How much does it cost?

One of the frequent questions I get from callers is this:  How Much Do You Charge for a Will?

If you came to this page to find out what I’ll charge you for a Will or you are considering calling me (or any other attorney) to ask, “How much does a will cost?” please don’t.

I can’t tell you what it will cost because it’s not the right question. 

The question you want to ask first is “What planning do I need to have in place to ensure my family is cared for and our money is used for them the way I want?”

Too many people make their estate planning decisions based on what it’s going to cost.
Sometimes, that may be the right criteria. Most of the time it’s not.

The problem is you don’t know what you don’t know.

Have you looked on-line for cheap wills?  When you Google ” cheap will ” or fill out canned documents from a book or DIY kit from the office supply store (yup, they still sell those!), you don’t know what you are actually getting, now or in the future… there is no “planning” involved.

When tragedy strikes, it’s your family who is left with the mess.

Failed plans, unnecessary and expensive probate, or even multiple probates in different states, legal fees for guardianships, being at the mercy of the judicial system – these are some of the potential results.

When you hire me, you aren’t paying for documents. 

When you hire me, you aren’t renting my time, but gaining access to my experience, thoughts, and concern for you and your family.  You are hiring an ally … one of your trusted team in planning for your future.

So, when you call me and ask how much for a Will, I can’t give you an answer because I don’t know if that’s what you need.

We use a planning process to understand you, your family, and your needs.

Our process begins with a LifePathways Strategy Session.  In that, I’ll listen to your concerns and help to identify the key issues we need to address, together.  I’ll propose a preliminary plan and tell you what you will gain by having a plan in place.  Then, we schedule a LifePathways Planning Session to look at the full picture.

Before this meeting, you will usually receive a package of information with homework for you to complete so you can benefit from the time with me the most. And then we’ll invest our time together exploring your life, looking at what would happen to you, your children, your money, and the people you love if anything happens to you.

You will feel heard, cared about, informed, educated, and empowered to make the best decisions for the people and things that matter most in your life.

 

I can’t actually answer “How much does a will cost?”  because I don’t charge for documents.  I charge for advice, guidance, counsel, and support.  The Will?  It’s free.

I can tell you this – most of our foundational plans range between $1,400 and $8,000.  Your package will be customized to the specific needs of your family.  And you will stay in control the whole time.

How do you choose a lawyer, if not based on price?

  • Get referrals from your friends and family. 
  • See who stands out in your area.
  • Search for a local provider.
  • Get connected.
  • Be comfortable with your attorney.

When you find the right lawyer, he or she will be a member of your team for the long term, not for just this one transaction.

So, the question now is, “What do I need to do to make things as easy for my family as possible, if something happens to me?”

Please call me to get started – 919-883-2800.

Can you sell a home after you qualified for Medicaid?

This is an important question for many clients of Elder Law attorneys.  Why?  Because the general principle for institutional Medicaid is that when you are eligible for Medicaid you live in a skilled nursing facility, you have no assets left (except for the exempt ones), and your income is used for pay the nursing home (Medicaid makes up the difference).  Most families plan to keep the home, but if are single, keeping a home you don’t live in can be costly.
So, if you cannot afford to keep the home, can you sell it?
The answer is … yes, but it will create major issues.
And if you don’t sell it, you have to keep it in good shape.  That takes expenses!

So, how do I pay the expenses?

Great  point …  how are you supposed to pay for a car registration, or home taxes or upkeep when all your money has to go to Medicaid or the community in which you are resident?
Short answer is … you can’t.  And, many families then end up selling mom’s home to stop the expenses.
But, that causes a new issue … those proceeds will make mom ineligible for a time period … usually until the proceeds are spent at the community she lives in.  And then, she sometimes has to re-apply for Medicaid!  Ouch!
Isn’t there a better way?
There are two distinct issues at play here – protecting the home for the family, or maximizing eligibility for the applicant.
Oh, and don’t forget about Asset Recovery – that is the process Medicaid uses to find assets in estates that can be used to pay their expenses for care.  It is federal law, and NC, like most states, does file claims when appropriate.  That is a topic for another day…

