by Rebecca W. Geyer

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Estate Planning to Avoid the Snow White Effect

Getting married for a second time is fairly common, but the financial and estate planning issues that result from remarriage can be anything but, Mark Eghrari points out in Forbes

To illustrate that very point, Lexology published the piece “A Cautionary Fairy-Tale – If Only Cinderella’s Father Had an Estate Plan", making the observation that it was the parents’ failure to plan for the future that put Cinderella in the terrible predicament in which her evil stepmother stole her inheritance and enslaved her in her own home.

Why are there so many fairy tales that depict evil stepmothers? Is it true that stepmothers today are still resentful or do they love their stepchildren like their own? “I suspect the folk tale step-mother is centrally worried about the original child inheriting all the father’s fortune, and her own children getting nothing,” writes Mary Gentle of the University of London.

At Geyer Law, the fairy tale of Snow White comes to mind.  That story, we learned, was based on the true tale of Maria Sophia Margarethe Catharina, Baroness von und zu Erthal, born in 1725. Maria Sophia’s father was the local representative of the Prince Elector of Mainz.  After his first wife died, Philipp Christoph remarried.  The stepmother used her position to the advantage of her own children from her first marriage.

“Date two years before deciding to marry, then date your future spouse’s children before the wedding,” advises From an estate planning point of view, avoiding family conflict, both now and later, takes quite a bit of thought, as well as quite a bit of legal backup in the form of documents.

Among the many things a couple must consider are these:
  • What legal documents are already in place for each?
  • Does either have support obligations to a former spouse?
  • What debts are owed by either or both?
  • Do family members of either require more support (due to age or disability)?
  • Who owns the home in which the couple will live?  If the home is owned by one, will the other be allowed to stay in it after that person dies?
  • If there are minor children and their parent dies, what living arrangements are in place for them? Will the children live with their surviving parent?  Stay with the survivor of this marriage?  What funds will be available for their support?
Had either Cinderella’s or Snow White’s father lived in Indiana and visited with our estate planning attorneys at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, we would have discussed creating a trust for the daughter’s benefit, stating that certain assets were to be the separate property for her, apart from assets left to Wife #2.  As an “and/or”, a life insurance policy could have been established on the father’s life, with the benefits payable to a trust for the benefit of the daughter or Wife #2.
Establishing an estate plan is one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones. Proper estate planning puts you in charge of your finances, spares your loved ones the expense, delay and frustration associated with managing your affairs when you pass away or become disabled. With proper planning, all those stories about wicked stepparents can fade into fairy tales!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Making Sure Your Assets Continue on Down the Line

It is critically important to openly discuss estate planning goals with your own children, cautions Julie Garver in It may be ticklish to discuss divorce with your kids, but having them separate their inherited assets from their marital assets can protect your grandkids' inheritances in the event of a divorce, the author explains. Needless to say, the best situation would be one in which your son or daughter and their spouse had executed a prenuptial agreement before they married.

Another approach would be for grandparents to draft a will that clearly earmarks a specific dollar amount or percentage of the estate for the grandchildren, regardless of what the children do with their own inheritances. Some grandparents legally require that such assets be used for specific purposes, such as college educations or  weddings, Garver notes. A grandchild’s trust can also be set up as a "dynasty trust", which offers asset protection from creditors.

A Bloodline Trust should be considered, Thomas Begley, Jr. writes in, whenever a son- or daughter-in-law:
  • is a spendthrift and/or poor money manager
  • has difficulty holding a job
  • is a gambler
  • has an addictive illness such as alcoholism or drug addiction
  • is emotionally and/or physically abusive to child and/or grandchildren
  • has children from a previous marriage
  • is unfaithful
  • is not close to and/or not on good terms with children from the child’s previous marriage
Under Indiana law, marital property is property a couple acquires during marriage, while separate property is property one spouse owns before marriage, or acquires by gift or inheritance while married. Still, a judge may divide all of a couple’s property in any manner that seems fair, regardless of which spouse actually owns it or when it was acquired, Susan Bishop writes in

In many cases it is difficult to determine what is marital property and what is separate property. Advise your son or daughter to take inherited assets and keep those assets in a totally separate account. They should choose an investment manager different from one they share with the spouse, and only they should pay the taxes on any income derived from the account.

