Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Resolutions, Resolutions, Resolutions: Should Getting Your Estate Plan Be One of Them?

It's that time of year, the time we all start to think about our resolutions for next year. What about finally getting your Will and estate planning done?

Some of us always make New Year's resolutions and some of us don't. Some of us stick to our resolutions and some don't. The point of this article is not to debate the merits of resolutions. Instead, I'd like to suggest one that is almost always on everyone's list, but somehow never gets completed.

I hope you make 2011 your year to finally get your Will and estate planning completed. I think that is a pretty important resolution because of how much it means to your family. I have written before about the statistic that most people will spend more time and money each year on an annual vacation then they ever spend on their estate planning. Well, let's make 2011 your year to finally get your Will done. Let's make 2011 your year to finally get your estate planning done.

With all of the tax changes in force for 2011 and 2012, it couldn't be a better time to finally cross this one off your list. Did you know that these estate tax changes are set to expire in 2013 unless extended by Congress?

How do you know which type of Will and estate plan are right for you? That's a very good question and the subject for my first article in the new year. So, like I always, say, Stay Tuned

Have a great, happy and safe New Year!

Bernie Greenberg

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays & Merry Christmas!

This is my favorite time of year, it's magical. I hope you believe in the magic of the season and are able to enjoy this holiday with your family and loved ones.

Many are not that fortunate and their loved ones may be ill, suffering or protecting us by serving in our armed forces.

In addition to enjoying all of our blessings this season, let's take a moment and remember those who may not be as lucky as we are.

Thanks to all of you for reading our articles on estate planning. Thanks to our servicemen and women for protecting us. Thank you to all those who serve here to keep us safe.

Happy Holidays everybody!

Bernie Greenberg

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Outsourcing Your Estate Plan! Wait, What? Really?!?

A recent problem in estate planning is outsourcing. Here's more information and how to make sure your plan isn't outsourced.

The outsourcing issue affects all of us. Many jobs have been moved overseas: call centers; fulfillment offices and others. You may not even be aware that legal services have been outsourced overseas. I originally started drafting this article before the recent fracas erupted about the tax bill. Now, with the tax bill passed by the Senate and hopefully soon to be passed by the House, I am happy to get back to informing you about this outsourcing problem.

This article is not about outsourcing, this is about estate planning; how to get your plan done properly and make sure you don't end up with an outsourced plan. Whatever your thoughts are on the topic of outsourcing, they are valid and not what this issue is about.

How did I find out about outsourced estate plans? Quite interesting actually. Our firm was solicited to purchase legal services from several suppliers in India. We continue to receive offers weekly for outsourced legal services. We can hire paralegals for $5 to $7 per hour and lawyers for $10 to $20 per hour. Yes, your eyes don't deceive you, and those are not typos! Those are immense savings for any law firm to consider and many have pursued those incredible deals.

Lawyers, either inexperienced in estate planning, or just seeking to make more money in their practices are using these outsourced legal services to produce work for their clients. This is legal, but the professionalism may be questionable. I strongly urge you not to pay for or use legal documents for your estate plan that are outsourced.

Estate planning is a specialized field. While it may not be rocket science, it can be close. With the interplay between sometimes complicated family dynamics and the ever-increasing complexity of our tax laws, estate planning should not be undertaken without appropriate training and experience and certainly not outsourced.

I have surveyed several of my colleagues who are estate planning experts, and none of them would ever consider outsourcing your estate planning. The ability to work one on one with our clients, understand their concerns and goals and to then translate that into their documents is something that real experts pride themselves on. For the same reasons that you should avoid internet and fill-in-the-blank documents, so should you avoid outsourced documents. They are hazardous to your family and to your property!

So how do you protect yourself and your family? Follow these simple steps:

1. Work With Experts. For your estate planning, make sure you deal with an attorney who specializes in estate planning and ONLY estate planning. You wouldn't go to your foot doctor if you have a problem with your heart. Use that same principle in dealing with your estate planner.

2. Work with qualified experts. I recommend you insist on these qualifications at a minimum:

A. The attorney has an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, the attorney rating service. This rating cannot be purchased and is awarded only upon peer review.

B. The attorney specialize in full time estate planning practice.

C. The attorney has a minimum of at least 7 years of full time estate planning specialization or concentration.

D. The attorney be a member of their state's Trust and Estate Bar Section or be a member of ACTEC.

E. The attorney verify they do not use outsourced services or documents in preparing and producing your estate plan.

By following these simple steps you will protect yourself and your family and make sure that your estate plan was not outsourced.

Note: no outsourced services were used or consulted in the preparation or writing of this article.

Bernie Greenberg

Federal law requires us to advise you that no portion of this article is intended nor can be used in any manner as tax advice. You are advised to seek the advice of your own attorney for your estate planning. Also, no portion of this article may be used in any manner in any attempt to evade federal taxes or tax penalties.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Can It Be True? Real Estate Tax Reform? Maybe So!

Are we on the cusp of the dawning of a new age in estate planning? Perhaps.

On December 15, 2010, the U.S. Senate passed by more than 80 votes a tax compromise reached between President Obama and Congressional Republicans. Among other tax issues, the bill continues for two more years the income tax structure that was due to expire on December 31st.

Also, the bill ushers, potentially, a new age in estate planning. The bill would make the exemption against the federal death tax $5 million (up to $10 million for married couples) and make the death tax rate 35%. This would be in lieu of an absurdly low exemption of only $1 million and a 55% rate under present law.

However, the bill has not passed the House of Representatives and several members of that House have threatened to torpedo the bill. That threat is mostly empty since it is being made by Representatives who were voted out of office in the last election.

So stay tuned, it is now up to the House to see if we will get real estate tax reform.

Bernie Greenberg

Thursday, December 9, 2010

December 9, 2010: Sad News Out of Washington

Congressional Democrats Rebel Against Their Own President; Vote to Reject Obama's Tax Plan

Today is sad news from Washington. The President's Tax Plan, a compromise reached with Republican leadership, was rejected today by Congressional Democrats who rebelled against their own President.

You can read more here from CNN:

As of today, this means there is no compromise on income taxes or estate taxes. The President's economic advisers announced that Congressional Democrats had just voted to continue and deepen the recession.

What does this mean for your estate planning? It means that nuclear winter on your estate arrives January 1st, 2011. Sad news for the entire country.

Bernie Greenberg

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Historic Agreement On Estate Taxes? Maybe.

Late Monday, December 6, 2010 the White House and Republican Leadership reached an agreement on tax policy for 2010-2012. What does it mean?

It could mean nothing and it could be historic. Nothing has passed Congress yet, and the Democratic leadership reacted negatively to the proposal.

On estate taxes it would mean a new $5 million exemption against the federal estate tax with a rate of 35%. That would be truly historic if it happens.

