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With the holiday season rapidly approaching, family becomes a primary focus.  Family gatherings provide a valuable opportunity to discuss and assess various needs that have arisen. This is why the holidays are a great time to think about estate planning.   For those of us with older family members, it becomes imperative that we have estate planning documents in place allowing us to help when a need arises.  Powers of attorney for financial and medical issues allow us to easily handle these matters without having to deal with the court system.  For those of us with minor children, estate planning documents allow us to leave instructions to protect and care for them in case something happens to us.  Finally, having estate planning documents in place allow us to provide our loved ones with peace of mind that our affairs and estate can be handled as efficiently as possible by those left behind.   This holiday season, consider giving the gift of peace of mind by making sure that your estate planning documents are in place and encouraging family members to do the same.

Family Wealth Law Group can help with this important endeavor in two different ways.  To request the assistance of our experienced estate planning attorneys, please contact our office for a complimentary consultation.  Or, to use our Do-It-Yourself services, visit mydiytrust.com.

Link to our new commercial which will air on KCRA 3: http://youtu.be/78oyVlsESnw

Please let us know what you think!

To visit the Do It Yourself Site click on: mydiytrust.com

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) was enacted in 1996 but its enforcement has become much stricter over the years. Among other things, this law specifically protects any information held by a hospital that concerns health status, provision of health care, or payment for health care that can be linked to an individual, including any part of an individual’s medical record or payment history. As a result of this law, many hospitals have not allowed patient information or condition to be released to the loved ones of an individual who is hospitalized, even if the patient is critically ill. Therefore, it is imperative that individuals be given the specific authority to receive the information protected under HIPPA.

Generally, Advance Healthcare Directives contain the necessary HIPPA provisions. However, documents prepared prior to 2003 may not contain the necessary language. Therefore, it is important to review older documents to ensure that they are in compliance. Those individuals listed as healthcare agents are the decision makers and will have full access to information under HIPAA as well as under the relevant California law (CMIA). However, if there are family members or other loved ones an individual would like to have access to information about their medical condition but not have the authority to make decisions, they should be named in a separate document referred to as a HIPAA Waiver. Those individuals who are not listed on either document will be denied access to any information, even if they are a member of their immediate family! Therefore, it becomes imperative that specific authorization under HIPAA and CMIA be included in one’s estate planning documents.

For more information about our services, www.familywealthlawgroup.com

Estate Planning is something people know they should do but is very often not done.  I hear numerous excuses from clients about why they have put off starting the process. Generally, expense, time, and reluctancy to discuss their mortality top the list.  In order to eliminate some of these excuses, our firm offers a Do It Yourself Service which allows clients to significantly cut down on the time and expense of establishing their estate planning documents.  Through our website, clients are able to conveniently complete their documents online, at a much lower cost than our traditional services, and still have the assurance of attorney review and the ability to get the help they need.  It is self help but with professional assistance.  For more information about our DIY Service, please visit http://www.familywealthlawgroup.com/diy.html

DIYad

          The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 (“TRUIRJCA”) signed by President Obama can be construed as an improvement, but unfortunately only for the next two years.  The new law allows for an exclusion amount of $5 million with a maximum estate tax rate of 35 percent.  This appears to be a vast improvement over the previous law which would have provided for a measly $1 million exclusion and whopping 55 percent maximum tax rate.  However, it is important to keep in mind that this law is temporary and is scheduled to sunset once again, this time on December 31, 2012.  Therefore, this new law only benefits those individuals that die within the next two years.  Otherwise, for those clients who plan to live past 2012, we are still left with uncertainty. 

               Other benefits of the new tax law include the stepped up basis rules and portability.  When property is inherited it receives a stepped up basis equal to the property’s fair market value on the date of the decedent’s death.   The new law also allows for “portability” between spouses of the maximum exclusion meaning that when one spouse passes away the surviving spouse would be able to utilize any unused portion of the deceased spouse’s exclusion amount, providing the surviving spouse with a larger exclusion amount. 

               Another interesting facet of the new law is that it provides an option for estates of decedents who pass away between December 31, 2009 and January 1, 2011.  The option is to elect either apply (1) the estate tax based on the new law or (2) no estate tax and modified carryover basis rules under the previous law.

               Finally, under the new law the GST Tax and Gift Tax exclusions are equal to the estate tax exemption ($5 million) along with a maximum tax rate of 35 percent.  The annual gift tax exclusion remains at $13,000.

               Because the new law is set to sunset back to the original $1 million exemption, for planning purposes it provides very little help.  We must still continue to build into our estate plans as much flexibility as possible from a tax standpoint, while adequately addressing clients’ non-tax concerns.  The focus of estate planning should continue to be on addressing the goals and concerns of the family first and then taxes as a secondary concern.

For more information about our firm, please visit our website at www.familywealthlawgroup.com

FWLG is excited to announce that the firm will serve as legal counsel for the Planned Giving Program of Capital City Aids Fund.  CCAF is a local non-profit organization which was founded to raise money in support of HIV/AIDS services in the Sacramento area.  CCAF hosts a number of exciting events throughout the year including the annual Oscar Night Sacramento.

FWLG attorney Cecilia Tsang will be a speaker at a Planned Giving Event for CCAF on January 25th.  Please click on the event invitation for more information.  CCAF Event Invitation  For more information about Capital City Aids Fund, please visit their website at www.capcityaidsfund.org.

For more information about our services visit www.familywealthlawgroup.com.

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