No Charitable Deduction in 2018?

By | Estate Planning, Legal Education | No Comments

The tax bills passed by the House and Senate would eliminate deductibility of state income tax and nearly double the standard deduction, dramatically reducing the number of people who would benefit from itemizing their deductions. As a result, most people would get no tax benefit from their charitable contributions. This article examines how a Donor Advised Fund could allow donors to make a contribution this year, getting a tax benefit, and then release the funds to charities in the future.

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Albuquerque nursing home lawyer

Albuquerque Nursing Home Lawyer Discusses Signs of Abuse

By | Elder Law | No Comments

Albuquerque nursing home lawyerCaring for an older loved one who is suffering from physical and/or mental deterioration can be exhausting. Despite this, most people hang on as long as possible in an attempt to avoid placing their loved one in a nursing home.  Given the unsettling, and even downright terrifying, news reports that appear on an almost daily basis about nursing home abuse, it is hardly surprising that people will go to great lengths to avoid placing a loved one in a nursing home facility. Fortunately, there are nursing homes that provide competent, caring, and compassionate care to patients; however, it is in your loved one’s best interest for you to remain vigilant and on alert for signs of abuse or neglect. Once in a nursing home, your loved one needs an advocate.  To help ensure that you know what to look for, an Albuquerque nursing home lawyer discusses the sign of abuse and what to do if you spot them.

Nursing Home Abuse Facts and Figures                                                       

The population of older Americans (defined as age 65 and older) in the United States has increased dramatically over the last several decades. As a consequence of that growth, the demand for services geared toward seniors has also increased. The long-term care industry, in particular, is scrambling to try and keep up with the demand for care. Unfortunately, that often means caregivers are hired without conducting proper backgrounds checks.  Administrators, who are already stretched thin, overlook complaints and potential issues.  The end result is that nursing home abuse and neglect occur far more frequently than most people realize. Consider the following facts and figures:

  • Between 1999 and 2001, almost one-third of all nursing home facilities were cited for violations of federal standards that could cause harm, or that did harm elderly residents of those facilities;
  • Nearly 10% of those homes had violations that posed a risk of serious injury or death, or that did cause deaths of elderly residents;
  • More than 40% of nursing home residents have reported abuse, and more than 90% report that they or another resident of the facility have been neglected;
  • Research from 2010 indicates that up to half of all nursing home attendants have admitted abusing or neglecting elderly patients;
  • More than half of all Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA’s) in elder care facilities have admitted verbally abusing, yelling at, and using foul language with elderly residents of care facilities;
  • According to Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs in 2003, there were more than 20 thousand complaints of exploitation, neglect and abuse coming from nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The most common type of abuse reported was physical abuse;
  • The most recent studies indicate that 7-10 percent of the elderly suffered from at least one episode of abuse within the past year. Ten percent were cases unrelated to financial exploitation.

Signs of Abuse -- and What to Do If You Spot Them

Victims of nursing home abuse frequently remain silent, sometimes because they cannot speak out, while other times it is because they are ashamed or they fear doing so. Either way, it is often up to loved ones to spot the signs of abuse, such as:

  • Excessive, unexplained, or frequent bruising;
  • Indications of restraints used on ankles and/or wrists;
  • Weight loss;
  • Anger or hostility;
  • Depression or mood swings;
  • Withdrawal;
  • Urinary tract infection (sexual abuse of seniors does happen);
  • Missing medication or not taking medication as prescribed;
  • Personal items missing.

If you notice any of these signs, try and talk to your loved one if possible. Sit down with the facility administrator as well and share your concerns. Sometimes this is very productive and leads to an investigation while in other facilities the administration starts “circling the wagons” in an effort to avoid liability. Filing a report with the appropriate law enforcement agency may also be necessary given that elder abuse can be a criminal offense. Finally, consult with an experienced elder law attorney immediately. Nursing home abuse can form the basis for a civil lawsuit against the facility for negligence. Furthermore, it may be necessary for you to petition for guardianship over your loved one if the need to move him/her arises.

Contact Albuquerque Nursing Home Lawyer

For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about nursing home abuse, contact the experienced nursing home attorneys at Morris Hall PLLC by calling 888-222-1328 to schedule your appointment today.

Phoenix estate planning attorneys

Phoenix Estate Planning Attorneys Explain the Lifetime Exemption

By | Estate taxes | No Comments

Phoenix estate planning attorneysA well thought out estate plan does much more than simply decide what happens to your estate assets at the end of your life. It also protects those assets and helps them grow over the course of your lifetime. One of the many factors a successful estate plan must take into consideration is the impact federal gift and estate taxes will have on your estate. Fortunately, every taxpayer is entitled to make use of the lifetime exemption which limits your estate’s exposure to gift and estate taxes. The Phoenix estate planning attorneys at Morris Hall PLLC explain the lifetime exemption and its effect on your estate.