At Geyer Law, we highly recommend prenuptial agreements, particularly when people are entering marriage with assets they want to pass on to their own children from a prior marriage. When that has not been done, we can tailor an “after-the-fact” plan that will reassure both parents and grandparents that assets continue down the line as planned.

- by Jennifer Hammond, Associate Attorney at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Modern Estate Planning Must Cover a Wide Range of Issues

“While minimizing tax remains the focus for some, most estate planning attorneys work to address other critical goals,” the American Bar Association explained in introducing its 2018 conference. The wide range of issues that constitute a modern estate planning practice include:
  • transitioning a business across generations
  • protecting inherited assets from creditors
  • planning to avoid family disputes
  • litigating those disputes
  • addressing incapacity for an aging society
  • proper trust administration
  • taxation
Meanwhile, as Martin Shenkman, CPA, MBA, PFS, AEP, JD cautions clients, “If you have not updated your planning and documents for the new world of estate planning, your planning will likely NOT (caps intended) work.” It might help, Shenkman says, to consider how planning might differ based on wealth levels.
  1. Ultra-high net worth clients - The current environment with its high exemptions may be the best it’s ever going to get, so plans must be flexible to deal with the possibility of law changes in Washington.
  2. Lower wealth clients - Old trusts should be examined and life insurance policies might need to be adapted to accomplish goals other than paying estate tax.
  3. Moderately wealthy clients - It’s important to use some of the high exemptions before they sunset in 2026, and look into non-grantor trusts (that pay their own tax).
At Geyer Law, our attorneys agree with Martin Shenkman that “estate planning is a new ballgame.” Yet, people are people, just the way they have always been. While family arrangements may be more varied and complex nowadays, our mission has remained the same:
  • Guide clients through the process
  • Demonstrate a full range of options
  • Educate clients on changes in the law
  • Make clear and concise recommendations
  • Be responsive and compassionate
Estate planning documents should not be done just once and then forgotten, Sabrina Winters reminds readers in her Lexis Nexis blog. They must be reviewed and changed according to life events and changes. The addition of a child to the family, the acquisition of new assets, health changes, changes in marital status - all these can trigger a need to take a second or third look at your estate plan.

As a full service estate planning and elder law firm serving the people of central Indiana for the past two decades, we understand that the one constant in our work - is change!
 - by Cara M. Chittenden of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Modern Era Estate Planning

“Traditional notions of family are changing in the 21st century,” estate planning advisor Ashok Sanghavi writes. “New reproductive technology advances are challenging the concept of the family,” he adds, and estate planning documents need to be ready to reflect these new family dynamics.

It is now common to meet, Sanghavi points out:
  • blended families
  • non-traditional marriages
  • second marriages
  • unmarried couples
  • children born to unmarried couples
  • senior citizen marriages
  • posthumous births using preserved genetic material.
At Geyer Law, we know. Since, in Indiana, only recently have same-sex couples been afforded the rights and privileges of marriage, some newly-merged family members often don’t think about creating new wills and adjusting the handling of their estates to ensure their survivors are cared for – without requiring extensive litigation to defend their rights. Our attorneys, very early on, became adept at dealing with the legal challenges associated with nontraditional marriages.

Some of the thorniest issues in modern-day estate planning involve the way the terms “children” and “descendants” are defined. In the U.S., the law uses DNA testing on children to determine a contested paternity case. Since our attorneys also deal in divorce mediations, we find that sometimes grandparental visiting rights can become an issue in addition to posing challenges to right of inheritance. Are adopted and biological children to be given the same treatment?  “Financial and estate planning documents must now consider alternate parental definitions,” Sanghavi reminds readers.

Times have changed; in fact they are still “a-changing”. Modern era estate planning presents new challenges – and new opportunities – with each passing year. Documents must be created - or changed – to reflect these new family dynamics, and our goal as Indiana estate planning attorneys is to take a lifetime planning approach which encompasses planning for our clients in this modern era.

 - by Rebecca W. Geyer


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Estate Planning and Frequent Flyer Miles?

