Death with Dignity – How You Can Incorporate a “Graceful Departure” in Your Estate Plan

The D.C. Council is debating legislation that would allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of prescription medication to terminally ill patients. The “Death with Dignity Act,” introduced by Council member Mary Cheh made it out of a five-member committee by a 3-2 vote.

Council member Cheh introduced the bill to give “dying patients greater choice and control over their final moments,” according to the Washington Times.

“In the face of imminent death, meeting a patient’s individual needs and wishes compassionately should be our top priority. If a dying person wishes to peacefully end his or her life rather than endure prolonged pain and suffering, we should not stand in their way,” said Council member Cheh.

Here is an ABC News report discussing the proposed legislation:

No matter where you stand on the issue of assisting a patient with ending their life, it is important to know that there are many ways to prepare if you become terminally ill. For example, you (or preferably your estate planning attorney) can put together an Advance Directive.

This directive allows you to name a healthcare agent to act on your behalf when you are unable to communicate with your doctor, and can contain instructions for your preferences on medical treatment.

For example, if a medical professional determines you are going to be in a persistent vegetative state, you can include directives to your health care agent and what type of treatment, if any, you prefer.

If you choose to refuse treatment in certain circumstances, this directive generally controls and should be respected by your family and medical professionals. The directive keeps the proverbial ball in your court. Along with your Advance Directive, it is essential you discuss your personal beliefs with the person you decide will take on the responsibility as your health care agent so they can carry out your wishes and allow you to, hopefully, pass on gracefully.

When you become a client of InSight Law, you will receive a Maintenance Plan affording access to Docubank. This is a great service giving you immediate access to your healthcare directives and emergency medical information anywhere at any time, 24/7. This is helpful because not everyone receives an official diagnosis of a terminal illness and is given time to contemplate how they want to pass on. In many instances, for example getting into a serious car accident where you are left permanently incapacitated, means you need to have your Advance Directive in order and accessible by our health care agent. As an InSight Law client, you will receive a Docubank card to keep in your wallet or purse. This card gives your medical provider the essential information they need to contact Docubank and obtain a copy of your Medical Directives and instructions you completed.

Additionally, it is important to revisit your Directive every couple years to ensure your preferences have not changed and it is current with the laws (for example, the Death with Dignity Act may have passed in your state).

Obviously, we all want to remain healthy and live long, productive lives. Nevertheless, you need to prepare for the possibility that life may throw a curve ball. Do not force your family and loved ones to guess what you would have wanted. Have a plan in place.

My “Message in a Bottle” to My Daugher Nava Feisee

When I sat down to write this letter I did not expect to get emotional, but when I stared at the screen to think about what I would say I realized I will not always be here with you.  I love you so much it hurts me to think of not being here with you.  You are not even six months old and you have the whole world and rest of your life in front of you.

 

Below are some ideas and lessons that have helped your father.  Some of these lessons were taught to me by my parents, siblings, teachers and friends. Others were hard earned lessons that cost me dearly with either time or money.

1. You create your own reality.

You can decide to be happy or be sad. You can decide to challenge yourself or waste time.  You can achieve as much or as little as you want.  You control your fate and you are responsible for your life.  You can do or be whatever you want to be.  I was told I could not play division 1 lacrosse; that law school was too hard; that you could not compete against the big law firms. I disagreed, then set my goals and focused on achieving them.  I have seen it over and over again in my life and this is a simple truth I have learned.

2. Good listeners are usually successful.

Your mother’s name “Newsha” means good listener so it runs in the family.  I wish I was as good as she is at listening.  There are teachers all around us and they are not limited to those that teach in schools.  Listen carefully and you are bound to learn something.  Here are some tips to be a good listener:  1) Don’t talk or interrupt when someone is talking. Let them finish their thought. 2) Look at the person’s eyes you are listening to and concentrate on what they are saying and not on what you are going to say. 3) Read the book “Time to Think” by Nancy Kline.

