Legacy Planning Law Group
Weekly Blog

Estate & Elder Law

Protect Your Family. Preserve Your Legacy

If you’re interested in learning more about our process and the solution for you and your family, please book your free 15-minute call with us today!

mom in quarantine

What Should I Ask, If My Mom Is in a Quarantined Facility

What Should I Ask, If My Mom Is in a Quarantined Facility

Federal guidance for nursing homes state that members of the public and non-essential health care personnel and staff shouldn’t be permitted to visit (with a few exceptions, such as an end-of-life situation — as long as the visitor isn’t showing signs of a respiratory illness), according to guidelines from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

AARP’s recent article entitled “6 Questions to Ask if Your Loved One Is in a Quarantined Facility” explains that assisted living communities are a different situation, because they’re governed by the states. As a result, there have been no broad rules covering their management during the outbreak. However, the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, an industry trade group, is advocating that its facilities to follow the federal government’s guidance for nursing homes.

To ease the anxiety, many of these residences are making great efforts to communicate with family members, such as emails, phone calls and websites, outlining their policies and instructions for connecting with residents and posting photos of residents’ daily activities.

However, many family members are still worried about how their loved ones are doing, when they can’t confirm their well-being first-hand person. Therefore, if you have questions about their care, you need to be assertive. Be firm, polite and persistent. Here are some questions that you might ask, if your loved one is in a quarantined facility:

  1. Has anyone at the facility tested positive for COVID-19? Nursing homes and long-term care facilities have been hard hit by COVID-19, so ask about testing of all staff members, residents and any vendors who service the facility.
  2. How are you keeping the facility clean and keeping the risk of infection low for residents? Ask about the protocols put into place to protect the patients. This should include screening staff who are caring for your parents, and what are they doing to keep the place sanitized.
  3. Is the facility maintaining regular healthy-living programs? The patients need to have services, like physical therapy and occupational therapy programs designed to keep your loved one from deconditioning.
  4. How are the residents being engaged? Are there activities, like games, presentations and music to keep the residents engaged?
  5. How do I communicate with my parent? Some facilities have set up visits via Skype, WhatsApp and FaceTime between families and their loved ones.
  6. How is the facility working with drop-off deliveries? You may want to deliver something like flowers or baked goods for dad at the care facility, so find out the procedure.

Reference: AARP (April 15, 2020) “6 Questions to Ask if Your Loved One Is in a Quarantined Facility”

Read more related articles at :

Worried about COVID-19 for a loved one in long-term care? Here’s what to consider

Your loved one is in a nursing home with COVID 19 cases, what should you do?

Also Read one of our previous Blogs at :

Staying Connected to Family Members in a Nursing Home When Visits are Banned


blowing inheritance

5 Strategies to Keep Your Heirs From Blowing Their Inheritance

5 Strategies to Keep Your Heirs From Blowing Their Inheritance

Preserving the family money beyond a few generations isn’t an easy task.
From Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, November 2015

From shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations, goes the early 20th-century American proverb. Then there’s the 19th-century British version: Clogs to clogs in three generations. And from Italy, date uncertain: From the stable to the stars and back again. You’ll find similar sentiments in almost every language, all expressing the same thought: It’s nearly impossible to pass on family wealth and have it last beyond your grandkids.

Statistics back up the folklore. Studies have found that 70% of the time, family assets are lost from one generation to the next, and assets are gone 90% of the time by the third generation.

That’s because a crucial element of successful inheritances is often neglected. Traditionally, the focus has been on the givers of wealth, but it should rather be on the receivers. Investing assets wisely and crafting a good estate plan are crucial to success, but so is preparing the heirs. “Estate planning is a process to transfer wealth, but it doesn’t help the family develop an infrastructure to sustain it, or keep the family unified from one generation to the next,” says Debbie Dalton, a Bay Village, Ohio, resident, whose family is learning how to successfully steward the wealth that her father, a chemical engineer, amassed as founder of cryogenic equipment maker Chart Industries.

Preparing the next generation has a lot to do with financial literacy. But it has just as much (if not more) to do with passing down and putting into practice values that will sustain your family as well as your fortune. In other words, a successful inheritance is as much about parenting as it is about money management, and that goes as much for multimillionaires as for mom-and-pop investors with a six-figure portfolio to pass along.

Inheritances gone wrong

It’s counterintuitive to think about the downside of inherited wealth, and it may be off-putting for families of modest means. But giving money to kids can be fraught with danger, says Brad Klontz, a psychologist and certified financial planner. First-generation wealth creators, often coming from poverty or a middle-class background, have worked hard, made mistakes, picked themselves up and persevered. Along the way, they’ve become self-disciplined, resourceful and resilient.

“You assume that those values will trickle down automatically,” says Klontz. “But your children are having a vastly different experience of the world than you had.” Parents who strive to give their kids what they themselves never had (which is what many worked so hard for, after all) can wind up fostering financial de­pendence, and raising kids who lack drive, creativity or passion, Klontz says.

In the book Inherited Wealth, John Levy lists a number of challenges that accompany a family windfall, observed over many years of consulting with families on inheritance issues. According to Levy, inheritors can lack self-esteem if they suspect that their success stems from their wealth instead of their efforts. Or, feeling guilty, they find it hard to accept good fortune that they didn’t earn. Their emotional development can be delayed if they never face important life challenges. Boredom can be a problem, and because of the boredom, inheritors are at risk for substance abuse or other self-destructive behaviors. Finally, heirs can be stymied by too many options or paralyzed by a fear of losing their wealth.