The Federal Gift and Estate Tax

The federal gift and estate tax is effectively a tax on the transfer of wealth that is collected from your estate after you die. Every estate is potentially subject to federal gift and estate taxes. The tax applies to all qualifying gifts made during a taxpayer’s lifetime as well as all estate assets owned by the taxpayer at the time of death. To illustrate how the tax works, assume that you are single and made qualifying gifts during your lifetime valued at $5 million. In addition, at the time of your death, you owned assets valued at $12 million. The combined total of $17 million would be used to determine your estate’s exposure to federal gift and estate taxes. The federal gift and estate tax rate fluctuated historically; however, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA) permanently set the rate at 40 percent. Without any deductions or adjustments, that $17 million estate would owe $6.8 million in federal gift and estate taxes.

Incorporating the Lifetime Exemption

Whether you leave behind an estate valued at $17,000 or $17 million, losing almost half of it to federal gift and estate taxes would certainly not be desirable. Moreover, it would discourage people from saving, and passing down, wealth to future generations. The good news is that the tax doesn’t apply to all estates once the lifetime exemption is incorporated into the calculations. Every taxpayer may deduct the lifetime exemption amount from his/her estate before the federal gift and estate taxes are calculated. In other words, your estate will only owe federal gift and estate taxes if the combined value of lifetime gifts and assets owned at the time of death exceeds the lifetime exemption amount.

Like the tax rate, the lifetime exemption amount fluctuated until ATRA set exemption amount at $5 million, to be adjusted for inflation each year. For 2018, the lifetime exemption amount would be $5.49 million for an individual and $10,980,000 for a married couple; however, President Trump signed tax legislation into law that changed the lifetime exemption amount for 2018, and for several years to come. Under the new law, the exemption amounts are now $11,200,000 for individuals and $22,400,000 for married couples. These exemption amounts are scheduled to increase with inflation each year until 2025. On January 1, 2026, the exemption amounts are scheduled to revert to the 2017 levels, adjusted for inflation.

Using the example above for a single person, the $17 million estate would only owe taxes on $5.8 million after the lifetime exemption is deducted. The tax due to Uncle Sam would be reduced from $6.8 million to $2.32 million thanks to the lifetime exemption.  For a married couple with a properly drafted estate plan, there would be no estate taxes.  

Although almost all gifts made during your lifetime count toward your lifetime exemption limit, there is one notable exception that you should make use of if you have an estate that is likely to be subject to federal gift and estate taxes. The yearly exclusion allows each taxpayer to make annual gifts valued at up to $15,000 (for 2018) to an unlimited number of beneficiaries without those gifts counting toward the lifetime exemption. Married couples can combine their exclusion and make gifts valued at up to $30,000. Over the course of several years, you can transfer a significant percentage of your wealth out of your estate without being taxed for those transfers using the yearly exclusion.

Contact Phoenix Estate Planning Attorneys

For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about the lifetime exemption, or about federal gift and estate taxes in general, contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Morris Hall PLLC by calling 888-222-1328 to schedule your appointment today.

Albuquerque estate planning attorneys

How Much Power Is in a Power of Attorney?

By | Estate Planning | No Comments

Albuquerque estate planning attorneysYou may already be familiar with the basic concept behind a Power of Attorney. In fact, you may have already executed a Power of Attorney (POA) and/or been named as the Agent under a POA for one reason or another. Unfortunately, a Power of Attorney is also one of the most frequently abused legal documents. One reason for that is that all too often the person creating the POA does not truly understand the power and authority conveyed in the document.

Power of Attorney Basics – What Is a Power of Attorney?

At its most basic, a Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you (referred to as the “Principal”) to grant another person (the “Agent”) the authority to act on your behalf in legal matters and transactions.  The type and extent of the legal authority you grant to an Agent depends on the type of POA you execute.  Failing to understand the extent of the authority granted in a POA is a common, and potentially very dangerous, estate planning mistake.

General vs. Limited Power of Attorney

A POA can be either general or limited. A general POA grants your Agent almost unlimited power to act on your behalf. This means that your Agent may be able to do things such as withdraw funds from your financial accounts, sell property and assets owned by you, and even enter into contracts in your name. Although the law places some limits on the actions of an Agent with a general POA, you should never give someone a general POA if you have any doubt about their trustworthiness.

A limited POA only grants to your Agent the limited, and specific, authority enumerated in the POA. For example, you might grant an Agent the specific power of attorney to act on your behalf during the sale of your vehicle while you are out of the state on a business trip. 

Durable Power of Attorney

You also need to know the distinction between a traditional and a durable Power of Attorney. Historically, the authority granted to an Agent in a POA automatically terminated upon the death or incapacity of the Principal. As you may well imagine, however, the possibility of becoming incapacitated is a common motivation for executing a POA.  In other words, many people create a POA specifically to ensure that their Agent named in the POA has the authority to act on their behalf if they suffer a period of incapacity. That doesn’t work, however, if the POA terminates upon the incapacity of the Principal. To resolve this problem, the concept of a “durable” POA evolved. When a POA is made durable it simply means that the Agent’s authority survives the incapacity of the Principal.