Gifting is often a bad idea, but there are exceptions

Remember that you can’t “give” assets away.  NC Medicaid laws have a sanction (or, penalty period) for transfer of any assets with compensation at less than fair market value (FMV).  For example, selling a home for $1 to someone, or giving a car to a child.   Gifting includes moving a home into an irrevocable planning trust too, so don’t do anything with a home until you consult an attorney.
However, there are some exceptions, including gifting the home (it must be the principal residence) owned by the Medicaid applicant and in which a “caretaker child” resided for the past two years or longer.   There are some others too, and we can go over those, but this is the most common one I find in my practice.  If you gift the house to yourself under the caretaker child exception, that gets you the entire home.
Another common exception that works is that assets can be given to the spouse of an applicant.  So, Mom could transfer all titles to all assets to Dad prior to application, and those transfers would not be penalized.  Of course, if Dad needs Medicaid eventually, those assets have to be discussed at that point!

Irrevocable Planning Trusts can help

For families who can plan five years in advance of need, irrevocable trusts can be a great help.  Funding a trust is a gift, so it creates a penalty if you need Medicaid before five years, but, even then, there are strategies for protecting some assets.  Trusts are a huge topic .. call us at 919-883-2800 if you want to know more.
If you don’t have one of those caretaker exceptions, and you are single, you didn’t form a Trust, and you have an exempt home looming, what can you do?

Deeds work in some cases

An interesting approach is to use a deed to transfer just a small percentage of the home to another person. This works for residences as well as land or vacation homes.  In NC, we can transfer unequal amounts, such as 1% of ownership.  So, if you were going to add your name to a deed, we use a small percentage so that the transfer sanction is very small  (on a $100,000 home, a 1% penalty is just $1,000, or about 3 days wait for eligibility).   Recently, we have started to use a two-part strategy.   We use a 1% deed given to one or more people to protect the non-exempt asset from being counted, and then, we use a lady-bird life estate deed given to the same people for the remaining 99%.  The first protects the non-exempt asset now, and the second protects the exempt home or non-exempt assets after the applicant’s death.

Can I sell after approval?

What about selling the home after a single applicant is qualified for Medicaid?
It can be a big problem.
Selling it (whether before you transfer to a new owner or not) it is a problem because the proceeds belong to the applicant and will probably stop Medicaid until the proceeds are spent.
If there is no caretaker child, if the applicant is single, and the home is not in an irrevocable trust already, your options for selling it without impacting Medicaid are limited.  Essentially, selling the home always creates a new asset that has to be dealt with, usually by spend-down.
We have some alternatives for saving about half the home value, but the use of the deeds is to protect the home for the family, not to open it for sale.  Bottom line, selling the home after Medicaid approval is not helpful, but if the home creates expenses (such as taxes, utilities, upkeep) and no one is living there, you obviously will need to sell it.  Then, we use a strategy of protection of some of the proceeds using a trust or annuity and “gifting”.  It isn’t as good as planning five years in advance, but none of us has a crystal ball, so knowing when to plan is hard.  We alsways suggest sooner rather than later!
The question is, what are your goals?
  • Keeping the home for the family? (then use the 1% deeds)
  • Or, preserving as much cash as possible? (then sell the home and use the annuity+gifting strategies because the 1% deeds are intended to keep the home in the family)

Call us today to get help understanding your options and getting your planning started!

919-883-2800

 

Business and Life Insurance – is it in your cards for the New Year?

Each year, many of us have to consider changes or updates to life insurance.  Maybe this is that time of year for you.

