Endless Disruption

The term endless disruption is most often seen in articles about technology and the changes that occur (sometimes seemingly overnight) in this digital age. Continuous changes in personal life events, external forces and new legislation can also lead to a type of endless disruption for an individual’s plans for the future.

A recent article about how organizations can learn (and adapt to change) caught my attention.  In his article: Learning How To Learn by Willie Pietersen, the author suggests that the most successful companies instill learning as a habit and embrace change.  Those corporations that cannot recognize change; accept change and respond to it are doomed to fail.

Success means dealing with (and embracing) endless disruption.

Estate Planning is a segment of the law that deals with constant change.  The lives of my clients are ever-changing – births, deaths, marriages, divorces; remarriages, formation and dissolution of businesses; fortunes being made, lost or inherited; properties/assets being acquired or disposed of; clients’ changing health situations;  economies that falter; changes in tax laws; job changes and relocations- all are life events in a state of flux.

Changes in legislation and in digital technology are also impacting the estate planning process. (see my articles about digital wills)

Change is scary; information overload is rampant and the rate of change in today’s society is rapid and disruptive.  Taking no action in the face of change and uncertainty is thought to be a ‘safe’ alternative.  But if one stays ‘frozen’ in the face of uncertainty, no decisions are made; change happens around us and we have not adapted to the forces that are affecting our lives.

We also have relinquished the ability to positively respond when the need arises.

Apple co-founder Steve Woznik was quoted (2015):  “…(appoint) someone to look out for what is coming, for what might disrupt you own business…(a Chief Disruption Officer of sorts)”

Interestingly, my tag line – written several years ago – Working To Preserve Your Wealth and Protect Your Future…in a Constantly Changing World – seems particularly an apt one – to cope with the potential endless disruption of my client’s plans.

Yes, the world is in a state of flux, and Estate Planning is an area of law well-suited to respond to the many and continuous changes happening in a client’s life and in the world around them.

Taking the first step and talking to an estate planning lawyer could help ‘unfreeze’ your decision- making.

Working To Preserve Your Wealth and Protect Your Future…in a Constantly Changing World

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2018 Tax Legislation

Our friends at Investopedia have managed to put the more than 500 pages of the recent tax legislation into a compact and easier to digest form as to the impact on many individual taxpayers.

The Investopedia article: How the GOP Tax Bill Affects You by Amy Fontinelle (Updated January 3, 2018) outlines some of the major effects of the legislation.

The official title of the bill is:  “An Act to Provide for Reconciliation Pursuant to Titles II and V of the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2018,” —thus possibly making it a tax legislation bill with the longest title in history.

Many will be reading numerous articles about the new tax bill and attempting to figure out the financial long and short- term effects.

As always, I caution not to rely on any one article or website for information.

Consult a professional about your individual tax situation.

I have learned from one contact that the (hard copy) IRS forms remain on ‘backorder’.

According to an IRS mailing:  “The Federal Tax Products you ordered …are not available at this time. We are holding your order pending availability.  There is no need to reorder. We apologize for the delay.”

(As of this writing, the hard copy of the requested IRS forms had not yet arrived.)

So if you require\order hard copies of tax filing forms, such as Form 1040, Instructions, Schedules, etc. you may be able to access them sooner via the IRS website.

As the IRS notice stated:  “Electronic versions of new tax products are often available several weeks before they are available in print.”  (www.irs.gov)

Working To Preserve Your Wealth and Protect Your Future…in a Constantly Changing World

Please read my full Disclaimer and How I Can Help You

Visit my website:  www.attorneybarbaradalvano.weebly.com for over 250 articles and printable infographics

 

So You Want To Move To A Foreign Country

You have read all the brochures and finally decided that life on the (fictional) island of Guata Gauta will be idyllic.  The island nation has virtually no taxes, beautiful and inexpensive homes to buy; the best climate; friendly people; stable government; wonderful culture; scenic beauty…in short it is Paradise, with a capital P.