Up in the air at the time of this writing is exactly what the rules would be for people dying in 2010.

All I can say right now is stay tuned!

Sad news as the President's own party has rebelled against him and voted to reject the President's tax plan:


Bernie Greenberg

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Gift

The Gift of Estate Planning: One of The Best Gifts of All

It's the holiday season, the season of thanks and gift giving. Here's an idea for a gift that you may not have considered. The gift of estate planning. This could be the most important gift you ever give to your loved ones.

In 32 years of practicing estate planning law, I have never had a surviving family member tell me that they were sad that Dad, or Mom, had done their estate plan. On the contrary, the reaction has always been gratitude that we assisted their loved one with their plan.

What better gift can you ever give to your family then the gift of security, protection and peace of mind? Yet, most people will spend more time and money each year on the annual vacation then on protecting themselves, their family and property with an estate plan.

Please consider these benefits to your family when thinking of gifts this holiday season.

I will add to this with more thoughts on why the gift of estate could be the best idea for you this holiday season. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 29, 2010

How To Calculate Your Taxable Estate And Why It Matters To You

How To Calculate Your Taxable Estate And Why It Matters

In a recent article, we discussed the difference between your taxable and probate estates. In this article, we discuss how you calculate your taxable estate and why doing so is crucial to protecting your family.

I know what you may be thinking, "Here's that lawyer again, bugging me about estate taxes and my estate". Well, after you read this article, you will be glad I did.

Why Calculating Your Taxable Estate Matters to You:

Most people stopped worrying about estate taxes in 2009 when the exemption against the federal death tax was $3.5 million. Few clients had taxable estates in excess of $3.5 million and most thought that was that about death taxes. Not so fast! If you follow my articles, you know that system was trashed by Congress. That's not news anymore, no matter how bad that news is.

What the current Congress did is allow the federal death tax to expire for the year 2010 (creating a nightmare for anyone dying in 2010) and to bring the tax back starting January 1st, 2011. And starting in 2011, the exemption does not return to the 2009 level of $3.5 million. It is reduced to the absurdly low level of $1 million. In addition, the tax rate starts at 45% on the first dollar over $1 million and increases to a maximum rate of 60%!

If you still think that a $1 million exemption against the federal death tax is high, just keep reading to learn how your taxable estate is calculated.

Calculating Your Taxable Estate:

When you calculate your taxable estate (the size of your estate subject to death tax)the best place to start is to think of the word, everything. That's a good word because that is pretty much what is in your taxable estate, everything you own or control or benefit from.

Here are the details.

1. Start with your net worth. That's all your assets minus any liabilities.

2. Use the current value of assets, not what you paid for them. You can use current stock prices, a recent statement from your bank and brokerage accounts. For real estate, you can get a working number just by going on the internet these days.

3. Add in your personal possessions.

4. Add in the current values from your IRA's; 401(k)'s; and pension accounts (but only those amounts that continue on after your death. If your pension stops at your death, we can exclude it from the calculation).

5. Break down these numbers by how each item is owned. For example, make these columns:

My Name:

Joint Name:

If you don't which column to put something in, just put in the first one.

6. Add in the life insurance on your life, if you own or control the policy. This is the category that pushes many clients over the exemption amount. Most people forget to include their life insurance when calculating their taxable estate. While life insurance may be income tax free (and sometimes it isn't even income tax free!) it is not estate tax free.

That is how the calculation is done. Starting 1/1/2011 if your total is nearing or exceeds $1 million, you have federal death taxes to plan for. How your estate pays those is a subject of a different article.

So let's review. Start with your net worth, add in everything else, and then add in the death benefits from your life insurance. Still think a $1 million exemption is more than enough? I don't either.

There is some chance that the new Congress may take this issue up next year. However, one thing I have learned as an estate planner is this: don't rely on Congress to solve clients' estate planning issues! There are planning strategies available to protect you and your family and with the federal death tax coming back in 2011, it may be time for you to look at those.

Let me know if you have questions or comments on this article, or if you need help calculating your taxable estate. It is worth the few minutes it takes!

Bernie Greenberg

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

From us here, to you and yours, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving holiday.

This entry is our first of many from a mobile device. Enjoy Thanksgiving with you and yours.

Bernie Greenberg

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Our Site Has Changed

Have you noticed? Our site has changed!

We have re-built our firm's website and hope you like the results. We have integrated our full website here to make finding information easier for you.

Please let us know what you think of these improvements and how useful they are for you.

We look forward to hearing from you.Are

Bernie Greenberg

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Do You Know the Difference Between Your Probate Estate and Your Taxable Estate?

Do you know the difference between your probate estate and your taxable estate? Knowing how they are different and how to use those differences to your advantage is a critical component to your estate planning

In this article we will explore those differences and why it matters to you and your family. First, two examples of the consequences of the differences.

1. Did you know that you could have a probate estate that did not generate any estate taxes? It's true.

2. Did you know that you could have a taxable estate worth millions but your probate estate was worth $0? That's possible too.

Both of these examples are possible because of the differences between the probate estate and taxable estate.

Second, what is an estate. In general terms, your estate is what you pass on when you die. But that is a huge over-simplification that ignores the differences we are discussing here.

Third, what is probate? Probate is the legal system in each state of transferring title from a deceased person's name into the names of the appropriate beneficiaries. Keep the idea in mind of the name on the title of something as you read on.

What is your probate estate?

Your probate estate is determined by how you OWN what you own. In other words, the probate estate is all about ownership which is all about titling.

Titling is how you own what you own. There are several ways you can own something and which way determines your probate estate. Here they are:

1. Title is in your name alone, with no named beneficiary.

Think of a bank account that is just in your name, that is an example of this first category.

2. The title is in your name along with another person as tenants in common.

Think of two sisters who own a house as tenants in common. (Note, this is not joint tenancy which is discussed below).

3. The title is in your name alone, but you have named someone as the beneficiary.

For this third category, think of a life insurance policy where you have named a beneficiary.

4. The title is in your name along with another person as joint tenants with rights of survivorship.

Here think of spouses who own their residence together as joint tenants. This form of ownership has the unfortunate illusion of seeming like a good idea. It's not, but that is the subject of a different article.

5. The title is owned by another entity like a trust that you established.

For this fifth category, think of someone who has placed real estate into a trust which they created.

The benefits and faults of each of these five forms of ownership is not discussed here, I will write about that another time. So go back and read again each of these five forms of ownership.

Categories 1 and 2 are in your probate estate. Categories 3-5 are not in your probate estate. Categories 3-5 are also known as probate free transfer devices. Again, we are not discussing which of these is better, just how it affects your probate vs. taxable estate.

