WHAT WILL YOUR CHILDREN REMEMBER ABOUT YOU?

Many of the estate planning conferences we conduct with clients fall into a discussion of children – their strengths, weaknesses, and the hopes that clients have for their future. Then we talk about stuff: how much stuff do the clients own? How much stuff might be left after long-term illness and nursing home bills are paid?  What will the children do with the stuff:

 

On a deeper level, however, I would raise with all clients “What will your children remember about you”? That usually brings a shocked, blank stare, as that question is not usually raised by anyone else. But it is an important question, because, for most, parental relationships have the greatest effect on a child’s personality, adjustment, and life success. And I can say, from the perspective of 40 years doing this, it is rarely how much money or property a child inherited that answers the question.

One’s legacy, from my perspective, is more about value systems, perspectives on life challenges, goal-setting, love, affection, forgiveness, and shared experiences, like family outings, vacations, holidays, than about inheritance. So when you arrive at the point in life where you are planning for not being here and what will happen in your absence, think on those matters and don’t miss an opportunity to add another great memory to the book, rather than an additional valuable piece of property. Focus on what really counts. We can help guide the discussion.

FIVE REASONS TO NEVER GIVE AN OUTRIGHT INHERITANCE TO YOUR CHILDREN

If you’re like me, you want to leave an inheritance for your children. But giving outright ownership of our assets to the kids could put everything you’ve worked so hard to leave behind at risk. Why? Let me give you five reasons and then show you the way to protect your kids’ inheritance for many, many generations.

1. Your Child’s Future Divorce
Approximately forty-two percent (42%) of our children will divorce during their lifetime. In most divorces property is divided evenly. So if you have a married child, or a child who will get married in the future, and you leave them an inheritance, and they later divorce, as much as half of their inheritance could go to their ex-spouse. You aren’t working as hard as you are to support your child’s future ex-spouse, right? Good news, there is an alternative!

2. Extreme Debt/Bankruptcy
Your child may incur such extreme debt that the only possible relief will come through bankruptcy. Possible causes of such debt are a business venture gone bad or a health event, such as addiction, mental illness, accident, or disease that results in either a temporary or permanent inability to work in combination with staggering medical bills. Bankruptcy does happen to good people, and you can ensure that the inheritance you leave behind will never be at risk due to a mistake or health issue.

3. Lawsuit
Unintended neglect that injures someone’s person or property could wipe out an inheritance you leave your children. For example, in a 2009 case in Florida, the defendants thought they were doing the neighbors’ son an act of kindness by allowing him the “fun” of driving the four wheeler around the family property. Apparently, they didn’t tell the young man about the barb wire on the property. Their good intended neglect, resulting in the decapitation of their neighbor’s son, was not seen as good by the parents or the court, who ordered the $20 million judgment. In sum, good intended, but neglectful behavior on the part of your children could wipe out any inheritance you leave them.

4. Mismanagement:
I have many clients who tell me they do not trust their children to manage money. This could mean that their children are spendthrifts, unwise investors, or easily manipulated out of the money. And, the statistics support this.

According to Prof. Jay L. Zagorsky of Ohio State University, 18.7 % of individuals who inherit more than $100,000 will spend or lose the entire inheritance. On average individual who inherit lose 50% of the money. It’s quite likely that if that inheritance was left in a different way those numbers would greatly improve. I’ll share more with you about that below.

5. Lost Work Ethic:
My father once said, “Some people can’t handle prosperity.” He was right.

For example, Thomas Stanley and William Danko in their book, The Millionaire Next Door, uncovered research showing that children who received an inheritance were worth four-fifths less than others in their same profession who didn’t. Vic Preisser, of the Institute for Preparing Heirs, says that unprepared children who inherit money are susceptible to excessive spending, identity loss, and guilt over receiving money they didn’t earn. Preisser says, “In a year to 18 months, everything falls apart — marriage, finances — and if there is a drug problem it becomes worse.” Thus leaving an outright inheritance to our kids, may do harm instead of good. But there is an alternative!

As we can see, an outright inheritance is NOT the best answer for your kids.

Our office can assist you or your family in what to do instead.