If so, please consider insurance for lots of different things.  For example, for your

  • Auto and Home (this is obvious, I suppose, but according to one source, up to 20% of NC drivers might have lapsed insurance!)).
  • Life (many options are available, depending on your needs and your age).
  • Health (basic coverage, Medicare Parts A-D, supplementals, and more).
  • Umbrella (protects your assets from high-value claims).
  • Business (general liability, errors and omissions or malpractice, life insurance for key-man, etc. – a complicated but essential set of policies).
  • Long-term care insurance (protects you from the extremely high costs of care in skilled nursing or assisted living communities.  About 75% of all people over 90 end up needing some level of long-term care, according to various organizations).
  • Children (insuring your children isn’t a bad plan to protect your investment in them. And later, insurance allows you to pass the coverage on to their families.  If your child has special needs, insurance can fund Special Needs Trusts for their protection down the road).
  • Estate Planning (many uses, including using insurance for protecting assets, leveraging assets for generations to come, or providing for charitable donations with a minimal up-front cost).

Each of these present different needs, opportunities, and options.  You should review them with your favorite insurance agents, but be advised that not all agents will be able to discuss every aspect of your needs.  If in doubt, ask questions, and consider shopping around.  Price isn’t the only consideration … scope of services, personal attention, proximity to your home or office … all can be relevant is selecting an agent.

Don’t guess about your insurance needs.  Find an agent and ask appropriate questions.  Ask us if you need referrals.

In my practice, Long-term care insurance is addressed as part of nearly every initial consult.  Yes, it is that important.  New options make it affordable and well-leveraged for most people.  But, like all insurance, it works best and is least expensive the earlier you purchase it (and you should have it before you need it!!).

Here are some related thoughts from my blog postings and website – Operating Agreements, Planning for Special needs, elder law resources

If you want to provide insurance for your employees, check out sites like this one.

Here is a review resource you might find useful for a review of different companies for certain types of personal insurance …

I don’t personally direct you to one company or agent, but if you ask for referrals, I’ll find some names for people my clients or I have worked with who might fit your needs.

 

 

Elder Abuse is a national problem

Why does mom have a black eye?  Is it elder abuse?  I work with many families in my practice.  A lot of them have a loved one with some sort of dementia. From time to time, I see behaviors that look a lot like elder abuse. I bet you do too.

Active Elder Abuse

Active elder abuse such as striking the elder (physical), or yelling at them (psychological), or stealing their debit card (financial) are the obvious events.  These should be reported and families should be on the lookout for this type of abuse.  Observe whenever the elder is visited by any family member.  Ask questions and don’t let “oh, I am fine, dear” be the only answer when you suspect some problem.  Dig deeper … your elder may need an advocate.

When the elder is ignored, is that elder abuse?  It may be if it leads to bed sores, falls that injure the elder, or worse.  What about simply their making bad decisions on their own because there is no one watching over them?  It is hard for a family to kow.  Is letting dad live on his own  “respectful distance” and allowing him the freedom to thrive?  When does it become a situation that is actively dangerous?  And, it is hard to know when to change gears from passive observation to an active role in protecting or managing the elder.

Competence is the real issue … does making a “bad” decision mean he is incompetent?  Does purchasing a minor repair for an outrageous sum of money rise to the level of incompetence of the elder or a criminal act by the seller?  Probably not.  Morally reprehensible maybe, but abuse?   That is a hard line to draw.

Resources

Here is a link to a resource from “Aging In Place”, a national organization that supports the needs of families and elders in the aging process.  It reminds us of the statistics and what you can do about elder abuse.  Most important is not to ignore it… too often that leads to worse things for the elder and their families. Never wait if you spot active elder abuse.

Here is another blog posting you can reference when you visit your elder .. not only during the holidays but every time you visit.  And here is a guide for visits to communities or their home.

Contact my office if you have questions about elder planning, legal documents, Wills and Trusts, or how to find resources to help you and your loved ones.  We are happy to help!

New Office Address?

From time to time, events require changes. No, I don’t like change very much, and I’ll bet that you don’t either.  But, today, let me tell you about a good change … we are moving and changing our office address!

Here is the new office address:

Law Offices of Douglas Koenig
2530 Meridian Parkway
Suite 2113 – Third Floor
Durham, NC 27713

Why move? Lease changes, distance to commute, ease of access … the usual reasons.

In the new space, we will have better access to witnesses for legal documents, more handicap parking spaces, flexibility as the practice grows, and full-time reception.  More good news — You won’t find any difference in the care and attention we focus on our clients!

