Wednesday, July 8, 2020

I hope all of my readers continue to be well.

In my May 1 posting, I wrote about how the CARES Act waives required minimum distributions from retirement accounts for 2020, and, if you’ve already taken a distribution this year, that you can return it under certain circumstances. However, I also pointed out that you could return your required minimum distribution only if (1) you were the plan participant or a spousal beneficiary and (2) you took the distribution after January 31, 2020.

That has changed! The IRS issued Notice 2020-51 on June 23, saying that required minimum distributions are not required to be taken in 2020, even if the distribution is taken by a nonspouse beneficiary (i.e., from an inherited retirement account). Additionally, there is no longer a requirement that the distribution be taken after January 31, 2020. Finally, if you did take a distribution in 2020 and you don’t want it and don’t want to pay taxes on it, you have until August 31, 2020 to return the distribution to the retirement plan.

I hope this is helpful to you. Please take care and stay safe.


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

I hope all of my readers continue to be well.

I write to let you know that, beginning in July, we will be able to meet face-to-face with you! I’m looking forward to seeing you again.

California and Pasadena’s reopening orders now allow office businesses to reopen, as long as appropriate safety measures are taken. To prepare for this and to protect you, we have purchased:

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Disposable face masks
  • Disposable gloves (sizes medium and large)
  • Hand wipes
  • Disinfecting wipes (I scored three cans at the market last week)
  • Single-use fingerprint strips
  • Can you think of anything we missed? Please let me know.

There is a nice patio between the building and the parking structure, so if you prefer and weather permitting, we can meet there. We will observe appropriate social distancing and do all that we can to keep you safe. Alternatively, we can meet in the conference room at my office.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to give you a hug and we can’t serve you coffee.

If you prefer, we will continue to offer remote meetings using Zoom and remote signings using DocVerify. Or, we can do a hybrid, with some meetings handled remotely and some in person. Just let us know what works for you.

So, if you’ve been thinking about improvements to your estate plan, give us a call. If you know someone else who has expressed concerns about taking care of their affairs, please tell them about us. We can communicate by phone, email, Zoom and now — in person!

I hope this is helpful. Please take care and stay safe.


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

I hope all of my readers continue to be well.

I want to thank everyone for your responses to the email blasts I’ve sent over the past two months in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Your comments been quite encouraging and it’s nice to know that what I have been writing has been helpful to you.

Based upon your positive feedback, and because I find writing these posts enjoyable, I thought I would continue writing.

Because of the current pandemic, we’re being forced to confront our mortality, aren’t we? I know that when my clients come in, I dump a ton of information on them and that sometimes it’s hard for people to absorb it all. So, I thought I would do a series of brief explanations of what each document in a typical estate plan is designed to accomplish.

I’ll start with the advance health care directive (called a living will in many other states). This is the document by which you designate the people who will make healthcare decisions for you if you are not able to do it yourself. You can also leave instructions for end-of-life decisions (do you want the DNR to go into effect?) and for your “final arrangements” (that is, instructions about donating your organs and disposition of your remains).

What happens if you don’t have an advance directive? If you become ill and can’t make your own healthcare decisions, no one will have the legal authority to make them for you. No one will know what your end-of-life wishes are. As you can imagine, this can create immense conflict and angst among your family members and healthcare providers, as well as unnecessary pain for you.

If you are stressing about any of this, or know someone else who is, I’d be happy to communicate with you or them by phone, email or Zoom.

I hope this is helpful. Please take care and stay safe.


Friday, May 1, 2020

I hope all of my readers are well.

In my last posting, I wrote about how the CARES Act waives required minimum distributions from retirement accounts for 2020, and, if you’ve already taken a distribution this year, that you can return it under certain circumstances.

I write now because we have some clarification from the IRS about exactly what distributions can be returned. The IRS has extended the deadline to return the funds to July 15, but ONLY if you can answer YES to the following two questions:

  • Was the distribution from a retirement account to which you made contributions or an IRA that was inherited from your spouse?
  • Did you take the distribution after January 31?

If your answer to either of the questions is no, you are out of luck. Why can’t distributions taken in January be returned? I have no idea.

I hope this is helpful to you. Please take care and stay safe.


Tuesday, April 7, 2020

I hope all of my readers are well.

By now, all of you should have heard of the CARES (the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act signed into law on March 27. It’s the federal economic stimulus package that provides, among other things, for expanded unemployment benefits and loans for businesses struggling with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

You may also have heard that the CARES Act allows people who must take required minimum distributions (“RMD”) from their retirement accounts to skip their distribution for 2020 without penalty. So, if you don’t need the money and don’t want to pay the taxes, this might be good news for you.

But what if you are efficient and have already taken your RMD in 2020? You can put it back as long as you do so within sixty days of the date you withdrew the funds. If this sounds good to you, I suggest you consult with your tax professional and your financial advisor to see what they say.

What if you, like me, inherited a retirement account from someone who died before 2020? Under the CARES Act, the rule about waiving the required distribution is the same. However, since you cannot contribute to an inherited retirement account, the rule for redepositing funds you withdrew in 2020 is different. If you took the money out already this year, you can’t put it back, and you are stuck — just like I am.

I hope this is helpful to you. Please take care and stay safe.


Thursday, April 2, 2020

I hope all of my readers are well.

