Tag: Estate Planning

Protecting What’s Rightfully Yours

Legal matters, business strategy, and life perspectives from the mind of a non-attorney.

 

Asset Protection

Asset Protection is a type of planning intended to safeguard one’s assets from creditor claims.

Aaaaaand most of you have already tuned out.

That’s the challenge.

It’s really difficult to write about complex legal topics in a way that makes sense.

I mean… Creditor? Safeguard?

They aren’t quite on the level of, “hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobic” (the fear of long words).

But still.

We don’t use those words in our daily life, so when the brain reads them it has a tendency to shut down.

I guess that’s why I’m here.

 

Please don’t absquatulate, I resolve to disambiguate this axiom.

 

Let’s Try Again

Asset Protection is a type of planning that helps you protect your assets from someone trying to get them.

So… A bank vault provides asset protection?

Well, yes. But that’s not the kind of Asset Protection I’m talking about.

I’m talking about Asset Protection in the world of lawyers, judges, and juries.

 

So tell me, who would try to come after your assets by using lawyers, judges, and juries?

Someone that’s suing you would, right!?

 

Right… But Kelton, I’m a good person. I’m not going to get sued. So does that mean I can stop reading?

No.

There are over 100 million new cases opened in the United States each year (fun fact: that’s over 95% of the WORLD’S lawsuits). Out of those, how many times do you think the person getting sued said, “Yeah. This isn’t a surprise. I’m a bad person. I was planning on getting sued.”

Probably not too many.

GOOD people get sued all the time in this country. Life happens. Mistakes happen.

 

Asset protection is about putting your assets – your cash, your investments, your property – inside the right vehicles so that even if you make a mistake, nobody can take them!

 

Wait, what? Are you saying there are places I can put my money so that – no matter what happens – people cannot sue me and take it?

Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying.

 

Asset Protection Vehicles

Here are some basic Asset Protection vehicles to be aware of:

Personal Exemptions

Homestead: In Wisconsin, each single individual is protected for up to $75,000 of home equity. For a married couple, this means $150,000 of home equity is “untouchable”.

Life Insurance / Annuity Contracts: In Wisconsin, each single individual is protected for up to $150,000 of cash value in life insurance and annuity contracts. For a married couple, this means $300,000 of cash value is “untouchable”.

Retirement Benefits: In Wisconsin, effectively ALL value that is allocated to qualified retirement accounts (401k, IRA, Pension, Disability Benefits, Profit Sharing Plans) is protected.

Irrevocable Trusts: In Wisconsin, effectively ALL assets that are gifted / sold / held by an irrevocable trust are protected.

 

There are many other strategies that can be utilized, but explanation of those strategies requires too many big words.

Regardless, the point has been made.

 

The Catch

When something sounds too good to be true, it usually means there is a catch.

This time, the catch is fairly straightforward: You cannot move assets around after you have committed the act that leads to a potential lawsuit.

Meaning, you can’t hit someone with your car, and then transfer all your assets into an irrevocable trust. It doesn’t work that way.

You need to do things ahead of time. Just like you can’t buy a better homeowner’s policy after your house burns down.

 

Common Asset Protection Clients

These are the people who are most likely to be the target of a lawsuit, and therefore benefit the most from diligent asset protection planning:

  • Medical Professionals
  • Financial Professionals
  • Lawyers
  • Architects
  • Engineers
  • Recipients of Large Inheritances
  • Business Owners
  • Signors of Personal Guarantees
  • Officers of Public Companies
  • Owners of Boats, Airplanes, etc.
  • Real Estate Investors
  • Independent Contractors
  • Celebrities
  • Wealthy Spouses
  • Children of Wealthy Individuals

 

Conclusion

When you put together an asset protection plan with Epiphany Law, you get an expert opinion on where you should put your assets to achieve maximum protection.

Better yet, you get a list of action items and a due date for completion.

We say, “Hey, Mr. Client. In the coming year you should focus on putting the maximum amount possible in your fully protected 401k and IRA account. Then next year, you should come back and meet with us about creating an irrevocable trust to put your family cottage in.”

Nobody can do everything all at once. But everyone can take palatable, bite-sized steps toward protecting more of their assets.

 

Give us a call or shoot me an email if you have more specific questions!

