Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I prefer my own bed, thanks.

AARPs research report

A Balancing Act - Funding for Long-Term Care Programs

A summary of the AARP Report and the Utah data.

Eighty-seven percent of people 50 and older with disabilities want to be cared for in their own homes. Yet the Medicaid program continues to allocate the bulk of its resources for institutional services.

Medicaid dollars on average can support nearly three people in home and community-based services for every person in a nursing home.

"The ability of some states to accomplish substantial reforms for older people and adults with physical disabilities—as well as successes in the mental retardation/developmental disabilities movement, which have led to increased home and community-based services options for many—demonstrates that obstacles to change can be overcome."

Compared to the U.S. average, Utah allocates 96% of its Medicaid long-term care spending for older people and adults with physical disabilities to nursing homes.

Utah has one of the nation’s most unbalanced systems and Medicaid trends indicate the little progress has occurred in the state in recent years. The number of participants receiving home and community based services decreased while the number of participants in nursing homes remained relatively constant between 1999 and 2004. From FY 2001 to FY 2006, the increase in Medicaid spending on nursing homes was $52 million, 26 times the increase in spending on HCBS. The increase alone was more than eight times the total HCBS spending for older people and adults with disabilities.

The discrepancy in millions expended (6 - 5 = +2 ?) must be some type of rounding.

Monday, December 29, 2008

End-of-the-year To Do list:

1. Make sure trust and will is up to date.

2. List of accounts stored in a secured place.
(If something happens my spouse or executor will be able act.)

3. Review the beneficiaries on life policies, IRAs, 401Ks, and bank accounts.

Tax news for 2008

Homeowners whose mortgage debt was partly or entirely forgiven during 2007 may be able to claim special tax relief by filling out newly-revised Form 982 and attaching it to their 2007 federal income tax return, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

Normally, debt forgiveness results in taxable income. But under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, enacted Dec. 20, taxpayers may exclude debt forgiven on their principal residence if the balance of their loan was less than $2 million. The limit is $1 million for a married person filing a separate return.

To help pay for mortgage forgiveness provisions of the legislation, Congres has created a new penalty applicable to S corporations that fail to file a timely return or that file a return that fails to provide information required by law. The penalty applies for each month the failure continues, up to a maximum of 12 months. It is equal to $85 times the number of persons who are shaholders during any part of the taxable year. This applies to returns filed after December 20, 2007

First Time Homebuyers Credit: Taxpayers who purchased a new home for the first time after April 8, 2008, may qualify for a refundable credit up to $7,500. Part of the American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act, this refundable tax credit works like an interest-free loan for all qualified taxpayers. The credit must be paid back in equal parts over a period of 15 years beginning in 2010.

For 2008 individual taxpayers who do not itemize deductions can add a third component, the real property tax deduction. This deduction is the lesser of either the amount of state and local real property tax paid or $500 ($1000 for married couples filing jointly).

Reminder: Nothing that is written here is intended to be legal or tax advice. As always if you have legal or tax questions consult an attorney or qualified professional

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Two recent cases point to the success of local Elder Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Teams. In Michigan a man was convicted of stealing more than $50,000 from his mother. The theft was discovered during a routine guardianship review conducted by a caseworker. Other investigations have resulted in charges against a man for taking $37,000 from his blind grandmother. The teams are funded by a small tax called a senior millage. 1/4 of a mill from property tax is designated for senior services.

In Utah it is Adult Protective Services that is responsible for investigating abuse or exploitation and to provide protective services and help prevent abuse. The Utah Criminal Code provides for penalties ranging from class A misdemeanor to 2nd degree felony. Anyone who has reason to believe that any incapacitated or disabled adult has been abused is required to report it. Reports should go to statewide intake at 1-800-371-7897 or in Salt Lake County 801-264-7669.

At the national level a bill that was approved by the House but not yet by the Senate. (Elder Abuse Victims Act of 2008)H.R. 5352 would protect seniors in the United States from elder abuse by establishing specialized elder abuse prosecution and research programs and activities to aid victims of elder abuse, to provide training to prosecutors and other law enforcement related to elder abuse prevention and protection.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

December 10, 2008
I found this post at Death and Taxes Blog titled Nudge, Shel Silverstein, Smart, and Negotiation It's just too funny not to pass on. Pretty ironic.