When you come to the new building, enter from the parking lot side, and come to the third floor lobby.  There, a receptionist will greet you and give me a call.  Of course, if I’m on schedule, as usual, I’ll probably greet you first!

I am sure you will enjoy the new facility as much as I do!

Oh, as for the commute to the new office address?  Now, I can walk to work, which will give me some much-needed exercise and help reduce the load on the environment from the daily drive.  Plus, I expect to enjoy more people with dogs, local wildlife, and time with God’s creation.

Give me a call to see about stopping in for a visit!

Here is the location in Google Maps.

Can you protect mom from financial exploitation?

“Mom had money in her account last I looked, but now it is gone!  What can I do?”

This is a too common issue for our older population.  Financial exploitation can come in many forms, including scams, theft, cons, and so on.  It can happen by phone or email, or in person.  For example, consider the sales person who offers to paint the house for an outrageous sum, and then does a poor job or simply never shows up.  Mom doesn’t want to complain because “he was nice a nice young man!”  And, she is embarrassed to ask you for help.  Yes, it happens more often than you think, and you don’t have to be incompetent to fall for a scam or a “nice young man”.

But maybe the most common form of financial exploitation (or financial abuse) is when a relative takes money from the elder’s bank accounts.  We have had several clients recently for whom this has happened.  As a family member, how can you prevent it?

Simply put, this is a hard issue.  It is nearly impossible to stop every kind of abuse and exploitation.   You can help best by staying vigilant while she can still make decisions and take advice.  Eventually, she may actually lack capacity to make financial decisions (also known as being “incompetent”).
If she is incompetent, then she cannot sign anything legal.  To get to that point, you have to have her declared incompetent by a doctor.  Then, future documents would be invalid (such as if a person got her to sign a deed or a new POA).  But, you’d still have to prosecute the event, by filing criminal or civil charges to reverse anything done.  In some cases that might be too late because the perp will have spent the money or be unable to comply with a judgment.
And, even if she is actually found incompetent, she can still take actions (like taking funds from the ATM) that could result in problems.
Guardianship is a reasonable solution, but sometimes doesn’t help much more because mom could still wield a pen or an ATM card, or she can give the ATM card to the exploiter.  Even if the banks and everyone else know that she is incompetent, it might be preventable, but, that is about the same result as for the POA document.  The advantage to guardianship is that you would have court oversight, so she would simply not have any ability to spend her own money without court approval.  But, that goes both ways … you are also under that same authority, and would need to manage and get approval for her entire life (literally).  And, it is possible that you would win a full guardianship in most courts … but most clerks prefer to make it limited, it is an adversarial hearing, and she will be defended by a lawyer during the process.  And it has to be held in the county in which she resides, which can be an issue for an out-of-state child looking to help mom.
Further, if she is incompetent, she won’t be of any help in explaining what happened or preventing issues or exploitation.  And she will likely deny any problems even if you bring them up in plain view.
If you wanted to proceed with protecting her more, I could suggest some or all of the following:
  • have her evaluated and found incompetent
  • get a formal letter from a doctor that states that
  • notify the banks she deals with and anyone else she might work with for financial matters that she has been found incompetent and that you are the proper authority, give them copies of the letter and the FPOA
  • Keep an eye on her bank accounts for improper activity
  • If she does sign or spend due to another person’s influence, file for the guardianship and press charges or get Adult Protective Services involved as needed.
Beyond that, you can only remediate, not prevent, when you are not physically in control.
How can you gain control?  If you are her agent under a Power of Attorney, then one way to get control is to move everything to bank accounts that you control and give her an allowance via a check, autodeposit to her existing account, or a reloadable credit card.  Most of this could be automated.
You might also want to apply to be the Social Security representative payee and move the SSA deposits to the bank account you control.  You may have the right to do this as her Financial agent under the POA, and you probably should do this once she is found incompetent.  Sooner, if you can get her to agree.  But be aware that such a move may create issues in the family, or could be closely scrutinized by Medicaid.   Taking control may be required, and it is a big step.
Ultimately, the finding of incompetence is an important first step that starts the ball rolling.
If you have questions, contact us.  We always suggest that you also find a Professional Aging Life Care Manager in her community to help.  Check out our resources pages for more information or this website.

