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."