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Survey reveals more than one-third of wealthy individuals lack estate plans

The CNBC Millionaire Survey has found that 38 percent of 750 millionaires surveyed have not consulted a financial expert to establish an estate plan. The poll conducted by Spectrem Group for CNBC revealed estate planning was the most prevalent among individuals with investable assets amounting to at least $5 million, with 68 percent having worked with a financial advisor.

Despite being business-savvy, wealthy Americans have demonstrated a reluctance toward thinking about estate planning. The lack of estate plans can be attributed in part to the constant changes in federal estate tax law, which has resulted in what estate planning attorney Michael Gilfix calls “estate-planning fatigue.”

A higher federal estate tax exemption of $5.43 million per person this year could be another reason high-net-worth families have placed a lesser priority on estate planning, holding the view that it is primarily a way to reduce estate taxes. There is more to estate planning, however.
When it comes to protecting and providing for loved ones when you are no longer around, estate planning is one of the most basic and critical steps a person can take. It provides control over what happens to your assets and how you will provide for your children, along with specific instructions about end-of-life wishes that will avoid unnecessary stress and fighting later on.

Inherited assets can be protected if a child endures divorce. Such assets can be protected from litigation, explains Gilfix.

Establishing a sound estate plan involves drafting documents such as wills and powers of attorney, as well as setting up living trusts and addressing property management. Without a plan, you risk leaving life’s important decisions in the hands of the courts and having the care of your children and their inheritance fall into the wrong hands.

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Nike launches groundbreaking shoes for people with special needs

People with special needs face unique challenges that impact the quality of their everyday lives. For parents of special needs children, there is no greater hope than ensuring their child experiences life to the fullest despite having a disability that may inhibit their independence.

Addressing one such issue, on July 13 Nike unveiled a line of shoes designed specifically to help people with special needs who often face difficulties when buying and putting on shoes. Nike was inspired to create the Zoom Soldier 8 Flyease basketball sneaker, the first of its kind, after receiving a letter from Matthew Walzer, a Florida teen with cerebral palsy.

Walzer, now a sophomore at Florida Gulf Coast University, asked for a more accessible line of footwear that would ensure his independence when he went to college and provide support to others like him.

In the 2012 letter, he wrote, “At 16 years old, I am able to completely dress myself, but my parents still have to tie my shoes. As a teenager who is striving to become totally self-sufficient, I find this extremely frustrating, and at times, embarrassing . . . My dream is to go to the college of my choice without having to worry about someone coming to tie my shoes every day.”

After receiving the letter, Nike designer Tobie Hatfield and his team worked with Walzer for three years to design and test prototypes. They finally created the groundbreaking Flyease technology comprising an “easy-entry footwear system.” Instead of laces, which tend to be difficult to tie for people with mobility disorders, the sneaker uses a wraparound zipper system that makes it easier for the wearer to slide their foot in and out of the shoe.

The company started selling limited quantities of the basketball sneaker on their website on July 16. In the future, Walzer dreams of helping Nike to create accessible shoes that “could generate more independence for all abilities.”

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Michael Gilfix in Trusts & Estates Magazine: Addressing Financial Elder Abuse


We wanted to share an article that Michael Gilfix published in the prestigious Trusts & Estates magazine late last year. The article discusses issues related to elder abuse and diminished capacity as individuals age. In this article, Michael presents a new paradigm for thinking about this. He presents ways that families can keep an eye on things and deal with these issues as they arise.

We encourage you to take a look by clicking here. If you have any questions about these issues, we are, of course, available to meet or discuss these with you at any time. We hope you enjoy this article.

The Gilfix & La Poll Team

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Top reasons women need to consider estate planning

Whether single, married, divorced or widowed, every woman should know how to maintain her financial independence and plan for issues she might face as she gets older, such as the need for long-term care.

Women in the United States statistically have longer life expectancies than men, and therefore a higher likelihood of outliving their husbands. In such circumstances, planning for the financial future becomes critical.

Estate planning is one way in which women can take control of their finances in order to ensure long-term economic security. It is also a useful tool for preserving wealth and creating a plan for handling assets upon one’s death.

Many women tend to put off estate planning, not realizing its importance or understanding how to go about it. Taking simple steps such as writing a will or setting up a trust can reduce confusion and expenses for your family when you are no longer around.

Drafting a will forces you to review you financial situation and formally plan how you want to pass on your wealth. Without a will, you die intestate and a court decides how your assets will be divided, based upon certain assumptions.

Trusts can be helpful in protecting your assets and ensuring they go where you intended. They can protect money from children until they are older and keep ex-spouses from gaining access to your funds against your wishes. Talking to a lawyer will help you choose from the many types of trusts available, depending on your needs.

