You Have Five Minutes. . .

On January 28, 1986, Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik and Sharon Christa McAuliffe were killed when the Challenger shuttle mission failed. We know that part.

What’s not commonly known is how quickly – really how slowly – they died. According to news reports, after the initial explosion, the rockets were still working so the shuttle cabin continued to climb. Then it began its tragic, downward descent into the ocean.

The drop could have taken as long as five minutes. Read more

Protecting You in the New Georgia Power of Attorney Statute.

To help you and loved ones grapple with 21st Century control and access issues, Georgia has a new Power of Attorney statute. It’s powerful if you enable it. Here’s why and how.

Imagine: you wake up and realize that (a) you’re lying flat, (b) the ceiling over you isn’t in your bedroom, (c) something’s beeping, (d) something tall and spiky next to you has Baggies hanging on it, and (e) through your toes you can see a whiteboard which says “Your nurse today is Mabel.” Read more

A Short Story of Jack, The Beanstalk and Survivor IRAs.

Once upon a time, Jack discovered that when he and his wife Jackie were both gone, they could leave what was left of the Beanstalk1 to their child2 and grandchildren3 in an incredibly neat, tax-saving way.

They filled out the papers4 so a Beanstalk Trust would be created when they died. Then they lived happily ever after.

When they both died, there was no Fee Fi Fo Fum. The Big Bad Giant5 got no income taxes at all on the Beanstalk. Read more

So You’re Going on a Trip…

As Dr. Seuss put it, “From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.” Or maybe not so funny. So here are a few legal things to consider before you head into the Wild Blue Yonder. Read more

The Lesson of the Three Girls.

What do these three girls have in common?

It was the summer of 1975, and the first girl, 21 years old, was on her own.

She had graduated high school, found a job, and moved out of her parents’ house to live with two friends in an apartment. Life was good.

Her biggest problem at the moment was this dress she had bought. She was going to have to diet if she wanted to wear it.

Which she started to do, drastically. Read more

Introducing: the Trust Protector.

Trust Protectors can clean up substance abuse situations. Changes in families. Unexpected health care issues. Anything else which was impossible to anticipate when the words hit the paper and the trust was created.

You can provide for Trust Protectors in virtually any kind of trust: revocable trusts, living trusts, irrevocable trusts, insurance trusts, credit shelter trusts, marital trusts, QTIP trusts, elder care trusts, special needs trusts, et al.

And having the Trust Protector solution has nothing whatsoever to do with estate taxes. Read more

ABLE Is Ready; Are you Willing?

Closeup of hands on clock face

Know a “disabled beneficiary?” A new Federal program has been adopted in Georgia for their benefit. It’s like a 529 Plan for disabled individuals.
And we call this to your attention now because contributions to such a plan are limited to $14,000 a year . . . and the end of this year is fast approaching.

The new program –ABLE stands for “Achieving a Better Life Experience” – is designed to help individuals and families save money that can be used to support individuals with disabilities. Read more

Corporate Titles Carry Risks.

Businessman contestCorporate titles of your key people can really hurt you or help you. Two real cases show why.

The first case: Brady and two friends were officers and employees of a company which flew small planes to ferry people from little city airports to a major airport.

One day, they learned that an opportunity was coming up: a chance to do the same thing to a new city. They figured this was a great chance to do their own thing. So they quit the company they’d been working for, formed a new company for themselves, and bought the new route.

The only problem: the new route was the kind of business their old employer did, and would have done.

The second case: Bellomo was hired to be “Director of Wireless Sales” for a company which did wireless networks. Two years later, while still employed by that company, he and a partner secretly formed a new company to do the same thing. Read more

George Speaks at Big Canoe

George will be speaking at Squires and Stags on Friday, September 9, 2016 at the Clubhouse at Lake Sconti (in Big Canoe). Please see the article below for details.

Marriage, Assets, and Chocolate Milk.

Hear ye, all marrieds, to-be-marrieds, those facing first marriages, subsequent marriages, adult children with remarried parents, et al.

Separating “marital assets” into “separate assets” can be like trying to undo chocolate milk. Pour chocolate syrup into milk to get chocolate milk; that’s easy. But afterward, try to separate them back to syrup and milk? Good luck.

The happy couple should never, ever change the names on assets (investments, real estate, etc.) naively, casually, or offhandedly. Thoughtfully, yes; deliberately, yes.  But casually, no.

Here’s the deal.  Sometimes marriages go sour.  When that happens, the law knows there’s (a) separate property and (b) marital property. (Obviously, we’re not talking about Wii consoles and Bundt pans.)

The difference: separate property stays with its owner. Separate property can be controlled when a marriage ends at death. Separate property can stay separate in a divorce.

But marital property is treated differently. It gets divided up “equitably.” This means someone decides the who-gets-what percentage each owner gets.  In an unhappy marriage, it can take a judge and jury to decide.  Same for the dissolution of other relationships.

So the first threshold: is the disputed property separate or marital? If the latter, how is it to be divided up fairly, including whatever growth is in the assets, improvements, etc. etc. etc.

It’s not an easy question to answer. Consider a seemingly-harmless home ownership (and this is a real case). Husband owned the house. Got married.  Wife moved in. Five years later, the husband signed a deed making him and his wife “tenants in common” but with a “right of survivorship.”  (That combination is a little bizarre, but it’s basically ok.)

A few years later, the marriage soured. And the house, which had been the husband’s separate property despite their both living there, became marital property by his signing that deed.

It gets worse. What’s “separate vs. marital” is not always that clear-cut. How about the husband and wife who met on a dating website, and got married. They did a nice pre-marriage job dividing up who would keep what.  And each had a house which they were going to keep, even though they would live together in his.

The marriage ended after 19 months.

The wife then claimed that the husband’s house should be treated as marital property, and not as his separate property, as previously agreed upon.

Why? After moving in, she had spent over $15,000 fixing up his house.  She used her own money to make payments on the husband’s mortgage. At one point, he deeded the house into her name and then they undid that, when he heard that doing so wouldn’t help him protect the house from his creditors.

Long story short: the trial court and the Supreme Court both held that the house stayed his separate property, and was not marital property.

If you’re looking for consistency in deciding between marital property and separate property, it’s a case-by-case issue.  So we recommend: confront the issue. Discuss the issue.  Get legal counsel.

Especially if there are children from an earlier marriage. What a parent owns and which should go to his/her children after remarriage and subsequent death could easily become marital property . . . gutting what the children will get.

Choices? If you get an inheritance, keep it separate. That hurts nothing.  If you die, your Will can deal with it. If you’re incapacitated, your financial power of attorney can preserve it.

If you’re getting married, think through – and get advice on — what things should be titled in whose name. You can light a unity candle. You can plant a unity tree.  But don’t heave your combined assets into a financial unity dumpster without getting counsel on the consequences.

You can even consider a hybrid: a limited liability company.  In a particular structure, it enables you to keep things combined for some purposes, and separate for others.

But that’s topic for a different day. Go get some chocolate milk.