I'll quote from the post . . .

I'm currently reading Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, by the U of C professors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. I'll probably post a review later, but I found one part (on page 77) particularly interesting. Professors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein are the authors of are using a Shel Silverstein poem called "Smart" as the basis for an example, and they ask the reader to Google the poem and read it before continuing in the book.

Why not just print the poem? The answer is in a footnote:

Silverstein had originally given Thaler permission to use the poem in an academic paper published in 1985... but the poem is now controlled by his estate, which, after several nudges (otherwise known as desperate pleas), has denied us permission to reprint the poem here. Since we would have been happy to pay royalties, unlike the Web sites you will find via Google, we can only guess that the managers of the estate (to paraphrase the poem) don't know that some is more than none.

Here is the first stanza of the "Smart."

My dad gave me one dollar bill
'Cause I'm his smartest son,
And I swapped it for two shiny quarters
'Cause two is more than one!

and it goes on from there.

The people in charge of Silverstein's estate must not have read the poem.
Many of you are probably familiar with it. If not, it's an quick google search away.

It's time to do that will

"I have two luxuries to brood over in my walks, your loveliness and the hour of my death." John Keats

The Harris Interactive poll, conducted for Lawyers.com, surveyed 1,018 adults and found that more than half (55%) of them didn't have a will. Only one in three African American adults (32%) had a will and only one in four Hispanic Americans (26%).

Obiously people dislike the thought of death, except maybe Keats, but everyone should should have at minimum a good valid will. It's not dependent on how much or how little you have.

A good will can be drafted with minimal expense by qualified attorney. Even if you have little, what little you have should be distributed the way you want it to be. A small piece of your time could prevent family fights and bitter feelings caused by disappointed expectations. And if you have children it's very important to name guardians.

And face it, you need to do this because no one is getting out of here alive. Utah residents can contact Hughes Estate Group Attorneys. Others should contact their local bar assocation for a referral.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

William's Will Contested

From the Marin Independent Journal

The son of Stanley Tookie Williams is contesting his father's will, claiming it was signed two days before his execution at San Quentin State Prison and its beneficiary probably had a hand in its creation.

Travon Williams, 33, says the executor of his father's estate was a business partner who had the will drafted and says it should be ruled invalid.

It was unclear what the estate may be worth, although Tookie Williams wrote children's books denouncing gang violence that prompted four Nobel Prize nominations.

The executor, Barbara Becnel, 56, of Richmond is the sole beneficiary of the disputed will.

Travon Williams says the will does not reflect his father's intentions and wants the will set aside.

Becnel will fight Travon Williams' efforts.

Becnel became a business partner with Tookie Williams in the mid-1990s as a co-author and editor of his books.

Becnel is quoted as saying,

"I stood by Stan's side for 13 years, fighting to support his work, his innocence and his life," Becnel said. "I will continue to fight, this time to support his honor, his legacy and his desires."

Becnel's attorney, Melvin Honowitz, said the objection to the petition for probate is ludicrous.

Tookie Williams was a founder of the Crips street gang in South Central Los Angeles. He was convicted of four murders in 1981 and sentenced to death.

He was a rebellious prisoner until he turned his life around in the 1990s, denouncing gangs and writing children's books to advocate alternatives to street crime.

He was nominated four years in a row for the Nobel Peace Prize, beginning in 2001. He was executed Dec. 13, 2005, despite calls for clemency by anti-death penalty advocates and a campaign based on his redemption that was spearheaded by Becnel.

In his objection to the petition for probate, Travon Williams said his father is survived by his mother, two sons, a sister and grandchildren.

Stacie Nelson, Travon Williams' attorney, said she does not know the value of Stanley Williams' estate.

"The executor has possession of Mr. Williams' assets," Nelson said.

Tax Liens and the mortgage crises

IRS officials are worried that struggling homeowners are not refinancing or mortgage modification because of tax liens.

