Tag: Estate Planning

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. 

How Estate Planning Helps Fight COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is on everyone’s mind and you can’t turn on the television without being reminded. Did you know that your trust and estate attorney has tools that help to protect you and your family? Estate law firms use these tools every day to protect clients and the tools can be very helpful during these stressful times.

HIPAA Compliance
Be HIPAA Compliant!

As a wills and estate attorney making these solutions available to clients is critical to the work of estate law firms. What are these tools and how can they help you?

Your first step should be to ensure all of your estate planning documents are HIPAA compliant. This is critical for powers of attorney, medical directives and all health care documents. You should also have a stand alone HIPAA Authorization.

HIPAA compliance is of utmost importance during any medical situation especially emergencies. The reason you create these documents is so the decision makers you choose are recognized in case of any emergency. This is even more important for any of your children over the age of 18 in order for you to have access to them in case of emergencies and guide their care.

Make sure your plan consists of the following basic components:

  1. A testamentary documents such as a trust or will.
  2. Durable financial power of attorney.
  3. Durable health care power of attorney.
  4. HIPAA Authorization.
  5. Living Will.
  6. Funeral instructions such as Colorado’s final disposition statement.
  7. Make sure ALL documents are HIPAA compliant.

Remember this is the basic list and your particular situation may require additional documents and planning. Be careful out there, be vigilant wash your hands and we will all get through this together.

The Gift of Estate Planning

HIPAA Compliance

Many articles have been published about the gift of estate planning. In fact, it is one of the most important gifts you can give to your family and loved ones. A well crafted estate plan represents part of your legacy and how you will be remembered. How you would like to be remembered when you are gone and does your estate plan reflect those wishes?

Why can estate planning be such important gift for your family? Consider these benefits your family receives from your well thought out plan:

1. Protection for your spouse from creditors and predators. Are you leaving a plan which exposes your spouse to risk or protects them?

2. Protection of children from the over indulgence of youth, protection from creditors and protection against predators. Does your plan for your children provide these protections?

3. Inclusion of grandchildren or other family members who are disabled. Such issues should be considered in every plan. Are they addressed i yours?

4. Asset and probate planning. Do your assets create problems and are these issues addressed in your estate plan?

5. HIPAA compliance. Protection of your health information is important in our electronic age. Is your entire plan and all documents HIPAA compliant? If not it needs to be.

6. How recently have your reviewed your plan? Plans older than 5-7 years may create unexpected traps and negative results for your family. Has your plan been reviewed recently?

Does your current plan provide these benefits to your family? Now you know why estate planning is one of the best gifts for your family not only at the holiday season but also year round.

3 (Of Many) Reasons Why Estate Planning is Not Only for the Wealthy

Before I became an estate planning, I did not fully understand the importance of having an estate plan.  I thought that estate planning was only for the wealthy.  Nothing can be further from the truth!
So, here are 3 reasons why you should consider meeting with an estate planning attorney, regardless of your wealth:
1. You have children under the age of 18.
A good estate plan protects your children from an uncertain future.  For example, a comprehensive estate plan for families with young children will include an Appointment of Guardian, which allows you to nominate a guardian to care for your children when you die or become incapacitated and are unable to care for them.  They also include an Authorization for Care of Minor Children, which allows you to appoint an another adult to temporarily care for and make decisions on behalf of your minor children when you are on vacation, unavailable, or become incapacitated.
2. To appoint decision makers to take care of you and your finances should you become unable to do so.
Not all estate planning concerns death.  For example, power of attorney documents are important estate planning tools.  These documents allow you to name people you trust (agents) to make medical and financial decisions for you while you alive, but are unable, or don’t want to, make such decisions for yourself.
3. The State in which you live has already created an estate plan for you.
All 50 states, and the District of Columbia, have laws that dictate how your property will be distributed after you die.  These laws are called the laws of intestacy and apply when you die without a will.  These laws may not match how you want your property to be distributed after your death.
Greta Suneson

Is Your Estate Plan HIPAA Compliant?

HIPAA compliance runs through most of our daily lives and activities. Having an estate plan which is HIPAA compliant is now mandatory in order for your wishes to be carried out.

Here are some things to check in your documents:

  • Are the documents dated prior to 2010? Older documents are often not HIPAA Compliant.
  • Do your documents mention HIPAA? If they don’t the documents are not compliant.
  • Are HIPAA Personal Representatives named? If not then the documents are not HIPAA compliant.

HIPAA Compliance

K&G can review your plan documents to ensure effective compliance. Contact our office at 303-688-3535 to schedule an estate plan review meeting today.

K&G Lawyers Are Active in Our Community

K&G partner Bernie Greenberg is now the immediate past chair of the Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce and the current chair of the board of directors of the Castle Rock Chamber Foundation.

The foundation provides education to the public and schools on the economy, business and finance to equip the public to be better citizens and understand how our economy works. By providing these educational programs the Castle Rock Chamber Foundation reduces the financial burden to local governments who lack resources to provide such education.

Greenberg, who heads K&G’s Estate Department had this comment, “It is honor to serve the Castle  Rock Chamber Foundation as it’s chair and move our community forward with broader and deeper understanding of how the economy works.”