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Value in Flat Fees

By | Business Planning, E-Alert, Estate Planning, Other | No Comments

Thankfully, I have not needed to employ an attorney.  I have heard too many horror stories of how expensive attorneys are.  And sometimes, paying all that money to attorney is simply “not worth it.”

And you are thinking, “aren’t you an attorney?”

Yes, yes I am.  The difference is, our practice handles matters on a flat fee basis, rather than hourly.  This gives you, the client, certainty of what the fee is up-front, so there are no surprises in the end.

It also eliminates the “worry” of what a question may cost.  If you call an attorney charging on an hourly basis, a “quick question” may cost $60, and any question that requires an in-depth answer may be $450+.  We want you to have the peace of mind that your plan provides to you, and, to us, that means being able to ask questions without concern over additional costs.

When an attorney bills at an hourly rate, that attorney may have the motive to stretch out the work (more hours worked, more fees for that attorney).  But an attorney charging a flat fee is motivated to get the work done as quickly as possible, while assuring that it is all done right.

I hope if I ever need an attorney, I find one who, like us, charges at a flat rate. I find the value in knowing what the bill will be is fantastic – I am not a fan of surprises.

jim-plitzContributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces Estate Planning Attorney and Partner, James P. Plitz.

About Morris Hall, PLLC:
At Morris Hall, PLLC we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 45 years.  Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects.  We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Carefree, Tucson, Oro Valley, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

 

A Sign of the Times: Planning for your Digital Estate

By | Attorney Andrea Claus, E-Alert, Other, Preparedness | No Comments

The 21st century has brought exciting new technologies.  And has given us platforms to do things that were only dreamt of in Star Trek or the Jetsons.  With these new on-line, or digital platforms, comes a whole new type of asset that we need to plan for – who can access these “digital assets” if we are unable to due to death or incapacity?

There are countless Americans who’ve failed to create even the most basic estate plan, and we’re all aware of the issues this choice creates.  Even those who’ve planned carefully – those who have a comprehensive estate plan in place – tend to overlook a planning aspect that is new to this century:  planning for your digital assets and accounts.

Digital assets are those you only have in electronic form.  Think about your photos and videos (shutterfly.com and youtube.com).  Think about your frequent flier miles, your CVS account, and your iTunes accounts.  Can your loved access these areas and download your pictures? Who do you want doing this? Where do you want these items to go?

When it comes to this type of planning there are financial and social considerations to be made.  Financial digital assets, such as online bank and brokerage accounts require authority for access.  Download destinations like Amazon and Netflix, require direction to your successor trustee or agent as to access and handling of the accounts at your death. Social accounts, such as Facebook and Instagram, require similar directives.

Some of the on-line providers are starting to get out in front of this issue.  In this vein, Google has launched an Inactive Account Manager feature, which lets you tell them what you want done with your digital assets on its various services (e.g. Gmail, Blogger, Google Drive, Picasa, Google Voice, YouTube) when you die.  This service is a single example of what some companies are calling planning for your “digital afterlife.”  There are several services that will store all personal digital information and release the data to the agent of your choice upon proof of your demise.

Estate planning strategies and practices change and evolve with the passage of law, modifications in tax law, and developments in the probate system.  The evolving manner in which we interact and manage our finances and our on-line presence necessitate consideration of how we’ll plan for our digital assets.

To make sure your plan captures your instructions and has the proper authority, make an appointment today with one of our Estate Planning attorneys.

 

andrea-claus Contributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Phoenix, Scottsdale and Prescott Estate Planning Attorney, Andrea L. Claus.

What the Attorneys of Morris Hall, PLLC Can Do For You:
The attorneys at Morris Hall have 100’s of years of combined experience ensuring that families’ assets are protected from probate, unnecessary taxes, creditors, ex-spouses and Medicaid spend-down.  Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Carefree, Tucson, Oro Valley, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

 

Identity Theft – Proactive Steps to Minimize the Risk

By | E-Alert, Estate Planning, Other | No Comments

As an estate planning attorney, I look to help my clients keep their personal information out of the public domain.  The primary means to do this is to avoid court proceedings, mainly probate court.