YOUR LEGACY AND SUMMER VACATIONS

A lot of discussions with clients over the years have related to technical property issues: Who gets what? How do I handle this asset? How should I treat this problem? Ownership of assets carries with it the responsibility of how to manage.
But the bigger philosophical question I raise is after you are gone, what happens? I suggest that this summer you step back from looking at individual property questions and answer the question, “What will be your legacy?”.
A part of your legacy may be great experiences with your family, such as a family reunion, a memorable road trip or summer vacation. Your legacy can include the memory of great fellowship occasions, adventures of new sights and sounds shared with family, the laughter of children and grandchildren who will be too soon gone – all on a summer vacation. Create those memories while you can. Pack your bags today.
Another definition of legacy is what survives you. It can be family memories, but those will pass with the passing of your children and grandchildren. Another could be a financial legacy that supports humanitarian charitable organizations and causes. I am blessed to have known a number of people who lived modestly, cared about people, and, because of the legacy discussion we shared in past years and their heart to help others, organizations such as the Salvation Army, Children’s Hospital, the American Cancer Society, the Leukemia Society, the local food bank, and other organizations are now receiving annual financial support from their estates that will continue for generations long after their passing.
That was part of their legacy. What is yours?

SUMMER LEARNING

At the end of each of my four years of undergraduate studies the President of school would encourage the whole student body to read at least five books over the summer. Apparently lifelong learning is important for one’s personal growth (who knew?). This summer while I have done a lot of reading, I would like to share a potpourri of things I’ve learned professionally and personally.

First, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA), Memorial Day kicks off what is known as the “100 Deadliest Days” for young drivers. Fatal crashes go up at least 16% nationally over summer days primarily due to drinking, texting and more drivers with more time.

Second, if someone needs a paternity test you can go to Job and Family Services or file a suit, which will take longer, in the juvenile, probate or common pleas court depending on your facts (this was learned for professional purposes, not personal of course).

Third, apparently if you are elderly and cut the toes out of your new orthopedic walking shoes because they don’t fit, the company will not take them for return or exchange (I knew this but my friend did not).

Fourth, some frogs slip right through the holes of your kids’ nets if the frog is too small.

Fifth, Greenfield Village in Detroit, Michigan is really impressive.

Sixth, the Psalms in the Bible are quite encouraging and challenging.

Seventh, kids are resilient creatures.

Finally, it is a good idea to organize your important legal documents and provide a plan for key people to access those documents. This avoids a lot of headaches.

LAWYERS CAN COOK – SO CAN YOU

On this 4th of July, we could spend time at family gatherings telling lawyer jokes – there are lots to go around and everyone enjoys them – except lawyers. There are better things to talk about, like Cleveland – the Cavaliers, the Indians, etc.

 

 

I, however, will be cooking over the grill, the honored tradition in our family where everyone is invited and “Tim can throw something on the grill.” I don’t mind – I’ve always loved outdoor cooking (and indoor in the winter).

 

 

Here is an easy one I came up with to replace burgers and dogs: Pork Loin. Just get a pork loin, unwrap it and make a wrapper of aluminum foil. Then open 2 cans of frozen apple juice concentrate – let it melt so it is like syrup. Make some thin slices in the edge of the loin all around, spread the concentrate on the loin, and wrap again. I like to leave it setting out on the counter for several hours on a cookie sheet to come to room temperature before I cook. Then remove the foil and put the loin put on a medium grill, turning every 15 minutes and sprinkle with salt/pepper and drizzle the apple juice concentrate on the loin until internal temperature with your meat thermometer shows the pork is done. Let it sit on the platter for 30 minutes and slice. You will be a hero.

 

 

Never got anything for free from an attorney? You just did.

KNOW YOUR FREEDOM

As lawyers, we live our lives understanding and studying legal rights and establishing or safeguarding clients’ rights. Today in America our rights are quietly eroding with each minor overstep by a governmental authority here or a major infraction there. Founding father and US President James Madison said, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of freedoms of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

 

 

Which of your freedoms is important to you? Your favored freedom is intimately connected to the Constitutional rights you abhor or just don’t use. If you hate guns but love the right to free speech, you must defend the right to bear arms. In essence, the well-intended whale which swallows the Second Amendment (i.e. the right to keep and bear arms) due to your indifference to that freedom, will slowly slurp down your favored freedoms as it finishes its meal.

 

 

The old adage “you give an inch, they will take a mile” applies to our relationship with the local, state or federal government. As an attorney I have seen many misinformed or authority corrupted government employees leverage their position against average citizens, parents and property owners.

 

 

According to Thomas Jefferson “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Our independence from Great Britain was not fought for us to trade a tyrant king for a tyrannical government. At some point you, I or we the people need to press all our freedoms to keep our peers in authority honest.

 

 

Tips
1. Parents. Unless you engage or need an advocate, you are your child’s best advocate in the school system.

2. Kids. As it comes to your aging parents, with a pure heart, you are your parent’s best advocate in the Medicare, Veterans Affairs and Medicaid systems.