3. When you feel life is getting the best of you or you want to quit think of your family.

I have faced many crossroads in my life where life was getting hard and I wanted to quit. I was fortunate to have a mother and father whose mere existence did not allow “quit” in their vocabulary.  Your grandmother and grandfather are real life legends.  They are not fiction.  They beat odds far greater than what I or you will ever have to face.  You see… they paved the way for us.  Your grandfather came from a small village with no running water.  His story is too long for this letter but let’s just say that no one thought he would ever get out of the village.  He put himself through school and studied medicine like his life depended on it…because it did. He could not afford books like the other kids so he would have to read the books in the library.  He graduated medical school and migrated with his family to the United States without knowing the language and with a few hundred dollars in his pocket.  Every day was a struggle for him.

Your grandmother became a doctor in a country that persecuted women.  Everyone would say “No” to her but that word is not in her vocabulary.  Quitting is not an option for this woman.  Time and time again, I have seen her face the toughest challenges and every time she lands gracefully on her feet.

Anytime I feel down and life is getting hard, I think of them and I see their smiling faces giving me the inner strength to persevere and beat the odds. You see…you should expect to face obstacles and challenges in your life. The trick is how you identify and respond to these challenges.

4. Manage Your Time.

Time is a precious commodity. You will learn that every day is a miracle. Make the most of each day. Here are some tips:  Use a calendar and start with thinking about your ideal year and the goals you want to accomplish the activities you want to do. Then work backwards towards your ideal week.  I have learned this approach through the teachings of my business coach Dan Sullivan.

5. Having a Sense of Humor Helps.

This relates to item 1.  The best people I know are always able to find humor in a difficult situation.  Humor is a powerful tool that can change your perspective and how you look at a situation.  Laughter is good medicine.

6. Be careful with debt and don’t use credit cards until you can pay off the balance each month.

We live in a world where debt seems to be “accepted”.  It is a trap that can cause serious harm to your financial future.  Do not buy anything that you cannot afford to pay in cash because the debt can and will pile up which will cause problems for you.  Avoid it completely by not using credit cards until you know you can pay the balance off each month.   If you are reading this letter and are already in debt then see items 1,3 & 5 and get to it!

This “Message in a Bottle” exercise is a way to put your voice into your planning.  Although we offer “legacy planning” services at InSight Law, only a small percentage of our client base opt for this type of  planning. Though there are some additional legal fees that apply, I strongly believe the benefits far outweigh the costs of this type of “Purposeful Planning.”

There are several ways to integrate your voice into your planning:  (1) audio and/or conversations where we go through carefully designed questions on various topics and preserve the conversation for future generations; and (2) actually weaving in your legacy statements and comments throughout the trust document where appropriate.  Clients who are interested in learning more should contact Bobby directly to discuss options.

Time is Running Out for Maximizing the Effectiveness of Family Limited Partnerships in Your Estate Plan

Establishing a family limited partnership can be helpful in business succession planning, business continuity plans, and as a component of your estate plan. It is especially helpful if you own real estate, a family business, and concentrated positions of publicly traded stock. However, the IRS is starting to scrutinize these partnerships and has proposed a new regulation, specifically a revised versionof Section 2704 that could have a dramatic impact on your estate planning by eliminating valuation discounts.

If you are looking to minimize your future estate tax this is critical and time is of the essence. Once the revised Section 2704 is in effect, which could be around the end of calendar year 2016, the ability to claim discounts might be substantially reduced or eliminated thus curtailing your tax and asset protection planning flexibility.

Managing Estate Taxes

Ashburn estate planning attorney, estate planning law firmIf you own the aforementioned combination of real estate, a successful business, stock options, etc. you are likely to have a substantial estate that may subject to potentially burdensome estate taxes. A family limited partnership can provide a vehicle for you maintain control of your company and effectively minimize estate taxes. As mentioned above, a family limited partnership affords this flexibility now, but may be dramatically altered if and when the new Section 2704 goes into effect.