Little wonder that rich people from Warren Buffett to Sting have vowed to “spare” their children from inheriting fortunes, choosing instead to give most of theirs away or spend it. Buffett has said the ideal inheritance for kids is “enough money so that they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing.” Sting told Britain’s Daily Mail last year, “I certainly don’t want to leave them trust funds that are albatrosses round their necks.”

But that attitude is rare among wealthy parents, says Rod Zeeb, CEO of the Heritage Institute, which trains advisers and works with families to prepare younger generations for their inheritances. “When it comes down to it, most parents don’t want to disinherit their kids,” he says. What they’d prefer is a game plan that will not only keep the family assets intact but also keep the kids grounded, healthy and productive.

Richard Hansen had a plan from the get-go. The retired Navy man, who lives most of the time in Virginia Beach, Va., has done very well as a military contractor for several government agencies, including the departments of State and Homeland Security. “I come from a working-class family,” he says. “I always intended that if I made something of myself, I’d give back and make sure my children and grandchildren did, too. They were not going to be that second- and third-generation family that didn’t understand where they came from.”

Hansen’s four adult kids all have jobs, and they are not wealthy — but they will be when they inherit. In preparation for that day, they’ve taken an active role in the family foundation, learning to invest money and to give it away wisely. Family members, including an 11-year-old granddaughter, support causes ranging from ending homelessness to animal rights to the arts. Each of them knows what’s involved in making the money to give away, how to pitch a project to a board of directors and how to analyze costs, set priorities and evaluate outcomes. “Each of my children can stand on his or her own anywhere in the business world,” says Hansen. “That’s the greatest thing I’ve been able to do for them — that, and making sure that they’re not rotten, spoiled brats.”

A five-point plan

A growing number of families are turning to advisers and specialized programs to help prepare the next generation for the riches they will inherit, in a way that goes beyond the benchmarks of money managers and the legalese of estate lawyers. Here’s some of what those advisers recommend.

Get over the money taboo. Family finances are often an unpopular topic of discussion, especially if parents are worried that family wealth might spoil their kids. “It becomes a big elephant in the room,” says Daisy Medici, managing director of governance and education at GenSpring Family Offices, a unit of SunTrust Banks. “The kids are surrounded by wealth and the opportunities that it brings, but the family doesn’t talk about it,” she says. Young people with no preparation who suddenly come into a trust fund because they’ve turned 21 — or, heaven forbid, the parents die in an accident — can be completely derailed, the same way lottery winners often are.

The same goes for spouses. “My father retired and a couple of years later was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died within six weeks,” says Dalton. The tragedy was compounded by the fact that Dalton’s mother was unprepared to take the financial reins, having been shielded from much of that responsibility during her marriage. “I was really angry at my dad for that. It was well intentioned, but my mother was paralyzed,” says Dalton. It didn’t help that the transition took place in 2008, as the family’s investments were being pummeled by a bear market. The family assets survived the bear market, and Heritage Institute coaching has since helped Dalton’s mom develop her own voice and leadership style. Coaching has also helped the family to coalesce around the Christian values they want to shape their legacy, says Dalton.

Sometimes parents are silent because they’re not sure their money will outlast the health challenges of old age or mercurial financial markets. Whatever the reason for the lack of communication, heirs who are ill-prepared are left to wonder why their parents thought they were incap­able of handling the information or couldn’t be trusted with it. Better to be up front about the wealth you have and your plans for it. And don’t forget about how it came to be in the first place, especially if the wealth was created several generations ago.

Embark on a mission. Make sure your legacy is about more than money. Many families find a mission statement helpful. After meeting with a family, wealth transition coaches at the Williams Group, in San Clemente, Calif., will have family members write on an easel the values they want to emphasize in their lives — say, education, philanthropy or self-sufficiency. “It takes half a day, and the paper is several feet long,” says founder Roy Williams. “Most of them frame it and hang it in their family offices.” In light of those core values, the family identifies the long-term purpose of their wealth in a mission statement.

Williams considers crafting the mission statement a crucial exercise. His study of 3,250 families found that a breakdown in trust and com­munication is behind 60% of failed inheritances. Involving the whole family in determining common objectives and deciding how they’ll be accomplished avoids the trap of Mom or Dad dictating the future to their children. It can also smooth tensions between family factions — between those running the family business, for example, and those not involved.

Raise money smart kids. From an early age, children should be taught bud­geting and delayed gratification, even if you can afford to give your kids everything they want and more. It doesn’t matter if the monthly budget is $3,000 or $30,000, “there’s no amount of money that can’t be spent through,” Medici reminds her clients. When kids are little, get them a piggy bank with three slots or three separate piggy banks — one for spending, one for saving and one for giving. Remind grandparents who are fond of cash gifts to make them in multiples of three.

Let older kids budget an allowance to cover their expenses. Figure the monthly average spent on a teen’s car insurance, cell phone and so on, and then give the young adult an allowance to pay those bills. The tough part is letting the phone get shut off or taking back the car if the bills are not paid. “It all goes back to the law of consequences,” says Zeeb. “Without a budget, kids never learn to prioritize or make decisions.”

