George Clooney, Estate Planning and “The Descendants”

In the new movie, “The Descendants,” George Clooney is an estate attorney, husband, and father.  He’s also struggling with a conflict over land his family has owned for generations. As the trustee, Clooney must deal with his money-hungry relatives’ pressure to sell the valuable, unspoiled  property to developers.

The film has received great reviews, and it’s a wake-up call: family conflicts are easy to prevent, but expensive and time-consuming if you just ignore them.  You can’t wait until the owner is dead, or disabled and can’t communicate.

So enjoy the film. And come discuss your family’s inheritance and control-of-asset issues with us.

Shielding Personal Assets from Business Risks

blank business card

A proprietorship is the business equivalent of nothing. A vacuum. You’re a proprietorship if you never bothered to incorporate or LLC your business. So proprietorships are the cheesecloth of business entities: everything passes through a proprietorship to its owner — including creditors.

On the asset protection scale of what works, a proprietorship is a zero.

So why would someone want to be in a business as a proprietorship?  Well, it’s seductively easy, a real do-it-yourselfer. Pick a name for your business.  Print up some business cards and stationery showing the name.  Get a website. Voilà. You’re now a proprietorship.  But big deal. Read more

Fox+Mattson Featured in 2011-2012 LLC Handbook

Fox+Mattson, P.C. has again provided the Georgia model LLC documents for the 2011-2012 edition of the “Limited Liability Company Handbook” published by West Thomson Reuters as part of their Securities Law Handbook Series. The Handbook is edited by Mark A. Sargent, Dean of the Villanova University School of Law, and Walter D. Schwidetzky,  Professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law.

New Tax Break for Caregiver Costs

Providing care for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be an expensive, long-term problem.  (You know this already, right?  Or been thinking about it?  Sooner or later, everyone thinks about it.)

Now you can catch a break.

On July 5th, 2011, the United States Tax Court held that expenses you incur for providing unlicensed caregivers will be deductible on your income tax return.

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The Pet Trust: Protecting Your Animal After You’re Gone

dogThe widowed aunt had written in her Will: “I give $5,000 to [nephew] if he takes care of my cat.”

The nephew put the cat to sleep.  He then demanded the five grand from his aunt’s estate. His reason: “I took care of the cat.”

They ended up in court.  Read more

After Death, Don’t Rush The Net

Memo to someone who has just lost a loved one: don’t rush the net.

You’re kidding, right? Not at all. There is no legal reason to do anything quickly. And there are lots of legal reasons not to. Go be with family. Talk to clergy and friends. And do as little as possible with tax-significant assets.   Read more

Who Will Make Your Financial Decisions if You are Unable to Make Them Yourself?

What good is having access to a safe deposit box if you don’t have the key and you’re not ont he signature card?

What if someone asked you to drive his car in an emergency but he didn’t give you the car keys?

What if a relative wanted you to handle financial matters for her, but the authorization she signed for you didn’t work?

In each case, you’re holding a firecracker but you’re missing the fuse. You have only half of what you need to do the job. Without the activation half — the “Launch Code” — you’re stuck where you are, and so is the person you’re supposed to be helping.

So, you can have very important-looking papers which authorize you to act if someone else is disabled. They have familiar titles, like “Financial Power of Attorney” or “Living Will.” They read right: you are to collect the income, pay the bills and do all the financial chores for that person. Read more

Deal with Inherited Real Estate Before Another Person Dies

houseIgnoring property to be inherited is a problem which never goes away. It inevitably gets worse. As a model, consider what happened in the family of T.L. Piggy, Sr.

In 1950, T.L. (short for “This Little”) went to market in East Cobb County. He liked some farm acreage and bought it for $30,000.     Read more

It’s Critical to Discuss Your Will with Your Children – Even if it’s Uncomfortable

Certain superstitions are silly: “Handling a toad gives you warts.” “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.” “It’s good luck to find a horseshoe.” (Unless, of course, it’s still attached to the horse).

Other superstitions have intellectual issues: When Punxsutawney Pete looks for his shadow on Groundhog Day, how does he know what he’s looking for? Or does the shadow know?

Other superstitions come with directions: “Pull off the petals of a daisy one by one, naming a boy (or a girl as the case may be) at each one, thus: Jenny, Fanny, Jenny, Fanny, etc. The one named with the last petal is your sweetheart.”

Life and death have their superstitions. If you’re having thirteen for dinner in Brookline, MA, “the last one who sits down will not die.” In nearby Somerville, “the one who rises first from a table of thirteen will not live through the year.” So if you’re invited to dinner in New England, take your time showing up and chew your food really, really well.

Here’s a superstition which is both worthless and dangerous: “If you discuss your Will with your children, you die really soon.”

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