Homeowners or their representatives and lenders can request a "discharge" of the claim if the home is being sold for less than the amount of the mortgage lien. The discharge does not relieve the debt and the tax payer still has the responsibilitly to pay the delinquent taxes. It merely removes the lien from a particular property such as a home so it can be sold

The IRS can can also subordinate the lien to a refinance loan.

The process to discharge or subordinate a tax lien usually takes about 30 days after submission of the completed application, but IRS officials say they are working to speed up that process.

For information about how to discharge or subordinate a federal tax lien, call the IRS at 800-913-6050 or visit their Web site at www.irs.gov.

Sad News

Sad news. Columbo actor Peter Falk has Alzheimer's disease and dementia. His daughter, Catherine Falk has started the legal process of asking for a conservatorship stating in papers filed with a Los Angeles court that he "requires full-time custodial care for his health and safety. He has memory loss and can no longer recognize familiar people, places, and things.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Do we need stronger power of attorney laws?

Any quick Google search will land you a handful of stories about abuse and betrayal. As America ages, elder abuse and financial exploitation are growing problems.

In Allentown PA a trial began for a couple who cared for an elderly man with Alzheimer’s disease, but in the mean time drained 85K from his accounts, buying a Mercedes, an SUV, and taking money to pay their taxes.

A soldier gave his wife a power of attorney before he left for Iraq. After he left she emptied his savings, sold the house and moved away.

In Erie the mother of a dying man used a power of attorney he signed years earlier to change the beneficiaries of his estate from his step-daughters to her own children.

In Connecticut a neighbor received Power of Attorney from a sick elderly woman and promptly empties her bank accounts.

In Upper St. Clair they are still sorting through the mess of a 16 million dollar estate after POA was given to a prominent lawyer

In Billings MT a state legislator was charged with defrauding her stepfather. She told the jury that she thought the man had only a month to live when she withdrew all of his savings.

Springfield Massachusetts woman was charged with stealing $813,000 from the 91-year old woman she had been caring for. An investment house sounded the alarm.

AARP has released a report on Power of Attorney laws and advocates for stronger laws that would make individuals who abuse Power of Attorney authority liable for damages among other changes.

Powers of Attorney are easy to abuse because they generally grant broad decision-making authority. Often exploitative transactions are well within the actual authority authorized. Often there is no third-party monitoring, and the abuse is discovered only when it’s too late.

The AARP is urging support for the New Uniform Power of Attorney Act finalized in 2006. So far that act has been enacted fully in two only two states, Idaho and New Mexico, and only a small number other states have provisions that are similar. In 2009, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin will consider adopting the law.

Some of the provisions the UPOAA . . .

1. Permit interested parties to petition a court to terminate the POA if the agent is acting improperly.
2. Set forth default standards for agents’ fiduciary duties.
Require express authorization for certain authority, such as gift-making and changing beneficiary designations.
3. Require notice by the agent when no longer willing or able to act.
Revoke a spouse agent’s authority upon annulment or filing for divorce.
Provide for remedies and sanction for abuse.

Here are a couple of comparisons of the Utah State Code versus the new Uniform Code.

UPOAA Section 108(a) & (b)

In a power of attorney, a principal may nominate a conservator of the principal’s estate or guardian of the principal’s person for consideration by the court if the protective proceedings for the principal’s estate or person are begun after the principal executes the power of attorney. (Except for good cause shown or disqualification, the court shall make its appointment in accordance with the principal’s most recent nomination.)

(b) If, after a principal executes a power of attorney, a court appoints a conservator or guardian of the principal’s estate or other fiduciary charged with the management of some or all of the principal’s property, the agent is accountable to the fiduciary as well as to the principal. The power of attorney is not terminated and the agent’s authority continues unless limited, suspended, or terminated by the court.

Utah Law


(5) A conservator may be appointed for a principal even though the principal has a valid power of attorney in place. If a conservator thereafter is appointed for the principal, the attorney-in-fact or agent, during the continuance of the appointment, shall account to the conservator rather than the principal. The conservator, pursuant to court order as provided in Subsection 75-5-408(1)(d), has the same power the principal would have had if he were not disabled or incompetent to revoke, suspend, or terminate all or any part of the power of attorney or agency.