Provide financial training wheels. Don’t make the mistake of delaying all access to the family fortune in order to preserve it. Brian Matter, a certified financial planner at Creative Capital Management, in San Diego, encourages clients to seed an investment account when children are in their late teens. Allow the child to make investment decisions, and agree to match a percentage of the returns earned over a specific time period. The child can withdraw money from the account, but the parent can’t add to the principal. This teaches the child about investing and spending, and it illustrates the power of compound growth as well as the opportunity cost of robbing a nest egg. “We had one client try this, and the child decided to withdraw all the money within the first six months for a lavish trip to Paris. The parents changed their estate plan as a result,” says Matter.

The Dalton kids and their cousin share responsibility with their parents for the management of a family lake house in upstate New York, owned jointly and organized under the legal structure of a limited liability corporation. Debbie Dalton says she expects that the kids will soon take an active role in directing some of the family’s charitable giving, as well. Such experiences boost the odds that when it’s the next generation’s turn to manage the family business or an investment portfolio, “they’ll have the skills, knowledge and insight to be effective,” says Jeff Ladouceur, a director at SEI Private Wealth Management.

Assemble a good team. In addition to a cadre of advisers that includes investment managers, tax preparers, estate planners and trust lawyers, bring in mentors for the next generation — especially for teens and young adults, who might not always see Mom and Dad as the font of all wisdom. Enlist qualified associates, such as financial advisers, board directors you may know and other successful businesspeople. “The smartest thing I did was bring in outside expertise at the highest level,” says Hansen, the contractor, of the board members he has enlisted for his foundation. “Several of them have managed millions — billions — of dollars. The value they add is incredible.”

A de facto advisory board comes in handy when your kids’ friends and classmates start to hit them up for contributions to investment schemes or business start-ups — the surest way, other than overspending, for young adults to fritter away an inheritance, says Zeeb. “They want to help their friends by nature, but the best way is to defer. If the committee says yes, the kid’s a hero; if it says no, it’s not his fault.”

In the end, you’ll have the best shot at preserving both your wealth and your family with a multigenerational effort that begins when your kids are born, not when you die. Dalton, for one, is pleased with the path her family is now on, and she urges others to get started. “Unlike investing, where timing can be critical, there’s no bad time to invest in your family’s legacy. You should start now.”

The power of a trust

As a parent, your vision of how your legacy is passed on to the next generation and beyond probably doesn’t linger on legal vehicles. But such structures are key to achieving your goals.

When it comes to distributing assets, many families turn to trusts. Trusts come in more flavors than Baskin-Robbins ice cream. Depending on the arrangement, they can minimize estate taxes, protect your estate from the mistakes of your heirs or maintain privacy by avoiding probate. The cost to set one up typically ranges from $3,000 to $10,000; it can be more, however, depending on complexity, with additional costs for individual tweaks and maybe 1% of assets to administer it.

revocable or living trust lets you keep control of your assets while you’re alive. Although assets usually pass directly to your heirs, bypassing probate, a revocable trust won’t spare you from estate taxes. If that’s your main goal, then an irrevocable trust, which effectively removes trust assets from your estate, is the way to go. A lifetime asset protection trust might be in order if you have concerns about the ability of your heirs to preserve your estate. Beneficiaries are protected against creditors, bankruptcy — even future ex-spouses — because assets belong to the trust, not the beneficiary.

Whichever trust you choose, consider inserting a personal message to your heirs to breathe life into an otherwise sterile document. You might include the stories behind family heirlooms, for instance. Or, instead of imposing edicts and tying distributions to certain achievements, express why you value education or entrepreneurship. “This is the last message we get to leave,” says John Warnick, of the Purposeful Planning Institute. “When it comes in a positive and warm way, it has a tremendous impact.”

Read more related articles at:

How to Keep Your Heirs from Blowing Their Inheritance

How to keep your kids from blowing the family fortune

Also read one of our previous Blogs at :

Should I Use a Trust to Protect My Children’s Inheritance?



LAst will Covid 19

What if I Don’t Have a Will in the Pandemic?

What if I Don’t Have a Will in the Pandemic?

Forbes’ recent article entitled “The Dangers Of Dying Without A Will” reminds us that drafting a will allows you determine who will inherit your assets when you die and, if you have young children, who will raise them if you die and their other parent is deceased. However, if you pass away without a will, the state will make these very important decisions on your behalf and they may end up being choices you’d never make if you were still around.

Those choices may not reflect your wishes, might create conflicts within your family and cause economic hardships for your loved ones. In addition, none of your assets will go to your favorite charities.

One more thing: no will means potential legal expenses that your estate must pay. Look at these examples of the issues dying without a will may create:

  • If you’re married and have children from a prior relationship, most of your estate may go to the children, leaving your current spouse in a financial hardship. He or she will need to deal with stepchildren (or your former spouse, if your children are minors) just to receive some of your assets.
  • If you’re single and die without a will, your assets might end up going first to your parents or your siblings, if your parents pass before you. You may have wanted your estate to go to others instead.
  • If you die and had an unmarried partner, no will may well leave him or her in a tough financial position, especially if they were financially dependent on you. State laws typically don’t recognize unmarried partners, so he or she could get evicted from the home the two of you shared, if you were the sole owner.

