Remote Control

You live nowhere near Sacramento but you have a legal issue here. How would that work?  Some common reasons people, who live elsewhere, hire us to do legal work are: 1) mom/dad/relative/friend died in the Sacramento area and you need a probate attorney here to handle that for you and 2) your mom/dad/relative/friend lives here and you want them to hire a local attorney to handle their estate planning affairs before they die. In either case we are well suited to help you!

First thing’s first… does this attorney you might hire, remotely, have the legal knowledge and experience to take care of your legal needs.   In my case I am a Certified Specialist in estate planning, trust and probate law which means I took a second bar exam only in these areas of law. Also, I have been rated “AV” by Martindale Hubbell (lawyers.com) which is the highest rating they offer.  Lastly, I have thousands of satisfied clients I have helped! Ok, check that off and move to the second important issue….

Besides legal knowledge and experience the next biggest issue when hiring an attorney is communication!  That is, will your attorney reply to your phone calls, emails, faxes and letters in a timely fashion?  I pride myself on being extremely fast to return all communications.  Often email is best as I can reply when my meeting ends without trading voice mails. However, I am good to communicate by whatever medium you prefer.

When a client contacts me I typically reply within 1-2 hours.  Occasionally I have back to back to back meetings making it impossible to reply that fast but that is very rare.  Test it out… go send me an email right now on the email link. I’ll reply fast I promise!  Likewise, I keep lines of communication with opposing counsel and/or the Court up to aid in your case moving faster!  My goal is CUSTOMER SATISFACTION and contact is a very big part of that.

Lastly, I have clients throughout the world so am used to dealing with remote issues.  Luckily FedEx, email and the ease of scanning/printing documents has made national and even international legal representation really easy! In fact, it really does not matter if you are down the street or in a far flung corner of the world… I can communicate with you and get the documents done quickly!

For example, I have represented a woman in Romania the last couple of years. Her dad died in Sacramento and she wanted me to monitor his probate proceedings and ensure she got her inheritance.   Using email, the scanner and DHL shipping we were always able to quickly get documents for filing within days. The distance really was not an issue.

I have a case with an attorney in San Francisco right now and he does not even use email.  No that’s not a joke. I have to send him faxes.  Fax machines are almost as obsolete as the typewriter. I know you young kids don’t even know what that is do you!?  Ask your parents… or grandparents!

The bottom line is if you are looking to hire an attorney remotely find someone knowledgeable as well as someone who can communicate with the modern technologies.  I am here, ready, willing and able to serve as your remote control attorney!

-John

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New Tax Laws…

Still waiting….

Tick, tock, tick, tock….

I heard a funny client comment the other day.  The guy said to me, “I want to clean up my estate plan to account for Obama’s tax law changes as I don’t want him getting my money….”

This is not political commentary… this is reality.  The tax law “changes” merely go back to what was the law in 2002… long before Obama was the President.  The current law “change” is the law that was written in 2001 by our brain trust in Washington DC.  There is no right and wrong here… both Democrats and Republicans, back in 2001, got together what they thought was a good compromise.

They were likely sure the law would be changed before 2010 and thus you would never have a case where multi-billionaires would die without paying tax, you would never get to the end of 2010 with a sunsetting law that might cause a few really rich people (or their kids) to speed up the dying process, nor would the successors in DC not come up with a permanent law by 2010.

The bottom line is there is complete uncertainty and, it is my current guess, we may see this uncertainty for a while.  This uncertainty has caused a lot of clients to delay in taking action.  Clients with millions of dollars have told me they don’t want to spend the money for estate planning in such an uncertain time. 

The fact is wealthy people will be taxed one way or the other. Will the exemption amount be one million, two million, three point five million or some totally different number?  I don’t know.  Will it be called an “estate tax,” a “gift tax,” a “capitol gains tax,” or some other tax?  I don’t know. However, I know that rich people will be taxed.  Or as my friend James would say, “rich people will be taxed period dot.”

The estate tax has long been a favored way, in Washington DC, to tax the rich. With our current economic times it is silly and naive to think wealthy people won’t be taxed. If you are a wealthy person (and you know who you are) then you will be taxed and thus you should be doing estate planning NOW!

A lot of estate planning choices give other benefits besides tax savings.  Yes, they will give tax savings later but they may do other things now. 

For example, a Qualified Personal Residence Trust (“QPRT”) is an irrevocable trust that provides asset protection.  It also gets future appreciation out of your estate so doing a QPRT now, with such low home values, can be a huge tax savings down the road.  QPRTs are designed for your personal residence and one other (non-income producing) home which is typically a vacation home.

Another great one is doing a family limited partnership (“FLP”).  It is a business entity to hold assets which gives continuity, keeps control away from irresponsible kids, and down the road can provide some huge tax savings.  It is great for rental properties, businesses and can even be implemented for large stock portfolios.

Another simple estate planning device is the irrevocable life insurance trust (“ILIT”).  Having your life insurance in an ILIT can provide benefits well above any tax savings. What about creating asset protected money for your spouse and kids!?  Plus, life insurance grows without tax, pays out without tax, and creates a huge pool of liquidity after death.

These are just a few of the major estate planning devices you should be looking at how regardless of what the taxes are. Of course, all of the above in addition to your standard revocable trust, wills, powers of attorney and the like!  Plus, it’s always a good idea to review your assets and confirm that the ownership is properly titled in your trust.

Call me to discuss your estate plan!  -John