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Free Money?

Lawyers often spend more time than they would like on things that are not directly related to getting work done for clients.    The covid virus is not helping.

As are many lawyers, we are spending lots of time trying to figure out how to provide services to clients, while limiting interactions with them.    We are taking the social distancing and protocols offered by government officials seriously, to slow the spread as the saying goes, and to protect our clients and ourselves from inadvertent transmission.   Unfortunately, at this point the procedures the State has given us to allow remote execution of documents is quite burdensome so it seems nearly all lawyers are still having in person meetings to have documents signed.    The Elder Law Section of the Connecticut Bar Association is supporting a revision of existing Executive Order (7Q) that purportedly allows remote execution of documents, so it might be of more practical use.  Hopefully the Governor will find the request meritorious.

The part of work that most lawyers feel best about is meeting with clients, when we can learn about their concerns and goals, and help them settle on an approach to, as the old saying goes, put their affairs in order.

These days, our meetings are mostly reduced to video conferences, or phone conferences.   And we are finding yes, we can do our jobs and still meet client needs without in person meetings, but I do think something important may be lost in the process.    Interestingly, I just had my annual physical on a video conf, and it went pretty well.    Some aspects of the annual physical were not done, as you might imagine…the men reading this anyway, and some of that, well……can’t say I miss it.    With some serious trepidation, I also just scheduled a dental visit after familiarizing myself with the impressive procedures my dentist has put in place to protect me and them.

Which leads me to one of my favorite soap boxes.   Why is it we think we need to see our doctors, dentists, accountants, financial advisors regularly, but that once we sign estate plan documents its “hey, we’ve done it”…..and there is no need to have a regular review meeting with the attorney who drafted the documents?    So many issues that may arise and cause trouble for your or your heirs can be addressed by a regular review meeting with your attorney.   Think of it as an annual check up.    In part maybe just to maintain the relationship so it exists if something unexpected and serious does occur.    Think of it as having your vital signs checked annually.    Most annual doctor visits you go in and they say, yep, you’re doing OK keep up the good work.   And you feel good hearing that.   I think a similar annual legal check up with your attorney would leave you with a similarly good feeling.    “We’re staying on top of things.”

One of the photos on this newsletter show you my handiwork in hanging a 3 X 5 sheet of plexiglass over our conference table, which I put up anticipating in person meetings with clients at some point.    These are appearing everywhere so we thought we should have one, too.   Exactly how much it will add to the use of masks, I don’t know.   Another photo is one I meant to send last month and which I hope gives you a moment of amusement, of me in a mask Karen made for me.   Stylish, don’t you think?   But to this point, if we are seeing a client in person, perhaps for signing of documents, we are doing that outside, as we are told that is safer than indoors.   I am working on making some interior spaces suitable for in person meetings.

One of this month’s articles discusses the government’s waiver of the obligation to take RMDs this year from retirement plans and IRAs.

Another one is about obligations to return stimulus checks for deceased persons.    I was amused today to read an article that the government is issuing debit cards in the mail to some, apparently in envelopes and packaging that leads some to think the cards are part of a scam……..

I got a call the other day from a client wondering if she could “put her daughter’s name on the house”.  This is a question that is often raised by a parent, or sometimes a child, whether Mom or Dad should deed their home to their child, or “put my child’s name on the deed”, and every time I am reminded of how many factors should be weighed in making the decision.  Usually the callers have not thought about the income tax consequences of a given course of action, which can be very significant if for example, a parent who bought a home many years ago gives it to her child in a way that the child gets the parents income tax “basis” from the date when the parent acquired the property.    With some planning, there are ways to give property away, but in such a way that at the parent’s death the child receives the date of death valuation as their tax basis, thereby perhaps saving thousands of dollars in capital gain taxes.

Please remember the articles are written as general information pieces, and are not intended as legal advice.   Always see a professional advisor before embarking on any new course of action.

Best Wishes.

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