When Stuart Kessler, CPA/PFS is advising CPA financial planners, he advises handing clients a form letter of instruction setting forth information those mourning the death of a loved one would need. In addition to burial arrangements, document location, and beneficiary designations, Kessler adds an unexpected item - frequent flyer miles. Any client who travels extensively, he says, may be enrolled in a frequent flyer program that has built up a substantial balance of reward points. The issue of which beneficiary should received these unused points when the client dies can trigger a long and useful discussion between the client and his attorney, CPA and financial planner Kessler has found.

“When you’re dealing with the swirl of emotions and details that come with the loss of a loved one, what happens to their frequent flyer miles is probably the last thing on your mind.  But these miles can actually add up to a fairly substantial hidden asset, potentially worth hundreds of dollars or more in services and goods,”  the BelleVie blog states, pointing out that while most airlines and credit card companies would like you to think you are simply not allowed to inherit airline miles, that’s not necessarily the case.

In fact, BelleVie says, regardless of the written policy on their websites, many companies have undisclosed inheritance rules allowing them to make exceptions and transfer airline miles after a death (the authors note that United Airlines, Southwest, Frontier, JetBlue, and Delta are among those whose official policy is not to allow transferring points to beneficiaries, while American and U.S. Air specifically allow transfer to a beneficiary). American Express membership Rewards program can be set up as a joint account so that if one spouse passes away, the other can control the points. From an advance planning point of view, BelleVie encourages estate planning clients to use loyalty exchange sites to transfer miles or points to rewards programs with more generous rules regarding inherited points 

Stuart Kessler’s point, of course, is that the very concrete task of investigating frequent flyer point status as part of estate planning triggers an understanding of all the details involved in preparing an estate plan that addresses the needs and desires of the client and saves time and heartache on the ones left behind to settle the estate.

At Geyer Law, our attorneys understand all too well the challenges, fears, and family dynamics that often come into play with legal issues. While we offer compassionate advice to our clients on matters including estate planning, estate administration, special needs trusts, Medicaid planning, and end-of-life issues, sometimes, we spend time discussing who gets Grandma’s cookbook and who gets the frequent flyer miles!

- By Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Estate Planning When Everything in the Tax Code is Temporary

Every client should review his or her estate planning strategy on a fairly regular basis, Robert Bloink and William Byrnes remind us in, but given that we’ve had a major tax overhaul, it’s time to take an even more detailed look.

Three specific “to-do” the authors emphasize:

Re-evaluating “formula trusts”:
One popular estate planning technique has been to set up a formula in which assets up to the estate tax exemption amount are transferred into a credit shelter trust at the death of the first spouse to die, with the remainder going into a marital trust to take advantage of the marital deduction. Problem: with the enlarged 2019 estate tax exemption ($11.4 million per individual), some clients will find that no assets remain to be transferred to the marital trust.  If the children, rather than the surviving spouse, have been named as beneficiaries of the credit shelter trust, the spouse could be left high and dry.

Re-evaluating gift strategies:
ING trusts (intentionally non-grantor trusts) have an “adverse party” who controls distributions to beneficiaries.  When creating such a trust, the client must decide whether gifts will be “incomplete” (allowing the trust creator to keep some control over the assets and avoid gift tax) or “complete” (gifts would be deducted from the client’s lifetime transfer tax exemption amount).
Since the $11.4 million exemption is temporary, and since there will be no “clawback” for gifts made now, clients need to reconsider which type of gift is most advantageous in their situation.

Reviewing beneficiary designations on qualified plans:
Inherited IRAs may often be distributed over time, but most qualified retirement plans require lump sum distribution treatment. Under current law, designated beneficiaries of qualified plans can roll the inherited funds into an inherited IRA, thereby preserving the ability to “stretch” out distributions, preserving tax deferred growth on the remainder of the funds. At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, we often meet with the beneficiaries of our estate planning clients, helping each beneficiary select the best course of action given his or her financial situation.

In all estate planning, Bloink and Byrnes conclude, clients should be reminded that the $11.4 million transfer tax exemption is only temporary.  After 2026, it is set to revert back to pre-reform levels (around $6 million per individual).  At Geyer & Associates, we are also keenly aware that the fields of tax law and estate planning overlap, and that it is important to coordinate the efforts of the client’s different advisors. As Robert Bloink and William Byrnes remind their readers, in reality everything in the tax code is temporary, and flexibility is always key to the success of any estate planning strategy!