Doug Koenig is going to Congo! Why?

I have a few reasons for going … let me share them with you …

First, The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the world’s richest and poorest countries at the same time.  It is a land of amazing opportunity, and of unfulfilled potential.   But, they need help.

Why help?  In the Bible, Jesus tells us to give to the poor (Matt 19:21), and that when we do, it is as if we are doing it for him (Matt 25:40).   A godly woman is described as one who gives to the poor. (Prov. 31:20)  We are joyful when we can help others. (2 Cor. 9:7)

We all generally want to help other people – especially those in extreme need.

But, what if we don’t see them?  What if they are kept from our sight?  What if the poor and suffering people of God’s lands are forgotten?

Why worry about Congo?

A Short History …

Congo has gone through major political upheavals in the past two hundred years.  It was settled by tribal and aboriginal peoples long ago, but during the 1800’s suffered from the global slave trade like much of Africa.  Many people died.  The land was acquired by King Leopold II of Belgium for the rubber and mineral wealth, and after millions of Congolese were brutally exploited (as much as half the population died), the Belgian Parliament took over the “Congo Free State” in 1908.  Indigenous courts were a dual-system mess, strangled by Belgian rules and hundreds of local administrators.

In 1960, the country gained independence and was called the Republic of Congo.  This ended in 1965 after several changes of leaders and governments and political intrigue when Joseph Mobutu led a military coup.  People died in the war.  The “Democratic Republic of Congo” name lasted until 1971 when the name was changed to Zaire.  Political stability was the trade-off for human rights violations and corruption.  In the 1990’s civil war raged.  More people died.

The country was renamed Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1997 and a constitution was approved with a democratic election held in 2006.  Today, the DRC is stable for the moment awaiting the next constitutional election in 2018.

Human rights has been a problem for a long time.  Today there is still a culture of violence against women.  The UN regularly issues alerts.  Documentaries describe brutal violence.  Politically active women pay a heavy price.  Corruption exists.  For many people, life is a never-ceasing struggle.  Faith comes hard in those situations.  Help is hard to find.

When people have come to Congo to “help” to often the result has been more oppression and more injustice.  Today, the country needs real help that doesn’t oppress or bring death, but brings hope and justice.

What will change?  When will it change?  Who will make it change?

The past has been horrific.  But, today, over 80% of Congolese children attend school, and 75% of people are literate.  The land itself is rich in natural resources and the country could support itself given the right conditions.  The DRC is the world’s second largest producer of diamonds and is a major producer of cobalt and copper.  God gave the DRC an amazing natural bounty.

At the same time, God gave His people hope and imagination.  The people are working to regain their dignity, rebuild their culture, and restore their lives.  Progress is coming.  Potential is being realized.  Justice is working and there has been a major change in the attitude toward violence against women.  Today, prosecutions are happening and change is occurring.

Through it all, what has persisted?     Faith.  The people.  God’s love.  Potential. 

But, it isn’t easy and they have a long way to go.  And, the land and its troubles are so far away that we don’t easily see it.  So, then, because we don’t see them in our midst, we forget to help.

Oh, yes, this is going to be a “churchy” letter, because that is who I am.

And, this is the masterplan of darkness …

Keep Congo and all its troubles “out of sight, out of mind”.

Is it working?     Is Congo “out” of your mind?

The darkness wants you to forget, but today, I want to answer the one question I posed above … “Why worry about Congo?” with this:

  • Because our brothers and sisters struggle every day. 
  •  Because oppression should be relieved. 
  •  Because we are all called to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with the Lord (Micah 6:8). 
  •  Because God has a really big plan, and for all of us, even here in the USA, Congo is part of His plan.

You might be asking … “Can I really help?”

The short answer is yes, and let me invite you to become “super-marginal” with me.  Let me explain.