Here are the sections on designating specific duties.

Section114(b) Agent’s Duties
(b) Except as otherwise provided in the power of attorney, an agent that has accepted appointment shall
1. act loyally for the principal’s benefit
2. act so as not to create a conflict of interest that impairs the agent’s ability to act impartially in pthe principal’s best interest.
3. act with care, competence, and diligence ordinarily exercised by agents in similar circumstances
4. keep a record of all receipts, disbursements, and transactions made on behalf of the principal
5. cooperate with a person that has authority to make health-care decsions for the principal to carry out the principal’s resouagle expectations to the extent actually known, and otherwise, act in the principal’s best interest
6. attempt to preserve the principal’s estate plan, the the extent known, if preserving the plan is consistent with the principal’s best inetrest based on all reveant factors, including
a. the value and nature of the principal’s property
b. the principal’s foreseeable obligations and need for maintenance
c. minimization of taxes including income, estate, inheritance, generation-skipping transfer, and gift taxes
d. eligibiligyi for a benefit program, or assistance under a statute or regulation.
Section 201(a)
Requiring specific grants of authority to
1. create, amend, revoke, or terminate a trust
2. make a gift
3. create or change rights of survivorship
4. create or change a beneficiary designation
5. delegate authortiy granted under the POA
6. waive the principal’s right to be a beneficiary of a joint and survivor annuity, including a survivor benefit under a retirement plan
7. exercise fiduciary powers that the principal has authority to delegate
8. disclaim property, including a power of appointment.

Utah Law


A power of attorney may not be construed to grant authority to an attorney-in-fact or agent to perform any of the following, unless expressly authorized in the power of attorney:
(1) create, modify, or revoke an inter vivos revocable trust created by the principal;
(2) fund, with the principal's property, a trust not created by the principal or by a person authorized to create a trust on behalf of the principal;
(3) make or revoke a gift of the principal's property, in trust or otherwise; or
(4) designate or change the designation of beneficiaries to receive any property, benefit, or contract right on the principal's death.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Charitable Giving the IRS way

IRS Offers Tips for Year-End Donations

IR-2008-138, Dec. 9, 2008

WASHINGTON — Individuals and businesses making contributions to charity should keep in mind several important tax law provisions that have taken effect in recent years.
One provision offers older owners of individual retirement arrangements (IRAs) a different way to give to charity. There are also rules designed to provide both taxpayers and the government greater certainty in determining what may be deducted as a charitable contribution. Some of these changes include the following.
Special Charitable Contributions for Certain IRA Owners
An IRA owner, age 70 ½ or over, can directly transfer tax-free up to $100,000 per year to an eligible charitable organization. This option, created in 2006 and recently extended through 2009, is available to eligible IRA owners, regardless of whether they itemize their deductions. Distributions from employer-sponsored retirement plans, including SIMPLE IRAs and simplified employee pension (SEP) plans, are not eligible. There is more information on transfers allowed and qualified charities. Read the IRS publication if this applies to you.

Rules for Clothing and Household Items

To be deductible, clothing and household items donated to charity must be in good used condition or better. A clothing or household item for which a taxpayer claims a deduction of over $500 does not have to be in good used condition or better if the taxpayer includes a qualified appraisal of the item with the return. Household items include furniture, furnishings, electronics, appliances, and linens.

Guidelines for Monetary Donations

To deduct any charitable donation of money, regardless of amount, a taxpayer must have record - canceled checks, bank or credit union statements, and credit card statements, pay stubs for payroll deductions, pledge cards, etc. showing the name of the charity and the date or credit transaction date, and amount of the contribution. date, and the transaction posting date. Donator must obtain an acknowledgment from the charity for each donation of $250 or more.
To help taxpayers plan their holiday-season and year-end giving, the IRS offers the following additional reminders:

• Contributions are deductible in the year made. Thus, donations charged to a credit card before the end of the year count for 2008. This is true even if the credit card bill isn’t paid until next year. Also, checks count for 2008 as long as they are mailed this year.

