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power of attorney

4 Critical Things to Know About Powers of Attorney

When a loved one needs assistance with basic tasks like cooking, cleaning, and self-care, they may need help with finances and medical decision-making as well. Unfortunately, when they need assistance, it may be too late to get the legal documents in place that are necessary. 

Why Powers of Attorney are Necessary

To legally serve as a decision-maker for a friend or loved one, certain HIPAA compliant, legal documents must be in place – powers of attorney.  Without these documents many institutions, such as hospitals, banks, and mortgage companies, are forbidden from communicating with and accepting the authority of anyone other than the client or patient. 

How Power of Attorney Documents Work

A Power of Attorney is a legal document in which one person grants another person the authority to be his/her decision maker.  The person who grants this authority is called “the principal”. The decision maker is called “the agent”.

With some exceptions, once the principal appoints an agent to be his/her decision-maker, the agent is immediately empowered to act. As a safeguard, the law requires the agent to act in accordance with principal’s reasonable expectations (if known), or if not known, in the best interests of the principal. 

The Primary Types of Power of Attorney

Not all power of attorney documents are created equal.  All must be HIPAA compliant. Each grants a different type of authority.  Below are the four main powers of attorney:

Medical Power of Attorney

This document allows the agent to make health and medical care decisions for the principal.  For example, if the principal is in a car accident, in the hospital and unconscious, the agent can make decisions like consenting to a blood transfusion or surgery. 

A medical power of attorney is can also helpful for aging adults who may need assistance even in non-emergency situations.  For example, an agent can select doctors, make medical appointments, and take an active role in managing an elderly parent’s everyday health care.  With a medical power of attorney in place, an elderly person can use the help of a trusted family member to handle or assist with these matters. 

power of attorney legal documents

General Durable Power of Attorney

This document grants the agent authority to make financial decisions on behalf of the principal.  Financial decisions include opening a bank account, filing tax returns, paying bills, and entering into legally binding agreements.

Springing Durable Power of Attorney

This power of attorney is more limited than the General Durable Power of Attorney.  A Springing Power of Attorney only takes effect when the principal is unable to act on his/her own behalf. These types of powers are less common, and less useful, because they require a legal finding of incapacity before the agent may take action.

Limited Power of Attorney

Also called ‘Special Power of Attorney’, this power grants the agent very limited permission to make a financial decision on behalf of the principal.  For example, if the agent plans to be out of the country on the day her new home purchase is set to close, the principal can sign a Limited Power of Attorney granting the agent permission to sign the closing and mortgage documents on her behalf.

They Are Revocable

Power of Attorney documents can be revoked at any time by the principal either orally or in writing.  Once the principal dies, all power of attorney documents are automatically revoked, and the agent is no longer authorized to take any action.

Power of Attorney documents are helpful legal documents that often eliminate the need for court appointed decision-makers, like guardians and conservators, when a loved-one becomes incapacitated.  These court proceedings are called “living probate”.

Because these documents have legal implications and grant powers to the agent to make important decisions for the principal, it is always the best practice to consult an experienced estate planning attorney in deciding which type of power of attorney is appropriate and what factors to consider when selecting decision-makers. 

The legal team at Kokish, Goldmanis & Greenberg, P.C. can help you understand what is involved when granting a Power of Attorney, how to select your decision-makers, and draft the necessary legal documents.

We understand that discussing incapacity may be difficult but doing so with family members and trusted legal advisors can provide peace of mind and a clearer path forward for all involved.

To learn more, contact our offices at (303) 688-3535 to schedule a consultation.

CARES act IRA distribution

The CARES and SECURE Acts—Implications for Estate Planning

In March of 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act made its way through Congress and was signed into law by President Trump.

Even though the vast majority of this new legislation is committed to financially helping small businesses weather the Coronavirus pandemic storm, there are some inclusions that impact a much broader population. In specific, the CARES Act includes some changes to the way the government views certain investment accounts—IRAs, in particular.

In this article, the legal team at Kokish and Goldmanis, PC is exploring the implications that the recently passed CARES Act has in the realm of family law and estate planning. After reading this, you’ll have a better idea of where you may sit financially in light of this new legislation.

