Posted by & filed under Estate planning, Retirement Planning.

As we all know, most attorneys go above and beyond to ensure their clients are overjoyed with their work; it is important to recognize that attorneys cannot bend rules to get clients out of every nightmare they come across. For years, I have prided myself on my team’s abilities to extricate our clients from any messes they have encountered or even caused. Unfortunately there are some things even I can’t help with – here are five of them for your amusement and enlightenment.

1. We Cannot Abuse Attorney-Client Privilege

Attorney-client privilege is a client’s right to refuse to disclose information that was confidentially shared between themselves and their lawyer. This law encourages clients to share information that will prompt the lawyer to better assist them in their representation. There are certain limitations to this privilege. First, a client cannot use the privilege to further a case of fraud, tort or crime. I can’t help people commit a crime, and keep secrets if they are planning to kill someone. I also can’t help their heirs if they name the wrong beneficiaries on the accounts or keep them out of probate if they don’t properly fund the trust.  If things in their life change and they don’t come in for an update, lawyers can’t be responsible for the big mess that will leave! Remember your lawyer’s legal limits when considering their lawyer-client privilege. Along with abusing privilege, lawyers can also not neglect it. Beneficiaries and clients are entitled to all the information shared between themselves and their lawyer.

2. We Cannot Represent Both a Trustee and a Beneficiary

When I represent the trustee or Executor, I can’t represent a beneficiary, and vice versa. These people will have wildly differing wishes that a single attorney cannot protect. An attorney is responsible for protecting clients but not in any manner that can disparage their clients, and this can include working with multiple clients. Along with this, a lawyer’s loyalty to their clients can be limited to responsibilities of those they formerly protected.

3. Cannot Be a Legal Entity

A trust involves the trustee, the property, and the beneficiary. Trustees and beneficiaries are legal persons who are capable of retaining respective legal counsels. However, since the owned property is not a legal being, neither trustees nor beneficiaries can represent “the trust” as an entity, and both parties must respect the other’s interests. Contact Law Offices of Joel Harris for further explanation of this limitation.

4. Cannot Show Biases

A bias should not be present in an attorney’s representation of a client. If a lawyer’s conduct in a case is tainted in any way, it can become next to impossible for the lawyer to properly represent the client. Discussions involving biases can limit a lawyer’s ability to represent the client and must be avoided. Finally, no sexual relations with clients are allowed because it is a breach of privacy and an extreme case of bias.

5. Cannot Have Any Conflicts of Interest

In the case of conflict of interest, this means that attorneys cannot represent multiple clients without the consent of each party. It is the attorney’s responsibility to get the consent of their clients while disclosing any possible conflicts. There is no excuse for conflict of interest even if the client matters are unrelated. An attorney must not represent two parties in a dispute and is bound by the American Bar Association rules to avoid even the appearance of conflict.  Rule 1.1 and 1.3 state that representation is prohibited if the terms lead to the lawyer being unable to properly represent their client.

Are You Worried about Your Estate Plan?

If you are not properly prepared and with a well-planned will, then your family could be vulnerable to higher tax bills, extensive legal fees, and familial conflicts. To avoid those obstacles you should visit an Estate Planning Attorney to get professional help, and create a plan that well suits your goals.

At The Law Offices of Joel A Harris , with locations in the cities of Concord, Walnut Creek, Antioch, California, we have worked for over 25 years giving the best guidance our clients need to protect their assets. Have a question about your planning your estate? Feel free to schedule a sit-down meeting where we are happy to patiently answer every question you may have. For your free consultation reach out to us at (925) 757-4605.

Sources

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trust_law
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attorney%E2%80%93client_privilege
  3. http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Attorneys/Conduct-Discipline/Client-Trust-Accounting-IOLTA/Guidelines
  4. https://law.justia.com/cases/california/court-of-appeal/2d/121/252.html
  5. https://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/publications/model_rules_of_professional_conduct/rule_1_7_conflict_of_interest_current_clients/comment_on_rule_1_7/

Posted by & filed under Right to Die Act.

State of the Right to Die Act in California

The End of Life Option Act allows adults diagnosed with terminal diseases to request aid-in-dying drugs from their physician. There are certain requirements said person must meet in order to qualify for such a request. The requestee must be 18, a California resident, have a diagnosis of a terminal disease, be able to make their own medical decisions, and be able to self-administer the drug with no assistance from others. The Act, filled with pros and cons, will also require the physician to submit paperwork to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), or the department of health of their specified state.  In this article we break down the act and what it means to Californians and their loved ones.

1. The Act Was Created Four Years Ago

The act was enacted in October 2015, making California the fifth state to allow physicians to prescribe these drugs, also referred to as physician-assisted suicide. It is notable that  Governor Jerry Brown put it into effect in June of 2016, eight months after its original creation, due to it being passed during a special session. Brown’s main motive was feeling unable to deny the right of choice to anyone who wanted to carry out their own decision as quickly as possible.

“The act was enacted in October 2015, making California the fifth state to allow physicians to prescribe these drugs, also referred to as physician-assisted suicide.”

2. The Act Has Been Subject to Controversy

Since its initial adoption, the End of Life Option Act has stirred controversy due to its supposed lack of ethics. On May 15, 2018, Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia issued a temporary appeal to the act, stating that it was irregularly passed. According to the appeal, the act is not directly related to the healthcare issues it was slated to be passed to aid, making its claims invalid. Xavier Becerra appealed this ruling, asking the act to be in effect until the matter was completed running through court. For the next month, Becerra and Ottolia simultaneously appealed one another’s rulings; this battle ended on June 15th when California’s Court of Appeals granted the state’s request to continue to fund the ELOA while the case was being considered.