Springing Power of Attorney

Another aspect of a Power of Attorney to understand is a Springing POA. Both a general and a limited POA can be a Springing POA. A Springing POA has special language in it that causes the Agent’s authority to “spring” into action at a specific time or upon the occurrence of a specific event. For example, you might create a general POA that does not actually go into effect unless you have been missing for more than 48 hours or until you have been declared incapacitated by one or two physician(s).

Power of Attorney for Health Care

One of the limits placed on a general POA is the authority of the Agent to make health care decisions for the Principal. If you want to give someone this authority you need to execute a Durable Health Care Power of Attorney. A Durable Health Care POA is a type of advanced directive that allows you to appoint an Agent to make health care decisions for you if you lack the ability to understand the nature and consequences of your health care decisions or the ability to make and communicate your health care decisions yourself.

It is also recommended that you execute a Mental Health Care Power of Attorney, Living Will and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) form to allow those you trust to have access to your medical information and ensure your wishes are carried out.

Contact Estate Planning Attorneys at Morris Hall PLLC

For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about a Power of Attorney or other estate planning related questions, contact the experienced Phoenix estate planning attorneys at Morris Hall PLLC by calling 602-249-1328 to schedule your appointment today.

elder abuse

Comic Legend Stan Lee Battles against Elder Abuse

By | Elder Law | No Comments

elder abuse

Stan Lee – Hero of Marvel Comics

Born in 1922, Stan Lee became a comic hero legend. Beginning in New York in the early 1960s, Lee’s tenure at the top of Marvel Comics spawned Spider-Man, Black Panther, and the X-Men.  As the chairman of Marvel Comics, Lee took the company from a small division of a publishing house to a large multimedia corporation. Sadly, Lee may now need his own hero to prevent him from becoming the victim of elder financial abuse.

A Los Angeles judge recently granted a temporary restraining order against Keya Morgan, Lee’s manager and business partner, who has been acting as his “caregiver” since the passing of Lee’s wife last July. The petition in support of the order was filed by Tom Lallas, Lee’s former attorney who was abruptly fired last February. The petition alleges, among other things, that Morgan has been unduly influencing and isolating Lee.

The Controversy

In a complaint, Lee’s former attorney stated that there are multiple ongoing criminal investigations regarding potential financial elder abuse by Morgan. A police report attached to the complaint indicates that a detective observed that Lee suffers from a short-term memory impairment and is “heavily influenced” by Morgan. The complaint lists the bizarre actions of Morgan.

For example, on being denied entry to Lee’s home by a security guard because law enforcement and Adult Protective Services were conducting a private interview with Lee, Morgan allegedly proceeded to make a false call to 911 claiming there were three burglary suspects inside Lee’s home, despite being told that Lee was with detectives. In another instance, Morgan once again made a false call to 911 accusing a security guard of assault with a deadly weapon against himself and Lee after the security guard refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Morgan was arrested for a false report of an emergency on June 11, 2018, and an emergency protective order was issued to protect Lee from him.  Morgan allegedly hired a security team to keep out Lee’s family members and others that have helped Lee in the past. More recently, the complaint alleges that Morgan moved Lee from his longtime family home to a condominium in what may be another attempt to further isolate him.

Lee’s daughter and only child, J.C. Lee, is also part of the legal maneuvering. At a recent hearing, J.C. asserted that she has the authority to speak for her father and argued that Morgan should be prevented from coming near her father.

The Court Decision

At a recent court hearing, a judge sided with Lee’s daughter on both counts, finding that J.C. Lee has the authority to speak for her father and that Morgan should be restrained from coming near Lee, Lee's daughter, and Lee's brother.  The request for the order alleges that Morgan attempted to interfere with Lee's ability to contact caregivers, doctors and family members; attempted to alienate Lee from his daughter; and is embezzling or misappropriating millions worth of Lee's assets.  Authorities are currently conducting an elder abuse investigation.

Sadly, elder abuse in the United States is a very real, and very troubling, problem that impacts all of us. Elder abuse is not a new problem, but societal awareness of the prevalence of elder abuse has increased considerably in recent years, due in large part to the rapid growth in the older population in the U.S. As evidenced by Stan Lee’s experience, no one is immune to the possibility of becoming a victim of elder abuse.

You can be the “super” hero that your family members or neighbors need by being vigilant and reporting any suspicious actions toward elders to Adult Protective Services.

Contact Living Trust Attorneys

For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about who to appoint as the Trustee of your trust, contact the experienced living trust attorneys at Morris Hall PLLC by calling 888-222-1328 to schedule your appointment today.