For Individual Taxpayers

Let’s talk a bit about how individual US taxpayers are directly affected by the passage of the CARES Act.

Here are the biggest takeaways:

  • For the entirety of 2020 (deadline: December 31st), all US taxpayers who have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic will be allowed to receive up to $100,000 in qualified distributions from retirement savings accounts without having to pay the traditional 10% early distribution penalty. Furthermore, for a three-year period following the distribution, the individual can re-contribute these funds to a qualified retirement account without having to worry about yearly maximums.
  • Some tax deferments are being offered for those who choose to amortize their tax liability for the early retirement distribution income they claim for the next three years.
  • Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) rules for IRAs and other retirement plans have been completely suspended for the entirety of 2020.

The SECURE Act

Often mentioned alongside the CARES Act, the SECURE Act became law on December 20th, 2019. This act sought to make it easier for small business owners to arrange for ‘safe harbor’ retirement options that come with less administrative overhead. However, as with the CARES Act, there were other, broader impacts as well.

Prior to the SECURE Act becoming law, distributions from an IRA to a beneficiary could be ‘stretched’ out over the entirety of the beneficiary’s lifetime. Now, IRA payments to beneficiaries are restricted to a 10-year window. This new payout period significantly reduces the potential for invested funds to gain value over the life of the beneficiary, as they can no longer be left to accrue interest for an indefinite period of time.

This has heirs understandably concerned. What might have been considered a $500,000 payout over a lifetime might now only be considered a $350,000 payout over a 10-year period. Granting this, estate planning firms around the country are busier than ever, as they’ve had to retool clients strategies for planning their estates.

secure act inherited IRA

Charitable Giving Changes

For those looking to capitalize on charitable giving during the 2020 calendar year, the CARES Act includes a universal tax deduction of $300 per individual. This deduction applies even for taxpayers who take the ‘standard’ deduction when filing for 2020. Unless new legislation is passed to modify the existing law, this tax deduction is expected to stay in place beyond 2020.

Another charitable giving change for 2020 has to do with how much of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) you can use for monetary charitable gifts and still receive a tax deduction for doing so. Up to the passage of the CARES Act, the limit was 60% of your AGI. Now, you can donate as much as 100% of your Adjusted Gross Income and deduct all of that giving on your taxes.

It’s important to remember that these new charitable giving changes apply only to donations that are made in the form of cash given to qualified charities. To find a prequalified, IRS-vetted charitable organization you can give to in 2020 to maximize your gift, you can view this page.

When You Have Estate Planning Questions, We Have Answers

Kokish and Goldmanis, PC is dedicated to providing reliable, trustworthy estate planning services for our clients.

As much as the world continues to change in light of world events or governmental legislation, we will be here to help make sense of our ever-changing family law landscape. It’s easy to get frustrated and confused with how rapidly the laws change; this is why we are here as a resource for you.

To learn more about how we can help with an estate planning or other family law-related matter, contact our offices to schedule a consultation.

We look forward to working with you.

online estate planning

The Top 3 Reasons Why Online Estate Planning Services Fall Short

By now, you have probably heard that you can obtain many common legal services using automated or automated/manual hybrid solutions through some ‘virtual lawyer’ companies. These companies can be very cost-effective for certain things; a good example is getting an LLC off the ground or whipping up a lease agreement for a new tenant.

But what about estate planning?

It seems that more and more these days, people are opting for the more convenient and cheaper method of drafting wills, assigning Powers of Attorney, and more, all online. In some cases, certain legal ‘services’ can be provided without so much as a phone call or email exchange with an actual attorney.

With as inexpensive as these services can be, it has a lot of people wondering, “What am I not getting by paying so little?”.

It’s a good question to ask. And, the legal team at Kokish and Goldmanis, PC is here with some answers.

In this article, we’re exploring the top three reasons why so many popular online legal services providers actually fall short in the realm of estate planning.

1: Online Legal Services Providers Almost Never Specialize

Any online legal services provider that wants to remain in business and maintain profitability is going to have a much harder time doing so if all they do is estate planning.

The most commonly used legal services websites like LegalZoom and others depend on being able to offer a broad, varied suite of legal services. This includes services like LLC and other business formation services, intellectual property-related services, and more. Because these companies only offer estate planning as a kind of ‘a-la-carte’ service, you’re much less likely to get high-quality, customized legal attention that puts your needs above the needs of the company.

