Wednesday, October 29, 2008


ABC news ABC News reports that their latest polling shows Obama with a ten-point lead over McCain on the issue of taxes.


WSJ Republicans are losing ground in the battle over taxes, turf they have dominated since the Reagan administration.

Calculate your 2009 taxes here.

Which plan is better for you?
New study on the estate tax

Nonpartisan Economic and Social Policy Research.

Back from the Grave
Revenue and Distributional Effects of Reforming the Federal Estate Tax
Leonard E. Burman, Katherine Lim, Jeff Rohaly

The estate tax is the most progressive component of the federal tax code. In 2000 even before substantial cuts were made, it applied only to two percent of wealthy decedents. Critics call it a “death tax” and say it is too complex, unfair, and a deterrent to savings and investment. Under Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, the estate tax has been phasing out will disappear entirely in 2010 before being reinstated the following year in its pre-EGTRRA form. Congress has resisted repeated attempts to repeal the estate tax.

Both 2008 presidential candidates would scale back- but not eliminate- the estate tax which, as the law now stand will generate $490 billion through 2018. Senator McCain proposes to apply the 15% capital gains tax rate to estates worth more than $5 mil and Obama wants a 45% tax on estates worth more than 3.5 million. Obama’s plan would preserve around 60% of the current-law revenue and McCain’s would reduce revenues by about 4/5ths. Read the rest here.
Social Security Benefits to rise 5.8 percent for 2009.

A news release from the agency dated Oct 16th states that benefits for more that 55 million Americans will increase 5.8 percent in 2009. It is the largest increase since 1982. The rise is based each year on the Bureau of Labor Statics' Consumer Price Index.
Other changes are based on the increase in average wages (from 102,000 to 106,800) that will be subject to the Social Security tax.

And news from Medicare -

Stay or Switch

You can switch your Medicare health or prescription drug coverage for 2009 between November 15, 2008–December 31, 2008.

This is the official government handbook with important information about changes in 2009.

● What's new

● 2009 Medicare costs

● What Medicare covers

● Health and prescription drug plans

● Your Medicare rights

● Fraud and identity theft

Monday, October 20, 2008

Technically Unjust

Rick Green of the Hartford Courant is a vocal critic of the Connecticut Probate Courts. He reported on the terrible injustice done to Daniel Gross. Several years ago, even though he was a New York resident, Daniel Gross was held against his will in a Connecticut nursing home for 10 months when he fell ill in while visiting in Connecticut. Judge Joseph Gormley determined that this was "a terrible miscarriage of justice" and allowed Daniel to return home.

Another instance here.

On July 13, 2006, Judge Gormley said about jurisdiction:

"The statute is absolutely clear that you can't appoint a conservator of someone's person unless that person is domiciled in the state of Connecticut or resides in the state of Connecticut."

"This gentleman ... has never lived in the state of Connecticut, has lived and raised his three children in New York, his only assets were in New York, his house and his bank account, his driver's license is in New York, his registration is New York, his mail goes to New York. There is to me not a scintilla of evidence supporting residency."

"You can't appoint a conservator of the person for someone who lives out of state... the man lives somewhere else."

Now just this month comes the Story of a 96-year-old Michigan woman. When a daughter from Ohio came to visit her, she became concerned for her well-being. The daughter moved her from Michigan to an assisted-living facility in Ohio. She then filed a motion to become her guardian. Ohio law does not allow for the appointment of a guardian that lives outside the state. A second daughter objected challenging Ohio's jurisdiction.

The question at the heart of the dispute is whether the mother left Michigan voluntarily and if she had the intention to reside in Ohio.

In a 4-3 decision, the objecting daughter was found to lack standing to bring the case because of a failure to file a motion to intervene in the earlier litigation. Their justification was basically that the rules for intervention allow a court to maintain control of the proceedings. Creating a guardianship can involve many people, family, friends, neighbors, etc., and it can get out of hand.

A rebuttal that was complete and at times heart-felt challenged the majority assertion, claimed it didn't even use the right case law, and failed to construe the Rules of Appellate Procedure correctly.

"This court has consistently adhered to the policy of exercising all proper means to prevent the loss of valuable rights when the validity of a notice to appeal is challenged solely on technical, procedural grounds."

The judges felt it unjust and inequitable to prevent the daughter from challenging the lower court proceedings.

An attorney, who was not the guardian ad litem, appeared at the proceedings below representing the ward and stated that his client had indicated that she would prefer to return to Michigan and have her affairs handled by her daughter Jenny.

"She is concerned that her mother was removed from her home and forced to live out the rest of her days in a strange location. Anyone with an elderly parent can imagine the pain of seeing that parent held against her will; I consider Hull to be aggrieved by the lower court decision."

One of the problems this case brings up is the incentive an Ohio resident has to move a parent to Ohio to prevent a non-Ohio sibling from being eligible to serve as guardian. “We should not wait for the General Assembly to address this problem. Our legal system should help resolve family conflict, not provide a ready avenue to exacerbate it.”

The decision also prevented a case that the objecting daughter filed in Michigan to decide the issue of the mother's residence, which really was at the heart of the dispute.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Check your Trust Plans

From the North Bay Business Journal Commentary: Even if Just 2 or 3 Years Old, Trusts Need to be Reviewed
by Joni Fritsche, CPA AEP.

If your trust agreement is more than 2 to 3 years old, I urge you to dig it out, dust it off and read it.

Things that indicate you're overdue for a check-up:
1. New Spouse
2. Is everyone getting along? Has there been changes in family relationships.
3. Is your tax planning current? Marital deduction is 2 mil now and increasing again in 2009.
4. Are your children grown up? Are they okay or even more than ok financially? Are they healthy?
5. Do you own a business? Has it grown?
6. Are your choices for Trustee still appropriate?

Like Mr. Fritsche, we encourage our clients to stay up on their estate plan. You should review your plan often and understand all the details.
If it's been a while for contact your attorney. If you're a resident of Utah and need someone to help you evaluate or change your plan, we can help at Hughes Estate Group Attorneys.