Business Succession Planning

In addition to helping manage a potentially onerous estate tax bill, a family limited partnership could allow you to continue to run your family business while allowing growth in your company to occur in your offspring’s names. This is because a family limited partnership is essentially a joint venture between family members. The partnership is comprised of both general and limited partners which enables you to maintain control of the business while reducing your taxable estate through gifting interests to the beneficiaries.

Example of How a Family Limited Partnership Would Work

Let’s say we have a successful real estate broker named Mr. Smith. He is approximately 53 years old, married with two teen-aged children, and is the owner of his own real estate brokerage firm. Mr. Smith has an estate worth approximately twelve million dollars

In addition to his real estate business, Mr. Smith owns his home, along with two rental properties in Florida and South Carolina. In this scenario, each property owned by Mr. Smith could be placed into a family limited partnership.

The reason for treating each real estate asset individually and placing each one in its own family limited partnership is to help minimize the risk associated with potential litigation. If a family limited partnership is sued (e.g., someone gets hurt on the rental property) the assets could be protected from law suits.  He could also place personal bank and brokerage accounts into the family limited partnership. The same goes for his ownership interests in his business.

Speak to an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney

If you are interested in learning whether it makes sense to establish a family limited partnership as a component of your estate plan, reach out to Insight Law. As mentioned, time is of the essence. New regulations being implemented by the IRS may curtail the effectiveness of family limited partnerships, so you need to take action sooner rather than later.

Insight Law is one of the few firms in the United States with a formal ongoing maintenance and education program for our clients. Our goal is to keep your plan up to date by routinely integrating changes in your life, changes in the law, and changes in planning techniques.

Another Celebrity Leaves Sizable Estate, But No Will

Actor Anton Yelchin, best known for his role as Chekov in the revamped Stark Trek movies, died tragically in an accident on June 19, 2016. Mr. Yelchin, left behind a sizable $1.4 million estate and no will. He follows other notable celebrities like Prince and Amy Winehouse who suddenly passed on leaving substantial estates, but no estate plan.

Mr. Yelchin was only 27 years old, but he had at least $641,000 in personal property and had $731,000 in equity in his home, according to the Associated Press. His parents filed to become administrators of his estate in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Our deepest sympathies go out to Mr. Yelchin’s parents. Losing a child is a gut-wrenching experience no child should have to endure. Unfortunately, their stress was likely exacerbated learning that there was no will, trust, or any other estate plan for their son. Mr. Yelchin was not married and had no children, so the laws of intestate succession will control and the family will have to deal with the probate process.

Below is a news report on the unfortunate passing of Mr. Yelchin:

Intestate succession of your assets depend on whether you have living children, parents, and/or other close relatives when you pass on. For example, under Virginia intestate succession laws, if you are survived by a spouse and children, your spouse inherits everything. However, if you are survived by a spouse and at least one child is from someone other than the surviving spouse, then one-third of your assets pass on to your spouse and the remainder goes to your children. In Maryland, on the other hand, if you are survived by a spouse and minor children, your estate is divided equally between your spouse and your minor children. However, if you are survived by your spouse and adult children, your spouse only inherits $15,000 worth of your intestate property and half of the balance while your adult children inherit the remainder.

A prime of just how contentious passing away intestate (i.e. no will) can be, look at the legal battle over Prince’s estate. Over 30 people claimed to be children, siblings or distant relatives of Prince in order to qualify for a portion of his estimated $250 million estate. A judge had to order genetic testing for six individuals to determine whether they qualify as heirs, according to People.com. As you can see, when there is no estate plan in place, squabbles and disagreements can arise that then escalate to court battles. You do not want to leave your loved ones left wondering what you wanted and are forced to battle it out in court.

Do Not Ignore Your Estate

I know I have written this time and again, but it bears repeating – take the time to create an estate plan. It does not matter how old you are or the size of your estate. It does not matter if you are singled or married. It does not matter if you have no children, or multiple children. An estate plan is about providing peace of mind and security to your loved ones. It gives them a road map for how you want your estate to be managed. Check out my blog article on the act of love that is estate planning.

Sit down with an experienced estate planning attorney today to discuss your estate.