Estate planning options for dealing with an addict

Kevin L. Johns published an interesting article in the December 5, 2017, Morning Memo on

According to a forecast by STAT  500,000 people will die over the next ten years from opioid overdoses. Opioid addiction is no longer limited to the “urban poor;” rather, opioid and heroin addicts are found in the suburbs and were raised in “good families.”

Although most citizens will not face paying the “death tax,” the need for sophisticated estate plans will persist due to the alarming increase in societal addictions, in particular, the opioid and heroin epidemic.

Estate Planning Options

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Things to Think About When Choosing a Trademark

I get asked this question from time to time by business owners, “How important is it to have a trademark and will it protect me from legal situations involving my business name?”

Here’s some basic guidance in this area and some insights as you think about whether you need a trademark for your business or some aspect of your business.

First, it’s important to understand “why” you want to have a trademark. If you have something of an intangible nature that you want to protect from others using, such as a name, then this is one way to help you achieve this objective. It can also a sign of strength and credibility in the market, something you have invested time and energy into and want to protect it from being used by someone else. And often, it is in the beginning stages and you feel it could become really big, so you don’t want others jumping on board and trying to use the name you have invested a lot of time in building.

If these are in alignment with what you are thinking, then there is a good chance you might want to pursue obtaining a trademark. There are five areas that your words or phrases would fall into in respect to how the law looks at it…

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Tactfully Approach Key Issues with Elderly Loved Ones This Season


The staff at Elder Counsel offers advice on discussing issues with elderly loved ones this season. Holiday family gatherings are often one of the few times the whole family can be together throughout the year. This time to catch up and reconnect makes for a joyous season. For adult children of elderly parents or loved ones, it can also provide an opportunity to assess needs and talk about some of the important issues around aging.

The transition into these later years in life can mark a challenging transition not only for the elderly themselves but for the family members and friends that support them. It can be difficult for adult children to talk to their aging loved ones about issues from self-care to estate planning, to end-of-life care and wishes.

Bringing up inherently tough topics as the holiday turkey is being carved is definitely not a good idea. Tactfully approaching the conversation means finding the right time, and not otherwise spoiling a good or joyous occasion. The hustle and bustle of the holidays can be stressful enough for the elderly if they are away from home or out of their normal day-to-day routine. Be mindful of that and don’t bombard them with questions or project your concerns or worries onto them.

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Beware of Ponzi Schemes


The Wealth Staff reported on November 16, 2017, that a dozen or more Ponzi schemes still take place each month.

The report reveals that investors continue to be willing to trust their life savings with fraudsters, even years after Bernie Madoff stole nearly $65 billion from some of the richest people in the United States. According to Kathy Phelps, author of The Ponzi Scheme blog and the book Ponzi-Proof Your Investments, there are a dozen or more people or groups charged with Ponzi schemes every month. “You would think the investing public would become savvy, but it doesn’t appear to be happening,” said David Wall, the CPA at the CliftonLarsonAllen accountancy firm in Los Angeles who represented the District Attorney’s office in the Ryan Rude Ponzi scheme. “People continue to be very trusting and not do the level of due diligence,” Phelps told MarketWatch. “If you don’t understand it after a five-minute conversation, don’t invest in it.”

Seniors: Be Alert About Fraud


In an interesting article by Amy Florian appeared in Ms. Florian advises that exploitation should be an open topic with clients from middle age on. We agree! Here are excerpts from her article.

Depending on which report you read and the method of accounting, 10 percent to 40 percent of seniors are victims of financial exploitation and fraud. A quick search on Google turns up dozens of articles describing the scams perpetrated on seniors.

It is not just elders with limited capacity who are affected either. In a given year, 1 in 18 “cognitively intact” older adults is victim to financial scams, fraud or abuse, according to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health which reported on 12 studies involving roughly 41,700 individuals. People young and old report receiving emails requesting validation of their account profiles, a notification of their supposed lottery winnings in another country or pleas for money to help a relative who’s in trouble. Even intelligent and educated people get taken in.

Stay Educated About Fraud

Subscribe to the AARP Fraud Watch Network which sends monthly emails about scams operating by geographic area. Stay current with the IRS Tax Scam Alerts especially just after tax season when perpetrators threaten seniors with supposedly unpaid taxes. Consider security awareness training from an organization such as or others.

Scams, Phishing Schemes, and Fraud

There are many elaborate and sophisticated scams, phishing schemes, and fraud published on the Internet, or even by calling your home or cell phone. If you have any doubts about whether something you receive is legitimate, do absolutely nothing immediately. Don’t click on a link, open an attachment, give any information whatsoever, wire money, get a gift card, turn over remote access to your computer, prepay for home repairs or anything else.