- by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Emergency Estate Planning When Illness Strikes

“Some of the events that occur in your life that can prompt you to consider estate planning can be more difficult than others,” attorney Ronald Morton explains, specifically referring to a cancer diagnosis. Since, according to nationwide statistics, nearly 40% of women and men will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetime, Morton stresses, understanding the estate planning steps you can take to protect your assets and your legacy after a cancer diagnosis is important. Impulsive actions caused by panic are common with anyone who has received such a frightening diagnosis, but sitting down with a planner to discuss strategies can be extremely beneficial.

“In the face of a terminal illness, why would anyone think about money moves?” is the question posed by physician and planner Carolyn McClanahan in Forbes. For the sake of financial peace to the best extent possible, McClanahan asserts. “Just as a palliative care consult should be obtained at the beginning of a life-threatening diagnosis, financial discussions should also begin early in the treatment process.”  “Mrs. Very Sick,” McClanahan says, “I am here for you and your family to make certain money matters are taken care of so you can concentrate on taking care of yourself.”

If and when the client’s situation takes a turn for the worse, McClannahan approaches specific needs and recommendations. She offers three general tips in situations where there has been a dire prognosis:
  1. Medical expenses not covered by insurance my result in sizeable tax deductions, which will be lost when the patient dies if there is not enough income to offset them.  The patient should consider increasing taxable income by making a withdrawal from their retirement account.
  2. Consult with an estate planning attorney to choose the appropriate form of estate administration.
  3. Check all the beneficiaries on all life insurance policies and retirement plans to make sure underage beneficiaries do not inherit assets directly (which can result in significant legal fees), and to make sure beneficiaries do not include those with drug or financial problems or ex-spouses.
In many ways, a diagnosis of a debilitating chronic disease demands the same attention to revising one’s financial and estate plan, Susan Garland writes in Kiplinger’s Retirement Report. Your first task: learn as much as possible about the likely progression and symptoms of your illness, sharing that information with your advisors.  Your financial advisor may need to adjust your investment portfolio and budget to prepare for those extra costs. Possible considerations:
  • You may need to retire earlier than planned.
  • Your spouse may need to retire to care for you.
  • You may require home health care.
  • You may wish to set up automatic bill-paying and automate other routine financial tasks.
  • Research foundations and drug companies that offer programs to pay certain drug costs.
As estate planning attorneys at Geyer Law, we might need to revise a client’s power of attorney and health care directive documents to address the likely progression of the illness and the need for ongoing decision-making. The person you named as your health care power of attorney needs to understand your disease and live close enough to respond to emergencies- and still be willing to serve, Garland cautions. A person diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness should consider creating an POST form to direct medical providers in performing treatment in line with the patient’s wishes for care.

Although Indiana law grants authority for certain individuals to make health care decisions for you if you cannot speak for yourself, advance directives ensure that your wishes are respected. “It is an unfortunate fact,” Carolyn McClanahan writes, “that money issues are a significant concern at the end of life, and that our taboos against discussing money cause great strife for patients and families.”

 - by Associate Attorney Cara M. Chittenden

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

In Estate Planning, It's Important to "Get Tough"

“Dr. Phil doesn’t stay busy ‘cause people are simple and families get along,” observes Marvin Shenkman in the Ultimate Estate Planner.”Most of us are pretty complicated,“ Shenkman says, “and families are often dysfunctional (and worse)”

Shenkman’s point? If you don’t deal with the human elements of estate planning, your plan is useless. Like it or not, your goals won’t be accomplished without confronting family demons and dealing with them proactively. As a society, Shenkman says, we hardly seem to be able to talk about tough issues such as:
  • depression
  • mental health issues
  • aging and chronic disease
  • family dysfunction
  • diversity
  • gender issues
  • overspending
  • lifestyle choices
These issues can all be difficult to deal with, but that is the fabric of which we are made and which makes us human, Shenkman reminds us.

Some estate planning colleagues in Washington, D.C. list some worst-case scenarios that resulted when people failed to confront their own and their family members’ “humanity”. In each case, family members proved to be less than trustworthy, exploiting the situation for their own benefit while thwarting the intent of the original plan.