But there are steps that you can take now to help reduce the risk and/or the impact of identity theft:

  1. Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Write 'PHOTO ID REQUIRED.'  It creates a little more hassle at the cash register, but you are better off if your card gets stolen.
  2. Do not put the entire account number on your checks when you pay your credit card bill. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and anyone who might be handling your check as it passes through all the check processing channels won't have access to it.
  3. Try to use a PO Box and/or your work phone number, rather than your personal information on your checks.
  4. Photocopy the contents of your wallet. Make sure you copy both sides of license, credit card, insurance card . . .  This gives you a list of everything in your wallet, including the phone numbers to cancel credit cards. Keep the photocopy in a safe place.  Update the photocopy as necessary (maybe once a year). When you travel, bring the list of phone numbers with you, in duplicate (one in your luggage and one in your carry-on).  This way, if your wallet is lost or stolen, you can make the appropriate calls immediately.

Here is further information on how to limit the damage if your wallet is lost or stolen:

  1. Cancel your credit cards immediately. To do this, you will need the phone numbers (see #4 above).
  2. File a police report. If the credit card fraud team does “further investigations”, your diligence will support your claim.
  3. Call at least one of three national credit reporting agencies to place a fraud alert on your name and information (they are required to report to the other two).  The Federal trade Commission provides further details here: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0275-place-fraud-alert
  4. Call the Social Security Fraud line at 1-800-269-0271. You can read more about identity theft and your social security number here: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10064.pdf.  And more about reporting fraud to Social Security Inspector General here: http://oig.ssa.gov/report.

 

Identity theft is a crime with lasting ramifications.  We hope that these steps can help prevent it from happening to you or your loved ones.

 

jim-plitzContributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces Estate Planning Attorney, and Partner, James P. Plitz.

Why Choose Morris Hall, PLLC:
You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall?  First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters.  Also, Morris Hall is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others – which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones.  We are one of only three firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in New Mexico that has been granted membership.  If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with Morris Hall.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

 

Time Flies

By | Celebrity Estates, E-Alert, Estate Planning, Other | No Comments

As April showers are springing into May flowers, I realize how quickly life moves.  It seems only yesterday that we were taking down the Christmas tree, and now we are quickly moving into summer vacations.  The way time slips past, I realize more and more the importance of what I get to do for a living:  I get to help people and their families plan and prepare for life’s most difficult times.  As an estate planning attorney, I get to mitigate the harshness of dealing with death or incapacity, and allow the families to concentrate on what is most important – the people.

I was flipping through an article about some of the famous people who have died in 2015.  It is an amazing list, some very influential people in their respective fields, from Andrew Lesnie to Stuart Scott to Ernie Banks.  One of the things I noticed was that death does not have an entry age.  Unfortunately, we are all prone to that one moment that takes us from this life.  The question becomes what have you left for your loved ones to deal with?

Losing someone is hard enough without the hassles and headaches of dealing with that person’s estate, if not planned properly.  Proper planning is important at every age because it means that you have the plan to handle your specific set of circumstances and goals to make it easier on your loved ones if you were to become incapacitated or pass away.

The good thing is that you each have the power to get the legal advice and put a proper plan in place.  But it is up to you.  You have to make the call.  You don’t have to, and you shouldn’t “wait until you retire”.  Time moves quickly, and life is unpredictable.  Take the few moments to get your plan in place, so you will be able to enjoy life with the peace of mind you deserve because you did more than leave your loved ones an inheritance.  You left them a legacy.

 jim-plitz Contributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces estate planning attorney, and partner, James P. Plitz.

What the Attorneys of Morris Hall, PLLC Can Do For You:
The attorneys at Morris Hall have 100’s of years of combined experience ensuring that families’ assets are protected from probate, unnecessary taxes, creditors, ex-spouses and Medicaid spend-down.  Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Carefree, Tucson, Oro Valley, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

Self-Directed IRAs – the Lurking Danger

By | E-Alert, Retirement Planning | No Comments

IRAs are a great way to defer current income tax into the future.  By contributing to your IRA, the amount contributed is not taxed today.  The tax is deferred until the time you start withdrawing (Currently the government forces a withdrawal when you are 70 ½ years old).

The government likes that you are saving for your golden years, so there are statutes that limit the ability of a creditor (bankruptcy or lawsuit) to reach into your IRA to satisfy your debt.  That is a good thing!

However, those of you who have decided to utilize a self-directed IRA may not realize that those protections may not be there.  The statutes don’t go away; however, if the investments you make have a liability risk, the fact that the investment is in an IRA does not shield the asset, and potentially you personally, from that risk.