What is your taxable estate? Your taxable estate is about what you own, direct and control even if you don't own the title to the asset.

Think of the five categories all added together. Then add all things that you get benefits from, direct or control. Even some gifts that you made in the past are included. The total of all of that is your taxable estate.

When you examine these differences it is possible to see how you can have a non-taxable estate that is entirely subject to probate; or a huge taxable estate that is entirely probate exempt.

In estate planning, you will need to be aware of these differences, now they affect your property and family and plan accordingly. Your estate plan, when thought through, will probably end up being some combination of all the forms of title we examined above.

How can you know the best way to proceed. Schedule a visit with your expert estate planning attorney before making any moves.

Bernie Greenberg

Note that federal tax law requires that we notify you that you cannot use this article or any portion thereof in any manner to attempt to evade federal taxes or penalties.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Communicating in the Modern World

You may have noticed that many changes have occurred in the world of communications recently. It's not like several years ago when you would just write someone a letter or call them on the phone. Even the entire media industry has shifted and with the internet, newspapers are closing and how we get our information has also changed.

The purpose of this message is not to debate whether these changes are good or bad. I'm not so sure, but I do know that our world has shifted and because of the shift, it is important to embrace these changes and learn how to use them to your benefit.

These changes have certainly impacted how we communicate with you. We no longer publish a hard copy newsletter having shifted that to our firm's website several years ago. Now, there are many ways for us to get you information faster than ever before. I hope you are using at least one of these new information sources.

Let's review all the ways you can communicate with our firm and all the ways you can receive information from us:

There's the old standby, what is now called snail mail. When you actually send a letter in the U.S. Mail. Our mailing address is:

26 W. Dry Creek Circle, Suite 520
Littleton, CO 80120

The second old standby is the telephone. Here is our phone: 303.730.7100.

A third standy, the fax machine is also used, but less and less and will probably not exist sometime in the future. Here is our fax: 303.730.7195.

There are numerous more modern ways to also be in touch with us. These appear below and we encourage you to try them out. Just paste each address into your browser and each site a visit.

Our newsletter is now published on our firm's blog. We hope you follow it and enjoy our articles. You can find it here: http://bhgreenberglaw.blogspot.com and that is where you landed to be reading this article.

We still have our firm's website you can use it every day. Also, older newsletters appear there along with other important estate planning information. You can find our website here: www.bhgreenberg.com

We also now have our firm on Twitter. If you are using Twitter, you can follow us here: @BHGreenberg or http://twitter.com/BHGreenberg

We also have a presence on facebook. You can find us on facebook here: http://on.fb.me/atuS7Q

We are also on Linkedin and you can find us there at: http://linkd.in/bGKtUv

You will notice that when you follow us at these other places and in these other ways, you will receive more information about estate planning and estate taxes than ever. We also post articles from other sources that we think you will find interesting and useful in thinking about estate planning and your own finances. Try at least one of these other ways of being in touch with us and let me know what you think.

As always, thank you for your interest and support.

PS: Congress has failed to act to clean up their estate tax mess. There are numerous articles on our blog about this topic and how it affects your planning. After you read that, if you have questions, just let me know. And, you can even just give me a call or send me an email, just like in the old days.

Bernie Greenberg

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The First & Most Important Element in Your Financial Plan

The First & Most Important Element in Your Financial Plan: How to make sure your financial house is built on a solid foundation.

Most people agree that planning finances is important. Most agree that if they don't have a financial plan, they would like to have one some day.

Even if you have a financial plan, how do you know if it is built on a solid foundation? That is a critical question and we will explore here how to make sure your plan has a solid foundation.

Let's start with a basic premise. Any structure, including your financial plan requires a sold foundation. Whether a house, building or financial plan, the structure will ultimately fail if the foundation is not solid.

Imagine a pyramid, it looks like a triangle with the point of the pyramid at the top.

The bottom of the triangle or pyramid is the foundation. Because everything rests on the foundation, we want NO risk in that foundation. That foundation must support the entire structure in any kind of situation, storm or trouble. That is why pyramids are built like this and they have certainly withstood the tests of thousands of years.

Unfortunately, most financial plans are not structured this way. In fact, if you turned the pyramid with the top on the bottom, that is how most plans are built. In complex legal lingo, we call such a plan top-heavy. To use more complex lingo, the plan is ass-backwards. The slightest wind or trouble will topple that plan.

How is it possible that such an important structure, your financial plan, could be made upside down? The answer is more simple than you may think. Most plans do not protect against the biggest risks first. Such plans are focused on what to invest in, funding retirement, college education for kids and other similar and important goals.

But such a plan is upside down because they are built on a false assumption. The false assumption is that you will make the money necessary to deposit into the financial plan over the right number of years in order to make the plan work. That length of time is called the plan horizon. The assumption is false because it fails to anticipate that you may not be able to meet the plan horizon due to illness, disability or death.

Said another way, upside down financial plans fail because there is NO foundation. The foundation of any properly constructed plan has to protect against the WORST that can happen first. Not last, but first. A proper plan must first assume that you will not meet the plan horizon and have contingencies built into the plan that will still allow the plan work as intended.

We get now to the first and most critical step in any financial plan: estate planning. You read that right, estate planning. The first step in building your financial plan is to START with your estate plan. This is because your estate plan is about protecting against the worst risks first. Your estate plan is what protects your blind side.

I won't cover here the elements of a proper estate plan here, you can read about that elsewhere here on my blog. Suffice it to say though, that your estate plan covers YOU, your loved ones and your property if anything happens to YOU. A proper Will, perhaps a trust for the kids, Durable Powers of Attorney; a Living Will; proper beneficiary designations, life insurance, health insurance, proper auto and home insurance, and disability insurance are all important pieces of this foundation.

Don't let your financial plan fail because it is built upside down. Make sure that your plan is built on a solid foundation of your estate plan. Insist that you and your loved ones be properly protected. Remember, friends don't let friends drive with an upside down financial plan. Don't let your own plan be hazardous to your family and your wealth.

Bernie Greenberg

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Where Did All The Money Go?

Where Did All The Money Go?

That's a very good question. If you don't know what I am referring to, I am referring to $2 trillion. That's a lot of money, and I'd like to know where it went.

What $2 trillion you ask? Did you know that for the first time in history (recorded or otherwise) a government has spent $2 trillion in just 18 months!! According to Colorado Senatorial candidate Michael Bennet, there is nothing to show for that money!

Here's what happened: the current administration is the first government ever, to spend $2 trillion in just 18 months. I am not going political in this article, I just want to know where the money went. It is simply inconceivable for the administration to have spent that much money and not know where it went and what the country got for that much spending.

So I pose the question: where did the money go? Do you know? Bennet says it was wasted and we have nothing to show for it. We know it didn't improve the economy or the help with unemployment. So where did the money go? Does anyone in Washington actually know? Does anyone there actually know what they are doing?