When you do write your will, work with an attorney to be certain that it’s legally valid in your state. There’s no guarantee that the one you prepare without a lawyer will satisfy that criteria. If the probate court doesn’t recognize your will, it will be as though you died without one.

An experienced local estate planning attorney will help you make sure your will meets your state’s requirements. This will reduce any potential fighting within your family and prevent them from challenging your will’s validity in court.

Life is now extremely fragile with COVID-19. The consequences of dying without a will have never been more profound. Talk to an estate planning attorney today!

Reference: Forbes (April 20, 2020) “The Dangers Of Dying Without A Will”

Read Related Articles at: 

A Guide To Estate Planning During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Estate Planning During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at :

What are Some Good Estate Planning Ideas in the Pandemic?


social security nest egg

Would an Early Retirement and Early Social Security Be Smart?

Would an Early Retirement and Early Social Security Be Smart?

For older employees who are laid off as a result of the pandemic, the idea of an early retirement and taking Social Security benefits early may seem like the best or only way forward. However, cautions Forbes in the article “Should You Take Social Security Earlier Than Planned If You’re Laid Off Due to COVID-19?,” this could be a big mistake with long-term repercussions.

In the recession that began in 2008, there were very few jobs for older workers. As a result, many had no choice but to take Social Security early. The problem is that taking benefits early means a smaller benefit.

In 2009, one year after the market took a nosedive, as many as 42.4 percent of 62-year-olds signed up for Social Security benefits. By comparison, in 2008, the number of 62-year-olds who took Social Security benefits was 37.6 percent.

You can start taking Social Security early and then stop it later. However, there are other options for those who are strapped for cash.

There is a new tool from the IRS that allows taxpayers to update their direct deposit information to get their stimulus payment faster and track when to expect it. There is also a separate tool for non-tax filers.

Apply for unemployment insurance. Yes, the online system is coping with huge demand, so it is going to take more than a little effort and patience. However, unemployment insurance is there for this very same purpose. Part of the economic stimulus package extends benefits to gig workers, freelancers and the self-employed, who are not usually eligible for unemployment.

Consider asking a family member for a loan, or a gift. Any individual is allowed to give someone else up to $15,000 a year with no tax consequences. Gifts that are larger require a gift tax return, but no tax is due. The amount is simply counted against the amount that any one person can give tax free during their lifetime. That amount is now over $11 million. By law, you can accept a loan from a family member up to $10,000 with no paperwork. After that amount, you’ll need a written loan agreement that states that interest will be charged – at least the minimum AFR—Applicable Federal Rate. An estate planning attorney can help you with this.

Tap retirement accounts—gently. The stimulus package eases the rules around retirement account loans and withdrawals for people who have been impacted by the COVID-19 downturn. The 10% penalty for early withdrawals before age 59½ has been waived for 2020.

If you must take Social Security, you can do so starting at age 62. In normal times, the advice is to tap retirement accounts before taking Social Security, so that your benefits can continue to grow. The return on Social Security continues to be higher than equities, so this is still good advice. Hopefully that answers the question Would an Early Retirement and Early Social Security Be Smart?

Reference: Forbes (April 15, 2020) “Should You Take Social Security Earlier Than Planned If You’re Laid Off Due to COVID-19?”

Read more related articles at:

4 Ways Claiming Social Security Benefits Early Could Work for You

How Does Early Retirement Affect Social Security?

Also read one of our previous Blogs at : 

Are You Relying on Social Security Alone for Retirement?

dementia test

How Do We Test for Dementia?

How Do We Test for Dementia?

“Unfortunately, there is not one single test that confirms dementia while you are alive,” says Dr. Julie Brody Magid, clinical director of the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital Memory Disorders Assessment Clinic. “The testing process is multilayered and takes many things into consideration. Going through this evaluation may help identify memory problems, before they get worse.”

An article in the upcoming May issue of Harvard Men’s Health Watch entitled “Testing for dementia” explains that the symptoms of dementia include memory loss, problem-solving difficulties and language issues. The author says that behavior and emotions also can be impacted. The symptoms are often subtle in the early stages and then get progressively worse. These symptoms can continue to interfere with daily life tasks, such as remembering to attend appointments, taking your medications, or paying bills. Dementia patients also may have trouble preparing meals or driving safely.

The most common kind of dementia is Alzheimer’s. Its symptoms include having a hard time retaining recently acquired information and remembering recent conversations. Those with Alzheimer’s disease  may also have difficulty monitoring upcoming events and may make repetitive comments.

A physician can begin a dementia screening with a brief test, like the Mini-Mental Status Exam or the Montreal Cognitive Assessment. These take about 10 minutes and include tasks, such as learning a list of words and then recalling them minutes later and identifying the similarities between words. Your doctor will determine if your screening test score and symptoms warrant more testing. If so, she will refer you to a memory clinic for a full assessment, which includes a neuropsychological evaluation and biomarker tests.

The neuropsychological evaluation lasts about four hours. It includes a series of in-depth analyses, such as one-on-one interviews and written and oral tests, designed to gauge specific cognitive functions, like attention, problem solving, spatial skills and executive functioning. These test scores are compared with what an average person of the same age and education level may experience.