This is where the value of a firm like ours comes in. Our attorneys specialize in estate planning, real estate, and business law. That’s it. We don’t handle criminal representation cases, and we’re not specifically tax attorneys. Because our focus is more confined, we offer more tenured and informed legal advice for our clients.

estate planning online

2: Online Legal Services May Not Even Involve an Attorney

One of the most commonly cited reasons people give for working with online legal services providers is the immediacy with which they can obtain legal documents like wills, real estate contracts, and more.

It’s important to remember that you get what you pay for when you want something fast and boilerplate. While you might wind up spending less than $100 for a will, that will may not ever be read by an actual attorney who has your best interest in mind.

Now, this might be a great fit for some people. But, for those with nuanced or complicated estates, a boilerplate estate plan just isn’t going to cut it. It’s actually shocking for many people to learn that, in using an online legal services provider, it’s likely that an attorney is never going to actually interact with you, ask you questions, or add any kind of value whatsoever.

Remember: online legal services don’t always involve real attorneys, so buyer beware.

3: ‘Virtual’ Legal Services Providers May Actually Cost More

Consider Jessica’s story.

Jessica’s mother passed away after choosing LegalZoom to draft a will. Her mother’s intent was to save money while still ensuring that her estate would be handled in a way that she deemed appropriate.

The will was well-written and, at first pass, it seemed like it reflected her mother’s wishes. However, there were a few critical clauses that were left out—clauses that would have streamlined the asset distribution process.

As a result, Jessica had to hire an attorney to help probate her mother’s estate, which wound up costing thousands more than it would have cost if Jessica’s mother would have hired an attorney to draft her will in the first place.

Unfortunately, stories like Jessica’s are quite common. Even though something as simple as a will can often be just a few pages long, it is a legally binding document that deserves careful attention to detail from a qualified, human legal professional.

Start Your Estate Planning Conversation with Us, Today

Are you still on the fence about using an online services provider over and above a local law firm? Think it’s a ‘safe’ bet?

Let Kokish and Goldmanis, PC show you why you simply get more from real attorneys when it comes to estate planning. To schedule a consultation, contact our offices today.

estate planning typewriter

Estate Planning Checklist: Getting Started

Having an estate plan is a good idea no matter how wealthy you are or what your stage of life. Did you know that if you have never worked with an attorney to develop one, the state in which you live has one for you. Really?! Yes, really.  Every state has laws in place that apply to those who die without a properly drafted will or trust.  These are called the laws of intestacy. These laws determine, without your input, how and to whom your property will be distributed and who is on charge of your estate.

Where do you start?  At Kokish Goldmanis & Greenberg, PC, we specialize in estate and trust law and family law. This includes estate planning, a term used to describe the implementation of documents that provide protection for you in the event of your incapacity, a clear plan for the disposition of your assets when you die, and often, protection for your loved ones that remains in place years after your death. 

Estate planning can be simple or very complex. It is difficult to know where to start if you have never been through the estate planning process. We have developed a brief checklist to help you start to make sense of it all and select the right estate planning attorney. 

Start with the Basics

There are a few fundamental estate planning questions to consider before planning with a professional.  These include:

  • What do you want to happen to your assets when you die? 
  • Who will care for your minor children if you become incapacitated or die before they are able to take care of themselves? 
  • Who will make medical and financial decisions for you if you become unable to make them for yourself?
  • What, if any, medical interventions do you want if you are at the end of life and about to die?
  • Who do you want to handle the distribution of your estate when you die?
  • Do you want protections in place for your beneficiaries?
estate planning checklist

Obtain Legal Advice to Develop a Comprehensive Plan

Good estate planning goes beyond a will or a trust.  A comprehensive plan is comprised of several documents, some which offer you protection while you are alive, and some that protect your family when you die.  An experienced estate planner will work with you to develop a plan tailored to your family and wishes.  Any such plan should include these essential documents:

  • Will and/or Trust
  • Financial Power of Attorney
  • Medical Power of Attorney
  • Living Will
  • Stand-Alone HIPAA Authorization
  • Personal Property Memoranda
  • Disposition of Last Remains (Funeral Planning Document)