If you know, let me know and maybe send a message to Michael Bennet and let him know too.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Top Five Reasons You Should Have DPOA's

The Top 5 Reasons You Should Have DPOA's

You may be asking, what in the world is a DPOA? That's a good question and before I get into the top 5 reasons you should have them, let's explore what a DPOA is.

DPOA stands for Durable Power of Attorney. This is a legal document where you specify who YOU want to make decisions for YOURSELF if you become incapacitated. By incapacity, I mean when you cannot communicate your own decisions due to illness, infirmity or any other reason.

There are two types of DPOA's. First, there is the financial type. The second type is for health care or medical decisions. These are two separate legal documents which CANNOT be combined. Here's why:

1. Each type of DPOA is governed by different state laws.
2. Each DPOA deals with different subject matter and has it's own individual structure.
3. It is common for people to want one person handling their money if they are incapacitated and a different person talking to their doctors.

For those three reasons, it is customary to have a Financial Durable Power of Attorney and a separate Health Care Durable Power of Attorney.

A word about why it is called "durable". A Power of Attorney that is not "durable" is revoked as a matter of law when the principal (the person who is making the Power of Attorney) becomes incapacitated. A Power of Attorney which is durable, survives the incapacity of the principal.

Now on to the top five reasons you want the two types of Powers of Attorney:

1. To protect yourself. When you have a Durable Financial and Health Care Power of Attorney, it is YOU who decides who YOUR decision maker will be if you are incapacitated. These "agents" are people you have decided, after due deliberation, you trust to make decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself. This is crucial with our HIPAA laws because you can name your HIPAA personal representative in the document. Without that, because of HIPAA, it is difficult to obtain medical information about you when you are sick or injured.

2. The law will not protect you. State laws provide for who will make decisions for you if you fail to adopt the two types of DPOA's. However, if they are the same person you would choose, it would be coincidence and only by chance. This is especially true for unmarried persons, or people in unconventional relationships.

Also, because of the HIPAA laws (medical information privacy laws) it is crucial that you have designated someone that can speak with your doctors and medical providers. This is done in a DPOA.

3. To protect your property. The Financial Durable Power of Attorney allows you to select someone you trust to handle your money and property if you are incapacitated. This affords you much greater comfort than having a Court supervised Conservatorship appointed for you. Your choice is generally always better than the choice forced on you by law.

4. To protect your family. By naming your own decision maker you can protect your family by creating greater likelihood that your choices and plans for yourself and family will occur if you are disabled. This affords greater protection and comfort to you and your family. This is not completely foolproof however. The key is choosing your agent wisely.

5. To avoid conflict in the family when you are sick. Nothing will tear a family apart faster than conflicts over who should be your decision maker. When you create your DPOA's, you can, in most cases, eliminate conflict over who should make your decisions if you are incapacitated. To have your own choices respected and enforced will always help you sleep better. Again the key is to choose your decision makers wisely.

Those are my top five reasons I think you should have DPOA's. If you have others, or any questions, please get in touch with me or leave a comment.

Bernie Greenberg

Monday, August 16, 2010

The 5 Top Reasons to Have a Will

The 5 Top Reasons for Having a Will

Before I get into the five top reasons for having a Will, I want to invite you to follow our blog and become a contributor with your comments and questions. Your contribution and participation will help to make our blog better.

Like our recent article about the 5 top reasons for having an estate plan, there are many, many reasons for having a Will. This article will focus on what I believe to the be the top five reasons. You might have reasons that are not discussed here and if so, let us know.

1. You get to pick your Executor or Personal Representative

This is an important reason and introduces the concept of having a Will so your choices are recognized vs. those of your state. When you have a Will, you can choose who will administer the Will and your estate. This is an important, fundamental power that you should not surrender.

2. Your kids won't have to go to foster care, even temporarily.

Most clients with children don't want their kids to spend any time in foster care. But if you die without a Will, this is a real possibility. With a Will of your own, you can provide for the guardianship of your kids to make sure that this doesn't happen.

3. Your pets won't have to go to a shelter or be euthanized.

For many clients their pets are like children and they want to be sure the pets are cared for if something happens. With a Will you can provide for custody and living arrangement for your pets. Those arrangements are problematic without a Will.

4. Your property will go to who YOU want when YOU want.

If you die without a Will, the state provides one to you in the form of the state's laws of intestacy. So, if you want your property to go to certain persons in a specific way, then creating a Will is a must. Otherwise, the state will dictate where your property goes and if property ends up where you want, it's only a matter of coincidence.

5. You can protect your children or loved ones from wasting their inheritance and destroying your legacy.

Most clients I speak with are adamant that they do not want large sums of money delivered to their children at young ages. If you don't want your kids inheriting your estate at an early age line 21, then creating a Will is a must. In your Will, you can stage the delivery of a child's inheritance until they achieve an age that you believe is more suitable for handling money and property. Who wants their estate to be wasted buying a $200,000 car for an 18 year old? If you don't, then you need to create a Will.

A final thought. I have written before on the dangers of internet Wills and Wills from software programs. I encourage you to read that article. One popular internet Will is being sold by one of OJ's lawyers. In a recent poll we conducted, not one person who responded was interested in buying an internet Will from that source.

We recommend that you deal with a qualified estate planning attorney when you decide it's time to create your Will and estate plan.

Let us know if you have other reasons for creating a Will.

Bernie Greenberg

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Top 5 Reasons You Should Complete Your Estate Plan

The Top 5 Reasons for Completing Your Estate Plan

There are hundreds of reasons for you to complete your estate planning. Recently at a talk I gave on estate planning and Wills and Trusts, I was asked, "Bernie, what are the top 5 reasons I should do an estate plan"?

That's a great question because it forces us to really focus on the true reasons that estate planning in some form is necessary for everyone. I mean everyone, regardless of age, relationship status or wealth.

So here we go, the top 5 reasons you should complete your estate plan ASAP:

1. Certainty

Your estate plan creates certainty. For yourself, your family, your pets and your property. A good estate plan will ensure that what you want to happen and when you want it to happen will.

2. Creativity

Since it's your estate plan, you can be as creative as you want to be. Your only limitations are: how much you want to spend and keeping it legal.

3. Continuity

All of us have plans for the future. Some of those plans involve ourselves, and some involve our loved ones. A good estate plan can make sure that those plans will happen and your dreams for your family can continue into the future even if you are not here to see it occur.

4. Comfort

Having a good estate plan will make you feel more comfortable. Comfortable knowing that you have protected those and that needing protection. You will be comfortable knowing that you have done what less then 20% of adults have done--your estate plan. You will have thought through those issues we all avoid and don't think about. And that brings an incredible sense of comfort.