One of the last things you are probably thinking about is your estate plan.  You just want to get to your island in the sun and start your new life.

But beware of certain issues when planning to become at expatriate (expat for short) and the difference between tax residence and domicile.

We know that there are significant differences between legal systems in different countries.  To give an example, British people who live in countries of the Middle East are for the most part subject to Islamic law and that law would apply when it comes to how their estate is treated.  This might mean that as an expat the law could divide your estate, your property and your wealth in ways that you never intended. Assets could go to someone that the expat never realized.

Once you establish domicile in a country, then Domicile typically decides where inheritance is paid and how (upon death) an expat’s estate is split.  The laws of that country regarding property, bank accounts, etc. could override any will or estate plan of the United States.

In most countries, expats should prove they have no intention of moving to another country to show their domicile has changed. For example – if you are moving yourself to Guata Guata, the relocation is permanent and you have no intention of returning to Wisconsin. This could mean relinquishing your U.S. passport; closing all U.S. bank accounts and selling Wisconsin property.

It is beyond the scope of this brief article to review all of the possible outcomes of becoming an expat.  The best advice –

Discuss with a professional (financial; legal and international) the long term consequences of a permanent move/relocation to a foreign country. Know before you go, how the laws in that country could affect your estate plan and your beneficiaries.

Working To Preserve Your Wealth and Protect Your Future…in a Constantly Changing World

Please read my full Disclaimer and How I Can Help You

 

Visit my website:  www.attorneybarbaradalvano.weebly.com for more articles and printable infographics

 

 

Beyond The Scope

I have been publishing my blog page since 2013.  Over the course of years it became apparent that no matter the extent of research or the narrow focus of any article, it was ‘beyond the scope’ to detail every possibility within the topic.

Many of my article/blogs state:  “It is beyond the scope of this article…” and some readers might say, then why write the article at all.  If you cannot give definitive answers to a problem, then stay mute!

However, the true purpose of my blog and series of articles is to cover topics that are being discussed in the field of estate planning law.  Also, I want to draw attention to unique topics and issues that the ‘general’ public might not even be aware exist.

There is usually the caution at the end of my articles to consult a qualified legal or financial professional.  I do not take that caution lightly.  The laws of our land change and the consequences of not staying ‘on top of’ legislation can be disastrous.

One expert in estate planning law had quipped – “I love people who draft their own wills or trusts based on website forms – they are the backbone of my firm.”  He went on to say that a portion of his large client base was people who had attempted to draft their own legal documents, to disastrous long term and unforeseen effect. His ‘business’ was based upon untangling the messes!

There are few people who would attempt major surgery on themselves – they seek the advice and medical services of a doctor of medicine.  However, those same individuals might not hesitate to undertake the process of drafting a legal document on their own using a website form.

So, yes, often the information in a blog is ‘beyond the scope’ of the article to cover and for any individual legal situation/question – it is indeed wise to seek the advice of a qualified professional.

Working To Preserve Your Wealth and Protect Your Future…in a Constantly Changing World

 Please read my full Disclaimer and How I Can Help You

Visit my website:  www.attorneybarbaradalvano.weebly.com for over 200 articles and printable infographics

The Art of the FICO Score

As we move into 2018, many of us are seeking more information about how the recent changes in tax legislation will affect us.  I have often written that changes like births, deaths, divorce and yes, even tax law changes can affect an estate plan.

If you have an existing estate plan, now might be a good time to seek the advice of a financial specialist to get the real data of how recent tax legislation could impact your future plans.  Then consult an estate planning specialist to determine whether any ‘improvements’ to an existing estate plan might be beneficial given the recent legislation.

Another resolution for the coming year might be to ‘clean up’ your credit.  We know that when planning a large purchase using credit, it is wise to know your credit score.  But do you fully understand the actual components of that mysterious FICO score?