If you and your attorney decide a trust works best for you, your plan should include these additional documents:

  • Trust
  • Assignment of Personal Property
  • Certificate of Trust

If you have children under the age of 18:

  • Authorization for Care of Children
  • Appointment of Guardian / Conservator

Review of any Accounts or Assets with Beneficiary Designations or Joint Title

In addition to having the essential planning documents in place, a comprehensive estate plan includes making sure that any bank accounts, life insurance policies, and investment accounts have appropriate beneficiary designations, pay-on-death designations (POD), or transfer-on-death designations (TOD).  These should be reviewed with your estate planning attorney to confirm that these designations match your overall estate plan.  For example, your attorney should review your beneficiary designations to make sure you have not named a minor child or grandchild as a beneficiary of any accounts.  In Colorado, any child under the age of 18 who inherits property valued at more than $10,000 will need to have a conservator appointed by the court to manage that money until that child or grandchild reaches age 21. This can easily be avoided with thorough estate planning.

Talk to an Insurance Broker

As strange as it might sound, dying is expensive. 

The average funeral in the United States costs between $7,000 and $12,000 for very basic services. If you or your loved one dies with substantial debt, there may be insufficient assets left in the estate to ensure the financial wellbeing of the surviving spouse or surviving minor children. Life insurance can eliminate or diminish the financial loss that often comes with the death of a working family member.  

At Kokish and Goldmanis, PC, we help families to succeed.  Part of that success begins with thorough and professional estate planning.  To schedule a review of your unique family situation with one of our estate planners, contact our offices today. 

abusive relationship help

Where to Turn for Help with an Abusive Relationship

If you or a loved one is involved in an abusive relationship, it can be difficult knowing where to look for help.

In the United States alone, 24 people every minute are victims of sexual assault or violence commited by an intimate partner. This statistic doesn’t even factor in the mental and emotional abuse that many often suffer from, as well.

It’s safe to say that abusive relationships are incredibly common. And, there are often multiple, complicated dynamics at play—dynamics that can make the victim feel trapped without any recourse.

The reality is that there are some very helpful resources that can be used to address the problem of abuse in a relationship. In this article, the family law professionals at Kokish and Goldmanis, PC are offering a brief list of places you or your loved one can turn to for help in dealing with a relationship that has abusive elements, whether they be emotional, physical, or otherwise.

For Urgent, Critical Help

Before we move any further, it’s important for our readers to know about the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which is a free support service provided by grants from the US government. It’s not just a number to call; the NDVH is a portal to a wealth of services that can often be accessed with little or no money. These services include counseling, connection with local community resources, and more.

If you or a loved one needs immediate support, the number to call is 1-800-799-7233, any time, day or night. The call is free, and confidentiality is guaranteed.

Supporting a Loved One Who Is Struggling

When a friend or family member is involved in an abusive relationship, it’s not always easy knowing how to discuss it, or even where to begin in offering help.

To provide the most effective support you possibly can, take the following tips into consideration:

Voice your support. Often, victims of domestic violence are silent about their ordeal because they don’t feel like they can confide in anyone about what’s going on. When you can, have a private conversation with your loved one, and be sure they know that you are available to help them.

They may not be ready to reach out to you today, but when the time comes, they’ll know they can trust you.

Focus on the behaviors you’re noticing. It’s tempting sometimes to make character judgements or use insults in talking about an abusive relationship. What’s more effective is focusing on the behaviors that are abusive. This is, after all, the crux of the problem.

help with abusive relationships

Local Shelters and Other Resources

For anyone located in the United States, a fantastic resource for help with abusive relationships and domestic violence is the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.

The NRCDV can help by connecting victims with safe housing, emotional support services, victim advocacy services, and more.

It might help to learn more about the Safe Housing Partnership, too. This alliance of community-based organizations is on a mission to end homelessness for domestic and sexual violence survivors and their families. Through them, it will be possible to locate lodging for victims, including lodging for their children, if applicable.

COVID-19 Concerns

The current state of affairs related to the Coronavirus pandemic can make the idea of leaving an abusive relationship seem even more daunting. The victim might feel even more trapped in their current situation, further justifying their decision to stay in the abusive environment.