I learned long ago that we do not need to invent anything new…. God has seen it all and He is in control.  He is already active in the world.  The best thing I can do?  Come alongside of God in what he is already doing.

For many years, churches all over the world, over 60 denominations in all, have worked together to bring light to the “Heart of Darkness” in Congo.  The name of that project is Congo Initiative (CI).  I’m not going to tell you more about CI … instead, let me tell you how I am involved.

You know that I am a second career attorney and that I practice Elder Law, which means that I help clients face aging with their dignity intact and with them in control of their future.  Many of my clients are in their 80s, give or take a few years, although I do support all ages, including some in college.  More about my practice near the end of the letter.

Recently, I was invited to participate in a Justice Conference in Congo.  The goal is to help Congolese attorneys and judges develop a response to the history of injustice and to build a new pattern of human rights, justice, and mercy.  I’m not talking about conversions and evangelism … this is much simpler and yet deeper than that.  It is standing alongside people who struggle as they work for their nation and their neighbors.

How can I do that?” I have no skills that pertain to the Congolese.  I don’t speak French.  I’ve never been to Africa.  Truthfully, I’m even a little afraid of Africa.  I struggle with putting faith into action in my job.  What do I bring to this event?

Prayerfully, I sought an answer.  I asked people I respect as I struggled over the desire to be involved over the fear of being involved.

I learned this… I just bring a little marginal change.

What I bring is a message of hope and love for the people.  A visible statement that I care about them … that American churches pray for and support them.  It is a simple a message of hope and encouragement from a brother standing with them in their own efforts to follow Micah 6:8.

But, visiting them isn’t marginal in cost … it is expensive.  It takes time.  Determination.  Endurance and courage.    And shots … lots of shots!

This is where YOU come in … you can be involved in at least two ways.

First, I do need your thoughts and prayers … since I decided to follow where God was leading in this effort, many things have apparently “conspired” to make it harder to go.

Not everyone prays, and not all of us understand God in the same ways.  That is ok!  I welcome your participation in any way that is meaningful to you.

But, pray-er or not, secondly, you can help financially.  I know that isn’t a surprise, and I’ll have some creative ways that you can benefit from this too, but let me say that the trips cost about $3,500 to $5,000.  It is a lot to afford, and my church, Blacknall Presbyterian in Durham, is incredibly generous because members have been so generous in the past.  But, each traveler needs to raise these funds so that the next person whom God calls to see what He is doing can also afford to go.  For now, I have access to some funds in various places, but not enough.  Yet.

Think about how you can help.  And read on to see how I can respond to your help!
While you consider that, let me tell you another fact about Congo …

The second thing to know is that the church is already involved in working with the Congolese.

Over 60 denominations are active in Congo, including Blacknall Presbyterian in Durham (my church).  Congo Initiative is a joint effort for global entry into Congo, and our way to support missions from the USA.

Other denominations are involved too, of course, setting up schools, supporting education, and helping people.  Children and women as especially vulnerable and do receive targeted help.  God’s people are active and supportive, heeding the voices crying out so that we can in the wilderness prepare a way for the Lord (Isaiah 40:3).

The primary religion of Congo is Catholic, and today, the Catholic church is a major influence in culture and politics playing an important role in peace-keeping and education. Between 85% and 90% of the population is Christian, with about 10% Muslim.  But, merely being affiliated with a denomination is not enough.  We must actively help bring justice to a troubled people.

There is good news…

Churches come to Congo from a position of historical involvement … and success.

As believers, we work from a position of victory, knowing that God always leads us in triumph in Christ (see 2 Cor. 2:14). We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (see Rom. 8:37). And if God is for us, then who can be against us? (see Rom. 8:31)

You see, I believe that the real battle is already won … for all history.  The darkness does not win.

But, that does not stop hunger, and injustice, and horrors from being forced upon the weaker and poorer among us.  It is especially true in poorer countries, including Congo (as I explained earlier).  That is why Jesus told us to give, and why He healed while He walked this earth.

