College students, you’re headed (or headed back) to campus in a few weeks, perhaps a long way from home. Let this estate planning lawyer/father of two daughters who are college graduates give you a little advice about something that few consider when loosing the parental collar.
Once you're 18 years old, you're an adult in the eyes of the medical world. That means your doctor/hospital/pharmacist can't, without your permission, share your information with your parents or let them be involved in your treatment.
"Good!", I hear you say. "None of their business if I'm on the pill or getting prescription meds while I’m at school."
No (well, not much) argument here; however, it also means that unless you give your parents authorization ahead of time to make treatment decisions for you in the event you're not able to (called a Medical Power of Attorney, or MPOA), or let them have access to your medical records when necessary, they can't help you. And when you need an MPOA, it's too late to get one.
Situation 1: Imagine you’re in a car accident that renders you unconscious or worse, but not dead. Without an MPOA, after the initial emergency is over, neither your parents nor anybody else can make treatment decisions about your care without going through a huge, complicated process that usually involves the courts and a LOT of expense.
Situation 2: You’re at a bar or a frat party or an initiation event (I know, you’d NEVER drink alcohol before you reached the age of 21, but humor me here) and have so much to drink that you pass out, vomit and aspirate it into your lungs. Think that’s not a medical emergency or that it would never happen? It is, it does, and it has long-lasting complications. Without the MPOA, your parents are back to the expense, the courts and the heartache.
Do yourself - and your family - a favor: get a medical power of attorney before you go (or go back) to school this fall. You can find the form online (I wouldn't recommend this option, but it's available). Better yet, talk to your parents about going to an estate planning attorney to have one prepared. A good estate planning lawyer doesn't just do wills (which also wouldn't be a bad idea): he or she will explain your choices and give you (and your parents) peace of mind that if something bad happens, you (and they) are prepared.
Imagine going to your dad's financial institution (bank, investment company, credit union, etc.) because your dad's no longer competent to manage his own affairs. Imagine that while he was still competent, he gave you a statutory durable power of attorney (SDPOA) that meets all the requirements of your state's estates code and that authorizes you to, among other things, manage his financial affairs. Imagine how you'd feel if the institution said, "I'm sorry, our policy requires that the POA be on our form, we can't accept that one." Now you're in the position of not being able to do the precise thing your dad wanted and authorized you to be able to do for him, just because his financial institution wants it on their form - you're also unable to get him to sign "their" POA because HE'S NOT COMPETENT ANYMORE. Think you'd be a little frustrated?
The above scenario happens every single day, all over the country. Since I'm a Texas lawyer, I'll confine my observations to Texas; however, your state is probably very similar. Until the 2017 Texas Legislature recently gaveled to a close, a person presented with a SDPOA was not required to accept it. Effective September 1, 2017, Senate Bill 1974 made a fundamental change to Texas' Estates Code by requiring a person presented with a validly executed SDPOA to accept it. There are a few hoops they can still make you jump through, such as requiring a certification (also spelled out in the statute) or a legal opinion that supports the validity of the SDPOA, but they can't make you use their form except in a few situations.
As a firm working in the estate planning and elder law areas, we have seen entirely too many clients have to go through the frustration of thinking their loved one did everything he/she needed to do, only to be roadblocked by a financial institution's "policy". Thank goodness the Legislature got it right this session. If your parents (or you) don't have SDPOAs, Medical POAs, wills, advance directives and HIPAA releases in effect, or they need to be updated, do yourself and your family a favor: do them or update them this month.
As always, this is legal information, not legal advice, and is based on Texas law. If you have a question or concern about this topic, contact an estate planning, probate or elder law attorney in your jurisdiction.
My wife had our first child when I was 32 years old. Holding that sweet little girl in my arms was amazing - the first newborn I'd ever held (heck, probably only the second baby I'd ever held!). However, the overwhelming wonder and love I felt was accompanied by an equally overwhelming sense of responsibility: all of a sudden it's not just the two of us - there's someone else's welfare to consider. The idea of planning for bad stuff quickly became more urgent.
Now, I think everybody ought to have some simple advance directives, both medical and financial, just in case (after all, when you need it, it's too late to get it). However, parents of young children have an extra burden: who's going to raise those punkins if the parents die before the kids reach the age of majority?
