May 2013 - Choosing your Benefits from the Department of Veterans No doubt, if you have ever been around group of veterans you will hear them begin to compare numbers sooner or later. One veteran is getting 30% from the VA, another is getting 70%. What do these numbers mean and how in the world does the VA decide who gets what?
April 2013 - Philanthropy: Choosing a charity
Like many of our clients, you are probably charitably inclined. Most of the JGB family gives to charity in life or death. The legal definition of a charitable organization, located in IRS Section 501(c)(3), includes causes that are religious, educational, scientific, literary, promoting public safety or amateur sports, and that prevent cruelty to children or animals.
March 2013 - Is Estate Planning still relevant
You could almost hear the roar of questions coming as soon as the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) was passed. We braced for the impact. However, the reality of ATRA is much less uneventful than anticipated. The most frequent question asked, post-ATRA, remains, "is Estate Planning still relevant in the wake of ATRA?" The simple answer is a resounding, "Yes!"
February 2013 - THE 2012 AMERICAN TAXPAYER RELIEF ACT
On January 2, 2013, President Obama signed The American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA), which is the most recent overhaul of our federal estate tax system. The passage of ATRA seems to have stabilized financial markets and alleviated fears of the US falling off the “Fiscal Cliff.”
January 2013 - Veterans Benefits
Many Veterans and their widowed spouses are unaware that they may be able to qualify for this important veterans benefit. The Aid & Attendance benefit offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs is a pension program available to eligible Veterans or their widowed spouses. It pays up to $2,019 for the Veteran and more than $1,094 to the spouse to assist with long-term care costs and other medical expenses. The Aid & Attendance benefit can be used to pay anyone for home care, including the child of the eligible Veteran or widowed spouse. In addition, it can be used to pay for professional care in the home, nursing home care, assisted living, prescription drugs, insurance premiums and more.
December 2012 - JGB Announces TrustGuard Protection Plan
At the request of our Trust-based Estate Planning clients, JGB has designed TrustGuard™ to provide certainty that a Trust Plan is up-to-date, maintained and funded over time.
November 2012 - How often should I have my estate plan reviewed?
Typically a client is just finishing signing their estate planning documents when he/she looks up with concern and asks, “How often should I have my estate plan reviewed?” There is no end of varied answers to this important question amongst estate planning attorneys. To better understand our position on this issue, let’s rewind the clock on this vignette and first examine the motivation for completing an estate plan.
October 2012 - Are You Prepared for Taxmageddon?
Over the past few months various media sources around the country have been discussing potential Armageddon type events that the Mayan calendar foretold to occur on December 21 of this year. December 21, 2012 is not the date to be concerned with. The date that is likely to bring more significant impact is January 1, 2013. On this date our federal estate tax structure is set to change drastically pursuant to the laws that are currently in place, the event described as …
August 2012 - Trust Funding or "How a Good Trust Can Fail Horribly"
Recently, I met a family in my office after the death of a parent. In reviewing the case, I saw that some assets would need to be Probated.
“But mom had a Trust,” they said.
“Was it funded?” I asked.
They did not know what I meant and therein was the problem. A trust does not avoid Probate unless it is funded.
May 2013 - Choosing your Benefits from the Department of Veterans
No doubt, if you have ever been around group of veterans you will hear them begin to compare numbers sooner or later. One veteran is getting 30% from the VA, another is getting 70%. What do these numbers mean and how in the world does the VA decide who gets what?
July 2012 - The Probate Process
‘Probate’ is a powerful word; often evoking disdain, contempt, anger, or just sheer apathy when it is used in general conversation. However; the word is misused routinely to describe an entire system or process when its pure definition is much simpler. The root of the contemporary use of the word comes from the Latin word prob?re, which means ‘to test and find good.’ Technically, the current, correct use of term ‘Probate’ has not strayed far from its Latin root. In fact, the legal definition of ‘Probate’ simply describes the process of presenting a Last Will and Testament to the Court for authentication. In popular culture, the term ‘Probate’ has incorrectly become used to describe the entire process of administering a decedent’s estate. In an effort to avoid fighting this battle in vain; I have become assimilated into the incorrect use of the term in my practice.
June 2012 - Dirty Deeds of Gift
It’s all too often that I have clients who look for the “simple” fix to immediately transfer their family land down to the kids. It always seems that they have been given general advice (sometimes from a lawyer, many times not) that the solution to their dilemma is to use a simple “Deed of Gift.” If only simple Deeds of Gift were that simple! On its face a Deed of Gift appears to be innocent and benign. In some cases it is appropriate to use; however their consequences are not often discussed or given due consideration.