The Forbes article “Family Feud! 6 Stories of Problematic Estate Planning” tells of executors who don’t “play fair” with the assets, children fighting over “treasured” mementos and assets, minor beneficiaries upon whom no spending restrictions have been set, and mental illness and dementia in the family.

At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, our goal is to offer our best recommendation for your particular estate planning needs. We know that proper estate planning not only puts you in charge of your affairs, it can spare your loved ones expense, delay, and frustration. Estate planning is tough, very tough. It goes without saying that nobody wants to talk about, or even think about, death and disability, much less about family issues.

Estate planning is important in many ways:
  • to provide for incapacity
  • to avoid probate
  • to provide for minor children
  • to deal with beneficiaries with financial or dependency issues
  • to plan for death taxes
  • to benefit a charitable cause
But, to control the outcome, we must confront the issues - and the “demons” that plague every family relationship.
 - by Jennifer Hammond, Associate Attorney, Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Updated Personal Property Inventory Helps Ease the Pain for Executors

“Your executor or trustee will have a much easier time distributing your estate if you have an updated comprehensive personal property inventory in place,” Greg Holton writes in “The Hidden Risks of Undocumented Personal Property”.  Not only does having an updated comprehensive inventory in place help in the event of an insurance claim or for tax loss reporting, but upon death, an inventory solves many potential problems for heirs, Holton explains: 
  • the executor often lacks the time and knowledge to complete an inventory and knowledgeably value the assets
  • it may be difficult to match specific distribution instructions in the will or trust with the assets to be distributed with the assets
  • without an inventory, “pilfering” by relatives can happen before distribution
  • there may be internal disputes among heirs over heirlooms and family possessions
All these points are important. The fact is, whether you have a simple will in place or a revocable living trust, an inventory of your personal property assets will need to be completed so that your final state and federal forms can be filed.  Without those, the estate will not be released for distribution, Holton explains. Most executors and trustees find that the inventory of personal property is their most time-consuming task. And, if, as happens so often, the executor happens to live in another state, that makes completing the inventory an even more difficult task.

At Geyer Law, where we counsel and represent executors, personal representatives, trustees and beneficiaries on the proper settlement of estates and the administration of trusts, our goal is to minimize stress at an already difficult time.

Services we regularly provide for clients in this practice area include:
  • commencing probate proceedings
  • advising clients on the valuation and taxation of property interests
  • assisting with payment of claims
  • advising on title issues
  • completing beneficiary claim forms
  • preparing inheritance tax returns
  • closing the estate

    No doubt about it – everyone involved will have a much easier time if you have an updated comprehensive personal property inventory in place!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

In Estate Planning, Only a Person Can Do a Stretch

“While the basic intent of having a retirement account is to save for and finance retirement years, many individuals have other financial resources and prefer to leave the tax-deferred assets to their beneficiaries,” Investopedia explains. But can they do that? That depends on the way the IRA beneficiary designations are set up.

The concept is called “stretch IRA”, and the idea is for the IRA to be passed on from generation to generation without the beneficiary needing to pay tax on the entire amount all at once. Properly set up, a stretch provision can allow a beneficiary to designate a second-generation beneficiary, and even a third and fourth. If there is no contingent beneficiary named on the IRA document, though, there can be no stretch after the original beneficiary has died. That’s because an estate has no “life expectancy”.

At Geyer Law, we remind estate planning clients that a “stretch” is not a specific type of IRA. It’s a strategy for stretching out the tax advantages of an IRA, giving the money in the account more time to grow tax-deferred. With a traditional IRA account, the owner must begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) by April 1 of the year after turning 70½.  When the IRA owner dies, non-spousal heirs have to take their own RMDs based on their own life expectancies. Of course, the younger the beneficiary, the lower the RMD, which allows more funds to remain in the IRA and grow.

An important service we provide to our clients is to keep them up-to-date on changes in the law that can affect their estate plans. We were happy that under the latest tax law change, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the stretch IRA was allowed to continue. But, as is pointed out in, “This shrewd strategy requires careful steps, and a stretch IRA really begins its existence when heirs named on the IRA beneficiary form divide an inherited IRA among themselves.

