Attorneys are having to get creative with many facets of continuing to practice law. From meetings electronically to court appearances by phone. Yesterday, I took 2 clients to the bank to have their documents witnessed. Can you imagine going in to a bank with a face mask? It was unusual. But it worked. My clients are very relieved to have this task completed. And thank you North Shore Bank for assisting me with this important and necessary function. I have also stood outside windows and watched signings and used binoculars for high rises with balconies to watch signings. As always, I am here to serve.
Tax legislation is coming fast and furious. Amazing how thing get passed in a time of crisis. You and your accountant will become best friends, if you aren’t all ready, as soon as this is all over. There is tons of income tax planning to do for this year. There is also money available from various sources, if needed, or waiver of taking income if not needed. A couple of the top points for you in the most simplest of terms are:
1. You can still make contributions to your IRA accounts and HSA/MSA accounts until July 15, 2020. I know it sounds counter intuitive to take money and tie it up at this time, but there really is nothing better for increasing wealth than these types of accounts.
2. If you don’t need money from your IRA you do not have to take your 2020 required minimum distribution.
3. You can now borrow more from your retirement plan that you could have in the past. You may now borrow the lesser of 100% of the vested amount or $100,000.
4. You may also withdraw without the 10% penalty for those not yet 59 1/2 if it is for adverse financial consequences as a result of COVID-19. You can also repay the money back to your account within 3 years of the withdrawal.
5. The ability to take deductions for charitable contributions will be increased for this year. If you claim the standard deduction, you may also claim up to $300 for cash contributions to charities. Itemizers can claim 100% of AGI (up from 60%) towards their charitable deduction.
I am so lucky. A number of years ago, a client created a donor advised fund at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. We structured guidelines for his fund to meet his charitable interests. When he passed, I took over as the advisor. The first year I had to make distributions, I was literally shaking. I so wanted to honor his desires and goals. The next year I really enjoyed it. The third year I was able to create a synergy between two of his goals. This year I am so overwhelmed. There isn't a charity that won't need extra funding, from the ballet to food banks to the free loan society. And of course, the amount of money we all have to give, including the fund with the Greater Milwaukee Foundation is diminished. I am afraid we will not see many of the arts organizations survive. But when I make this year's allocations I know it will truly be appreciated by the organizations. If you are one of the lucky ones surviving financially in these crazy times, I would love to help you design a charitable plan. With wishes for the a bright future for all of us, Stephanie
I really am one of the few attorneys in the state (and maybe the country) who has created more than 6 pet trusts for various clients. I now am one of those clients. As you can see on my home page, Graycie has a skin condition and the vet costs have been pretty extensive. I don't want anyone to have to bear the cost of her medical treatment. Thus, she has her own trust. Pet trusts can be for all types of animal and designed in all fashions. I have one in Waukesha County that just terminated which I thought was a magnificent design for my late clients' cats. Ask me about it next time we meet.
Recently I had the experience of creating Wills for a couple who are of the Bah'ai faith. It turned out to be the most interesting combination of religious beliefs and secular law. That is what I love about my practice. Every client is unique and every plan and document matches that uniqueness. There are no forms that I purchased or someone else's computer generated programs in my practice. I create everything for the client's individual needs and wants. Thank goodness I do. There are not many of us left who address things in this fashion.
A few years ago a client of my passed away. He left most of his money to a donor advised fund at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. We had devised a plan for him prior to his passing and he was kind enough to put me in charge of the fund at his death. What an honor. I now make grants on his behalf to the causes he cared about. A few of those include the Milwaukee Ballet, Milwaukee Symphony and UPAF. But there are also other smaller social service groups that are tied to the Milwaukee community. I usually plan out the donations in March and every year I pinch myself that I am so lucky to do this. I urge my clients to check out the Greater Milwaukee Foundation as part of their charitable gifting. They will manage donor advised funds beginning at $25,000.00. Call me if you want more information or call them.
When I began my practice we had a library/conference room that was at least 3 times the size of what was my office. The book cases were floor to ceiling and it cost a lot in time and money to keep it all up to date. Today, I have 3 times the size of that library on my laptop. No need for a library room any more. We also had an enormous file room. We had to have the files accessible in case someone called and needed an immediate answer. At $20 a square foot it cost a small fortune to house them. Today, the files are in off site storage, but I can still access most everything from my own personal cloud and the best part is I can be anywhere. There also had to be someone to be there to answer the phone. No one wanted or trusted voice mail. My how things have changed. I answer my own phone and leaving messages for me if I can't get to the phone is comfortable and routine. Computers have eliminated some staff as well. Court filing are done directly from my computer. I wonder what my grandfather would say if he could see this all. I think he would be amazed that that the physical practice of law has certainly changed. What has not changed is the need for good service and knowledge and expertise in the field of the practitioner.
Clients are still asking me about estate taxes. Temporarily, the Federal estate taxes are only applied to estates over $11.58 million, per individual. Wisconsin has no estate tax or inheritance tax. Thus, for now most of my clients do not have to worry about estate taxes. The things to worry about is just having a viable plan in place for your loved ones be it human ones or furry one. But this is another reason to check in with your attorney every 3 years or so to see what changes are happening with the estate tax.
I have always offered clients the service of placing their will in the courthouse vault of the county where they reside. The cost to keep your will in the courthouse vault is $10.00 forever and ever. If of course you have a new will, it will be another $10.00 to put the new one in and we pull out the old one and shred it. So many attorneys don't know that this option exists or don't tell their clients. Two weeks ago I was at a Milwaukee County probate meeting and the question of lost wills came up. I replied, "What lost wills? My clients have theirs in the vault." All the commissioners and probate court personal were busy nodding and smiling. Of course the next week I took on a probate case where we couldn't find the original will. The deceased client did have a copy. His attorney says he doesn't have the original. So we had start a special administration in probate court to hire a locksmith to get into his bank box. Of course there was no will there. So now we are starting a formal probate to prove up the copy of the will. The expenses for this are adding up quickly. Probably an extra $1,500. Make sure your wills are safe and accessible to your loved one. Not only will it save time and aggravation it will save money.
Not really a blog post, but I would like to share with everyone that I am now a certified yoga instructor. How does that help me in my law practice? Not sure yet, but it was another type of challenge for me to master. I guess I am finding it is not enough to just be in an intellectual space all day, the physical is just as important. I will use my new skill as needed for charitable events and such. As of now, I am leading a community Yoga practice on Tuesdays at 6:00 pm at the Quaker House. It is a beautiful location on the river and the classes are free, although we do ask for a donation to the Quaker House.
I love a website with a blog. Now I have a platform to write about all the fun things I get to do as an attorney. So look for more posts and feel free to ask me to write about various topics that are of interest to you.