Thanks for reading! To subscribe to our weekly content, you can enter your email on our homepage. You can also follow me on Instagram (@kelton.official), where I regularly post links to new blogs, as well as random pictures of my life.

Don’t Panic, it’s just a Will!

Legal matters, business strategy, and life perspectives from the mind of a non-attorney.

 

I was diagnosed with a Panic Disorder in February 2014.

If you’re reading this and you know what a panic attack feels like: I am sorry.

If you’re reading this and you don’t know what a panic attack feels like, the first part of this blog post is for you; to help you understand what the rest of us go through.

 

What does a Panic Attack feel like?

Now, once again I feel the need to preface my comments by saying that EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT. For some, panic attacks might not be quite as dramatic as I describe. For others – unfortunately – they are every bit of what I describe, and even more.

Imagine this:

You’re in your car at dusk, driving along the winding back roads on your way home from a weekend of camping with friends and family. It’s a dark Sunday evening, heavy cloud cover concealing the moon and the stars. That’s the least of your concerns, though. All you can think about is what you have to do to get ready for work tomorrow morning.

Really shouldn’t have stayed that late on a Sunday… But the Packers had the Sunday Night game, so whatever, it was worth it.

Then, strangely, your right foot starts falling asleep.

Why is my right foot falling asleep? That’s annoying.

You shake it to try and get the blood flowing. Adjust in your seat. No help.

How am I supposed to drive with a tingly foot?

Angrily, you slam down the remainder of your now-cold coffee.

UGH.

You adjust the radio to a different station.

Just as you turn the dial, three (3) things happen simultaneously:

  1. Your right foot gets extremely heavy. It slowly depresses more and more on the accelerator. You try and lift your foot off the pedal, but for whatever reason YOU CAN’T LIFT IT OFF.
  2. The volume on the radio starts increasing.
  3. The headlights on your car shut off. Complete darkness.

All you can do is sit and watch as the RPMs go red. You’re FLYING down the road at 120… 130… 140 mph.

You can see nothing.

You know that trees line both sides of the road. Curves in the road are coming up soon.

Def Leppard blaring in your ears.

Do you feel like you’re going to die? Of course you do. It’s the only logical explanation based on all the facts you have.

That is what a panic attack feels like.

It feels like someone grabs ahold of all the figurative “levers” inside your brain and whips them into overdrive, all at once, for seemingly no reason at all.

Heart rate approaches 2-3x its normal speed. Thoughts begin racing and swirling so much that you physically cannot hold a conversation. Breathing becomes incredibly short and thin – a 1000 lb. weight is sitting on your chest.

Roughly 6 times a year I will wake out of a dead sleep in the middle of the night to this happening to my body.

Half the time I am able to control my thoughts enough to remember what is going on. I utilize some of the tactics I have developed over the years, and my ‘episodes’ end more quickly.

The other half of the time, my world spirals out of control and I all-but pick a spot on the floor for myself to die.

Eventually my world always stabilizes. It feels like hours while I’m going through it. The reality is that it last 20-30 minutes.

I guess you could compare the “post-panic” feeling to the feeling of waking up from a particularly disturbing nightmare. The pure thankfulness to be alive – to have your family happy and healthy – to have everything be ‘normal’ again.

I’ll say it again:

If you’re reading this and you know what a panic attack feels like: I am sorry.

It is living through a state of hell that nobody should have to experience.

 

As for the rest of you: When someone you love comes to you and complains of panic-like symptoms, please do not blow them off. Please do not demand that they “get over it”. Please do not seek out “real” explanations for the symptoms they are having. Want to get them checked out for a heart arrhythmia? – great. Beyond that, seek a reputable mental health professional for a consultation. And most of all: Love them. Support them. They feel stupid enough already, don’t do anything to add to it.

 

Drafting your Will

According to a 2017 study conducted by Caring.com, only 42 percent of U.S. adults have estate planning documents such as a will or a living trust.

For those with children under the age of 18, only 36 percent have those documents in place.

Those are not opinions. Those are facts.

I’m not here to lecture. I get it (probably better than most): Facing your own mortality is extremely difficult.

But guess what? You’re not doing it for yourself. You’re doing it for the people you love.