Despite the enormous advantages to be gained through “stretching” an IRA as part of smart estate planning, as long as the IRA owners themselves are alive, MainStart Trust reminds clients, having a “stretch” provision does not excuse them from taking Required Minimum Distributions based on their own life expectancy. While at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, we do not prepare taxes, 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.

Bottom line message about IRAS: It’s important to name contingent beneficiaries, because in estate planning, only a person can do a stretch!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Gifts of Estate Planning Must Be Given With Care

“The best gift a parent can give their child for 2019 is to help them organize and manage their affairs,” Megan Gorman writes in Forbes. That, in fact, is precisely what 67% of Boomer parents would like to do for their adult children. “Boomers who have managed their finances in an organized manner want to be sure that their intent and hard work doesn’t go to waste,” Gorman says.

One area about which Boomers often complain to their advisors, the author notes (an observation borne out by our attorneys at Geyer Law) is that the children aren’t doing the things their parents ask them to in terms of planning. But family dynamics can pose a challenge, and parents who want to pay for an adult child’s estate plan need to broach the subject with care and with good timing, Gorman cautions. What’s more, even though parents may have paid for the estate planning, those parents need to understand that attorneys will not be able to share the contents of their children’s documents with them.

Regardless of who the payer is, and regardless for whom the planning is being done, at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates we provide in-depth counseling with an eye to clients’ current needs, as well as to potential changes in their circumstances.
Gen Xers and Millenials, Gorman reminds parents, are often overwhelmed by debt and struggling to get their day-to-day financial lives in order, so that the offer of a gift of estate planning attorney fees might trigger resentment rather than the desired result. Adult children need to feel they are given a voice in advance of a family meeting or discussion, she advises.

As Indiana estate planning attorneys, our objective is to take the mystery out of the estate planning process. “Framing” the process of creating their own estate plan as a way for children to help give their parents peace of mind can sometimes smooth the path towards the desired result.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Cremation Isn't a One-Step Estate Planning Decision

There has been a rapid shift in preference from traditional burial in a casket to cremation, David Ring, president of Indiana Funeral Care, points out in Senior Life. But then what? Do you want your cremains:
  • buried in a cemetery close to relatives?
  • scattered at a place special to you and to family members?
What about a service? Ring asks.  Family members and friends will want to recognize and celebrate your life. Options include:
  • a traditional funeral with a casket, with cremation to follow
  • memorial service with your favorite songs, recognition of your favorite hobbies
“Discuss your preferences with your family so your remains don’t end up abandoned at a funeral home,” Ring advises. People who make pre-arrangements make wiser decisions and spend less money, earning the gratitude of survivors.

At Geyer Law, where we guide clients in developing their estate plans, we know just how important advance planning to those clients’ survivors. Our work in estate administration involves the legal process of transferring assets from the name of the diseased person to those inheriting the assets.  In settling the estate and administering trusts we find ourselves working with:
  • executors
  • personal representatives
  • trustees
  • beneficiaries
The goal, of course, is to resolve all matters as promptly as possible and to minimize stress at an already difficult time. The more a client’s wishes have been made clear while living, the better.

Often, our attorneys find, individuals do not know where to begin when someone dies. We provide full-service estate administration services to guide families through the process from start to finish. There’s a lot to do, including:
  • commencing probate proceedings
  • dealing with the valuation and taxation of property interests
  • assisting with the evaluation and orderly payment of claims
  • preparing inheritance tax returns
  • closing the estate
If some of the “simpler” decisions about burial or cremation have been made clear before death, that can obviously go a long way towards easing the burden of estate settlement on those left behind.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Estate Planning Basics Every Military Service Person Needs to Know

“Estate planning is not just for the wealthy,” Military One Source reminds servicemen and women. If something should happen to you:
  • What happens to your property?
  • Who cares for your children?
  • Who oversees your finances when you can’t?
  • Who oversees your health care options when you can’t?
Members of the military also need to know about these two special estate planning-related benefits:

Survivor benefit program
This Department of Defense sponsored and subsidized program provides up to 55% of a service member’s retired pay to an eligible beneficiary. The coverage is at no cost to members on active duty, to reservists who die of a service-connected cause.  Active duty members can purchase coverage upon retirement. Reservists can elect coverage when they have 20 years of qualifying service.