It’s important to know that all of the nationally administered help resources listed in this article have implemented procedures to help keep the people they serve safe. There should be no reason to allow COVID-19 to stop someone from seeking publicly available assistance in dealing with an abusive relationship.

Stay Strong, Stay Safe

No matter how dark things may seem and no matter how hopeless an abusive situation might appear, there is always a way out.

No one should have to live in fear and emotional isolation at the hands of a domestic abuser. Even though it might take time, money, and resilience to break free from the chains of abuse, it’s possible (and a lot more common than you may think).

A Kokish and Goldmanis, PC, we are dedicated to supporting our local community by providing professional, reliable family law services. This includes matters of divorce, child custody, estate planning, and more.

If we can be of any help for you or your family, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

covid-19 impact on family law

The Impact of COVID-19 on Family Law

The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has radically altered how the world works, at least for the near term. Entire cities are rightly being shuttered as measures are taken to slow the spread of this dangerous disease. Workers are being furloughed or laid off, there are mounting unemployment claims, and there is an air of uncertainty among all of it. 

We’re seeing similar developments within the Colorado court system. While each jurisdiction is responsible for communicating their individual plans for holding court and processing cases as usual, the Colorado Supreme Court and Court of Appeals are also suspending some operations until the Coronavirus pandemic is brought under control and judicial workers can safely return to work. 

This is obviously impacting family law cases. Those who are in the process of filing for divorce or resolving child custody disputes are finding themselves hamstrung by the Coronavirus situation. Not every judicial jurisdiction in Colorado has the same stance on this, however. To obtain information about COVID-19 announcements in your county, we suggest visiting the Colorado Judicial Branch’s web page and locating the announcement specific to your county.

New Divorce Filings

Because so many districts are experiencing limited operations regarding the administration of  hearings, depositions, and trials, it’s going to be very difficult if possible at all to quickly and effectively file for divorce amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. 

When Will This Happen? 

We are living in a state of uncertainty. No one knows for sure how long we will have to wait before divorce court proceedings will return to normal. As of the publishing of this blog post, many districts have announced limited operations until mid-May or early June. Depending on the ongoing severity of the Coronavirus pandemic, these timelines might be extended even further.

covid-19 impact on family law 2

Therefore, it’s advisable to prepare for weeks and potentially months of delays. As challenging as this may be for some, it’s worth remembering that everyone is experiencing setbacks as a result of current events. Even in cases of uncontested, childless divorce proceedings, it’s likely that little to no progress will be made for newly filed cases until operational restrictions are lifted. 

What Can Be Done During This Time? 

Even though the Colorado court system is experiencing protracted delays, that doesn’t mean you cannot obtain legal advice related to your divorce filing. During the COVID-19 situation, Kokish and Goldmanis, PC is still engaged in active communication with our clients. So, we remain available to consult with you and develop strategies for divorce proceedings now, so that appropriate action can be taken when it becomes possible to do so. 

Impact on Domestic Situations

Not only are judicial operations experiencing significant disruptions, but stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders are making it difficult to locate housing alternatives. This is having direct impacts on marriages that are in the process of being dissolved. 

So, in addition to divorce filings being drawn out with no real end in sight, local public health directives are adding yet more complexity to the situation. Right now, it’s not so easy to find a new place to live, even temporarily. An example of this is the abrupt drop in bookings on lodging platforms like AirBnB and Hotels.com

If you’re someone who is currently in the early phases of divorce and you’re still living with your partner, the best actions to take during this time are to remain patient and do the best you can to tolerate your existing living situation. It might be worth exploring temporary living situations with family or friends; however, keep in mind that the same social distancing guidelines are going to need to be taken into consideration. 

We are all in this together. And, everyone is encountering personal struggles as the Coronavirus pandemic continues to send shockwaves throughout the world. 

We Are Still Here for You

One of the many benefits that comes with having an experienced Family Law team in your corner is effective preparation—preparation for filing motions, drafting necessary documents, and providing sound legal advice for complicated cases. 

Kokish and Goldmanis, PC is your legal resource for Family Law matters related to divorce, child custody, will and estate cases, and more. We specialize in demystifying the legal process, and our team is standing by to help you even as we’re all adjusting to life in quarantine. 