5. Confidence

A good estate plan will create confidence for you and your family. Knowing that they are protected and cared for makes you more confident to live your life. Never again will go to sleep worrying.

Those are the top 5 reasons I think you should complete your estate plan. Maybe you have others. If you do, I'd like to hear from you and would also like to hear from you if you have comments or questions about this list.

Bernie Greenberg

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How to Control Your Future

That would be great wouldn't it? Controlling our futures? Is this something out of science fiction? No, it is something that anyone can do.

So how can you control your future? With estate planning of course! Estate planning, once complete, is a process that allows you to control the outcome of future events.

Now, we are not talking about controlling what happens in the future. That would be beyond what estate planing can accomplish. What estate planning allows you to do is to control outcomes of an uncertain future.

How about some examples:

1. We cannot predict our health in the future. With estate planning, you can control how you are treated and who would make decisions for you if you suffered incapacity. That's controlling the future.

2. We cannot predict WHEN we might die. But with estate planning, you can control how your property is handled, who would raise your children or pets and many other things if you suffered an untimely death.

These are only two examples of hundreds of others of how you can control your future with estate planning. So if you are interested in having some control over how your future will turn out, start by completing your estate plan.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Plagiarize This: I Dare You!

Yes, plagiarize this article, I dare you!

There is currently a plagiarism scandal raging in Colorado involving former Senator Scott McInnis who is running for Governor.

First, let's be clear on my position on plagiarism. It is wrong and indefensible under any circumstances. There should be strict and serious consequences for stealing the intellectual work of another. McInnis should face whatever consequences come his way.

But this article is not about plagiarism. This article is about political BS, duplicity and double standards.

All those currently calling for the head of Scott McInnis, were strangely silent or even defended the perpetrator of an even more serious case of plagiarism. You see, a serial plagiarist is our current Vice President, Joe Biden.

Biden, while a US Senator was found guilty of numerous acts of plagiarism. For whatever reason, he meekly apologized and that was it. Many now calling for the political demise of Scott McInnis, strangely, defended Joe Biden.

Why weren't their acts of misconduct on par? One reason, politics. You see, if you are on the "right side" of things, you can get away with any manner of wrongdoing and it is defended and forgiven.

But have the temerity to be on the "wrong side" and you are doomed. I do not defend Scott McInnis here. I think his career in politics should be over. But if his career is done, then all those now calling for him to withdraw from politics should also be insisting on the immediate resignation of Joe Biden.

Isn't that what fairness means?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Too Rich to Live? - WSJ.com

This article from the Wall Street Journal is a graphic example of the issues we have been writing about now for two years. This is the disaster created by Congress. Why Congress has done this and refuses to fix this problem is anybody's guess. As one of the most famous estate planners in the US, Conrad Teitell has said, this is unconscionable.

Please let me know your thoughts about this article and this issue.

Too Rich to Live? - WSJ.com

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Common Myths about Estate Planning & How to Avoid Them

Here are several common myths about estate planning. Let's review these and how to protect yourself and your family.

1. Estate planning is only for rich people. This the most prevalent myth about estate planning and probably the most dangerous. It is not true in any way. While wealthy people need estate planning like everyone else, they benefit from an a subset of estate planning that focuses solely on death taxes.

Protecting yourself and your family in the event of an unplanned illness; disability or death does not depend on how much money you have. The focus and estate planning tools to solve these issues are asset independent.

2. The Congress will solve the death tax problem. This is the current popular myth and also dangerous. It is now July and Congress has done nothing to solve the estate tax crises they created by not acting before the end of 2009 to extend the $3.5 million estate tax exemption. Not only does Congress show no interest in fixing the 2010 and 2011 disaster, they have announced that they have no plans to do so.

Relying on the government to solve your problems may be popular now, but it is very dangerous to you, your family and your property. Since there exist simple tools and strategies to solve this latest Congressional problem in estate planning, a good question is, why would you even believe that the government can fix this for you?

3. I don't have any assets so I don't need an estate plan. This myth is actually a case by case issue. It could be true only if all of the following are true for you:

A. You have no assets, no insurance, no retirement, no IRA or 401(k) and are permanently unemployed.

B. You have no family.

C. You don't care what happens to yourself if you are sick or incapacitated.

If you don't meet all of the above criteria, then an estate plan in some form is appropriate for you.

4. Estate planning is expensive. This myth is also untrue. Most people spend more money and time each year on their annual vacation then they spend in their lifetime on their estate plan. Many estate planning solutions are either free (a Living Will) or cost almost nothing when compared to the problems and crises that they solve.

I hope this article clears up these common estate planning myths for you. If you you have questions, please contact me. Our mission is to make the world better one estate plan at a time. Why not start your estate planning today? Now, that's a good question!

Bernie Greenberg

Friday, May 28, 2010

In Honor of Memorial Day: A Real Judge's Words

In the words of this Judge, in the Richard Reid case, the meaning of the sacrifice of so many, for us and our country is evident.

I want to acknowledge and thank Robert Armstrong of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys for sending me this transcript.

Here are the Judge's remarks fromthe transcript of the sentencing remarks by the Federal District Judge in the Richard Reid case:

Ruling by Judge William Young, U.S. District Court

Prior to sentencing, the Judge asked the defendant if he had anything to say. His response: After admitting his guilt to the court for the record, Reid also admitted his "allegiance to Osama bin Laden, to Islam, and to the religion of Allah," defiantly stating, "I think I will not apologize for my actions," and told the court, "I am at war with your country."

Judge Young then delivered the statement quoted below:

January 30, 2009, United States vs. Reid.

Judge Young: "Mr. Richard C. Reid, hearken now to the sentence the Court imposes upon you.

On counts 1, 5 and 6, the Court sentences you to life in prison in the custody of the United States Attorney General. On counts 2, 3, 4 and 7, the Court sentences you to 20 years in prison on each count; the sentence on each count to run consecutively. (That's 80 years.)

On count 8, the Court sentences you to the mandatory 30 years again, to be served consecutively to the 80 years just imposed. The Court imposes upon you, for each of the eight counts, a fine of $250,000; that's an aggregate fine of $2 million. The Court accepts the government's recommendation with respect to restitution and orders restitution in the amount of $298.17 to Andre Bousquet and $5,784 to American Airlines.

The Court imposes upon you an $800 special assessment. The Court imposes upon you five years supervised release simply because the law requires it. But the life sentences are real life sentences, so I need go no further.

This is the sentence that is provided for by our statutes. It is a fair and just sentence. It is a righteous sentence.

Now, let me explain this to you. We are not afraid of you or any of your terrorist co-conspirators, Mr. Reid. We are Americans. We have been through the fire before. There is too much war talk here and I say that to everyone with the utmost respect. Here in this court, we deal with individuals as individuals and care for individuals as individuals. As human beings, we reach out for justice.