You need to be able to answer these questions when drafting your will:

  • Name a guardian for your children.
  • Name a caretaker for your pets.
  • List specific personal property assets. Name desired beneficiaries. Name alternate beneficiaries.
  • Name a ‘personal representative’ to make sure your will is carried out. Name an alternate representative.
  • Name a beneficiary of any property left over.
  • Specify how debts, expenses, and taxes should be paid.
  • Specify instructions for the care/upkeep of real estate.

 

The time is now: Just do it. I know that you can handle it.

 

My tips for dealing with Panic Attacks:

  • If you are able to recognize that you are having a panic attack, focus intensely on breathing. Force yourself to take long, exaggerated breaths. In for 4 seconds. Hold for 4 seconds. Out for 4 seconds.
  • Have a “go-to” person to call or talk to. It could be a parent, a significant other, or a friend. Coach this person on your condition. Tell them to talk “at you”. They shouldn’t expect a response. They can talk about dreams, sporting events, or even just recount their day. The simple act of listening to someone talk can be enormously helpful.
  • Ice on the back of the neck. No idea why, but the change of sensation helps me.
  • Take a shower. Again, no idea why, but the change of sensation helps me.

 

Thanks for reading! To subscribe to our weekly content, you can enter your email on our homepage. You can also follow Epiphany Law on Facebook and LinkedIn for regular updates from the Firm. Finally, you can follow me on Instagram (@kelton.official), where I regularly post links to new blogs, as well as random pictures of my life.

 

An Interview with Patrick Furman

 

Bachelor of Arts: West Virginia University

Juris Doctorate: University of Pittsburgh School of Law

Married: Yes; Tiffany

Kids: Yes; Mariah, Kyarra, and Alysia

Practice Area: Estate Planning

DiSC Profile: DC Style

 

Summary

“People with the DC style prioritize CHALLENGE, so they want to explore all options and make sure that the best possible methods are used. As a result, they may be very questioning and skeptical of other people’s ideas. They also prioritize RESULTS, so they’re often very direct and straightforward. Finally, they prioritize ACCURACY. Because they want to control the quality of their work, they prefer to work independently, and they may focus on separating emotions from facts.” – Excerpt from Pat’s DiSC Workplace Profile.

Key words and phrases: Explores all options, skeptical, direct, accurate, separates emotions from facts.

Dang. That’s good stuff right there. Definitely the kind of person I want handling my most important affairs. Here is what I will add: I would imagine that many people with this personality type tend to come across very dry, arrogant, or even rude because they have so much knowledge about topics that their clients – well – don’t. Pat manages to overcome that. I don’t know if it’s just a natural gift of his or if it’s something he’s worked on over the years, but he really has this great way of being relatable and knowledgeable, without making you feel dumb for not knowing nearly as much as he does.

 

Interview

KOD: “Thanks for doing this, I really appreciate it.”

PDF: “Are you kidding? It’s my pleasure!”

KOD: “So how long you been doing this for?”

PDF: “Being an attorney?”

KOD: “Yeah.”

PDF: “Since 1997. No wait… ’98. 1998.”

KOD: “So almost 20 years. Take me back through your journey, because if I remember correctly you started out in undergrad at West Virginia and then went on to Law School at Pitt?”

PDF: “Uh-huh“

KOD: “How did you end up here?”

PDF: “Took a wrong turn in Indiana.”

KOD: Laughs.

PDF: “What had happened was… My parents moved to WI at some point while I was going to school to work for Badger Mining. After I finished school, my fiancé decided we should follow them out there. So we did. And – funny story – the night I took the bar exam she told me she didn’t want to get married.”

KOD: In shock.

PDF: “But luckily I passed the exam on my first try, fell in love with the area, and met Tiffany somewhere along the way. It all worked out in the end.”

KOD: “Wow. Amazing how life goes.”

KOD: “Who’s your favorite NFL team and why?”

PDF: “It’s the Steelers. I grew up in Pittsburgh, around the greatest team that’s ever existed – the Steelers of the ‘70s. I met pretty much all of them in one shape or another – “

KOD: “– How did you meet all of them?”

PDF: “I went to training camp every year with my dad and we would wait around between their dorm and the field. A lot of the guys would stop and talk or say hi or whatever. It was really awesome. I always remember during one of the camps, Theo Bell, who was a wide receiver, took my hat and wore it around.”