For example, if you decide to use your Self-Directed IRA to purchase a rental home, the risk that the tenant, or a visitor of the tenant, sues you lurks.  If that tenant slips and falls due to your negligence as a landlord, the fact that the investment is in your IRA does not prevent the prevailing tenant from getting at the rental home.  Further, there are arguments that the tenant, if the rental home asset is not enough, can reach to your personal assets to satisfy the claim.

There are ways to avoid those risks.  Protecting your investments through the use of a Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a good way to reduce your exposure to those lawsuits.

Come in and talk with one of our estate planning attorneys to see what is the best structure for your investments.

 

jim-plitz Contributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces Estate Planning Attorney and Partner,

James  P. Plitz.

 

 About Morris Hall, PLLC:
At Morris Hall, we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 45 years.  Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects.   We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa,  Scottsdale, Carefree, Tucson, Oro Valley, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in  Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

Digital Asset Planning

By | E-Alert, Estate Planning, Estate taxes | No Comments

Advancements in technology these days is a good thing, right? Sure it is, but when we talk about the importance of estate planning for assets with account and policy numbers, we shouldn’t forget about planning for the digital assets.

The digital assets we may have when we pass away may include the following:

  • Online banking
  • iTunes
  • E-mail
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Photo sharing

As technology increases, this list will continue to grow. What do the above digital assets have in common? They each require a password for accessibility. If we become incapacitated or when we pass away, our loved ones must have access to our master list of digital assets and passwords. If this master list doesn’t exist, precious memories and financial accounts may be lost forever.

Where should the master list be kept? A safe place, such as a safe deposit box works very well. The most important thing is for your loved ones to know which location you have placed this information.

How do we plan for our digital assets? The person(s) you have chosen in your Will or Trust need to be given the authority to take control over all your assets, including your digital assets.

Unfortunately, most people are only focused on planning for the more common assets, such as real property, retirement, life insurance, etc. However, we shouldn’t let the advances of the technology world leave our loved ones in a situation where they are unable to retrieve our other non-financial assets after we pass away.

In order to keep your estate plan up to date with the ever changing fast paced world of technology, please see one of our experienced estate planning attorneys for a comprehensive tune up of your plan. Your family will be thankful that you did!

About Morris Hall:
At Morris Hall, we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 40 years.  Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects.  We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Cave Creek, Tucson, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

By | E-Alert, Other | No Comments

Going on my FaceBook page each evening, I smirk at all of my friends who are dousing themselves with cold buckets of water.  The ALS Ice Bucket challenge is doing wonders for the charity – in terms of both money raised and awareness!  And I get to laugh at my friends!

The follow-up question is whether the fundraising efforts are sustainable.  Will ALS get the necessary funds to continue the search for a cure next year, and the year after that! I hope so.

But ALS, like so many other worthy charities, like American Heart Association, Make-A-Wish and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, have a two-fold problem that you can help with.

The first is what the Ice Bucket Challenge is attempting to solve – current donations to help with current grants.  In all likelihood you are already doing this with your favorite charities.  Every little bit helps.

The second is the issue deals with what happens when you pass away.  Since the contributions you are making now, in your life, will not continue, your favorite charity will lose some of its support.  But it does not have to be that way.  You just have to plan for it.

Your estate planning attorney can help craft a plan that can achieve your charitable intent.  Whether it is a gift of $1,000 or the creation of a private foundation (like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), or anything in between, your charity does not have miss a beat just because of you passing.

Make an appointment today, and one of our attorneys can help you craft a plan that keeps your charities going, in the way you want, without getting all wet!

Albuquerque, New Mexico Estate Planning Attorney James PlitzContributed by MH Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces Estate Planning Attorney, James P. Plitz.

About Morris Hall:
At Morris Hall, we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 40 years.  Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects.  We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Cave Creek, Tucson, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft

By | E-Alert, Estate Planning, Estate taxes, Financial Planning, Other, Planning Ahead: One Week at a Time, Preparedness, Scam Alert | No Comments

According to the Arizona Attorney General, identity theft is the largest consumer complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission annually. Identity thieves can use your name to make purchases by stealing your checkbook, credit card, ATM card, or electronically getting access to your checking account. In some cases, thieves may have received medical services in your name or re-routed your tax refund.