An article in Investopedia titled” “The 5 Biggest Factors That Affect Your Credit” by Amy Fontinelle (Investopedia, Nov. 20, 2017) might unlock some of the mystery.  The article mentions ‘credit utilization ratio’ and the difference between making a ‘hard inquiry’ vs a ‘soft inquiry’.

Another recommendation is to start working on improving your credit score BEFORE that major purchase in order to get the most beneficial interest/lending rate.

Lastly….In 2018, I plan to be:

“Working to Preserve Your Wealth and Protect Your Future…in a Constantly Changing World”

Please read my full Disclaimer and How I Can Help You.

Visit my website:  www.attorneybarbaradalvano.weebly.com for over 250 articles and printable infographics

 

 

 

Top 5 Retirement Challenges…

Our friends at Wiser Women (www.wiserwomen.org) posted their top 5 retirement challenges facing women in the United States.  Among the five challenges:  only 45% of women between 21 and 64 years of age participate in a retirement plan.

To view all five ‘top challenges” use their website.

The Wiser Women website also offers helpful advice about social security; financial scams; health care; caregiving; divorce and widowhood; and the very useful “Your Future Paycheck” calculator.

You can also subscribe for free to the Wiser Women newsletter.

Working To Preserve Your Wealth and Protect Your Future…in a Constantly Changing World

Please read my full Disclaimer and How I Can Help You

Visit my website: www.attorneybarbaradalvano.weebly.com for more than 250 articles and printable infographics

 

Infographic – Median Retirement Savings by Age Group

Most recent articles about retirement agree that American have fallen woefully behind on their retirement savings goals.

With the new year coming, now is a good time to review your end-of-year retirement and savings goals and make adjustments.

I have just posted on my website a helpful chart (printable infographic) titled: Median Retirement Savings by Age Group.  See how you compare with the “Recommended” Goals.

It is never too late to increase retirement savings, either through 401(K) or individual retirement accounts or through a change in lifestyle.

At the end of my infographic there are some suggestions about how to achieve an improvement in saving for retirement – whatever your age group.

For the ’20 Somethings’, this might mean setting realistic goals and establishing a new retirement account.

In your 30’s to 50’s, it is time to review your financial situation with an eye to having a more stable savings plan for retiring.

In your 60’s, it can be a time to review your investments and make lifestyle changes for a healthier lifestyle with an eye to reducing medical costs.

Each age group has a Recommended Retirement goal, and you can meet that goal through a disciplined savings plan.

Working To Preserve Your Wealth and Protect Your Future…in a Constantly Changing World

Please read my full Disclaimer and How I Can Help You

Visit my website:  http://www.attorneybarbaradalvano.weebly.com for over 200 articles and printable infographics

 

Free Webinar-Protecting Elders from Financial Exploitation

I have written several articles about fraud against the elderly and preventive measures.  (available on my website:  http://www.attorneybarbaradalvano.weebly.com)

It appears that during the holiday season, people intent on fraud work overtime in their attempts to coax funds out of unsuspecting victims, and the older citizen has an increased risk.

According to some statistics, elder fraud costs billions of dollars, and the grief such fraud causes is immeasurable.  Our friends at the The National Center for Elder Rights (NCLER) are offering a free webinar about the types of financial exploitation that occur and victim characteristics, among other topics.

Free webinar – Legal Basics: Elder Financial Exploitation

When: Tuesday, January 9th, 2018 at 11:00 a.m. PT/2:00 p.m. ET.

From the NCLER site:  NCLER.acl.gov           the webinar will include –

“Types of elder financial exploitation and its extent & cost;

Victim characteristics;

Detection tools;

Action steps & ethical issues; and

Remedies and system change opportunities”

The webinar is free and you can register on the NCLER website for more information.  If you are an advocate for an elderly individual, this webinar is important.  Two presenters from the ABA Commission of Law and Aging will be on the webinar.