If you are in need of legal counsel in a Family Law matter, please contact our offices today. We look forward to be of service to you during these trying and uncertain times.

how often should you revisit your will

How Often Should You Revisit Your Will?

For many important reasons, anyone with any assets at all should have a will. It’s a common misconception that wills are expensive, or that a lawyers assistance is required in the creation of a will. Yet others may simply take a passive stance, stating that writing a will is something they just haven’t ‘gotten around to, yet’.

While there are some kernels of truth in many will-related misconceptions (for example, complex wills may require the involvement of an estate planning attorney to form), there simply is no good reason not to have a will. 

Any time someone dies without a will, they are considered to be ‘intestate’. Intestacy can be confusing and frustrating for the family and rightful heirs of the deceased, as they will be invariably forced into dealing with the state probate court to have all of the assets distributed according to equal heirship stakes. 

This situation often goes against what would have been the wishes of the deceased. However, a will cannot be written after death, even by someone who has power of attorney for the deceased. 

Not many of us enjoy talking about death. It’s a subject that most of us avoid, which is completely understandable. However, there are several very good reasons why having an active will should be high on your priority list. 

Not only is having a will a smart idea, it’s also good practice to revisit your will to make changes as your life situation changes. At Kokish and Goldmanis, PC, we specialize in providing estate planning services tailored to the lives of our clients—lives that evolve and transform as the years go on. 

For this reason, we highly suggest revisiting your will. As for the question of how often this should be done, the answer depends on a few factors. 

Revisit Your Will After These Events

Generally speaking, any significant change to your assets, marital status, or family relationship qualifies as a good reason to reevaluate your will. 

Common life events that alter your relationship with someone else can be good reasons to update your will. Some of these life events might include: 

  • Having a child
  • Adopting a child
  • Getting married
  • Getting divorced
  • Severing ties with a family member
  • Making amends with a family member

Even if none of these have happened to you in the recent past, a good rule-of-thumb for revisiting a will is once every three to five years. 

Why is this? 

It’s because our lives can undergo changes that we aren’t consciously aware of until multiple years have passed. An example might be buying a car to fix up as a hobby, and then storing it in a shed and forgetting about it. Another example might be acquiring expensive jewelry and then ‘rediscovering’ it during spring cleaning. 

how often should you revisit your will 2

Assets come and go in our lives for a multitude of reasons. New jobs (or job losses), sweepstakes winnings (or bankruptcies), paid-off mortgages (or loan defaults) all contribute to our overall asset scenario. That’s why dusting off your will for a once-over makes sense to do every three-to-five years or so.

Other Things to Consider During a Will Update

Has a close member of your family fallen into dire illness? If this person is named as an heir in your will, it might be worth reconsidering how you’d like those assets to be reassigned.

The same goes for legal guardians or will executors you may have determined in the prior version of your will.

Remember that minor changes to a will can often be made without having to completely rewrite the will itself. These changes can include adding or removing an heir, changing the status of a specific asset, or something similar. Often, the use of something called a codicil serves this purpose.

You can think of a codicil as being a minor amendment to a will.

Larger, more extensive changes to a will are best made through a complete rewriting of the will. Whether or not this is something that you will needs should be addressed on a case-by-case basis. 

For Legal Help with Estate Planning, Contact Us

Our goal at Kokish and Golmanis, PC is to make estate planning simple, straightforward, and easy for our clients. 

Regardless how many iterations your will has seen in past years, we can help ensure that it reflects your current wishes for how you’d like your estate to be handled after your death. 

To learn more about how we can help, contact our office today.

hipaa esate planning documents

The Importance of Making Sure All Your Estate Plan Documents Are HIPAA Compliant

Proper estate planning requires incredible attention to detail. While it’s true that there are self-service, ‘cookie cutter’ estate planning solutions out there, there is no substitute for a lawyer-assisted estate plan strategy that covers all of the bases with confidence. 

Part of a comprehensive approach to estate planning necessarily includes a review of the compliance of all estate planning documents. Compliance matters when the time comes for estate plans to be executed after death. If an estate planning document is not compliant with federal or state regulations, it stands a chance of being legally impermissible. 