• Check that the organization is qualified. Only donations to qualified organizations are tax-deductible. IRS Publication 78, available online and at many public libraries, lists most organizations that are qualified to receive deductible contributions. The searchable online version can be found at IRS.gov under Search for Charities. In addition, churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and government agencies are eligible to receive deductible donations, even though they often are not listed in Publication 78.

• If the amount of a taxpayer’s deduction for all noncash contributions is over $500, a properly-completed Form 8283 must be submitted with the tax return.

Never adopted children to inherit

Billy Tipton's "sons" inherit

In one of the most unusual probate cases ever, a Spokane County judge has ruled that the three illegally adopted sons of Kitty Oakes and Billy Tipton can inherit equal shares of Oakes' $300,000 estate. Oakes was 73 when she died last year. She had cancer and dementia. The estate proceeds come from the sale of her home.

Kitty Oakes was a former stripper known as Irish Venus who lived as the wife of bandleader Billy Tipton. They separated in 1980. When Tipton died in 1989, paramedics discovered that the person who’d lived as a man was actually a woman.
Obviously the three sons were shocked. Two of the sons changed their names.

A little bit of background

In 1933, Tipton began dressing as a man, which allowed him to blend with the other members of the jazz bands with whom Tipton played in small Oklahoma bars. Tipton took his father's nickname, Billy, and began living consistently as male. Living as a man made it possible to continue a career in jazz, where opportunities for women were limited. At first, Tipton only presented as male in performance, but by 1940 he was living full-time as a man. Tipton gradually gained success and recognition as a musician

The cover of the Billy Tipton Trio album

For seven years, Tipton lived with Betty Cox. Tipton kept the secret of his biological sex by telling Betty that he had been in a serious car accident which required him to bind his chest to protect broken ribs, and which had badly damaged his genitals. This became the story he would also tell subsequent women with whom he was involved. Betty remembered him as "the most fantastic love of my life."

After Betty ended their relationship, he quickly became involved with Maryann Catanach. She did not know that Tipton was biologically female. Two of Tipton's female cousins were the only persons privy to both sides of Tipton's life, and Tipton kept in contact with them for years.

In 1960, he ended a relationship with a Maryann to “marry” stripper Kitty Kelly (later known as Kitty Oakes), who was known professionally as "The Irish Venus." Tipton was never legally married, but several women had drivers' licenses identifying them as Mrs. Tipton. Kitty said that they never had sex but had an otherwise normal life. They were involved with their local PTA and with the Boy Scouts. They adopted three sons, John, Scott, and William. Although Kitty denied having any knowledge of Tipton’s ruse, John and Scott did not believe her.

Tipton finished his life living in poverty in a mobile home park. It was while paramedics were trying to save Tipton's life that his watching son, William, learned for the first time that his father was biologically female, a secret which the coroner soon confirmed. Tipton was pronounced dead at Valley General Hospital, and Kitty arranged for his body to be cremated in an attempt to keep Tipton's secret.

The ruling invokes “equitable adoption.” Not something generally recognized in Washington Law. In closing arguments, Lynn St. Louis, attorney for the personal representative of Oakes' estate, told Price there are "compelling facts" to allow the three sons to inherit under the doctrine.

The legal doctrines of equitable adoption and adoption by estoppels typically arise when a person who took care of a minor child for many years dies. The decedent may have died without a Will and the child presents a claim to all or part of the estate based on one of these doctrines. If the decedent died with a Will and the child was not mentioned in the Will, the child may still present a claim for a portion of the parent's estate on the basis of being an omitted or pretermitted child.

Washington law bars illegally adopted children not named in a will from inheriting out of fears that they'd be able to collect inheritances from two sets of parents.
But the case of Jonathan Clark, Scott L. Miller and William A. Tipton is unique, and the sons should not be penalized for their parents' deceit, St. Louis said.
Oakes and Tipton "brought into their home three boys. The natural mothers apparently relinquished custody, yet none are legally adopted. None of these boys were Kitty's biological child.