KOD: “That is incredibly cool. What a great memory!”

KOD: “If you could go back in time and relive one Steelers moment, what would that be?”

PDF: “Super Bowl 40 when we beat the Seahawks. I was actually at that game, and it was a close game until the end. Really fun to be at. The stadium was mostly Steelers fans because it was played at Ford Field in Detroit, which obviously is pretty close to Pittsburgh. Just a great time. That would be a fun one to relive.”

KOD: “So as a die-hard Steelers guy, do you hate the Eagles?”

PDF: “Yes… I hate the Patriots too… … …”

KOD: “You gonna watch the Super Bowl this weekend?”

PDF: “Yeah. As a football fan I have to.”

KOD: “Who are you cheering for?”

PDF: “The Eagles. I want to see the upset. Also, this Eagles team is a lot more likeable than some Eagles teams of the past. They are the underdogs. If they win, it would be a miracle. So I’m good with that outcome.”

KOD: “Date 1 – Marry 1 – Punch 1: Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Rob Gronkowski.”

PDF: “Ummm… Probably marry Tom Brady cuz he has all that money. Punch Belichick because we can’t beat him. And date Gronk because he would be a lot of fun.” Laughs.

KOD: “Truer words never spoken. Gronk would be fun to hang out with!”

KOD: “Did you watch cartoons growing up?”

PDF: “I was a big Scooby-Doo fan growing up, but I hate it now.”

KOD: Confused. “What? Why do you hate it now?”

PDF: “I don’t know. I think it’s the special appearances that they throw into the show. The cameos. Like all of a sudden KISS would show up on the show. It’s just annoying to me now.” Laughs.

KOD: “What’s your favorite ‘90s jam?”

PDF: “Can I pick an album?”

KOD: “Sure.”

PDF: “Radiohead: Ok Computer. Best album of the decade.”

 

Here you go >>> Radiohead – Airbag.

 

KOD: “How many pennies do you think would fit into this room?”

PDF: “None because there shouldn’t be any pennies. They should be discontinued.” Laughs.

KOD: “A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?”

PDF: “He says, ‘I’m Sidney Crosby and I’m going to give you season tickets to the Pittsburgh Penguins games.”

KOD: “Wow. Greatest response ever. I love it.”

KOD: “Tell me about 1 person outside of your immediate family that you love.”

PDF: “Hmmm… Kevin Eismann – Epiphany Law.” Laughs.

KOD: “Oh brother. Barf.” Laughs.

KOD: “Why are you an attorney?”

PDF: “I like helping people. Usually they will come in with some sort of problem that they don’t think can be fixed, and when you can fix it for them it’s the best feeling.”

KOD: “What is one thing that you are proud of yourself for?”

PDF: “My kids. It sounds sappy maybe, but I’m really proud of the way they act. They are really well behaved and I’m proud of them for that.”

KOD: “Pretend I’m thinking about hiring you as my attorney to do some legal work for me. What do you bring to the table? What can I take to the bank? Something you know you will deliver on every time.”

PDF: “A great amount of knowledge. I’m going to genuinely care about your problem. And we are going to find a solution.”

KOD: “Pretend I’m a young attorney, fresh out of Law School. Tell me why I should apply at Epiphany Law.”

PDF: “The environment allows you to be yourself. It allows you to feel comfortable. And you get genuine support from others.”

KOD: “How is that different from other places?”

PDF: “It’s usually not a ‘real’ team at other places. People might work in the same building, but nobody is going to go out of their way to help you. It can be pretty cutthroat. Like, you’re on your own, figure it out. That sort of thing. It’s a lot easier to be successful at Epiphany, just because the culture is different.”

KOD: “Give me one thing that people miss or do incorrectly a decent amount of the time when they try to do Estate Planning on their own?”

PDF: “They gift things to their kids without understanding what the consequences really are. So… they don’t understand capital gains, or they don’t think potential liability they are creating by gifting.”

PDF: “The other thing is that when people create a trust or will on their own, they often do it with just one possible outcome in mind. For example, they create the trust assuming that the husband will die first, and the wife second, and that’s it. They don’t take the time to think through all the possibilities. So they plan it all for one scenario, and if things work out that way it will be fine. But if, for some reason the wife dies first, the plan doesn’t work.”

KOD: “That’s really smart advice.”