One such regulation administered at the federal level is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. This important regulation was enacted in an effort to protect sensitive medical information as it is disseminated among healthcare organizations, insurance companies, and other third parties. 

Even though HIPAA legislation took place in 1996, some of its provisions haven’t been applicable to areas of family law until recently. As such, many estate planning tools are having to be completely overhauled in light of it. This has resulted in a sharp uptick of our clients requesting compliance reviews for their estate plans, and for good reason. 

HIPAA’s Effects on Estate Protection

At the heart of every estate plan is protection of assets. Every other estate planning aspect takes a backseat to the goal of protecting the estate and ensuring it is bequeathed according to the wishes of the individual in question. 

Numerous rules within the long list of HIPAA regulations actually negate many protections in legacy estate plans—estate plans that, if not updated, could expose the estate to multiple risks. 

Durable vs. Springing Powers of Attorney

A sound estate plan is going to include a provision that grants a trusted person Durable Power of Attorney (POA) in the event that the individual in question becomes incapacitated. HIPAA regulations do not affect the durable POA clauses in most estate planning documents. 

However, there is another kind of POA that is affected by HIPAA, and it’s known as Springing Power of Attorney. This applies to the transfer of power upon a doctor-certified incapacitance of the principal individual. Because HIPAA is so strict in its discouraging of doctors in the disclosure of medical information, it can be difficult to begin taking action on an estate plan if and when the key individual becomes incapacitated. 

The Impact on Trusts

Many types of trusts including revocable living trusts can be impacted by the recently enforceable HIPAA regulations. For example, the assignment of a trustee in cases of incapacitation can become unnecessarily more complicated and protracted due to HIPAA restrictions on sharing medical information. 

So, if a doctor’s hands are tied in their sharing of information, it can be a challenge for a substitute trustee to begin exercising power even when the situation clearly deems it legal to do so. 

One way to address both of the above-listed issues is to append an estate plan to include a document known as a HIPAA Release. HIPAA Releases list certain individuals that are determined to be authorized to receive protected medical information in certain scenarios (including instances of incapacitation).

However, in order for a HIPAA Release to be legally viable, it needs to meet certain criteria spelled out in the HIPPA regulations themselves. For this reason, the involvement of a knowledgeable family law attorney is often required. 

hipaa estate planning documents

Take Action to Protect Your Estate

Regulations affecting estate plans often change fairly regularly. Unless you’re constantly monitoring these changes on your own, it’s possible that your estate plan can fall out of compliance. 

Ongoing regulatory developments like the HIPAA situation described in this article can make it difficult to know if your estate plan is in good shape. Because of this, the legal team at Kokish and Goldmanis, PC suggests updating your estate planning documents every few years and especially after significant life events like marriages, divorces, deaths, or during serious illnesses. 


If estate planning seems highly complex, it’s because it is highly complex. For this reason, the family law team at Kokish and Goldmanis, PC are available to clear up the confusion. 

Whether you’re new to estate planning or you’re interested in starting the conversation from ‘ground zero’, our team is here to help. Don’t risk your estate to a standardized, one-size-fits-all estate planning solution, even if it comes with a tiny price tag. 

Take action to protect your estate by scheduling a consultation with us, today.

coronavirus estate planning scam

Coronavirus and Estate Planning Scams You Should Be Aware Of

During times of crisis, most people do the right thing by looking after themselves, their loved ones, and their neighbors. Unfortunately, there are individuals who seek to take advantage of others when something disastrous (like the COVID-19 disease pandemic) grips the world. 

There will always be criminal profiteers standing by, ready to pounce on people whose defenses may be down. And, right now, as we are all doing the best we can to stay safe during the Coronavirus pandemic, defending ourselves against scams may not seem like a high priority. 

But, it should be. 

Kokish & Goldmanis, PC specializes in helping our clients protect their assets. This can come in the form of estate and trust administration, assistance with dissolution of marriage proceedings, or probate litigation services. Or, it can come in the form of straightforward, common sense advice aimed at empowering you with the knowledge you need to stay safe during trying times. 

Beware of These Coronavirus Ploys

As of the publishing of this blog post, there are no less than two dozen well-known scams currently making their rounds throughout the world. These scams are tailored to seem legitimate on their face; however, their ulterior motive is almost always the same: to separate you from your money, identity, or other assets. 