You are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist. You are not a soldier in any war. You are a terrorist. To give you that reference, to call you a soldier, gives you far too much stature. Whether the officers of government do it or your attorney does it, or if you think you are a soldier, you are not--you are a terrorist. And we do not negotiate with terrorists. We do not meet with terrorists. We do not sign documents with terrorists. We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice.

So war talk is way out of line in this court. You are a big fellow. But you are not that big. You're no warrior. I've known warriors. You are a terrorist. A species of criminal that is guilty of multiple attempted murders. In a very real sense, State Trooper Santiago had it right when you first were taken off that plane and into custody and you wondered where the press and the TV crews were, and he said, 'You're no big deal.'

You are no big deal.

What your able counsel and what the equally able United States attorneys have grappled with and what I have, as honestly as I know, tried to grapple with, is why you did something so horrific. What was it that led you here to this courtroom today?

I have listened respectfully to what you have to say. And I ask you to search your heart and ask yourself what sort of unfathomable hate led you to do what you are guilty and admit you are guilty of doing? And, I have an answer for you. It may not satisfy you, but as I search this entire record, it comes as close to understanding as I know.

It seems to me you hate the one thing that to us, is most precious. You hate our freedom. Our individual freedom. Our individual freedom to live as we choose, to come and go as we choose, to believe or not believe as we individually choose. Here, in this society, the very wind carries freedom. It carries it everywhere from sea to shining sea. It is because we prize individual freedom so much that you are here in this beautiful courtroom, so that everyone can see, truly see, that justice is administered fairly, individually, and discretely. It is for freedom's sake that your lawyers are striving so vigorously on your behalf, have filed appeals, will go on in their representation of you before other judges.

We Americans are all about freedom. Because we all know that the way we treat you, Mr. Reid, is the measure of our own liberties. Make no mistake though. It is yet true that we will bear any burden; pay any price, to preserve our freedoms. Look around this courtroom. Mark it well. The world is not going to long remember what you or I say here. The day after tomorrow, it will be forgotten, but this, however, will long endure.

Here in this courtroom and courtrooms all across America, the American people will gather to see that justice, individual justice, justice, not war, individual justice is in fact being done. The very President of the United States, through his officers, will have to come into courtrooms and lay out evidence on which specific matters can be judged and juries of citizens will gather to sit and judge that evidence democratically, to mold and shape and refine our sense of justice.

See that flag, Mr. Reid? That's the flag of the United States of America. That flag will fly there long after this is all forgotten. That flag stands for freedom. And it always will.

Mr. Custody Officer. Stand him down."

Thank you Judge Young, and all the others who, every day, prove why we remember those who sacrificed everything for us this Memorial Day weekend.

Bernie Greenberg

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Memorial Day is Here & Still No Congressional Action on Estate Taxes

Memorial Day is Here & Still No Congressional Action on Estate Taxes

After five months now we still await Congressional action on the estate tax mess they created in opposition to President Obama's promise the $3.5 million estate tax exemption would be extended.

In even in the face of withering criticism from every quarter nationally, Congress has yet to act. President Obama's proposal to extend the 2009 estate tax rules has broad national support from taxpayers, estate planning professionals, tax accountants, and commentators.

The mess that Congress has created is immeasurable. Increased cases of assisted suicide, matricide and fratricide have been reported. An episode of Law & Order even addressed the motivation to murder a rich relative in 2010 due to the one year repeal of the federal estate tax.

Senator Bennet has refused to respond to my open letter on this crucial issue. Other members of Congress also refused to respond to the open letter published by world famous attorney and charitable expert, Conrad Teitell.

We will continue to keep you apprised of any developments, however the time for Congress to act in 2010 is narrowing.

Thank you as always for your interest and support.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Michael Bennet Why Have You Forsaken Us?

An Open Letter to Michael Bennet: Has Michael Bennet forsaken us? Does he say one thing in his political ads here in Colorado but do something different in Washington? You be the judge.

Michael Bennet has been telling us (ad nauseum due to his war chest)that he supports small business and that small business will "drag us out of this great recession". Aside from whether this is a "great" recession, I happen to agree with Mr. Bennet. I agree, and all the statistics suggest, that most, if not all, job growth and job creation comes from small business.

The curious thing is though, if Mr. Bennet believes in small business, why does he vote every time against small business and the owners and founders of small businesses? I don't know the answer, but I would like Mr. Bennet to tell us.

Skeptical of whether Michael Bennet's positions? Me too. So let's look at a few examples.

1. Card Check. This is generally accepted as the worst jobs killing bill ever considered in the U.S. Congress. If Mr. Bennet is a champion of small business, why would he support a bill that eliminates jobs by the thousands, especially jobs for minorities and women?

2. 2010-2011 Estate Tax Changes. Nothing destroys small businesses faster than when the business has to be closed and liquidated to pay federal death taxes. Starting on January 1, 2011, the largest estate tax increase in American history goes into effect. Now when an owner of a small business dies, if her estate exceeds $1 million, counting everything, including life insurance, home, savings and the business, the business is gone just to pay this onerous tax. Mr. Bennet's position? He seems to favor this result because he has done nothing to prevent this from occurring. This is one of the more racist and sexist laws we have because it penalizes people on the lower end of the wealth spectrum. Shouldn't Mr. Bennet favor an estate tax structure that makes it easier for people to keep their small businesses? I think so.

There are numerous other examples that I won't go into here. So I ask the question that I started with. Shouldn't we expect our politicians to do in Washington what they promise us here? Michael Bennet, why have you forsaken us?

Bernie Greenberg

The 75 or the 25: Which Group Are You In? If You Are Not In the Good Group, You Have Work To Do!

Yes, the 25 or the 75, an interesting look at two groups that have been studied by experts for decades. Which group are you in?

Of course, I'm speaking about which groups have done their estate plans, because, of course, I write about estate planning. All reliable studies show that around 25% or less of adults have done their estate plans and far fewer keep the plan current.

The purpose of this article is not to explore why so few people have done their estate plan. That has been studied and debated for so long now, rehashing all the theories is not very useful. The purpose of this article is simply to point out that these two groups exist and to encourage more of you in the 75% group to get your estate plan done.

So let me offer this encouragement in this article. Estate planning is about protecting your family. It is one important and tangible way you demonstrate how much you care about your family.

Please consider this thought: estate planning is not about how much money you have, but all about how much you care for those people you do care for and about. Estate plans come in all shapes and sizes and are not very expensive for what they do for your family.

Let me know your thoughts and if you have questions about starting or completing your estate plan. Let's work to reverse those numbers.