Biomarker tests may include an MRI to look for structural changes in the brain, like small lesions or changes in the white matter. This may show damage to brain tissue, due to small strokes and suggest that memory issues may be related to vascular disease or “vascular dementia.” This scan also can show shrinkage of the cortex (the area that processes memory, attention and problem solving) or less volume in the hippocampus (the region involved in short- and long-term memory). While there’s some amount of brain shrinkage with normal aging, significant changes in brain volume may mean a higher probability of early Alzheimer’s.

Once your doctor reviews everything, and if a cognitive disorder is confirmed, it is categorized as mild, moderate, or severe, which will help the doctor prescribe the best available treatments.

If Alzheimer’s is suspected, there are prescription drugs that can help retard symptom progression. If the diagnosis is vascular dementia, it’s important to manage cardiovascular risk factors such as taking medications to control blood pressure and cholesterol levels, exercising regularly and following a heart-healthy diet.

With memory loss, you must be as proactive as with any other health issue. The more you delay in taking action, the fewer tools that are available.

Reference: Harvard Men’s Health Watch (May 2020) “Testing for dementia”

Read more related articles at:

Tests for Alzheimer’s and Dementia/Alzheimer’s Association

Tests for diagnosing dementia

Dementia Test (Self-Assessment)

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at : 

Will New Tool Help Dementia Patients and Their Doctors?




stimulus check

Will Mom Get a COVID-19 Stimulus Check in the Nursing Home?

Will Mom Get a COVID-19 Stimulus Check in the Nursing Home?

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act (passed on March 27, 2020) is a $2 trillion economic relief package designed to help offset the huge financial crisis caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

A new article on MedicaidPlanningAssistance.org entitled “Do COVID-19 Stimulus Checks Impact Eligibility for Persons on Medicaid? In Nursing Homes? Or Spouses?” says that many Medicaid beneficiaries who live at home, assisted living, adult foster care, or nursing homes and their families are worried the money will push them over the Medicaid income or asset limit, disqualifying them from Medicaid benefits.

Likewise, Medicaid applicants have the same concern that the additional cash will make them go over Medicaid’s limits, and prevent them from becoming eligible for Medicaid.

Stimulus checks won’t be counted as income and thus won’t affect Medicaid beneficiaries or applicants. However, if the stimulus money isn’t spent within 12 months, it may be counted as an asset.  This could impact eligibility in 2021.

Nursing Home Residents. The stimulus check to Medicaid beneficiaries who live in nursing homes won’t affect their Medicaid benefits. The check doesn’t disqualify anyone from Medicaid nursing home care. Medicaid won’t count the money as income, which means it can’t push one over Medicaid’s income limit and mean the loss of Medicaid benefits. Although Medicaid-funded nursing home residents must surrender all of their income, except for a personal needs allowance and a monthly maintenance needs allowance for a non-applicant spouse (if applicable) to Medicaid, the money from the stimulus check won’t have to be surrendered to Medicaid. The stimulus check won’t count as assets, if it’s spent within 12-months of receiving it.

Spouses of Nursing Home Residents. Spouses of nursing home residents—known as “Community Spouses”—who aren’t on Medicaid themselves will receive a stimulus check. This won’t affect their spouses’ Medicaid eligibility in any way. The money from the stimulus check isn’t considered income by Medicaid, and even if it were, the income of a non-applicant spouse isn’t considered in the continuing Medicaid eligibility of his / her nursing home spouse.

There’s no time limit in which a spouse of a nursing resident must spend his / her stimulus check.  Non-applicant spouses can spend the stimulus check any way they want.

Reference: MedicaidPlanningAssistance.org (April 16, 2020) “Do COVID-19 Stimulus Checks Impact Eligibility for Persons on Medicaid? In Nursing Homes? Or Spouses?”

Read more related articles at:

Coronavirus Stimulus Checks: What Seniors and Caregivers Need to Know

Fact check: Will nursing home residents not get their stimulus checks?

Also read one of our previous Blogs at :

Coronavirus Stimulus Allows Retirees to Tap Funds Early, With Little or No Penalties


low interest rates

How Low-Interest Rates Create Estate Planning Opportunities


How Low-Interest Rates Create Estate Planning Opportunities

One result of the global health crisis is that interest rates are lower now than they have been in many, many years. The April 2020 AFRs (Applicable Federal Rates), which are used to determine the least amount of interest that has to be charged for below-market loans and are often used for intrafamily lending, have decreased to 0.91 percent for loans less than 36 months, 0.99 percent for loans of 36 months or more and less than nine years, and 1.44 percent for loans of nine years or longer.

The article, titled “Estate Planning in a Low Interest Rate Environment,” from The National Law Review Journal, explains that for families where intrafamily lending has already occurred, these low rates provide a chance to amend the terms of current promissory notes to obtain these rates.

There are two opportunities presented:

  • The amount that the borrower needs to repay is reduced, thereby easing the burden on a borrower who has a cash flow problem.
  • If a parent has already lent money to a child who will eventually inherit assets from the parent, this lower interest rate will help to facilitate wealth transfer. The parent will receive lower payments under the note, minimizing the assets that are added back to the lender’s taxable estate.