Working To Preserve Your Wealth and Protect Your Future…in a Constantly Changing World

Please read my full Disclaimer and How I Can Help You

Visit my website:  www.attorneybarbaradalvano.weebly.com for over 200 articles and printable infographics

Divorce and Retirement Accounts

For many individuals, their retirement account is a significant portion of their financial well-being.  For married couples, a retirement account represents years of saving and offers security for the future.

When a divorce is imminent, a retirement account can become a critical factor in the plan for separation, particularly if the plan has been well-funded over the duration of the marriage.

A qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) is thought by many to be used only in situations where there are child support or alimony issues.  However, a QDRO can also enable spouses to ‘share’ the funds of a retirement account.  In brief, the QDRO provides “marital property rights for the benefit of a spouse, former spouse, child, or other dependent of a participant.”  (Department of Labor)

The QRDO is a legal document “ that creates or recognizes the existence of an alternate payee’s right to receive, or assigns to an alternate payee the right to receive, all or a portion of the benefits payable with respect to a participant under a retirement plan…”  (Department of Labor)

The QDRO must meet certain stringent (emphasis on stringent) requirements and must include specific information.

Because retirement plans differ (for example – government plans, military plans, ‘standard’ plans, fire/police pension plans, public school retirement plans- to name just a few) the QDRO is unique in its legal requirements and forms can vary by state and by plan.

Noteworthy is that the mention of a retirement account in a divorce decree or separation agreement may not protect your interest and legal rights to a share of funds in a spouse’s retirement plan.

If you have a separation agreement, the QDRO should be drafted and signed as soon as possible.

It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss all variations of the QDRO.  An older (2014) – (but still helpful)- publication by the Department of Labor titled:  QDROs: The Division of Retirement Benefits Through Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (dol.gov – pdf.file) may be a starting point to learn more about a QDRO; however the online brochure/file provides only “general guidance”.

It is best to obtain the advice of a qualified attorney to answer specific questions about the requirement of any QDRO.

Note that the ‘content’ of a QDRO will depend, in general, on the type of retirement plan and the input of the plan’s administrator as well as the “reason” for the QDRO.

Working To Preserve Your Wealth and Protect Your Future…in a Constantly Changing World

Please read my full Disclaimer and How I Can Help You

Visit my website:  www.attorneybarbaradalvano.weebly.com for over 200 articles and printable infographics

All Grown Up in 2017

The year 2017 marks the ‘anniversary’ that many of the millennial generation will have reached the ripe old age of thirty.

The Millennials, according to many articles, are the largest generation (post Baby Boomer) and those adults of the millennial generation were long to leave the nest.

This long maturation may be due to the staggering student loan debt of the generation – $1.35 trillion of student debt, according to some data.

By the age of thirty, a Millennial is most likely to have held several jobs.  They are also adults who are most interested in a balance of home, career and quality of life.

According to other sources – the ‘typical’ traits of the Millennial Generation:

Want to make a positive impact on the lives of others;

Desire to make a positive difference in society;

Want meaningful work, not just a paycheck;

Are not afraid to challenge the way things ‘have always been done’;

Are willing to share options and ideas;

Seek feedback and advice;

Live and breathe technology;

Are competent to research information with internet searches and probing questions;

Demand to know why, rather than just how;

Expect and thrive on recognition and feedback; and

Are a generation of social media and digital assets.

With the acquisition of property/assets, the Millennial Generation is poised to take a serious look at how they will pass on those assets as well as their ideals.

If you are a Millennial “Thirty Something” – Time to think of the issues of health care directives; making a will and asset protection.

The coming year 2018 may be the time to contact a legal professional to seek advice and discuss a plan for ‘what could happen’.

Working To Preserve Your Wealth and Protect Your Future…in a Constantly Changing World

Please read my full Disclaimer and How I Can Help You

Visit my website:  www.attorneybarbaradalvano.weebly.com for more articles and printable infographics