It's not a fun thing to contemplate, but it happens, and closing your eyes to the possibility - failing to plan - puts your children at risk of going into the system. You know, the "We'll take them and place them with some very nice foster parents" system, especially if her family and his are fighting over who gets them. Tragically, this happens more often than you'd think, especially when young parents either 1) just don't want to think about it (denial, river, etc.) or 2) can't agree on who will raise them ("Your brother? Really?"), or 3) don't want to hurt anybody's feelings, so they just convince themselves that the family will pull together and do what's best for the kids. HEY! Why aren't YOU doing what's best for your kids?! Parents, make the hard decision, make wills that name guardians for your minor children and put that nagging worry to rest. And then just enjoy the gift that God gave you.
Caveat right up front: I'm not a CPA and I don't give tax advice. But this is a recurring issue both with our vendors and for some of our clients, so I thought it might be for you, too.
If you're an independent contractor, that means the companies and people for whom you provide services don't withhold employment taxes from your check. "Yay! More for me!", I hear you cry. Not so fast, Mr/Ms Entrepreneur! You see, if you receive more than about $600 per year from anybody for services performed, they have to issue you a Form 1099. They also file that 1099 with their own taxes. That means the IRS will know you got paid, and that worthy agency will want to know if you paid taxes on that income.
It's not too late this year to fill out a Form W-9 and give it to each entity for whom you provide services, and then put away enough from the rest of your income from that entity to cover your tax bracket. That way, when that 1099 comes in next January or so, you won't be unpleasantly surprised by the the amount you'll owe the IRS on April 15th. After all, borrowing money on your credit card to pay your taxes just stinks.
As noted (and as always), the above is not legal or tax advice, and if you have questions or concerns, you should contact an attorney and/or a CPA to discuss your particular situation.
We handle a lot of elder law cases, and we often have clients worry that "Medicaid will put a lien on my house/take my house/sell my house" in order to recoup amounts paid out by Medicaid for assistance with assisted living or nursing home services.
Gregg Hartness flew with my dad, Lt Col (ret) Jake Jacobson, when they were both young company grade officers. He was the first person my parents knew personally who was reported MIA in Vietnam. Gregg was promoted along with his year group until his mandatory retirement date, when he was retired with the rank of Colonel. I wore his POW/MIA bracelet for several years as a teenager. I took this photo of his headstone at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, 2015, while performing duty as a member of the Air Force JAG Corps Reserve. For more on Col Hartness, click www.arlingtoncemetery.net/gregg-hartness.htm
Memorial Day isn't for great sales. It isn't for cookouts. It isn't for thanking the men and women who have served this great nation in uniform (and out - CIA/DIA/OGA - you know who you are). Those things are all perfectly valid. But focusing on those things to the exclusion of its true meaning diminishes the reason for Memorial Day: to remember and honor those who gave "the last full measure of devotion", who died in the service of the United States of America. All of the attorneys at The Jacobson Law Firm are retired Air Force officers; however, when we put on our uniforms for Memorial Day observances, we neither desire nor expect your thanks. We wear the uniform to honor those who died in the service of their nation and ours. So enjoy the weekend and the time with family and friends, but please - never forget.
Colonel Hartness, I honor your service, your sacrifice, your last full measure.
Dana D. Jacobson
Colonel, USAFR (ret).
We do a lot of estate planning - wills, trusts, powers of attorney, directives to physicians - the kinds of document that, when you need it, it's too late to get it. Important safeguards for when you're vulnerable. The foundation on which your contingency planning rests. The arrows in your advance planning quiver! You get the picture...
Time was when law firms would keep the client's original documents in a safe (where the term "safekeeping" originates - prove me wrong!), ostensibly so the client would always know where they were and be comfortable they hadn't been stolen or lost. Unfortunately, a lot of firms seemed to hold those documents hostage, to guilt clients into coming back to that firm when revisions needed to be made - or, worse, when it was time to probate a will. For that reason, we rarely keep original documents unless we're specifically requested to do so. That puts the burden on the client to keep track of the originals.