Here are a few situations where these loans are typically used:

  • Parents extend a loan to adult child, who is going through a challenging financial period.
  • Parent lends money to a child with the understanding that the child will invest the money at a higher rate of return than the interest charged under the note, thus allowing growth to occur in the child’s estate rather than in the parent’s estate.
  • Complex estate planning, where a sale is made to an intentionally defective trust, where the seller’s goal is to freeze the value of the estate for a price at which the asset was sold on an installment basis. This allows future growth to take place outside of the seller’s taxable estate.

These intrafamily loans are usually part of sophisticated estate planning. Other methods include Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATs), or Charitable Lead Trusts (CLTs), which also become more attractive in a low interest rate environment.

With a GRAT, there is a transfer of assets to a trust, in which the settlor retains an annuity payment for a certain number of years. At the end of the term, the remaining assets pass to the trust beneficiaries with no estate tax implication. The CLT operates in a similar way, except that the payment for a specified number of years is made to a charity.

Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney about how your estate could benefit from the current low interest rate environment.

Reference: The National Law Review (April 13, 2020) “Estate Planning in a Low Interest Rate Environment”

Read more related articles at:

Estate planning in a low interest rate environment

Low Values And Record Low IRS Interest Rates: A Perfect Opportunity For Estate Planning?

Also Read one of our previous Blogs at :

If Not Now, When? Is It the Time for Estate Planning


Vet using computer

Are Vets Using Remote Mental Health Care During the Pandemic?

Are Vets Using Remote Mental Health Care During the Pandemic?


Vets are really taking advantage of remote mental health care in the COVID-19 pandemic. Most significant were mental health care check-ins and consultations done over the phone. In February, those totaled about 40,000 appointments. In March, they topped 154,000, a nearly 400% increase.

Military Times’ recent article entitled “Veterans’ remote mental health appointments skyrocket amid coronavirus outbreak” reports that Veterans Affairs officials say the number of mental health appointments conducted through online video chats with physicians rose from about 20,000 in February to 34,000 in March, an increase of 70%. Another 2,700 online video group therapy appointments were conducted in March—an almost 200% jump from the previous month.

VA officials have already noted significant increases in use of the Veterans Crisis Line. However, they said that many of the additional callers aren’t facing suicidal thoughts. Instead, numerous veterans and family members have called for information on existing resources or for help getting alternative mental health care programs.

In a statement, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said that the department’s “early embrace of new technology” is helping veterans.

“VA is open for business and we continue to provide same-day mental health services and mental health screening for veterans at-risk, who require attention at any of our facilities,” he said.

Many VA programs and protocols have been disrupted in the last month by the coronavirus outbreak, with healthcare professionals throughout the country working to address a steadily increasing number of cases.

As of April 10, 200 VA patients had died from the illness, and more than 3,500 others tested positive.  More than 1,100 VA employees have also contracted the virus, and at least seven have died.

The VA’s new safety precautions have cancelled thousands of non-essential medical appointments at VA hospitals across the country, but those with emergencies are still being admitted to the facilities.

Roughly 17 veterans a day die by suicide, according to the latest department data. There was to be a new government-wide effort announced by the White House and VA on veteran suicide prevention last month, but that announcement was delayed by the COVID-19 outbreak. Congress has earmarked $19.6 billion in emergency funding for the VA in their coronavirus stimulus package. Of that, $3.1 billion was to be used for new telemedicine efforts within VA, to increase health care access for veterans quarantined at home.

Veterans experiencing a mental health emergency can contact the Veteran Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and select option 1 for a VA staffer. Veterans, troops, or their family members can also text 838255 or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net for assistance.

Reference: Military Times (April 13, 2020) “Veterans’ remote mental health appointments skyrocket amid coronavirus outbreak”

Read more related articles at :

Veterans’ remote mental health appointments skyrocket amid coronavirus outbreak

Veterans are getting mental health treatment online during the COVID-19 pandemic

Also read one of our previous Blogs at :

Medicare is Expanding Telehealth Services During Coronavirus Pandemic



Digital Assets

Digital Assets Need to Be Protected In Estate Plans


Digital Assets Need to Be Protected In Estate Plans

Most people have an extensive network of digital relationships with retailers, financial institutions and even government agencies. Companies and institutions, from household utilities to grocery delivery services have invested millions in making it easier for consumers to do everything online—and the coronavirus has made our online lives take a giant leap. As a result, explains the article “Supporting Your Clients’ Digital Legacy” from Bloomberg Tax, practically all estates now include digital assets, a new class of assets that hold both financial and sentimental value.

In the last year, there has been a growing number of reports of the number of profiles of people who have died but whose pages are still alive on Facebook, Linked In and similar platforms. Taking down profiles, preserving photos and gaining access to URLs are all part of managing a digital footprint that needs to be planned for as part of an estate plan.

There are a number of laws that could impact a user’s digital estate during life and death. Depending upon the asset and how it is used, determines what happens to it after the owner dies. Fiduciary access laws outline what the executor or attorney is allowed to do with digital assets, and the law varies from one country to another. In the US, almost all states have adopted a version of RUFADAA, the law created by the U.S. Uniform Law Commission. However, all digital assets are also subject to the Terms of Service Agreement (TOSAs) that we click on when signing up for a new app or software. The TOSA may not permit anyone but the account owner to gain access to the account or the assets in the account.

Digital assets are virtual and may be difficult to find without a paper trail. Leaving passwords for the fiduciary seems like the simple solution, but passwords don’t convey user wishes. What if the executor tries to get into an account and is blocked? Unauthorized access, even with a password, is still violating the terms of the TOSAs.