3. As Of Now, The Act is In Effect

In November, the state appeals court rejected yet another appeal to the act, stating that its nature and motives should allow it to be left in effect. On January 8, 2019, opponents of the act asked the superior court to reconsider their support of the act, stating that its fine print is unconstitutional. This appeal was ultimately unsuccessful, as twenty days later the California AG asked the court to deny their appeal. Overall, despite its uncertain future, it is fairly certain that supporters of the multifaceted act will continue to fight for it and those who oppose it will continue to do so.

Are You Worried about Your End of Life Plan?

If you are not prepared with a current estate plan then your family could be vulnerable to higher tax bills, extensive legal fees, and familial conflicts. To avoid those obstacles you should visit an Estate Planning Attorney to get professional help, and create a plan that well suits your goals.

At The Law Offices of Joel A Harris located in the cities of Concord, Walnut Creek, Antioch, California, we have worked for over 25 years giving the best guidance our clients need to protect their assets. Have a question about your planning your estate? Feel free to schedule a sit-down meeting where we are happy to patiently answer every question you may have. For your free consultation reach out to us at (925) 757-4605.

Sources

  1. https://www.deathwithdignity.org/states/california/
  2. https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/California-s-right-to-die-law-upheld-by-state-13426626.php
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_End_of_Life_Option_Act
  4. https://coalitionccc.org/tools-resources/end-of-life-option-act/
  5. https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CHSI/Pages/End-of-Life-Option-Act-.aspx

Posted by & filed under Asset Protection, Estate planning, Inheritance Tax, taxes.

Are you worried about the Estate and Gift Tax limits for 2019?  Confused about the new tax provisions? The IRS has issued tax year 2019 inflation adjustments for more than 60 tax provisions, including tax rate schedules. They also announced the official estate and gift tax limits for 2019 as follows: the estate and gift tax exemption is $11.4 million per individual, up from $11.18 million in 2018. That means an individual can leave $11.4 million to heirs and pay no federal estate or gift tax, while a married couple can shield $22.8 million.  In this article we break down the Estate Tax Exemption, the Gift Tax and what you can do now to minimize your future tax liability.

1. What Is The Estate Tax Exemption?

    The estate tax is a federal tax imposed on estates over a certain value. That value is known as the “estate tax exemption,” “combined estate and gift tax exemption,” or “unified credit.” If an estate is worth more than the exemption amount, the value over the exemption amount will be taxed. If the estate is worth less than the exemption amount, there is no tax liability. The higher the exemption amount, the less estates will have to pay in taxes. The Trump Presidency tax cuts are scheduled to expire after 2025, meaning the estate tax exemption will revert to its inflation-indexed base of $5 million. Estates of decedents who die during 2019 have a basic exclusion amount of $11.4 million; the previous year was $11.18 million. The basic exclusion amount for gift and the estate tax is $11.4 million plus deceased spousal unused exclusion amount. If you live in one of the 17 states or the District of Columbia that levy separate estate and/or inheritance taxes, there’s even more at stake, with death taxes sometimes starting at the first dollar of an estate.  California does not have a State inheritance tax.

2. What Is The Gift Tax “Annual Exclusion Amount” For 2019?

The annual gift exclusion amount for 2019 remains at $15,000 per individual each year, unchanged from 2018. This means you can give $15,000 to as many people you want each year without filing a gift tax return. You can exclude that $15,000 from a gift tax return. For most people, gift taxes will not be a concern since the combined estate and gift tax exemption is so high. However you are still required by law to report gifts over the annual exclusion amount on a gift tax return, IRS form 709. There are few significant changes to Form 706, United States Estate and Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax Return. The one change that will impact all filers is the elimination of the allowable State Death Tax Credit, for decedents dying in 2005 and later years, is a deduction.


3. What Can You Do Now? Minimize Taxes Through Estate Planning

Sometimes gifts can be used strategically to avoid estate taxes or to minimize other problems after death. There are many advanced estate planning strategies available to help reduce or minimize the estate tax. Other times, gifts can have adverse tax consequences. Estate and gift taxes are a complicated estate planning topic. It is always a good idea to talk to an attorney before making a major gift. Misunderstanding these concepts or failing to prepare for them can hold critical consequences for your beneficiaries. As always, our advice is to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney so you are able to choose the best path to protecting your assets.

Are You Worried about Your Estate Plan?

If you are not prepared with a current estate plan then your family could be vulnerable to higher tax bills, extensive legal fees, and familial conflicts. To avoid those obstacles you should visit an Estate Planning Attorney to get professional help, and create a plan that well suits your goals.

At The Law Offices of Joel A Harris located in the cities of Concord, Walnut Creek, Antioch, California, we have worked for over 25 years giving the best guidance our clients need to protect their assets. Have a question about your planning your estate? Feel free to schedule a sit-down meeting where we are happy to patiently answer every question you may have. For your free consultation reach out to us at (925) 757-4605.

Sources

  1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2018/11/15/irs-announces-higher-2019-estate-and-gift-tax-limits/#584449ac4295
  2. https://www.ncfgiving.com/stories/irs-announces-higher-2019-estate-and-gift-tax-limits/
  3. https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/whats-new-estate-and-gift-tax