KOD: “Alright lets finish this off with a little rapid fire.”

KOD: “Cookies or Cake?”

PDF: “Cookies.”

KOD: “Cats or Dogs?”

PDF: “Dogs.”

KOD: “Coke or Pepsi?”

PDF: “Coke.”

KOD: “Superman or Batman?”

PDF: “Batman.”

KOD: “Blonde or Brunette?”

PDF: “Blonde.”

KOD: “Horror or Comedy?

PDF: “Comedy.”

KOD: “Bud Light or Miller Lite?”

PDF: “Absolutely neither.”

A huge thank you to Pat for taking some time to chat with me! A super smart guy, and clearly has an awesome personality! I am a bit skeptical of his Coke/Pepsi response, however. If you look closely you will see that he was drinking a Diet Pepsi during our interview…

Thank you once again to all the readers of this blog. B@E continues to march on! To subscribe to our weekly content, you can enter your email on our homepage. You can also follow me on Instagram (@kelton.official), where I regularly post links to new blogs, as well as random pictures of my life.

What is a Power of Attorney?

Legal matters, business strategy and life perspectives from the mind of a non-attorney.

When I was little, sometimes mom and dad would go on vacation and leave me and my brother with Nana.

One of the things I can remember about that is mom pulling me aside and telling me that she was leaving an important note. It said something along the lines of, “If either of my children should need medical treatment between the dates of ____ and ____, I authorize _____________ [Nana] to make those decisions on my behalf.”

Then mom and dad would both sign it.

I won’t get into the psychology behind why THAT is something I vividly remember… I’ll just chalk it up to: I’m weird.

From mom and dad’s perspective, obviously the hope in leaving the note was that whoever was watching us – usually Nana – could show this note to a doctor, and be able to make immediate medical decisions on our behalf – if it was ever necessary.

In legal speak, we would refer to this as a Power of Attorney (POA) for Minor Children. Albeit an unofficial one.

To make it “official”, an attorney would likely draft it and it would be signed by a public notary. It would say essentially the same things as what my mom wrote on a notepad, but there would be no questions as to its legitimacy if Nana ever had to use it. Parents who have an official Power of Attorney for Minor Children can be 100% confident that a doctor will immediately listen to the direction of whoever is granted authority. It’s a small thing, but as we know, minutes can sometimes make a big difference in a medical emergency.

I start there because most of you who have been away from your kids for a period of time can relate to it – you probably did something similar to what my parents did, or at least thought about doing it.

Of course, the POA for Minor Children is not the only Power of Attorney you should know about…

 

Healthcare Power of Attorney: A legal form that says, “Hey, guys, if I’m ever so ‘out of it’ that I can’t think straight and make decisions for myself, I want _______________ to be able to make health care decisions for me.”

Financial Power of Attorney: A legal form that says, “Hey, guys, if I’m ever so ‘out of it’ that I can’t think straight and make decisions for myself, I want _______________ to be able to make financial decisions for me.”

Special or Limited Power of Attorney: A legal form that says, “Hey, guys, if I’m ever so ‘out of it’ that I can’t think straight and make decisions for myself, I want _______________ to be able to make ___________ decisions for me.” It designates a specific person for a specific kind of decision. Business owners, for example, often have a Special Power of Attorney, just for their business.

 

More Stuff Related to Power of Attorney:

Living Will: First, you should know that this document is completely unrelated to the conventional will and living trust that can be used to leave property at death. The LIVING WILL is used to provide guidance or state choices for treatment at the end of life. It says, “Hey, guys, if I’m ever so ‘out of it’ that I can’t think straight and make decisions for myself AND I (have a terminal condition/am in a persistent vegetative state), I (want you to/don’t want you to) pull the plug.”

Advance Directive: This term is just annoying to me. I think it exists just to confuse people. It is used to describe a legal document that tells doctors how you want them to carry out medical decisions you have made, even if you cannot communicate these decisions for yourself.

  • Healthcare POA and Living Will are two kinds of Advance Directives.
  • It’s really smart to have BOTH a Healthcare POA and a Living Will. In this case, you have designated a person AND given them instructions for handling your health.
  • Having an advance directive does not affect the quality of your care.
  • Having an advance directive does not affect life insurance or health insurance.

Final Disposition: Instructions for your burial.