GREATEST PROVISIONS

 

Last week, my family (which includes four eleven year olds) took a vacation to the area surrounding Hershey, Pennsylvania. We enjoyed the amusement park, chocolate factory tours, swimming, Pennsylvania’s version of Amish country, miniature golf, Sight & Sound Theatre and a good deal of food.

 

 

There were a lot of laughs, a good bit of playing, conversation, and prayers as well as a number of “keep your hands to yourself” moments. Maybe I laughed less and assisted more as my son danced around a parking lot with a man-eating cicada on his shoulder? In light of vacation and on the eve of Father’s Day, I am struck with the awesome responsibility I have to provide for my children. The most important provisions are not just monetary or estate bequests. The greatest provisions I have for my kids can be found in my love for their mother, my concern for their character, and teachable moments whereby they can grow to focus on others and not themselves.

 

Dad, what we can do in our lives and even legal planning today to model for our children?

 

Today’s Helpful Hints:
(1) Make sure all of your property is in your Trust, if you have one.
(2) Double check your beneficiary designations at the bank or other institutions.
(3) As noted in past blogs, the IRS will not call you by phone. The caller is a fraudster.
(4) Write a “Thank You” note today.

HOUSE CALLS? COMING FULL CIRCLE?

What tremendous changes I have seen over the past 40 years in how we take care of the elderly! Sometimes, what worked in the past, with some changes, had a lot of wisdom.

 

In the early 70’s, elders got sick at home and generally died at home, or went to a hospital, and, if they survived, returned home to die or went to a nursing home for long term, expensive care. Not much choice.

 

Then we realized what Denmark had known for years – that seniors with health issues could still live in an assisted care environment where only the help they needed would be provided, but meals and housing would be supplied by an institution. Great! Although less expensive than a nursing home, assisted care was more expensive than many could afford. Assisted care expanded and became an interim step before the nursing home as a final residence.

 

But care in the home still was a dream for many. Home health nurses and aides became more numerous and as third-party payers for service realized the economy compared to institutional care, we saw home health organizations spring up across the country. Modern technology helped. Today, the home health movement is expanding and a lower percentage is going to nursing homes.

 

Now, Oregon is in the first year of a pilot program called Housecall Providers, where a physician now makes house calls, seeing senior citizens at their homes, in their own environment. Sounds better than piling sick Grandma into a car and transporting her to an office waiting room with other sick people. But wait, didn’t an earlier generation do it that way? Stay tuned.

GRADUATION- ANOTHER STEP

 

Its graduation time – grandkids graduating from high school, college, technical school, great-grandkids graduating from kindergarten– milestones in a lifetime that only come once.  Certainly it is important for the person graduating but also important for the extended family that has invested time and energy sharing in the graduate’s life.  Graduation is another special event that binds families together.

 

 

But graduation passes quickly and the next phase of life begins.  In counseling those that have lost someone, I refer to life as a chapter book and, although some chapters are joyous, some painful, some long and complicated and others brief and pointed, our lives move forward at a pace many of us would like to change.  It is at milestone times like graduation that I feel we should take stock, see where we are, look to the future and plan as best we can.  That is just not legal planning – it is financial, social, spiritual – the big picture view of the future.  Be prepared, as life has turns we cannot see clearly but with good, thoughtful plans, we fare far better than by stumbling along, blowing in the wind.

 

Hug your graduates, celebrate their accomplishments, and savor the moment in the sun.

DID YOU KNOW THIS ABOUT MOTHER’S DAY?

At one time according to a 1944 Newsweek article, the founder of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis,  had at least 33 simultaneous lawsuits pending against those trying to commercialize Mother’s Day.

 

As you can see, Mother’s Day is near and dear to the heart of lawyers. Not only did advocates of the past earn a living protecting the special day, but each of us has a mother as well. Parentage is a foundational pillar of the law in almost every society in existence in the past, present and, hopefully, the future.

 

We have a responsibility to honor our mothers. How can we honor mom?

 

1) Behave in ways that bring her peace of mind.
2) Bless her other children and family, even if you don’t like them.
3) Think of what she wanted when you have the upper hand legally against your siblings.
4) Visit her, wherever she is whether at a home or resting in a cemetery.
5) If you have something against her, forgive her.
6) Make sure her legal planning is not just in order, but good order.
7) Thank God publicly for your mother.

 

This may be your last day, month or year to hold her hand, give her a hug, serve her or bring honor to her name. I have grown over the years and acquired the certain pretenses required by social convention. But there is one thing that will always be true and while I may say “Mom”, she will always be my “Mommy.” Happy Mother’s Day!