And the Tiptons were a family... Billy was dad; Kitty, mom," St. Louis said.
A photograph Oakes kept at her bedside as her health declined at a nursing home was shown to Price and displayed on the witness stand during this week's testimony.
It shows a happy, 1970s-era South Hill family; Kitty, the scout den mother; Billy, the smiling father, the teenage boys and little William, dressed in his Cub Scout uniform, who had just won a national art award.

For a while, the photo and reality coincided, at least in part.

In their testimony, the sons recalled how they joined the Tipton family as infants in the 1960s and were later told they were adopted. They recalled big Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations, Scouting, church on Easter and camping trips to Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon.

In his ruling from the bench, Price agreed.

"Until trial, the court didn't grasp the incredible life ramifications the Tipton children had dealt with... they should know that they did nothing wrong here. They just tried as best they could to live with the hand they were dealt," Price said. The three men will inherit equal shares of the estate, minus appropriate lawyers' fees.

If their claims had not held up, a scattered clan of paternal uncles and cousins in the Midwest and South stood to inherit Oakes' estate as "second tier" heirs.

Home for the Holidays

The Courrant's Rick Green reported on December 7, 2008 That Marily Plank has been allowed to return to Michigan. She was detained for over a year in Connecticut by probate court in Greenwich.

She was greeted at the assisted living facility she is moving to by cheering family and friends, who had been fighting to bring Plank back for the last 18 months. Apparently brought to Connecticut by two daughters without the knowledge of the rest of the family, Plank found herself in probate court where the judge granted an involuntary conservatorship, essentially trapping the elderly Michigan resident. It took a year to rule on a request by Plank's daughter that she be allowed to return home.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Online Tax Code


Complete and searchable U.S. Tax Code.

Small time farmer leaves big time inheritance

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review A tiny church in western Pennsylvania inherited more than $2 million from a farmer who lived in a mobile home. John Ferguson left his entire estate to Hopewell United Methodist Church near the town of Black Lick. The church has 80 members.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

From Scientific America
Ghost Stories:Visit from the Deceased, After a loved one dies, most people see ghost
By Vaughan Bell

In a fascinating article, Vaughan Bell explains that hallucinations are a normal part of grieving.

“The dead stay with us.” They remain in our hearts and minds. They linger in our senses, as sights, sounds, smells, touches or presences.

Hallucinations are a common part of mourning. A study by the researcher Agenta Grimby at the University of Goteborg in Sweden found that 80 percent of elderly people experience hallucinations associated with their dead partner one month after bereavement. The visions can be so vivid that almost a third of the people reported that they spoke in response to their experience and that some of them evoked the very essence of the deceased.

Few are likely to experience grief without re-experiencing the dead. We often fall back on the catch all “ghost” while the reality is in many ways, more profound. Our perception is so tuned to their presence that when they are not there to fill that gap, we unconsciously try to fill it.

On his blog mind hacks Bell says that though the phenomenon is common, most don’t talk about their experiences because they worry about what others might think. You should read the whole article, and don’t skip the comments section. A lot of people don’t accept this explanation at all. I especially liked the story of the ghost dog who brought his master’s walking cane.

“Is Art an Industry or a Luxury”
The Wall Street Journal
by Daniel Grant

Sens. Pete Domenici (R., N.M.) and Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) have co-sponsored legislation, endorsed by both Christie's and Sotheby's auction houses and the Art Dealers Association of America, to equalize the tax treatment of capital assets. This will be their third try. Why, so far, have they not persuaded their congressional colleagues, and why have two other bills affecting art collectors and museums run into similar resistance?

Grant says that that it is because it defies standard economic practice or public policy, or both. It makes sense only if one believes that art is just one more and equally important investment realm. The government wants people to invest in businesses or the housing market, entrepreneurship, places where the money is more productive.

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution disagrees . . .