There are far too many financial scam artists earning a living preying on seniors. So, if you think you’ve been scammed, call law enforcement. We’re also available to assist you in protecting your assets. Call us at 208-401-9300 to discuss asset protection trusts; it will be worth it.

Ninety-Two Percent of Caregivers Are Financial Caregivers

A Merrill Lynch study, conducted in partnership with Age Wave, finds that the 40 million family caregivers in the U.S. spend $190 billion per year on their adult care recipients. Despite the financial, emotional and functional challenges in this life stage, preserving the dignity of their loved one is their primary goal. The vast majority of caregivers (91 percent) are grateful they could be there to provide care, and 77 percent say they “would gladly do so again.”

Family caregivers are America’s other social security, providing the bulk of long-term care today. The aging of the baby boomers will result in unprecedented numbers of people in America needing care.

Key findings of the study include:

Much more than hands-on care. Providing emotional support (98 percent), financial caregiving (92 percent), household support (92 percent) and care coordination (79 percent) far outweigh physical care (64 percent).

Financial costs – with little discussion of their ramifications. Seventy-five percent of financial contributors and their care recipients have not discussed the financial impacts of these contributions.

Caregiving for a spouse vs. for a parent. A spouse is 3.5 times more likely to be the sole caregiver looking after a care recipient, and is more likely to spend more out of pocket on care-related costs. Their caregiving journey is also different in terms of the obligations and financial interdependencies they hold with their loved one.

Caregiving gender gap. Both for cultural and biological reasons, women are more commonly caregivers for spouses and parents, averaging six years of caregiving in their lifetime versus four years for men.2 As a result, women are disproportionately impacted by the challenges of caregiving, including struggling to balance responsibilities and making career sacrifices. And then, more find themselves alone and without someone to care for them when needed.

Responsibilities extend beyond the care recipient’s life. Sixty-one percent of the time, caregivers expect their role will end with the death of their loved one. However, the complexities of financial, legal, and other aspects of caregiving often continue for months or even years.

See “The Journey of Caregiving: Honor, Responsibility and Financial Complexity”

Do you want everyone to know what left to your children?

Many people are not aware that lack of privacy is a significant disadvantage of using a will as the cornerstone of their estate plan. A trust has many advantages over a will not the least of which is maintaining privacy during life and at death.

A trust is a private document. By contrast, a will is a public document. You might as well take out an ad in your local newspaper with a complete listing of your property and to whom you left each asset. Many consider the Internet a great tool, and it is. But, pretty much anyone can obtain a copy of your will and publish it on the Internet. Don’t believe me? To read the wills of Paul Newman, John Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Richard Nixon, Whitney Houston, Frank Sinatra, James Gandolfini, and many other famous people, go here.

If privacy is important to you, give us a call to discuss setting up a trust that will keep your affairs private and accomplish many other goals during your life and at your death.

Estate Planning is for the Living…Here’s Why


Whenever I have a conversation with someone about Estate Planning, the first thought is what will happen after someone passes away. While that is true, what most don’t realize is how much people can get from their Estate Plan when they are alive! Here are some thoughts for you to consider…while you are very much alive.

  • There is no question Estate Plans can help you with taxes…while you are alive
  • It is a great way to protect your assets (and those your family and friends are designated to receive) from such issues as divorce, creditors, business associates, and other lawsuits
  • Because it involves planning, this should be done with your family so they understand your wishes and why before you are gone…this is a great and loving conversation to have today
  • It puts things in perspective quickly…you are talking about what happens when you are gone so why not take that and start changing the way you live, love, and enjoy life today
  • Allows you to plan out (and discuss) what will happen and your wishes about end of life decisions and what role you would like people to play in it…before it happens
  • It gives you the ability to plan out (and discuss) your long-term care plans you desire and are funding with your estate plan
  • It helps you put money in perspective for everyone and have some open and positive discussions while you are living, so they know your wishes…how it is going to be handled and who is getting what and why
  • On a similar note, it also allows you to handle heirlooms and treasures you have that others may want…do you know what everyone wants that you have…guaranteed you will be surprised by this discussion with your family and friends
  • If you have minor children, who will care for them and why…this is the perfect time to have this in place to eliminate that stress in their lives…what a great gift to give your kids more than an asset
  • It helps you think about what you “want to leave” your family and friends…not regarding assets, but wisdom…what would you want them to know from all you have learned and experienced when you are gone…why not share this today

I could go on, but this should get you started. Estate Planning isn’t a document, it is an opportunity (even an excuse) to do some wonderful things for yourself, your family loved ones and friends…WHILE YOU’RE ALIVE. Take advantage of it…you won’t be here forever so take advantage of the opportunity Estate Planning gives you while you are still here. It WILL BE THE GREATEST GIFT YOU CAN LEAVE.