Burial benefits
For a service-related death, the Veterans’ Administration will pay up to $2,000 toward burial expenses for deaths. If the Veteran is buried in a VA national cemetery, some or all of the cost of transporting the deceased may be reimbursed. For a non-service-related death, The VA pays up to $780 toward burial and funeral expenses (this amount applies if the serviceman or woman was hospitalized by VA at time of death); if that is not true, the amount is $300.

Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates assists wartime veterans or their surviving spouses in obtaining VA non-service connected pension benefits as well. Besides the Basic Pension, there are two allowances that can create a larger benefit:

The veteran must be unable to leave the house without assistance for employment purposes.

Aid & Attendance
The veteran requires assistance in performing at least two activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, feeding, toileting, taking meds).

At Geyer Law, our focus is on the Veteran’s Benefits Administration, one of three areas in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, working to help veterans and surviving spouses obtain the cash benefits to which they are entitled.

There are estate planning basics every military service person - and every spouse of that military service person -  needs to know.

 - by Rebecca Geyer

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Under the New Tax Law, It Can Still Pay to be Generous

“The beginning of 2018 saw new major tax legislation, commonly known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which has had a significant effect on estate planning for many individuals,” the National Law Review reminds readers. Given that most of the new provisions related to estate planning "sunset" on January 1, 2026, the authors point out, “now is an ideal time to revisit estate plans to ensure they make full use of this opportunity.”

At Geyer law, some of the specific gifting aspects of the new law which we are emphasizing include:
  • The amount of the annual exclusion gifts (that may be transferred free of gift and estate tax) was increased. In 2019 that amount is $15,000 per gift per person.
  • Unlimited amounts of tax-free gifts may be made by paying tuition costs directly to the recipient’s school or paying their medical expenses directly to a health care provider (this includes paying health insurance premiums).
There are, of course, many non-tax related reasons to review your estate plan this year, the Review points out, specifically naming the following:
There has been much talk about the increase in the standard deduction under TCJA, relating to the decreased tax-planning value of charitable gifts. (In fact, a study by the National Council of Nonprofits estimated that the doubling of the standard deduction is going to lower charitable giving by $13 billion!)

As long-time estate planning advisors, we realize that tax savings is hardly the only motivation for gifts to charity - our clients want to make an impact in areas of society about which they care by leaving a legacy. True, tax deductibility has been part of the planning process, and at Geyer Law we work together with clients’ tax advisors to craft individualized tax and charitable gifting plans.

Whether under the pre-2018 tax law, current TCJA rules, or post-2026 rules, planned giving programs can be a win-win.  Besides benefiting causes meaningful to them, there is the potential for clients to reduce both capital gains and estate tax. In so many different ways, we maintain, it still pays to be generous!
 - by Rebecca Geyer

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Can a Client's Family Member Demand info About the Estate Plan?

The niece of one of my elderly clients called me recently to ask about her aunt’s account. She was concerned that her aunt’s caretaker was stealing money from her. Unfortunately, since she wasn’t listed as someone I could give information to I had to decline. She went on a tirade and made a huge stink about it…Was there anything I could have done differently to have avoided the confrontation with the niece?  (This question was posed by a financial advisor in the Financial Planning Magazine Dec. 2018 issue.)

Financial advisors are in a position of trust, and are expected to keep all information about their clients confidential.  But, just last year, a new Financial Industry Regulatory Authority rule went into effect, designed to protect seniors against fraud and exploitation. The rule basically has two parts:

1. When a client opens an account, (or when financial advisors are updating an account), the advisors are required to make reasonable efforts to obtain the name of and contact information for a trusted contact person. If the advisor suspects either that there is mental decline in the account owner, or that fraud is taking place, the advisor can get in touch with that contact person.

2. FINRA members are permitted to place temporary holds on disbursements of funds or securities if they believe exploitation or fraud is taking place.

As elder law attorneys at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, we are also in a position of trust with our clients.  “In fact, the most basic principle underlying the lawyer-client relationship is that lawyer-client communications are privileged, or confidential”, the Legal Encyclopedia explains. This means that lawyers cannot reveal clients’ oral or written statements (nor lawyers’ own statements to clients) to anyone, including prosecutors, employers, friends, or family members, without their clients’ consent”.