Thanks, as always, for your interest and support.

Bernie Greenberg

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Have You Addressed Potential Long Term Care Needs?

What to do about long term care and potential long term care needs, that is the question. Have you addressed this potential need for yourself and family?

If not, this is a good time to sit down with a long term care specialist and review your options.

Long term care expenses increase every year with no end in sight. While we all hope we will never face this need, the cost if you do is alarming.

The average annual expense of long term care in the Rocky Mountain Region is approximately $80,000 and growing. That's for every year of long term care! Medicare does not cover long term care needs and Medicaid is only available for people with little money and hardly any assets.

If you would like to visit with the specialist we recommend to discuss these potential needs, please give me a call and we will be happy to refer you.

As always, thank you for your ongoing interest and support.

Bernie Greenberg

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Reviewing your Homeowner's & Auto Insurance

Have you reviewed your coverages recently? If not, it's now time.

I have written in prior articles about the importance of keeping all of your planning current. This is actually quite easy if you follow the critical step of reviewing your planning periodically.

In our litigious society, this is even more important with your homeowner's insurance and auto insurance!

These insurance coverages will not only protect you and your assets, in most states having auto insurance is the law.

So how do you get these coverages reviewed? You call your agent, or if you don't have an agent, I recommend that you call the insurance expert that we use and refer our clients to. That person is J.P. Gudka in Colorado. You can reach J.P. by calling 303-752-2999.

Reviewing these two insurance coverages will allow you to feel comfortable about protecting your family and assets. So if you haven't done your 2009-2010 review yet, please, for the sake of your family, get it done soon.

Thanks as always for your interest and support.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

So What Else is New? No New Good News Out of Washington on Estate Taxes

I wish I had better news to report to you on estate tax developments. There is none. There is no movement in Washington to fix the federal estate tax mess that Congress created.

We assumed that after health care reform, Congress would take up the estate tax and actually fix their mess. So far, that assumption is not correct.

What should you do? If you haven't reviewed your plan to learn how it is affected by the 2010 and 2011 estate tax changes, it is imperative that you do so ASAP. Call me with any questions.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Estate Planning News for March 26, 2010: READ NOW!

Estate Planning News for March 26, 2010

Due to congressional inaction, the world of estate planning, as well as your estate remains in total upheaval for 2010. Here is a list of issues to focus on:

1. Our Client Alert concerning the 2010 estate tax changes remains in effect. If you haven't reviewed your existing plan to understand how it is affected by the 2010 estate tax rules, it is time to do so now.

2. The 2011 estate tax changes (in current law) are even worse. Even if your estate plan works for 2010, is it flexible enough to deal with the coming estate tax disaster that is 2011? If you don't know, it's time to find out.

3. Many people have still not revised their Powers of Attorney to incorporate HIPAA provisions. This is vital for you and your family. If you haven't revised your Powers of Attorney, it's time to take care of this issue.

4. Congress has passed the health care bill and the president has signed this sweeping and in many cases life changing legislation. Stay tuned for more reports on how this affects your estate planning. One area you will notice right away is the federal government's take over of your diet. More on this alarming change soon.

Call or email me at any time with questions or to discuss these issues. Thank you.

Bernie Greenberg

Thursday, March 18, 2010




On January 1, 2010, we entered uncharted territory with the federal estate tax system. You may have already read about these changes, however, this alert letter is to advise you of the current status of the 2010 estate tax rules and advise you how to proceed. Ignoring these changes or pretending that they do not apply to you will be hazardous to your estate and beneficiaries. If your estate plan divides into a marital and family trust at the first death, it needs to be reviewed immediately. This is due to the 2010 changes in federal estate tax laws that are detailed below.

Back in 2009 we had a $3.5 million estate tax exemption with full step-up in basis. Those rules are now gone. For 2010 there is no exemption because there is no federal death tax. Also gone are the unlimited marital deduction on which your plan is based and the step-up in basis. For 2010 we now have carry-over basis. This means a new tax if a beneficiary inherits property which grew in value in the hands of the decedent. These new basis rules are beyond the scope of this letter. Suffice it to say that everything you once heard or knew about federal estate taxes no longer applies.

It is uncertain how your current documents will work under these new rules. This is because several provisions of your documents are phrased in terms of the estate tax exemption and marital deduction which have been repealed for 2010. Because these tax concepts are not in the law for 2010, there may be questions about what your documents mean and how they will work. This could cause serious tax questions to arise that could require involvement of the courts to resolve. This is not the reason you created your estate plan and why we are urging you to review your plan with us immediately.

Please call us as soon as possible to arrange a meeting to review your estate plan and to determine whether any revisions are necessary to protect your property and family. We look forward to seeing you and reviewing these changes with you in greater detail.

Bernie Greenberg
Bernard H. Greenberg

Federal tax regulations require us to notify you that any tax advice in this communication was not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of avoiding any tax or penalties

Friday, March 12, 2010

Living Wills; Last Wills; DNR's: What's the Difference and How do They Work?

I have been asked many times recently to describe the differences between Wills; Living Wills and DNR's. That's a great question and the subject of this article.

Let's start by defining our terms and explaining what each of those actually is.

Last Wills: This is a dispositive document I wrote about in the 8 Steps to Getting Yourself in Order. A Last Will, or Will for our purposes, is a legal document which handles the disposition and distribution of your property AFTER your death. The Will can also create trusts for your spouse, children; appoint guardians for children and many other things. The key is that a Will has no force or validity during your life.

Living Wills: A Living Will addresses your wishes about life support measures and artificial feeding tubes at the end of life if you are in a coma. It is completely different from a Last Will because a Living Will is in force during your life and has no validity after death. It is an important document to express your wishes about how you want to be treated if you are in this condition. If you sign a Living Will, it becomes mandatory. Compare granting authority to a trusted person to make decisions for you with a Health Care Durable Power of Attorney.

DNR or Do Not Resuscitate Statement: A DNR expresses your instructions about not being resuscitated under certain circumstances. It is generally useful for elderly clients, since most of us wish to live if possible, even if measures are necessary to restart our hearts if we stop breathing. People in accidents; swimming incidents and even chest injury situations typically wish to be resuscitated unless they are elderly. Even some older clients wish this to be true. Before signing a DNR, carefully think through your desires and goals.

All three of these planning tools are important, but involve completely different situations and consequences. Always discuss each of these with your estate planning attorney before signing such documents.

I hope this is helpful and if you have further questions, feel free to give me a call at: 303-730-7100. Thank you for your interest and support.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Baby Ita s Cold Outside, Better Call Your Estate Planner - Topix

Baby Ita s Cold Outside, Better Call Your Estate Planner - Topix

t's cold here in Philadelphia on this last Friday in January, and some spouses may feel they've been left out in the cold if the federal estate tax is not reenacted and applied retroactively in 2010.