Important? Absolutely (Safeguards! Foundation! Arrows!). So I'm surprised how often we get calls from clients asking whether we have copies of the documents we prepared for them, because they can't seem to locate the originals. Understand, we give the same spiel to every client when the documents are executed: put the originals in a firebox at your house or, at the very least, in a locked file cabinet. Make sure the people you've designated as your surrogates know where they are and can get to them. Don't write on the originals! (But that's another blog).
If you're going to make the investment of time and resources to have your estate planning documents prepared, be sure you know where they are and can lay your hands on them. It's much more expensive to try to probate a copy of a lost will, or get a nursing home/hospital/lender/government agency to accept a copy of the power of attorney without seeing the original, than it is to invest in a secure box and stick your documents in it. And make yourself a note of the lock combination. Just sayin'...
"Legacy" - it could mean:
1. an old operating system
2. the frat boys and sorority sisters to whom I delivered pizza while I was in college
3. an inheritance from crazy Aunt Millie that nobody knew she had
4. all of the above
Legacy often conjures visions of easy street. However, leaving a legacy can also be the act of providing for your church, synagogue or other charity or worthy cause, a gift that will keep giving long after you're in a better place (that's our firm belief, check out our mission statement for where we stand - but I digress...).
So how can you leave a legacy? The topic is much too complex to fully address in a blog post, but here are a few ways:
Bequests in your will - Many clients who tithe (give a tenth of their income or assets to charity) will also tithe from their estate, but these institutions can use any amount, great or small. A bequest of a specific amount in your will is an easy way to provide a legacy.
Charitable Remainder Trusts - a more complex way to provide a legacy, but in simplified terms, it's a vehicle for you to keep the benefit of whatever asset you place in the trust while you're alive (think interest on a sum of money), and give what's left to a named charity when you (or the second of you and your spouse) die. It doesn't have to be your whole estate, you can pick an amount, with some of your money going to charity and the rest to your heirs through your will or other mechanism.
Insurance Policies - If you're more mature ("nearer to death" sounds so negative!), you might consider taking out a life insurance policy that names your charity as the beneficiary. Talk with a good life insurance agent about the best way to structure this, but it may get more expensive than you really want to undertake to pay the premiums over the long term.
Pay-On-Death Accounts - say you got a windfall of some sort: inheritance, settlement, cash-out of equity, that sort of thing. If you put that money in an account that allows you to name a beneficiary to get what's in the account on your death, you can name your charity as the beneficiary. This doesn't keep you from using the money while you're alive, it just provides for the charity to receive what's left of it when you die.
As you can see, there are a number of ways to benefit your favorite charity upon your death. Some of them have tax ramifications, some don't, and getting them properly set up is critical. Make sure you talk with an estate planning attorney as you make these decisions. Hey, maybe crazy Aunt Millie would appreciate you doing something with that inheritance!
As always, the above is legal information, not legal advice, and based on Texas law. Every situation is different, so consult with an attorney before making your decision.
Here at the Jacobson Law Firm, we have assisted hundreds of teachers and other school district employees and their families with drafting estate plans and the like. The one constant we hear is, "I just don't know when I'll have time to come in and get it done."
The reason people make a will is that they want to be certain who gets their stuff when they die. Pretty simple, right? Well, not exactly...
When we meet with clients to discuss their wills, we get a pretty good feel for how they think they want their assets to be distributed and, sometimes, which of their beneficiaries they worry about the most. Often, the husband or wife is the primary beneficiary and the kids are the alternate beneficiaries, and that's great. But what if your spouse dies before you do and there are three kids, and one of them dies before you as well? What happens to that kid's share? Does it go to the other two kids? What if by the time you die, there are grandkids? Do they get their deceased parent's share or not? What if those grandkids are all under the age of 18? Their money will go into the registry of the court until they're 18, then they'll get it with no strings attached. Do you want them to get everything right away? They'll spend it all within a year. What about putting a trust for minors in your will, so they can't get their hands on it until the age you specify? Great idea! Who's the trustee going to be? Well, no, it can't be their parent because they don't inherit unless their parent died before you did.
"Killing off the beneficiaries" is the process we use to start walking through these "what if" scenarios. If you're thinking about getting your estate plan in place, make sure your attorney has this kind of conversation with you.