People need to plan for digital assets, just as they do any other asset. Here are some of the questions to consider:

  • What will happen to digital assets with financial value, like loyalty points, travel rewards, cryptocurrency, gaming tokens or the digital assets of a business?
  • Who will be able to get digital assets with sentimental value, like photos, videos and social media accounts?
  • What about privacy and cybersecurity concerns, and identity theft?

What will happen to your digital assets? Facebook and Google offer Legacy Contact and Inactive Manager, online tools they provide to designate third-party account access. Some, but not many, other online platforms have similar tools in place. The best way, for now, may be to make a list of all of your digital accounts and look through them for death or incapacity instructions. It may not be a complete solution, but it’s at least a start.

Reference: Bloomberg Tax (April 10, 2020) “Supporting Your Clients’ Digital Legacy”

Read More Related Articles at :

How To Make Your Digital Life Part Of Your Estate Plan

Don’t Forget Digital Assets in Estate Planning

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at :

Are Digital Assets Part of My Estate Plan?



Things to do

100 Things to Do While Stuck Inside Due to a Pandemic

100 Things to Do While Stuck Inside Due to a Pandemic

As concerts are postponed, sporting events are canceled, schools are closed and tourist hot spots are shut down, experts recommend that even those who show no sign of illness stay home during this time of global pandemic. Following are 100 things to do while stuck inside due to a pandemic.

That’s right: It’s advised that you self-quarantine.

Although remaining inside is a good way to protect yourself and others from the coronavirus, and is an important measure to help “flatten the curve” of daily cases that put pressure on our health care system, it could lead to a lesser evil: boredom and stir craziness.

What’s there to do while stuck indoors? We’ve compiled 100 suggestions to help make your time quarantined as interesting – and perhaps even as productive – as possible.

Staying Apart, Together: A newsletter about how to cope with the coronavirus pandemic

Sign up here to get Staying Apart, Together twice a week in your inboxes. 

2. Start a journal or blog. Sure, it can be about the coronavirus, but it could also be about a specific interest from chess to cheese.

3. If it won’t bother your neighbors: Dust off that old instrument and practice.

5. Write poetry. Perhaps you can craft a haiku for Mother’s Day, or something without a specific structure. Just try it!

6. Watch all the really long movies you’ve avoided until now.

7. Download Duolingo, or a similar app, and teach yourself a foreign language.

9. Meditate. Try lying down with your eyes closed, palms up and while focusing on your breath. Or spend 20 minutes sitting crosslegged and repeat a soothing word to yourself in your head. (The latter is more like transcendental meditation.)

10. Face masks, moisturizer, oh my! Treat yourself to a 10-step skin care routine you don’t have time for during a normal work week.

11. Look at pictures of puppies.

12. Put together the most attractive charcuterie board possible, but you can only use foods you already have in your fridge and cupboard.

14. Write actual letters to family and friends. After that? Write thank-you notes to service people who you remember went out of their way for you.

15. Learn calligraphy. YouTube can help.

16. Finally read the rules to those long and intense board games you’ve never played with the family. Encourage the family to play.

17. Put on a soap opera. Mute the sound. Create your own dialogue.

18. Have a space in your home where all of the tupperware goes? Organize it and actually match lids to containers.

19. Try on all your clothes and determine whether they “spark joy” á la Marie Kondo.

20. Better yet, go through this process with your junk drawer and supply shelves.

21. Have a roommate meeting about how to be more considerate of one other, especially while you will likely be spending more time together. Bring baked goods.

22. Bake those goods.

100 little things that bring us joy during the coronavirus pandemic

23. Watch the films that won Oscars for best picture.

24. Watch films that won Independent Spirit Awards for best picture.

25. Watch films that critics say should have won those aforementioned awards.

26. Read all the New Yorker issues piled on your desk.

27. Will Tom Hanks into recovery from coronavirus by watching every Tom Hanks movie chronologically.

28. Knit or crochet.

29. Use Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts or Marco Polo to video chat with your long-distance friends.

30. Try out at-home aerobics or yoga videos. Consider downloading a fitness app with curated workout playlists.

100 songs to help lift your spirits during a pandemic

31. Look at yourself in the mirror. Attempt a self portrait with pencil and paper.

32. Take a bubble bath (bonus: Add a glass of wine).

33. Make a classic cocktail, from negronis to Manhattans and aperol spritzes. Don’t forget the garnish.

34. Coloring books: They’re not just for kids.

35. Take time to reflect: What have you accomplished in the last year? What goals are you setting for yourself in the next year?

36. Write a short story or get started on that novel.

37. Actually try to reproduce something you see on Pinterest. Probably fail. Try again.

38. Clear out the family room and camp indoors with all blankets, popcorn and scary movies.

Here are 100 movies to watch for every cinematic yearning

39. Finally get around to fixing that broken door knob and loose tile or cleaning scuffed up walls.

40. Acquire a foam roller and treat yourself to some physical therapy.

41. Pretend you’re 13 years old and fold a square piece of paper into a fortune teller you put your thumbs and pointer fingers into. Proceed to tell fortunes.

42. Learn how to braid (fishtail, French, etc.) via YouTube tutorial..

43. Throw out all your too-old makeup and products. (Tip: most liquid products have a small symbol on them noting expirations, usually six months to a year. This includes sunscreen!)