Specifically, our rule is called Rule 1.6: Confidentiality of Information, and it is part of Indiana’s Rules of Professional Conduct: In the absence of the client's informed consent, the lawyer must not reveal information relating to the representation. Paragraph (a) of that rule requires a lawyer to act competently to safeguard information relating to the representation of a client against unauthorized access by third parties.

Elder Law involves planning for the complex health, long-term care, and other issues faced by elderly and disabled individuals and their families. With advocacy for families through estate planning and elder law representing my own career mission, I am particularly dedicated to protecting seniors against fraud and exploitation, while preserving the confidentiality of information given to me in trust.

 - by Geyer Law associate Jennifer Hammond

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Getting Ready for a Divorce? Look at Your Estate Plan!

“Divorce is not easy.  It’s not only a difficult time emotionally, but you also have a lot to do and many decisions to make,” writes Christine Fletcher in Forbes. While the divorce is ongoing, she explains, you want to make sure:
  • you meet your legal obligations to your spouse.
  • you retain as much control over your assets as possible.
  • you plan for the contingency of you dying or becoming incapacitated prior to the divorce being finalized.

Specific documents that will need to be changed include:
  • health care proxy
  • power of attorney
  • beneficiaries on life insurance policies and IRAs
  • will
  • trust

“Every divorce is different,” explains, since ”every couple enters and leaves a marriage under different circumstances and with different assets”.  

Knowing that premarital or prenuptial agreements entered into before marriage go a long, long way in reducing the pain and hassle of a divorce, the attorneys of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates highly recommend those documents for every couple planning to marry, but particularly those entering into a second or third marriage.

During a pending divorce, reviewing your estate planning documents must move to the forefront of the to-do list. Some of the sobering what-if questions raised in the Forbes article are all too real, our attorneys find:
  • What if you’re in a car accident and end up in the ICU - do you want your soon-to-be-ex-spouse being the decision-maker?
  • Does your durable power of attorney documents give your soon-to-be-ex access to assets that are in your name alone?

No, divorce is not easy, and, yes, there are many decisions to be made. Our mission at Geyer Law: be responsive and compassionate, and offer a full range of options for individuals facing changing circumstances.

by Rebecca Geyer

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Add Estate Planning to Your New year's Resolutions

In addition to diet and exercise, we were happy to note, a Forbes article recommended adding estate, financial, insurance, and retirement planning to a list of New Year’s resolutions. Actually, contributor Marvin Shankman was giving a lecture to lawyers, CPAs and financial advisors, who he realized are like the proverbial shoemaker with the barefoot kids. His advice, however, can benefit everyone who has been putting off getting those all-important estate planning documents in place.

Shankman himself, he explains, plans to explore bringing his children into the estate planning meeting, and suggests “you should resolve to inform, or even involve heirs and others” in your planning process in the New Year.

Do you have copies of all key estate and financing planning documents accessible in an emergency, he asks? Resolve to have electronic copies of all key documents disseminated to appropriate advisers, family, and fiduciaries, he says.

As estate planning attorneys at Geyer Law, as we work with clients to update wills, trusts, and power of attorney documents, we include language giving designated agents the ability to access digital assets, an important consideration as people continue to shift more of their finances online.
“My trusts are getting old and creaky…and could use a facelift,” Shankman admits.  Laws change, and planning techniques get more sophisticated. He has a blended family, and therefore must balance the pros and cons of using institutional trustees, not only family members.
Everyone’s documents get ‘creaky” as life brings changes - more children, more assets, a falling-out with friends or relatives, new grandchildren, split-ups, businesses or real estate properties bought or sold. At Geyer Law, we know: life does not stand still, and neither does your estate plan.
Developments that are change-drivers include new treatments and therapies that open up possibilities for “aging in place”, changes in tax law, changes in health insurance and Medicaid. While the cost of legal services is a concern for every client, at Rebecca W. Geyer, P.C., we make every effort to offer legal guidance at a fixed fee.

“Accept that estate, financial, charitable, insurance, retirement, and other planning is a process, not an end game,” Shankman concludes.  Resolve to stick with it, revisit it, and periodically address and improve whatever your plan is, he advises.   Amen to that, and - Happy New year!

- by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team