With a well-drafted estate plan in place, some of the financial impact of unexpected life events such as a divorce or the death of a spouse can be reduced. By planning ahead, you can also capitalize on federal estate tax exemptions, ensuring your beneficiaries receive the maximum amount of your assets.

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U.S. Government focuses on elder justice at conference on aging

President Barack Obama hosted the 2015 White House Conference on Aging on July 13. With adults aged 65 and above projected to comprise 20 percent of the United States population by 2030, the conference examined issues of importance to the future of older Americans, their families and caregivers.

Elder justice was in the spotlight at the conference, which took place nearly a month after World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15. Aging opens adults up to a number of vulnerabilities, such as physical and psychological abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.

According to the White House, a 2010 study revealed that one in 10 older Americans experienced abuse in the previous year. While programs and services such as the National Center for Elder Abuse are available for elderly adults seeking help, policymakers play a key role in raising awareness about elder abuse and working towards prevention.

The conference has taken place each decade since the 1960s to discuss how to improve the quality of life for older Americans. Some of the topics that will be addressed include retirement and financial security, healthy aging, long-term support and elder justice.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Medicaid, Medicare and the Older Americans Act. Such governmental programs contribute to providing Americans with peace of mind as they age. Older Americans also need access to a well-placed caregiving network, adequate housing and financial security to maintain healthy, independent lifestyles in their old age.

The Obama Administration has participated in listening sessions since July 2014 to learn from aging leaders and older Americans about the key issues that need to be addressed at the conference.

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Preventing Elder Financial Abuse

Michael Gilfix speaks at this year's Wealth Counsel conference.

Michael Gilfix speaks at this year's Wealth Counsel conference.

On July 16, 2015, Michael Gilfix presented a session/program on this topic at the annual conference of Wealth Counsel, a nationally known and leading estate planning organization. 
What distinguishes this talk is its emphasis on avoiding financial abuse.  Virtually every other article published by attorneys about financial elder abuse focus on litigation, court involvement, and other reactions to abuse after it has taken place. 
Financial abuse can afflict anyone at any time.  50% of financial abusers are family members. 
We at Gilfix & La Poll have extraordinary experience in addressing this issue in a positive, preventive way.  When it takes place, we have been remarkably and consistently successful in recovering assets for victims of financial abuse.
If you or any of your family members or friends have experienced these problems – or if you are worried about them – call us for a consultation. 
Do not let elder financial abuse happen. 

Important Documents for Your Children

By Myra Gerson Gilfix

For 30 years, we have been advising our clients to have their children sign some vital documents when they become 18 years of age.

The fact is that anything can happen to anybody at any time. By no means are 18 year-olds an exception to the rule. Some would say that their behavior proves the rule every day!

Parents who have been consistently in the loop for their child's medical care don't always realize that once a child becomes 18, they may suddenly be considered no more than strangers to medical professionals involved in that now-adult child's emergency care. They need to consider the possible implications of that milestone birthday.

Parents can find it particularly stressful when a college student child is, for example, in an accident. Health care providers may cite HIPAA (federal legislation protecting privacy) as a reason not to allow parents access to information about an ill or unconscious child. In fact, sometimes parents aren't even informed that the child is hurt or ill because the child is legally an adult. Parents and their young-adult children need to think about the unthinkable in advance. Three forms—HIPAA authorization, Advance Health Care Directive, and a Durable Power of Attorney—will help facilitate the involvement of a parent or other trusted adult in a medical emergency.

A Durable Power of Attorney enables someone to act on behalf of the person signing the document if he becomes incapacitated. It enables a parent or other designated agent to take care of business on the student’s behalf. If the student were to become incapacitated or if the student were studying abroad, the person named as agent in a Durable Power of Attorney would be able, for example, to sign tax returns, access bank accounts, and pay bills.

The Advance Directive gives authority to a chosen agent to communicate with doctors and other medical professionals and to make health care decisions when necessary.

A signed HIPAA Authorization will make it crystal clear that a parent (or other trusted person) can be kept in the information loop. It is like a permission slip. It permits health-care providers to disclose the child's health information to anyone specified. A stand-alone HIPAA authorization (not incorporated into another legal document) does not have to be notarized or witnessed. This document alone, signed in advance by your child, will suffice to allow you to get information from the doctors and nurses at a far-away hospital. Young people who want parents to be involved in a medical emergency, but don't want sensitive information disclosed, should not be deterred because the HIPAA authorization does not have to be all-encompassing They can specify not to disclose information about sex, drugs, mental health, or other details they want kept private.

We hope that you will take this very seriously and allow us to take these protective steps on behalf of your children.

To do so, we will have to communicate with your children. We will need to know whom they want to be named in these documents. Who knows, it may be you.

Once the forms are completed, scan and save them so that they are readily available on a smart phone or home computer.