Read the rest at the link above.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Good, you've decided to start your estate plan. What do you do next? Here are the steps to follow.

It's great that you have decided to start your estate plan. So what do you do next? Follow these steps to prepare for your meeting with us:

A. Gather Information

1. Gather together all documents like: deeds to real estate; bank account, brokerage firm account, and IRA account statements. If you don't have any of these, don't worry, these are not necessary for your estate planning.

2. Find your life insurance policies, if any.

3. Find your marriage certificate, divorce documents, pre-marital agreements or anything similar, if any.

4. Write down names and dates of birth for your spouse and children if you have a spouse or children.

5. Read the 8 Steps to Getting Yourself in Order on our blog at: http://bhgreenberglaw.blogspot.com to help you learn how to think about your estate planning.

B. Think about these issues:

1. Who do you want to make decisions or control your money if anything happpens to you?

2. Who do you want to receive your property when you die and are they old enough or capable enough to do so?

3. Are you aware of how taxes impact your situation? If not, just write down what you think about the question. Remember, estate planning is not just for people with money or lots of property.

4. Who should raise your children if something happens to you?

5. Are special arrangements for your pets or business appropriate?

6. Do you have a direct or network marketing business?

If you prepare using these simple steps, your initial estate planning meeting with us will be productive and provide you with what you need to proceed with your estate planning. If you have questions or want to discuss how to prepare for your initial meeting, just give me a call at: 303-730-7100.

If you are receiving this message via email it is because you are subscribed to our blog by email. If you would just prefer to read the blog on the web, go to: http://bhgreenberglaw.blogspot.com and you can do so.

Thank you for your interest in your estate planning.

Bernie Greenberg

Thursday, January 21, 2010

When is the Right Time to Begin Your Estate Planning

Do you know the right time to begin your estate planning? The answer surprises many people.

When I posted this question online, the only person who had the right answer was my friend and real estate expert, Lea Rogers.

The right time to begin your estate plan is before ANYTHING happens. I know, it sounds trite, and this is not a trick question. I mean before anything happens. That is the right time to begin your estate planning.

So, if that is the right time, before anything happens, then the real time to begin is now. Right now, because that is the only way you can be sure to begin before anything happens.

Lea correctly used the example of the terrible earthquake in Haiti to illustrate what we mean by anything. Accidents, illnesses, disabilities are, for the most part, unpredictable events. Because life is unpredictable, we can create some certainty in our lives by completing our estate plans. If we do this now, before anything does happen, we know that we have started our planning at the right time for us.

So, the answer to the little question that started this article is NOW. Now is the right time to begin your estate plan.

If you already have an estate plan, then now is the right time to review that plan.

Bernie Greenberg

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Thought for Wednesday....Just Maybe....

With everything going on now in our world, this seems like a difficult time. Political strife; natural disasters; economic difficulties; sometimes it seems just overwhelming.

I normally only write about legal and estate planning topics, but I felt today like doing something different. My friend, Rob Thomas has a song out now that I feel has a message I wanted to share with you today.

So with thanks to Rob Thomas and giving him full credit for this message, here goes:

Maybe, someday, we'll figure all this out.
Get rid of all our doubt and
Find a way to make things better.

Baby, someday, we'll live our lives out loud.
We'll be better off some how,

I take comfort from Rob's words because I believe them, I believe that anything is possible and I hope you do too. Someday.

Bernie Greenberg

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Getting Yourself In Order Step 8: Review, Review, Review

In our series on how to get yourself in order, we are at the last step. Step 8 is Review, review and review. Why do we review? Well more on that below, but first, let's review the first seven steps to getting yourself in order.

1. Protect your house. This means getting the right homeowner's insurance and liability coverages in place.

2. Protect your car. This means getting the right car insurance, including liability coverage in place.

3. Provide for decision makers in the event of your disability. This means getting Durable Powers of Attorney with HIPAA provisions in place.

4. Create your dispositive document. This means do having a Will or revocable trust and working with an attorney who specializes in estate planning.

5. Synchronize your beneficiary designations on your insurance, IRA and 401(k) with your estate plan.

6. Beware of Uncle Sam in your planning. This means to consider the tax implications of what you do in your plan so as not to create any hidden tax traps.

7. Choose the right advisors. This one speaks for itself.

If you read the articles below you will find that each of these steps is discussed in detail.

Now what about reviews? Getting yourself in order is not something that you do just one time and forget about. It is an ongoing process. It's organic and that means that it is always subject to change. Changes like these:

1. Change in yourself. Your thinking and circumstances change from time to time and what you did a couple of years ago may not be how you decide today.

2. Change in your family structure. Marriage, babies, divorce, illness and death can create change in your family structure requiring a change in your planning.

3. Change in the laws. 2010 is a great example. Estate plans created with tax planning before 2010 were made obsolete by the 2010 estate tax law changes. Do you know how these changes in the law affect you? The only way is to do periodic reviews of your plans and arrangements.

That's why we recommend to all of our clients to have a review meeting with us at least once every two years. This permits us to review current situations in light of an older plan. By reviewing, we can synchronize your current situation and goals with your plan documents.

This concludes our series on Getting Yourself In Order. We hope you enjoyed the series and found it useful and informational. If you have any questions about any of the eight steps, feel free to email or call me anytime.

Bernie Greenberg

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Why Did Congress Decide to Take Money from Widows and Orphans?

This is a very good and very important question. I can't even pretend to be cynical enough to guess at the answer. Are you aware of this? If you are not, you have exposed your family to severe financial penalties.

How did this come about? It is the result of Congress's failure to extend the estate tax exemption and unlimited marital deduction into 2010. I will cover this in greater detail in future articles, but suffice it to say, this has created a financial and tax disaster for surviving spouses and children.

For the last 30 years the bedrock of estate planning has been the unlimited marital deduction. Since 1981, spouses could take comfort from knowing that there would be no estate tax at the first death between spouses. The estate tax burden was shifted to the second death. Starting January 1st of 2010, this is no longer the case.

Now the surviving spouse is faced with a new death tax that must be reckoned with in every case because there is no marital deduction. The federal estate tax has been replaced with a brand new tax on inherited assets. This is because the basis step up that occurred at the decedent's death is gone. Again, I'll get into more details in later articles. Now the surviving spouse must calculate basis in the assets of their deceased spouse and do complex and expensive tax planning at the first death.

Since most surviving spouse are women, this is a highly discriminatory new tax. While you ask a good question, "Why did Congress decide to take money away from widows and orphans"? I am sorry to say that there is answer, good or bad.

Stay tuned as we get into greater detail about Congress sticking you with the largest lower and middle class tax increase and boondoggle in U.S. history.