Healthcare Proxy/Healthcare Agent/Surrogate: These terms are interchangeable. It is the person who you have given authority to make your healthcare decisions.

The word “Durable”: In the vast majority of cases, a Healthcare or Financial Power of Attorney can also be described as “durable”. Anyone who uses the word is simply emphasizing the fact that the Power of Attorney remains effective, even after the individual is unable to make decisions. It’s kind of like going to a restaurant and exclaiming, “I want my food to TASTE GOOD!” Duh. Of course you do… That’s the whole point of it.

  • Bottom line: “Durable” POA’s are the norm, and it takes a unique situation for a “non-durable” POA to become relevant.

Food for Thought:

So this post is all fine and dandy, and my sincere hope is that you have picked up a bit of clarity on the topic in exchange for your time. But… We really haven’t accomplished anything if nobody chooses to act on that clarity.

Science will tell us that 20% of the population will never bother themselves with a something like a POA… They just don’t give a damn.

Another 20% seemingly came out of the womb knowing that this is something they needed to do. They got it done ASAP, and probably convinced a smattering of their closest friends/family to do the same.

The remaining 60% of us are somewhere in limbo. Swaying in the breeze of indecisiveness. Somedays – like today perhaps – thinking, “Yeah, that guy makes some good points. That seems like a really smart idea. I need to do that,” only to have the thought drift away. After all, it doesn’t feel very urgent.

Imagine, for a second, that you are hosting a birthday party for your 2 year old child. Friends and family are planning to attend, and they will be at your house in about an hour. Then, like clockwork, your husband forgets to pick up a cake on the way home from work. Ooo… Triggered. What are the chances that you would make him turn around and drive 30-45 minutes to go get the cake? Pretty high, right? It feels urgent because people are going to be at your house in about an hour and the house is a mess and the world is falling apart. But, REALLY, on a scale from 0-10 where:

  • 0 = Completely Irrelevant
  • 10 = Life or Death

How IMPORTANT is it to have a cake at the party? For your husband, yeah it might be a solid 10. But for everyone else? Probably in the 1-2 range. We know they will be happy to be sipping coffee and eating the ice cream or whatever else you have for them. The point: It feels super urgent so it gets done. No question about it.

Now, it’s tough to draw a direct comparison… But on the same scale (0-10), how IMPORTANT is it to have a Power of Attorney? Probably in the 7-9 range? Clearly way more IMPORTANT than having a cake at your 2 year old’s birthday party.

Problem: It doesn’t feel urgent. So 60% of us do nothing, even though it would take about as much time and effort as going to pick up a cake from the grocery store. That 60% of us remains in limbo until some crazy life event smacks us in the face that makes it feel SUPER urgent: A parent, family member, friend, etc. goes through a nightmare situation. Such is life.

Please. Spare yourself the theatrics, strap on your big-boy pants, and generate your own sense of urgency. Don’t wait for life to do it for you.

Thanks to all for the continued support! If you have questions, comments, or topic suggestions for us, please direct those to: marketing@epiphanylaw.com

Estate Planning is Not a DIY Project

So if you are like me, you take pride in completing a DIY project. Even though I feel a sense of satisfaction when I complete a project, I’ve learned over the years that there is a time and a place for DIY projects and a time for professionals to be called. Often, the risks of incorrectly doing a project outweigh the costs of calling a professional. This holds true for estate planning as well.

Some people think Estate Planning can be a DIY project. These people find online tools and services to complete estate planning documents.  By attempting to use a DIY estate planning tool, people can end up causing more problems.

Over the years, I have helped people who come in after they realized there were problems with their DIY estate planning documents. Some of the problems these DIYers experienced include:

  • Institutions did not accept their DIY power of attorney
  • The online forms were not in sync with Wisconsin laws.
  • Errors were made because they misinterpreted the online forms
  • Unintentionally disinherited assets

These problems ended up costing the DIYers and their beneficiaries more time and money than it would have if they called a professional in the first place. These issues may have been avoided by speaking with an experienced Estate Planning Attorney up front. The role of an Estate Planning Attorney is to be a counselor in explaining your different options and pointing out some of the pitfalls that may be lurking. Computer generated forms are simply not comparable to the customized service and advice that an Estate Planning Attorney can provide.