I thought I would give you a brief update on our efforts to continue to serve you. In my last COVID-19 posting, I wrote about how I am handling signing documents while abiding by orders from the City of Pasadena/County of Los Angeles/State of California to stay home.

The biggest hiccup has been having documents notarized. That’s a problem, because documents that involve real property — that is, things like deeds, trusts, or powers of attorney — must be notarized under California law.

California does not allow remote notarization — that is, when the notary acknowledges a document even when the person signing the document is not in the same room as the notary. However, some other states do. California will honor a document validly notarized in another state. I have therefore started developing relationships with a couple of remote notaries in Nevada (why Nevada? Because it’s the same time zone as California). So, when it’s time to sign your planning documents, we will work with the remote notary to get it done. I’ll walk you through the entire process before you sign the documents.

The moral of the story? We can pretty much do whatever it is we need to do to protect your interests while we are all sheltering in place. I miss seeing everyone in person, but it’s good to know that, even while we are remote, I can take care of my clients. So, if you’re thinking you might want to talk to me about your current needs, I’d love to hear from you. If you know people who have expressed concern about protecting themselves and their families, I’d be happy to talk to them, too.

Take care and stay safe.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

I hope all of my readers are doing well after their first weekend on lockdown!

I thought I would bring you up to date on our efforts at the Pasadena Law Group to continue to provide for our clients, even if we should not/are not allowed to meet face to face. So, we’ve investigated technology that allows us to continue to communicate with each other, and to enable you to keep your estate plan current.

First, we now have the technology to do online video conferences, using Zoom. All you need is a computer and an internet connection. You will be able to see me, and I can share my computer screen with you. If you have a video camera connected to your computer, all the better; that way I’ll be able to see you! With Zoom, we can pretty much do anything we could do if we were sitting in my conference room. Zoom is easy to use and fairly intuitive. Although you may be asked to create your own account, it will be easy and free.

The one thing I can’t do with Zoom is notarize your documents — California does not allow remote notarizations. What we can do, however, is have you sign your documents using DocuSign. The documents will be legally valid, just as if you had signed them in front of me. The only thing is that you won’t be able to use them for real property transactions until the documents have been acknowledged by a notary public.

My vision of how to handle this is to have an online meeting, walk you through the documents, and have you sign them through DocuSign. When we can see each other face-to-face again, I’ll set up a meeting with you to complete the notary acknowledgments and sign new wills. In the meantime, you will have documents that are contractually valid and evidence of your intent if something happens to you before we can meet face-to-face.

So, the moral of the story is that we are here for you! Please don’t hesitate to call if you have questions or concerns. If you know someone who is fretting about getting his or her legal house in order, I’d be happy to talk to him or her, too.

Take care and stay safe.


Friday, March 20, 2020

Well, it looks as if the State of California is pretty much on lockdown right now. That does NOT mean the Pasadena Law Group is closed — we are open for business! Although we can’t hold face-to-face meetings, we can do online meetings and, if you need to sign documents that must be notarized, we can take advantage of electronic notary procedures. Besides, there’s always the phone. Stay tuned for more solutions.

I must say that I will miss seeing my clients in person. It’s one of the things I like best about my job. However, what I like even better is the sense that I am helping people, and I see no reason why self-isolation should prevent me from continuing to do that.

So, if you have concerns about your legal preparation for our new reality, give me a call. And, if you know someone who has expressed worries about their preparedness, I’d be happy to talk to them, too.

Take care and stay safe.


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

I suspect you have been receiving a lot of emails about the novel Coronavirus/COVID-19 from your doctors, financial advisors and local restaurants. I thought you might appreciate a short note from your lawyer’s perspective.

We certainly do not want to see a pandemic or declining markets, but here we are. Of course, one of the reasons we do estate planning is to prepare for unexpected crises. Who saw this pandemic coming? Since you have worked with us to create your estate plan, you have taken very important steps to protect yourself and your family in case of illness (COVID-19 or otherwise). You already have the right people in place to take care of you and your family, and to manage your assets if you get sick.

However, if we haven’t seen you in awhile, it might make sense to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What has changed since I created my plan?
  2. How long ago did I create my plan?
  3. Are all of my assets titled to coordinate with my estate plan?
  4. Are the beneficiaries of my retirement accounts and insurance policies correct?
  5. Who is going to make financial and healthcare decisions for me if I cannot?

Although it may seem as if the entire world is shutting down, I want you to know that we are open for business. To the extent you prefer to meet remotely, I will do my best to accommodate you; we are exploring the best tools to enable virtual meetings and I have applied to become an “e-notary” — that is, someone who can notarize documents remotely and electronically — so you can sign your completed planning documents in the comfort of your own home!

Finally, on a less esoteric note, I attach a recipe so you can make your own hand sanitizer.

If you have concerns about any of this, please give me a call — we are here to help. And if any of your friends have similar concerns, I would be happy to talk to them, too.

Hand Sanitizer Recipe

(Courtesy of Fair Oaks Women’s Health)

Mix 1 cup of Isopropyl alcohol, ½ cup Aloe Vera gel, a few drops of scented oil (for aroma), 1-2 drops of Vitamin E oil (for skin softening) and enough water to thin the gel mixture to appropriate consistency.

Use in good health!