Bloomington, Indiana Estate & Elder Law Blog

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

George Clooney Makes Estate Planning Sexy

Estate planning sexy?  Could that ever really happen?  Well, regardless of whether you have seen the movie "The Descendants," you might be interested in a recent Forbes article about the movie and the "estate planning" subplot within the movie.  This article, and the movie, helps illustrate how estate planning may play a very important role in the lives of many people.  Click here to read the Forbes article.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

IU Continuing Studies Class

I just wrapped up teaching a 3-part IU Continuing Studies Class on estate and financial planning.  Tony Stonger, a loca financial advisor, was a co-instructor with me.  We had a group of about 30 students and it was a great opportunity to help educate people about the importance of proper plannig. The attendees were a great group of people and were very engaged in the class. There were many positive comments about the value of this class and it will help them as they begin the serious work of planning their affairs.  It is likely that Tony and I will teach this same class again in the fall of 2012.  If you are interested in attending feel free to contact me or check out the IU continuing studies courses for this fall.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

IU Continuing Studies Class

I will be teaching a class, along with local financial advisor, Tony Stonger, on financial and estate planning.  This course is being offered through the Indiana University Continuing Studies program and it will meet for three (3) consecutive Saturdays beginning October 1, 2011. The dates are October 1, 2011, October 8, 2011 and October 15, 2011.  The class will meet from 9 a.m. to noon each of those Saturdays.  Tony and I will cover various financial and estate planning topics including critical steps in preparing for retirement, including the key features of bonds, stocks, mutual funds, and asset allocation, and how to reduce taxes on your investments. We will discuss the use of insurance in helping protect against unexpected life events. I will be addressing various estate planning issues including the top 10 mistakes people make in estate planning, and how to avoid them; the truth about probate; how to reduce the death taxes your family will pay; long-term care estate planning; and how to protect your beneficiaries' inheritance. We have taught this class a few times before and it has always been enjoyable and the particpants came away with a much better understanding of the plannig they needed to undertake for themselves.  For more information and to enroll please click on the following link:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Advance Elder Law Conference

I am currntly attending an advanced elder law and Medicaid planning conference in Tempe, Arizona.  The conference is hosted by ElderCounsel of which I am a charter member. Some of the best and brightest attorneys througout the country are here and we are discussing the most advanced techniques to help our clients protect and preserve their hard earned assets agains the devastating costs of long term care. For most of my elderly couples, if one of them needs nursing home care, the $5,000 to $6,000 monthly cost could greatly affect the finances of the spouse that is still able to stay at home. Creative and legal steps can be taken, even in a crisis situation, to help protect those assets for the benefit of the well spouse.  Too often I see couples making outright gifts of assets to their children.  These gifts will not only cause a penalty period for Medicaid but will subject the gifted assets to the claims of children's creditors and could subject the assets to loss if the child later goes through a divorce.  There are special trusts that can be used to protect assets against long-term care costs and also protect against loss from a child's creditors or divorcing spouse.

We are also covering a little known VA benefit referred to as "aid and attendance" that is available for war time veterans and their widows.  This VA benefit can help these elderly individuals cover their long-term care costs, whether in-home care, assisted living, or nursing home care. These benefits are not automatic however. But, there are planning techniques that can be implemented to help qualify a person for this valuable benefit.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Ethical Considerations in Dementia

I am currently attending the Advanced Elder Law Institute in Indianapolis.  This is a two-day continuing education seminar with a variety of speakers on various elder law related topics.  Currently, Dr. Patrick Healey, a physician at the St. Vincent Center for Health and Aging, is presenting on ethical considerations for patients with dementia.  He stated that in these cases there are often no "black & white" answers.  Dementia is not the disease, but rather the symptom.  There are a number of diseases where memory loss and confusion may be the symptom.  However, 60% of people with dementia have Alzheimer's disease, according to Dr. Healy.

Dr. Healy also stated that 60% to 80% of nursing home patients have some form of dementia and over five-million people over the age of 65 have some form of dementia.  He believes early diagnosis is very important which can allow the patient to get some treatment that may help him or her, there can be help put in place to protect the safety of the patient and others, and appropriate legal planning can be put in place before the person's mental capacity is severely affected.  He relies a lot on what family members and loved ones notice about the patient and often times the first indication of problems exhibit themselves as a change in behavior.  He encourages those loved ones to provide, in writing, a list of their concerns and the changes in behavior that they have noticed.

Dr. Healy also offered tips on dealing with persons with dementia and issues surrounding caregivers.  Caregivers need to recognize the need for help and he has seen all too often when caregivers may work themselves into the ground by trying to provide all the care without any respite relief or other help.  Obviously this is not good for the caregiver nor their loved one.

The bottom line is that if you suspect a family member or loved one may have some form of dementia you should put your concerns in writing to your loved one's doctor and try to get an assessment performed.  Early diagnosis is key to helping your loved one.  Of course, the apropriate legal planning should be done as well to avoid court guardianship matters and putting in place advanced medical directives as well as other planning steps that may be appropriate.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Attendance at Elder Law Institute

I am currently attending a two-day Elder Law Institute in Indianapolis, Indiana.  The speakers are covering a wide variety of elder law issues and laws.  One of the speakers was Rich Adams.  Mr. Adams works at the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration and was able to discuss how the FSSA is working to improve the Medicaid application process.  His presentation helped us better understand how the state of Indiana handles Medicaid applications and the inner workings of the FSSA.

Another presenter was a doctor who discussed end of life decisions and the role of the patient's doctor.  His presentation was insightful and added credence to the idea of how limited living wills are in practice.  Many of the terms used in the Indiana living will statute are undefined and difficult in practice for the medical profession to handle.  The main take away from his presentation was that there needs to be a conversation between the client and the medical decision maker.