Whomever you follow (for me, it is Jesus), most religions agree that justice is good and should be sought after.

But, for now, people suffer, and we must do what we can to help all of God’s children.

Wait, what about local work, Durham, for example?

Ok, I know some of you are asking, what about Durham?  What about spending that money right here?  Why spend it so far away in Congo?  Great questions!

For me, I think of the marginal dollar.  I think relief works in amazing ways, locally, nationally, and internationally.  Here, in the US, we have systems and people and ways to assist.  Here, most people are not homeless (although some are) and most people do not have to worry about food (although some do).

A dollar given here, and an hour of time there … it is great, and necessary, and it does help.  And, I do participate locally various ways.

But, over in Congo, a dollar … or an hour … can make a national difference.

It is what I am calling the “super-marginal” dollar.

If I spend a week with the Justice Conference …

  • Judges may be able resist corruption
  • Attorneys could make real change
  • People could receive real justice

Their actions could affect hundreds or thousands of women and children, and could liberate a nation!

The marginal effect is astonishing.

The heat of darkness seems to have a plan … a plan around the world to oppress the people so that they don’t have time, or energy, or hope to look up to see God or to find hope.  Too often it works with war, oppression, corruption.  Lately right here in the US it seems like he has also found ways to use prosperity to make us complacent about ourselves and the world.

Don’t be complacent.  Be a part of the “super-marginal” majority …

 

Will you help?

Will you be Super-Marginal?

 

Doug Koenig

 

Change the Will when the testator must downsize?

Downsize Needed?

Sometimes, people will have a significant list of items in their home to go to others. But, when it is time to downsize, and move to a new smaller residence or to assisted living, what should a person do with them?

In general, the advice I give is in two parts… sell it, or give it now.  Which choice depends on the answers to a couple of questions:
  1. Does the testator (the person writing the Will) need money that would be gained through sale of the items?
  2. Can the testator fit certain (or all) the items in the new downsize residence?  Does she even want to take them all?  Can she afford the cost of moving the items?
  3. Will the persons to whom the items were intended be a able to take them now, and/or be upset if the items were not available in the future?  This might happen, for example, when grandkids are the intended recipient and they do not have a place of their own or are still living at school.

Give the gift now!

Usually, the gift given during the testator’s life is more appreciated than after death.  And, the testator can enjoy seeing the recipient have the gift and use it.  Wonderful memories are shared when grandmother’s pearl necklace is given to a great-granddaughter along with the story of how she got it in the first place!  Or, of hearing the piano played by a grandchild who could not afford one for many more years!
And, if you do decide to give the gifts now, do these two things as well:
  • Gift them as instructed in the will  – it fulfills her wishes ahead of time, and it will prevent hurt feelings when the will is later revealed and everyone sees that the “wrong person” ended up with the necklace, piano, painting (or whatever).
  • Then, mark a copy of the will with gifts given out and identify which she still has with her.  That will make the executor’s job a lot easier in the future!

The choice to downsize can be a difficult time for lots of reasons.  Derive immediate joy by gifting the important personal possession now.

Press Release – Entrepreneurial Attorney of the Year finalist

Many attorneys start firms, but not as many have successful firms.  In those cases, the successful ones simply have learned to treat the firm as a business, and to consider themselves as “small business owners” first and as attorneys second.  This one enlightened decision (or realization) can make all the difference to the practice.

In 2013, Doug decided that the business aspects of his practice needed  to be treated as the number-one detail, and so began to develop practices and procedures that support a profit while at the same time delivering premier customer service to his clients.

His efforts were recognized in 2016 when he was nominated for “Entrepreneurial Attorney of the Year” by the Richard James marketing company (Your Business Automated LLC) and competed in November at their annual meeting with five other outstanding entrepreneurial attorneys.  Although Doug did not win (this year), he believes that he learned an incredible amount of information in the preparation and presentation and is honored to have been considered a finalist.  He looks forward to continuing and expanding his practice of service to elders and veterans in the coming years.

Ratings and Reviews

Top Attorney​, 2015-2016​