May 2012 - Letters of Instruction in Estate Planning
Too often, clients feel shoehorned into antiseptic legal jargon in their will or trust. As a lawyer, I use court-sanctioned terms like ‘maintenance and education’ because I want the Trust to be legally ironclad. I imagine my client might prefer to see ‘college room and board.’ In fact the client may well mean something specific along the lines of:
‘college at a state school for no more than four years unless there is a really good reason and maybe graduate school but only if the degree will make money and also high school tuition if needed but not a boarding school unless, I guess, that is also really needed…’
As your lawyer, I will stick to the accepted legalese, but your intent is extremely important. You can explain your intent to your Trustee by writing them a personal document called a ‘Letter of Instruction.’
April 2012 - JGB Estate/Trust Administration 101
We routinely are asked the question by clients and potential clients, “When I die, is this estate plan implemented automatically?” The universal answer is a resounding ‘No’. The existence of a Will or Trust document does not, by itself, make anything happen automatically. The estate plan provides the framework within which the action is implemented to accomplish your predetermined goals and objectives. In simpler terms, your estate plan provides your marching orders which must be carried out by your designated fiduciary.
March 2012 - Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples
In my experience working with clients over the years, it seems that people generally fall into two categories; they do not have a formalized estate plan, or their current plan is woefully inadequate. This is especially true with unmarried couples. For the context of this discussion, the term "unmarried couples" is intended to include both unmarried heterosexual and homosexual couples.
February 2012 - Exciting News!
This has been a busy month for the law firm of Johnson, Gasink & Baxter, LLP (JGB). We are very proud to make two announcements: We have acquired the law practice of a dear friend and colleague and have been honored and humbled to be again recognized by ‘Super Lawyers’ magazine.
January 2012 - "Isn't This All Just Boilerplate?"
“Isn’t this all just boilerplate?” the man sitting across the table said, clearly with a sour look on his face and a negative inflection in his voice. As I quickly quelled my knee-jerk reaction to berate him with a self-important diatribe; I calmly explained the error of his reasoning that led him to such a statement.
December 2011-What Does a Transfer On Death (TOD) Designation Really Solve?
Although staggering in number, around 45% of U.S. adults have never taken the time to memorialize their wishes in a Last Will and Testament. Many people feel that their personal circumstances do not meet the level of complexity, nor does their wealth meet sufficient levels to warrant "formal" Estate Planning. Albeit often incorrect, the belief that complexity and/or wealth are necessary for "formal" Estate Planning continues to plague families dealing with the death and incapacity of their loved ones. Although many people do not have formal Wills, many rely on Transfer on Death (TOD) designations and Payable-on-Death (POD) designations, sometimes without fully understanding the intricacies and consequences.
November 2011 - Why You Should Have a Living Trust
Should you look into a Living Trust Plan? Trusts have become increasingly common and have many benefits. They function as a sort of will substitute and can save your heirs substantial time and money. To help you understand wills and Trusts, this article begins with an analysis of the pros and cons of a will and then compares a will to a Living Trust
October 2011 - NFA Trusts
The climate against privately owned firearms can often be described as politically hostile at the local, state and federal levels, especially when dealing with items covered by the National Firearm Act (“NFA”). It is illegal for any person to possess an NFA item that is not registered to that person in the NFA Registry. It is also illegal to transfer an NFA item without complying with several NFA transfer rules. An NFA trust is a legal instrument which can be used to acquire, control, regulate and transfer the private use of NFA (Class 3) items, weapons, suppressors and other destructive devices.
September 2011 - Do I Need to Fund My Revocable Living Trust?
Every Revocable Living Trust Estate Plan needs periodic review and upkeep to maintain its relevance regarding family, resources, as well as changes in the law. The 'funding' of the trust is equally important to review, to be certain that assets are coordinated with the goals and objectives of the estate plan.
August 2011 - Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefits
‘Aid and Attendance’ benefits (A&A) provide funds to help veterans pay for in-home care. Unlike standard pensions offered to military retirees, this little-known program offers financial assistance to any qualified veteran.
July 2011 - What You Need to Know About Incapacity, Death and Trusts
We routinely get the question, “What should my spouse or children do with regards to my trust if I become incapacitated or die?” Every family situation and trust instrument is unique. As such, the specific details of the answer to this question can vary greatly. However, there are common threads that run through most families and trust instruments to which almost everyone can relate. The purpose of this article is not to describe in detail all the aspects of trust administration at incapacity or death; but rather, to provide you with a basic framework so that you can quickly achieve a sense of comfort and ownership of the trust administration process.
June 2011 - Keeping the Family Inheritance in the Family
Our children must face many challenges throughout their lives, and they will invariably make mistakes along the way. Every parent wants to shelter and protect their children as much as possible, but without a properly designed estate plan, parents can add more problems to their children's lives. A fairly common mistake among parents is to leave assets outright to their children (through not having an estate plan or having a poorly drafted plan).