More to come later.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Indiana Continuing Studies Course

I am currently teaching an adult continuing studies course through Indiana University.  I am co-teaching it with a local finacial advisor.  This course is covering the basics of investing and retirement planning as well as the basics of estate planning.  There is a group of about 28 individuals taking the class and it has been a joy to teach.

Teaching this course helps me realize how many misconeptions people have about estate planning and financial matters.  Several class attendees have talked to me after the class, or have asked questions during the class, which make it clear there is a lack of education out there about proper estate and financial planning.  Hopefully this course will prompt the attendees to get their affairs in order and to avoid problems should a crisis occur.

I have also tried to emphasize the importance of considering estate planning a lifetime process.  It is not a one-time event which is then put on a shelf and forgotten.  Rather, they must make sure to review their planning every few years with their advisors to make certain it is still up to date with their needs and circumstances.

If you are interested in attending future offerings of this IU Continuing Studies course it appears it will be offered by IU again in the Spring of 2011.  Contact us or Indiana University's Continuing Studies office for more information.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Death of a Billionaire – George Steinbrenner Owner of the NY Yankees

On July 13, 2010, George Steinbrenner, the owner of the New York Yankees, died.  It has been widely reported that 37 years ago he bought the Yankees for about $10 million.  The Yankees are now reported to be worth $1.6 billion.  He became the face of the Yankees, butted heads with several of his managers, other team owners and the commissioner of baseball through the years.  He was known as the “Boss” and moved the Yankee team from the “House that Ruth Built” to the “House that the Boss Built” as the team moved to a new Yankee Stadium in 2009.

Mr. Steinbrenner appears to also have been the fourth billionaire to die in 2010, joining Dan Duncan, Mary Janet Morse Cargill, and Walter Shorenstein as the U.S. billionaires who have died in 2010. So why is this significant?  Well, if you have been following this blog and the news on the federal estate tax you know that there is no federal estate tax on the wealth of those that die this year.  He is likely the most famous of the billionaires to have died this year and will add a public face to the estate tax debate.  For some, his death will represent a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenue.  (For an analysis of Mr. Steinbrenner's estate issues see this Forbes entry).  For the opponents of the estate tax, his death illustrates the benefit many small business and family farms could receive if the estate tax was permanently repealed.
There was a recent Wall Street Journal article titled “Too Rich to Live?” which may be of interest to you.  A few years ago I heard a speaker jokingly talk about 2010 as being the “Push Mamma from the Train” year for wealthy individuals.  Hopefully this will remain a joke.  I hope we don’t hear a story about a family trying to decide if perhaps “daddy is just to rich to live beyond 2010.”

Monday, July 12, 2010

Will Congress Act on the Estate Tax?

Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin will join others in urging Congress to reinstate the estate tax before the August recess.  Apparently this event will be held on July 21, 2010 and Rubin is expected to discuss his reasons to support a permanent fix to the estate tax.  See more of this report at The Hill.

In 2009 the estate tax exemption was $3.5 million.  However, due to a quirk in the law that was passed in 2001 the estate tax expired in 2010.  Thus, anyone dying in 2010, even billionaires, will pay no federal estate tax.  However, like Cinderella’s carriage turning back into a pumpkin, on January 1, 2011 the estate tax is set to be reinstated with only a $1 million exemption.  Despite rumors and other information that Congress would fix this issue they have failed to do so.

Again, stay tuned.  I am sure there will be more to this story later.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Estate Tax Deal Falls Apart

It appears that a reported agreement between Senate Democrats and Republicans on an estate tax proposal has fallen apart.  It now appears even more likely that we may actually return to a 55 percent maximum estate tax rate and $1 million exemption beginning January 1, 2011.
The details of the reported agreement have not been made public.  However The Hill reports that there would be a 35 percent tax rate for estate in excess of $3.5 million, increasing to $5 million over time.

According to The Hill , Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz) said the deal broke down because of Senate Democrats' would not allow legislation to reach the floor that lacked the support of a majority of its members.
"We no longer have an agreement because the Democratic side has decided that unless a matter has a guaranteed majority of Democratic votes going in, they're not going to allow it on the floor, at least not voluntarily," Kyle said. "So we have to find a way to get a reasonable permanent estate tax reform to the floor where members can vote on it."
It now appears any estate tax reform will not happen any time soon and we face the very real possibility of a return to the $1 million exemption and 55 percent tax rates.  Again, stay tuned.
For more details on the breakdown in click here for another article.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

More Rumblings About the Estate Tax

I subscribe to various list serve’s that are specific to estate planning, tax and elder law issues. Today a colleague of mine posted that he had recently heard Prof. Jeffrey Pennell, of Emory Law School, speak about this issue. Prof. Pennell is a very well respected law professor and his thoughts are not to be taken lightly. In any event, Pennell apparently opined that he did not think we would have any legislation on estate tax reform this year, that the estate tax law changes passed in 2001 would indeed sunset on January 1, 2011, and we would return to an estate tax exemption of only $1 Million.

If in fact we return to a planning world with only a $1 Million estate tax exemption, there appear to be many winners, and perhaps a few losers.


Democrats – more money to help with the deficit and high priority (and costly) legislation

Republicans – a proven effective fund raising issue (eliminate or lessen the impact of the "death tax")

States – reinstitution of the state death tax (sponge or pick-up tax) provides states with much needed revenue

Insurance Companies (always a strong lobbying group) – increase use of ILITs to provide liquidity for payment of estate tax and preservation of estate

Charities – more motivation for charitable playing (CRTs, CLTs and private foundations)



Unfortunately, that means that my clients and their families could very well  be losers in this whole debate.  Again, stay tuned to see if we actually do get some legislation passed.


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