The first step in defending yourself against these scams is to simply be aware of them. Here are some of the more treacherous scams to watch out for: 

coronavirus estate planning scam 2
  1. Government impersonators. Right now, Americans are dealing with unprecedented job losses, reduced wages, and increased stress. They need relief, and they’re looking for it wherever they can. So, when an email comes in promising a tax rebate, financial ‘gift’, or other monetary promise from a seemingly legitimate governmental authority, it’s tempting to open it, click the link, and follow the instructions. However, please be cautious.

    The IRS has made it clear that they are only using their official website (www.irs.gov) for any communications, transactions, or notifications related to economic stimulus and/or disbursement of Coronavirus-related relief of any kind. Do not trust any email, phone call, or other communication that you cannot factually verify as originating from the IRS itself.
  2. “Help Desk” scammers. As more and more US workers are moving to remote working situations, they’re having to rely on the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), cloud-based collaboration tools (Google Docs, Slack, etc.), and online meeting platforms (Zoom, FaceTime). Not everyone knows how to use these systems, which can make it easy for a phony ‘help desk employee’ to seem like he or she is genuinely interested in helping you out.

    Sadly, this scam often has the underlying objective of getting you to click a malicious link that will take you to a website or other online location where your identity may be compromised or the data on your computer might be accessed by criminals.
  3. Coronavirus donation scams. Cybersecurity researchers are noticing an uptick on the amount of fake donation solicitations being sent out by criminal organizations. These emails, text messages, and phone calls claim to be asking for donations to help those affected by the virus outbreak. However, it’s a near certainty that any donation you make using these channels is only going to end up lining the pockets of a cyber thief.

    If you’re asked to send virtual currencies to anyone as part of a ‘Coronavirus Relief’ donation, do not do it. Only use reliable, reputable communication methods with established charitable organizations to do this. 

Keep in mind that this is a very abbreviated list. There are so many different Coronavirus-related scams being attempted right now that it would be impossible to list them all in this blog post. Follow the time-tested advice of always being skeptical about any official-looking communication that is requesting you to send money anywhere or enter your personal details on a website you’ve never heard of. 

Estate Planning Scams

The reality is that even when disasters like the Coronavirus are not affecting millions of Americans, there will still be estate planning scams thriving in the world. 

Some of the worst offenders in this arena are known as trust mills, and they target elderly or disabled individuals. 

A trust mill is often represented by dishonest salespeople who claim to be able to protect your assets from forfeiture or seizure by the government after death. In reality, what they’re peddling is a one-size-fits-all estate plan. Sometimes, these trusts are called “Pure Equity” or “Constitutional” trusts, or a “Living Trust Kit”. All they really want to do is take your money in exchange for a cookie-cutter estate plan that doesn’t benefit you. 

At Kokish & Goldmanis, PC, our number one priority is your safety and security. Please remain vigilant against scammers during this time, and don’t hesitate to contact us for help with your estate planning, family law, or civil litigation needs.

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DIY Estate Planning is Hazardous to Your Family and Property

Decades before legalzoom existed DIY estate planning did. It’s no better today than ever due to mis-information on the internet and the desire of people to avoid lawyers. Here are several reasons (among many) to avoid harming yourself and family with a DIY plan.

A. DIY Planning is more expensive than working with an estate planning specialist.

When you factor in the separate charges that all DIY solutions charge per document, no DIY solution can price match a real estate plan. Remember that DIY planning is not real planning. You are substituting someone else’s document for your own. There is no design or drafting particular to your family. How can it make sense to pay more and get less? It doesn’t.

B. DIY plans are traps for the unwary consumer.

All DIY plans share this trait: they are not tailored for you. They are designed to apply to a wide swath of people none of who are you! This is true of all online planning documents. Remember none of these are prepared for you by a qualified estate planning specialist.

A current example is that almost every DIY plan is NOT HIPAA compliant. If the plan or any of your documents are not HIPAA compliant your plan will fail.

You are responsible for yourself and family. You will make the decision. Should you pay more to get less or even faulty documents that don’t work? OUr recommendation is to properly protect yourself and family by working with a qualified estate planning specialist attorney or lawyer on your estate planning, will, trust and other documents.

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