A Glimpse into President Trump’s Estate Plan


Wealth Counsel™ recently published an interesting blog about a portion of President Donald Trump’s estate plan.

As president, father, and real estate magnate, President Trump’s planning should give you some food for thought–and that’s true even in these early days of the administration. So, consider one idea that relates to President Trump as father and real estate magnate.

Let’s begin by talking about the Trump Organization’s unique estate-planning strategy in a lease document of Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Trump gave three of his children immediate interests in the hotel. His children hold a 7.425 percent interest each in the property, but they make zero equity contributions. Therefore, the law considers their stakes “gifts.”

Trump has to pay gift taxes on the hotel, but he’s likely saving a fortune on bigger taxes in the future. If the hotel sees success, its value will appreciate, and his children’s stakes will become more valuable over time. So, it’s cheaper to pay the tax now, than pay based on that increased value down the road.

Perhaps this estate planning technique would be great for entrepreneurial clients who want their children to be active in the business.

And you can create an LLC to offer personal liability and asset protection, so you can gift parts of your business to children over time, while still controlling the general interest.

Yes, the Trump Administration and the GOP have been campaigning for changes to taxation, including estate law tax. However, as of today, there are no new estate tax laws in effect. Therefore, if you are putting off your estate planning, waiting for changes in the law, the Trump Administration’s initial forays into a new health care legislation are a good reminder: Massive changes of laws are complex, difficult and take time. And in practice, the reality of those can be much more modest than those originally proposed.

Therefore, you shouldn’t assume that estate taxes are going to vanish overnight. You should still protect your assets with trusts and other tools that are already viable under the law.

Remember, good estate planning and trusts should be regularly reviewed–not just when laws change, but when you acquire or dispose of assets when your heirs get married or divorced and so forth. There’s no reason to wait: Estate planning is a process.

Think Your Assets are Protected? Not So Fast…


If you interview 100 business owners and ask them if they feel their business assets are protected if they have an LLC or are incorporated, 95 of them will tell you they are. They would be wrong…at least in certain circumstances.

Since the primary reason to form these types of structures is to protect your personal assets, there are certain situations where this may not be the case. Even if you have one of these structures in place, there are several circumstances where you can be personally liable.

I wanted to share the 6 areas they identified that won’t protect your personal assets even if you have one of these structures in place. The 6 situations that won’t protect your assets are…

  1. You personally guarantee a loan for your business. Many times a business owner needs additional capital for continuing operation or business expansion. It’s common for a financial institution to ask for a personal guarantee on a business loan. While it might be necessary, be aware that this won’t be protected under your business structure should it cease to exist. If possible, avoid signing a personal guarantee for your business contracts.
  2. You sign a contract in your own name. This is one that is often times generated out of ignorance or carelessness. Sometimes a business owner will sign a contract for something in their own name rather than in the name of the business. When this occurs, you are transferring the liability to you personally and not the business. This means the structure can’t protect it because it actually isn’t under the business. Just be careful when you sign something to ensure the asset is under the business structure.
  3. You use your own credit card to fund a purchase. Similar to #2 above, when you conduct business with your name on the contract, in this case, a contract with the credit card company, you are transferring liability from the business to the person. Even with some of the debts, you would incur, putting them on a credit card may not give you the protection you think you have.
  4. You commit a crime or misrepresent yourself. This is pretty straightforward regardless of your structure…if you commit a crime no structure will protect you. Similarly, lying about something on an application can also potentially void the liability to the company.
  5. Your actions injure someone. Similar to #4 above, if you cause injury to someone else, the structure isn’t set up to protect against this type of damage. This is especially relevant for personal service providers such as doctors, consultants, tattoo artists, or even accountants. This would call for a general liability policy and some additional insurance in these situations.
  6. You don’t keep your LLC or corporation in compliance. There are certain rules each of these structures needs to comply with to be valid structures…such as meeting minutes, annual statements, etc. If you don’t keep these up to date or comply with state laws about running your business, it can cause some issues with your liability coverage from the structure.

So while you might have the right structure for your business, take the time to ensure you are also not doing things that could void all the benefits of this type of protection. It’s not too hard if you know what they are ahead of time…hopefully, this list will be of help to you in this regard.