"Buying art shifts money from one set of hands to another and it doesn't discourage investment in factories or elsewhere. (And if it did, investing in houses would involve the same problem, I might add.) The recipient of the money, the art seller, can invest the money just as well as the spender might have. Or in other words, the transfer of the arts doesn't consume much in the way of real resources. Admittedly there is a second-order effect: higher prices diverts more labor energy into the arts, although for Old Masters this effect is very small. Or you might cite shipping and transfer costs for the art, noting that on that logic we should tax shopping carts at higher rates as well.

There is a good argument for the higher tax rate on art, namely that art yields otherwise non-taxable pleasures -- the pleasure of hanging it on your wall -- unlike say holding Chrysler stock. Or you might think taxing art is another way to hike the tax burden on the rich. But the cited argument just doesn't fly."

Death Goes to the Movies

Bleak House



As an estate planning and probate attorney, this is why I think death is so entertaining! My favorite movies that deal with estate planning or probate issues.

      1. Bleak House. This 2005 BBC production of Charles Dicken's novel is stunning--keeps you on the edge of your seat. Gillian Anderson plays Lady Deadlock, and Charles Dance is brilliant as the no-nonsense attorney Mr. Tulkinghorn. "Jarndyce v. Jarndyce": the most famous probate case in history. BBC-Bleakhouse; Amazon.com.

      2. The first few minutes of Superman Returns. What a great scene when Lex Luther (Kevin Spacey) finances his evil schemes by ripping off the billion dollar estate of his aunt as she lies on her deathbed. The image of Lex holding Aunt's shaking hand as she signs the final documents giving him everything is priceless. Even better is the scene of Lex walking out of the room and snubbing every family vulture hovering in the house. Educational on so many levels, not to mention just good entertainment.

Part mentioned starts about 5:25

      3. Joseph. This is the great 1995 TNT production of Joseph in Egypt. Ben Kingsley, Paul Mercurio, Martin Landau, Lesley Ann Warren. Epic in its cinemetography, beautiful music, great acting, Emmy Award Winner for Outstanding Miniseries. The scene among the brothers when Joseph reveals himself is the most emotionally moving scene in film I have witnessed. A great film about inadequate business succession planning, lack of communications, family jealousies, and--in this case (but rarely in cases I litigate)--family renewal, forgiveness, and redemption.

      4. The Ultimate Gift. A fun movie about a grandfather who sets up his estate plan by mandating that his selfish grandson fulfill twelve tasks before receiving his inheritance. James Garner, Drew Fuller, Brian Dennehy, Bill Cobbs, Abigail Breslin. Shows the power a Grantor has in using his or her wealth to teach beneficiaries the values important to him or her. Entertaining and thought provoking.


Fun Fact. If you set aside $5 a day for twenty years you would have $36,500. If you invested with 9% return you would have $100,000. in 35 years you'd have $440,000. If you're smart enough and save from age 22 until you retire at 65, you'll retire in style with $1,000,000. Five dollars doesn't seem like much, but saved and invested steadily will provide you with a nice little nest egg.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Are you covered?

Market Watch

According to a Wall Street Journal Market Watch article "Coming Up Short"(Dec 2 2008), 95% of Americans make it a priority to protect their kids by using seatbelts, but only 20% have enough life insurance for family protection.

American families are increasingly in danger of missing goals like paying off a mortgage, funding college education, or saving for a secure retirement.

Americans believe they have enough life insurance to protect their families. But studies show that on average, household breadwinners have enough life insurance to cover expenses for only four years.

People don’t buy life insurance even though most people understand the need for it.

Only about 20% of today’s private sector workers are covered by a defined benefits pension plan. Today’s economy demonstrates how quickly financial circumstances can change. Life insurance can mean the difference between secure retirement and one of constant struggle.

The cost of doing nothing can be enormous, insufficient insurance leaves families exposed to undue financial risk. Look at life insurance as an asset rather than an expense.

According to the Insurance Information Institute www.iii.org premium rates for individual term life insurance are expected to fall about 1% from 2007. The general downward trend began several decades ago. The III estimates the annual premium for a 40 year old male nonsmoker buying a $500,000, 20 year level term life policy in 2008 will be about $725. Rates for women and younger people are even lower.