Although you may think that the vast majority of identity theft cases involves hackers and online scams, a lost or stolen wallet or purse is often at the core of about half of the cases that have a known cause.

The following steps may prevent identity thieves from walking away with your wallet or purse.

Don’t Carry Sensitive Information

It’s likely that you know your Social Security number, so there is no reason to carry your Social Security card with you in your purse or wallet. Commit Internet account passwords and bank account PINS to memory and don’t keep written records in your wallet. The same goes for your checkbook, leave it at home. In general, ask yourself this simple question – Are you carrying anything that would be of value to an identity thief? If yes, stop carrying it around with you.

Make Copies

It’s important to make copies of everything you are carrying in your wallet. For example, your driver’s license, credit cards, insurance cards, etc. If you lose your wallet or purse, you will know exactly what the thief has.

Notify Appropriate Parties

Once you recognize you have lost your wallet or purse, you must notify all interested parties. This can include credit card companies, banks, the motor vehicle division, insurance providers and the three major credit reporting agencies. It’s also important to file a police report so that the authorities are aware that your wallet or purse is missing.

To learn how you can take charge if your identity has been stolen, visit https://www.azag.gov/identity-theft.

Morris Hall Can Protect You in Today’s Litigious Society:
We live in a litigious society, where over 1 million lawsuits are filed every year in America alone.  Financial predators are looking for ways to take funds from others and often use litigation as their means to do so.  At Morris Hall we provide your assets and your loved ones with important protections that can prevent financial predators from taking advantage of you.  We do this through proper and current estate planning techniques.  With an MH living trust, we can also protect your property, assets and loved ones from probate, estate taxes, gift taxes, creditors, Medicaid spend-down, conservatorship or guardianship proceedings, ex-spouses and more.  A living trust also keeps your asset and beneficiary information private and secure to avoid giving financial predators information to use against you and your family.  Without a living trust, this information will be made public.  For those living in Arizona, we serve the areas of Phoenix, Mesa, Gilbert, Fountain Hills, Scottsdale, Cave Creek, Prescott, Flagstaff, Sedona, Tucson, Sonoita, Arrowhead, Avondale, Goodyear and Tempe.  In New Mexico we serve the areas of Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Rio Rancho, White Rock, Alamogordo, Truth or Consequences and more.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment with an attorney in your area!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

Fraud Alert! Estate Planning Con Artists In New Mexico and Arizona!

By | E-Alert, Estate Planning | No Comments

In the past we have notified you of various fraud attempts that have affected you, our clients. The most common fraud attempt has consisted of various companies that contact individuals that have a recorded deed in the name of a trust. These companies call those on the list and offer to review their trust documents for them. They often infer enough information to make the client assume the company is calling from their own law firm, even though they are not. The company then gets the client to set up an appointment for a review of their trust documents in their home. This leads clients to invite strangers into their homes. Strangers that are attempting to scam them by pretending to be a representative of MH.

Recently a new scam has come to our attention. In this scam, the client is contacted by an individual who claims there is a multimillion dollar estate that has not been claimed. They attempt to get the client to give them funds in order to attain a large portion of the fictional estate. The copy of the document we were forwarded used a poor mock representation of our letterhead and had used attorney and staff names from our website. Unfortunately, we have heard of individuals that have given them large sums of money, believing they were credible. Thankfully, none of these individuals were our clients.

Do not give in to these scams! MH is in no way affiliated with any of these companies or individuals. They are unscrupulous and dishonest. For your safety, we hope you will not let them into your homes. Also, you should never give away funds or important personal or financial information unless you are 100% sure of whom you are speaking to.

At MH we never outsource another company to contact our clients. If you are ever unsure whether a call or email have truly come from MH, contact us on our toll free line at 888.222.1328 to ensure the person you are communicating with is an employee of MH.

We truly care about our clients and their well-being. Please be cautious and ensure you protect yourself and your information. Do not hesitate to contact us and verify if the person you have spoken to is a member of our staff. While we cannot control the unscrupulous actions of these con-artists, we hope that you will take important precautions to avoid being a victim of this scam.

Please contact us if you have any information or have been contacted by these various companies/individuals.

About Morris Hall:
At Morris Hall, we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 40 years. Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, powers of attorney, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects. We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Tucson, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead. Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe. Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.