Your Voice, Your Choices: Thinking about Living Wills and Advance Directives

 I'll be the first to admit it: sometimes we breeze over the discussion of Advanced Directives and Living Wills discussion during estate plan consultations. And I'm pretty sure that a lot of clients don't really grasp the depths of these critical documents. Here's a pretty good guide and discussion of the issues and documents that relate to this topic.  A recent saga from a case in Oklahoma helps illustrate how complex this "simple" question can really be even when the client actually has a Living Will in place. The individual had a valid Living Will in place, but as her situation deteriorated, her family found themselves grappling with emotional turmoil, legal uncertainties and conflicting opinions. This post provides a good outline of the case, history and the issues that the courts and family had to deal with.  Moral of the story? Here a few key points to keep in mind when dealing with a Living Will question: Execute a document. ( Don't pull a Terri Sc

Who Should Handle Your Assets After Death? Professional or an Amateur?

M ost people like to start with considering friends and family members as trustees. They are going to be most familiar with you and your family, and they will understand your family’s dynamics.   In addition, family members often do not charge a trustee fee (although they are usually entitled to take a fee). Cost conscious clients see this as a plus, but it may not be the best decision in the long run.  Most individuals don't have experience on what is involved with being a trustee. Thus, they have to learn on the job and perhaps by trial and error. Unfortunately, that learning process is done at the expense of your assets and your beneficiaries. Having a family member or friend serve could lead to resentment if the family member does or does not take a fee. Being a trustee can be a lot of work and time intensive. For example, your brother may resent not getting paid for his services while overseeing trust assets for your children. Your kids may not appreciate the work that is perf

Iowa Inheritance Tax - A Thing of the Past in the Future?

  It isn't uncommon to be discussing an estate plan with a client on beneficiaries of their estate plan and they will mention that they want to leave a gift to a sibling, or a nephew/niece, or a friend, or son-in-law, or their favorite estate planning attorney.  (Okay, I made that last one up, but holding out hope...subject to ethical concerns.)  And while we can certainly make a bequest to those individuals, I always give the disclaimer that there is an Iowa Inheritance tax that would need to be paid.  Sometimes that prompts a few comments about taxes that aren't favorable to the Iowa tax system and fairness.  Mainly because gifts to children are exempt already, so those individuals that were either unable to have their own children or chose to not have children feel slighted by the tax rules. But that looks to be coming to an end.  The Iowa legislature recently passed a bill to repeal the Iowa Inheritance Tax.  It is phased in with reductions for the first few years, but on J

Will Contests in Iowa Before Death? Nope.

 Check out my post on the pre-mortem will contest on the Probate-Iowa blog.  Too tired to click and just want the short answer?  Can't do it in Iowa.  Have to wait until the person dies before you challenge the will.

Cheated Out of an Inheritance? Better Stay on Your Toes If You Want to File a Lawauit.

As I discuss in more detail on the post on my Iowa probate blog , a recent ruling from the Iowa Supreme Court significantly changes the time period in which to bring a lawsuit for interference with inheritance.  In short: don't wait very long .

Protection for Elders in Iowa From Financial Exploitation

What is "elder abuse"? As provided in Iowa Code 235F , elder abuse means any of the following: 1.      Physical injury to, unreasonable confinement, punishment or assault of a vulnerable elder 2.      Sexual offense with or against a vulnerable elder 3.      Neglect by a caretaker of a vulnerable elder a.      Includes the deprivation of the minimum food, shelter, clothing, supervision, or physical or mental health care necessary to maintain life or health 4.      Financial exploitation of a vulnerable elder. Who is considered a vulnerable elder? A vulnerable elder means a person sixty years of age or older who is unable to protect himself or herself from elder abuse as a result of age or a mental or physical condition or because of a personal circumstance which results in an increased risk of harm to the person. Did you know that the elderly poor are at greater risk of financial exploitation than the wealthy? Many low-income older Iowans are financ

Probate Issues in Iowa Now a Separate Blog

Way back in 2009, or whenever I started this blog, I posted about probate topics as well as estate planning.  (I'm not sure I expected to be blogging still in 2020.  My dream of retiring at age 44 and retiring to a caribbean island just didn't materialize.)  Then one day I looked at the site address-Iowa Estate Plan--and decided maybe it made more sense to keep probate topics on one site and keep this as estate planning.  Plus, I purchased the Probate Iowa site and decided I should probably put something on it. There will always be some overlap between the topics, but with the convenience of a computer mouse and a click, you can easily maneuver back and forth to your heart's content. Check out Iowa Probate for posts about probate matters in Iowa.

COVID-19 and Suspension of Physical Presence for the Execution of Legal Documents

Each day gets crazier and crazier on COVID-19's impact on our society, including in the estate planning world.  Under Iowa long-standing law ( Iowa Code sec. 633.279 ), when an individual signs their will, it is required that they sign in the presence of two individuals.  This has been pretty strictly adhered to by Iowa courts in requiring the physical presence of the witnesses. Today, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds issued a proclamation suspending the requirement of physical presence of individuals witnessing the signing of wills and medical power of attorney documents provided that the signing takes place where the witnesses and individual can see and hear one another through electronic means, such as video conferencing. The other portion of the proclamation deals with the remote notarization of documents.   Technically, Iowa's remote notary law wasn't scheduled to take effect until July 1, 2020 so the Governor's proclamation essentially "fast tracked" the

Retirement Accounts and Conduit Trusts and SECURE Act. What Do I Need to Do???

The recent passage of the “ Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement” Act (SECURE Act) in December 2019 created some significant changes to retirement accounts.  One big change of SECURE resulted in changes to allowing what is commonly referred to as “stretch” IRA’s. Previously, beneficiaries such as children and grandchildren, were able to have funds withdrawn from an inherited retirement account over the rest of their expected life. That allowed younger beneficiaries to extend (or stretch) the IRA distributions over several years, or potentially decades for very young beneficiaries. The result was that the taxable income was spread over a long period of time that allowed the account to continue to grow (hopefully). With a few exceptions, the stretch IRA is no longer an option and funds from a traditional IRA/401k must be withdrawn within ten (10) years of your passing. Many clients incorporated provisions in your estate plan that used the “conduit” trust as a way

Iowa Guardians and Conservators: Substantial Changes in Store for 2020

If you are (a) currently acting as the guardian and/or conservator for an Iowa resident or (b) plan to be appointed as guardian and/or conservator for an Iowa resident,  bigly changes are in place for 2020 for annual reports or initial reports starting January 1, 2020 . I'll leave the procedural details out for now.  (Nobody except for attorneys really read those anyway). Maybe another post for another day.  But for the annual reports for guardians and/or conservators, the forms are going from the very basic two pages (or so), to 16 and 19 pages long, respectively.  Granted, some of the information that goes on the forms is fairly simple to fill out, but it is a substantial change to what was previously required under the old statute and rules and will take more time and effort.  But hey, all of the guardians and conservators that I work with have  plenty  of time to learn the new forms, fill them out and either file or have an attorney file them, right? Another questi