44. Interview your grandparents (over the phone, of course) and save the audio. Can you create an audio story or book with that file?

45. Go through your camera roll, pick your favorite pics from the past year and make a photo book or order framed versions online.

46. Go on a health kick and learn how to cook new recipes with ingredients you may not be using already, from miso to tahini.

47. Create a Google document of shows or movies you’re watching and share it among family and friends.

48. Make a list of things for which you are grateful.

49. Have your own wine tasting of whatever bottles you have at home. Make up stories about the journey of the grapes to your mouth.

50. Work on your financial planning, such as exploring whether to refinance your loan or ways to save more money.

Now 50 more things to do while stuck inside during a pandemic:

51. Perfect grandma’s bolognese recipe.

52. Make coffee, but this time study how many beans you use, which types, how hot the water is, how long it brews and whether any of that makes a difference.

53. Buy gift cards from your favorite local businesses to help keep them in business while we quarantine.

54. Watch “Frozen 2,’ which went up early on Disney Plus. Another new movie on the streaming service: “Stargirl.”

55. Write a book with your family. Pick a character and each member writes a chapter about their adventures. Read aloud to each other.

56. No March Madness? Have a Scrabble tournament. Or Bananagrams. Pictionary, anyone?

57. Get into baking with “The Great British Baking Show,” but your technical challenge is baking something with the ingredients you have on hand (that you didn’t already use in the charcuterie board).

58. Indoor scavenger hunt.

59. Alternate reading the Harry Potter series with your kids and cap each one off with the movie.

60. Dye your hair a new color. No one else needs to see it if you don’t like it.

61. Read Robert Jordan’s 14-book “Wheel of Time” series before it streams on Amazon starring Rosamund Pike.

62. Write a play starring your loved ones. Perform it via a video call app.

63. Go viral in the good way by making a quarantine-themed TikTok.

64. Rearrange your sock drawer. Really.

65. Stop procrastinating and do your income taxes.

66. Make lists of all the museums, sporting events and concerts you want to visit when they finally reopen.

67. Get into comics with digital subscriptions on your tablet, like Marvel Unlimited.

68. Rearrange your furniture to make it seem like your home is a totally different space.

69. Practice shuffling playing cards like a Poker dealer. Be ready for employment opportunities once all casinos open back up.

70. Organize your spice rack alphabetically or get crazy and do it by cuisine.

71. Teach your dog to shake. Hand sanitizer optional.

72. Memorize the periodic table. You never know when that will come in handy.

73. Order and put together some IKEA furniture. Time yourself.

74. Get a free trial of a streaming service and binge-watch as much as you can before it expires.

75. Apply for a new job. You have remote work experience now.

76. Learn a new style of dance via YouTube, from bellydancing to breaking.

77. Update or write your will and organize your affairs. Yes, it sounds melodramatic and morbid but let’s face it: This is a task many of us avoid because we never have the time. Now we do.

78.The parades have been canceled but you can still make corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day.

79. Bring out the Legos. Build your house inside of your house.

80. Watch the “Star Wars” movies in this and only this order: Rogue One-IV-V-II-III-Solo-VI-VII-VIII-IX.

81. Two words: Coronavirus beard! Grow it, moisturize it, comb it, love it.

82.  Learn the words to “Tung Twista.” Get them so ingrained in your brain that you can rap them as fast as Twista can. Impress everyone.

83. Been meaning to get some new glasses? Try on new frames virtually on sites like GlassesUSA.com.

84. Attempt things with your non-dominant hand, from writing to brushing your teeth. Prepare to be frustrated.

85. How many words per minute can you type? See if you can get speedier by taking a typing course.

86. Prepare to verbally duel a bully who wants to discuss the evolution of the market economy in the Southern colonies, by memorizing Matt Damon’s “Good Will Hunting” speech.

87. Learn origami. Make cranes for your loved ones.

88. Stretch. Work on your flexibility. It’s possible to get the splits back, right?

89. Try to speak in pig Latin. Or, “ig-pay, atin-Lay.”

90. Talk to your plants. How are they doing? Make sure they are getting the amount of sunlight they should be. Check their soil. Water if necessary.

91. Deep condition your hair and put paraffin wax on your hands. Enjoy your soft hair and nails.

92. Consider donating money to food banks to help families struggling to get meals.

93. Write a song. If you want to make it about your time inside and put it to the tune of “My Sharona” and replace “Sharona” with “Corona,” do what you have to do.

94. Study the art of beatboxing.

95. Try moving in super-slow motion. It’s OK to laugh at regular speed.

96. You know how there are dozens of ways to wear a scarf, but you only wear it the one way? Learn the other ways.

97. Learn Old English words. Pepper them into your conversation. Wherefore not?

98. Try on a new shade of lipstick. See how long it takes your partner to notice it.

99. Take deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth.

100. Sleep. Get lots of it.

Now you have at your fingertips 100 Things to Do While Stuck Inside Due to a Pandemic

May we suggest # 101?

101. Get your Estate Plan in order!

Read related articles at:

Things to Do While Stuck Inside Due to Quarantine

20 things you must do while stuck inside due to a pandemic

Also read one of our previous blogs at:

Coronavirus News Should Make You Think about Estate Planning


Join Our eNews