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Michael and Mark Gilfix speak at Avenidas about tax and planning issues

The Avenidas Center in Palo Alto, California recently invited attorneys Michael Gilfix and Mark R. Gilfix to help local families better understand how to protect their assets and financial legacies for their heirs. These highly experienced estate-planning and tax attorneys spoke to two packed houses about estate-planning tools and how recent tax reforms are likely to impact them.

In the first talk, Michael and Mark Gilfix focused on long-term care and asset protection and how Palo Alto families can ensure a legacy for their heirs. They explained ways to protect financial and other assets from lawsuits, estate taxes and divorce proceedings to ensure that they are there for their children. They explained new planning approaches, including simplifying revocable trusts to save on taxes, and talked about the pros and cons of reverse mortgages and how they affect retirees.

Ensuring quality long-term care is another important element of long-term estate planning that Michael and Mark Gilfix discussed. The nation has a growing retirement-age population that is increasing the demand for long-term care. Sophisticated Medi-Cal planning can help local qualifying families to protect their homes and assets, while saving potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars skilled nursing care costs.

In the second talk, they spoke about Pres. Donald Trump’s tax reform and its likely impacts on family tax and estate planning. The tax reforms impact irrevocable and revocable trusts, estate taxes and income taxes. Homeowners in particular must be aware of a new set of laws governing real estate transactions and how much of their local property taxes they can deduct from federal tax liabilities.

The tax laws also affect wealthy families in the Palo Alto area, which has some of the nation’s highest property values. Some local families are considering moves to states with lower income taxes to escape the impact of the new federal tax laws. Michael and Mark Gilfix discussed the possible pros and cons of such a decision and how it impacts the ability to protect family assets.

Gilfix and La Poll Associates thanks the Avenidas Center in Palo Alto for inviting Michael Gilfix and Mark Gilfix to give these two presentations. Both of these talks were “sold out,” with large audiences. Michael and Mark were thrilled for the opportunity to reach the Palo Alto community.

Long Term and Asset Protection Planning

This presentation by attorneys Michael Gilfix and Mark R. Gerson Gilfix will address:

  • Simplification of your Revocable Trust to massively save on taxes;
  • Passing assets to your children and grandchildren in ways that protect them from divorce, litigation, and estate taxes;
  • How to protect your residence and other assets – and save your family $100s of thousands - while qualifying for Medi-Cal to pay the cost of skilled nursing care;
  • Estate and gift taxes;
  • The pros and cons of reverse mortgages;
  • Long-term care insurance and planning for long term care; and
  • The value and importance of involving your children in the planning process.

To the Bay Area community: Thank you.

Trump Tax Seminar

Trump Tax Seminar AudienceAmidst uncertainty surrounding the new Trump Tax Law, several hundred people attended our recent Gilfix & La Poll Associates seminars. It was incredible to see all of the positive energy generated by the crowd. We are grateful for your support and attendance. These were some of our most well-attended events ever – it was clear that the sometimes confusing subjects of tax and estate planning are on the mind of many throughout the bay area.

The audience’s response inspired us. We want you to know how much we care about our community. We are devoted to teaching local families about the tax, long term care and estate planning issues that affect us all. No one should be left in the dark.

It is our mission to help bay area families to secure a vibrant and secure future. We can help bring “peace of mind” by handling your tax and estate planning issues. If you have any questions regarding the seminars or how Gilfix & La Poll Associates can help you and your family, please do not hesitate to reach out. We are here to help.

Again, thank you!

Michael Gilfix, National Experts Form Trump Policy Analysis Group


The Trump Policy Analysis Group (TPAG)1 has convened to consider probable changes in law that will affect older Americans and those with special needs. Initial TPAG focus is on entitlements, public benefits, tax, special needs planning, and veterans’ benefits.


We used a three-fold analysis:

  • Stated policy (declared Trump policies and those of the Republican Congressional Leadership);
  • “Realpolitik” (circumstances and factors rather than explicit ideology, often considered “pragmatism”); and
  • Educated speculation (based largely on experience and knowledge of TPAG members who have been leaders in these fields for decades).


On January 20, 2017 both the White House and both houses of Congress will be in Republican hands, not seen since 2006. As president Obama said shortly after being elected in 2008, elections have consequences. We acknowledge this reality.

During the long and divisive campaign, differences in priorities and agendas between the major parties, particularly in social and health policy, were greater than in any recent election. In our opinion, the uncertainty and challenges now facing seniors, disabled, and medically needy Americans are unequaled and unsettling.

Our goals are twofold. First, to objectively analyze real and probable changes in government policies that directly impact older Americans and Americans with disabilities. Second, to identify planning and other steps these populations should take to preserve or, ideally, to increase quality of health care and quality of life.


President-elect Trump has consistently stated that the Social Security and Medicare programs are to remain intact and (presumably) solvent. How solvency would be achieved in light of impending bankruptcy of both programs (Medicare long before Social Security) remains to be seen.  Government and non-government economists only disagree about when insolvency will occur, not if it will occur. As one of their proposals to counter insolvency, Trump and Congressman Ryan (Speaker of the House) are promoting Social Security and Medicare privatization.

The Affordable Care Act took some steps designed to extend the solvency of Medicare. Trump, as President-elect, announced that he would keep parts of the Affordable Care Act but did not explain how he would pay for it. With so many members of younger generations convinced that Social Security will not be there for them, preservation of the fiscal health of both Social Security and Medicare is one of the main challenges facing this Administration.


1. Rising Fears of Significant Restrictions

A significant majority of Americans are seriously worried about the cost of health care and long term care, in particular. Restrictions on benefits and legislative changes that restrict or limit access to government programs such as Medicaid can only heighten such fears.

2. The Trump and Ryan Block Grant Proposal

Currently, Medicaid is administered at the federal level by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). While each state has its own state Medicaid Plan, there are mandates and there are constraints.

Block grants, which were first proposed by then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in 1995, presumably mean that each state would receive a certain number of Medicaid dollars. Each state would then decide how to utilize and spend those dollars.  In some states, little would change. In other states, changes could be profound. For individuals who may rely on Medicaid, this is a time of uncertainty and concern.  This means, in turn, that planning needs will vary from state to state.

TPAG is aware of some details and elements of proposed plans. Some are designed to restrict protective planning – to make it much more difficult for older Americans to protect their homes and other assets while qualifying for Medicaid, particularly in a long-term care setting. Planning challenges could therefore become dramatically more difficult. Increasingly, older Americans and their families will need up-to-date information and advice to understand and qualify for needed services. This will be particularly true for the majority of older Americans who will need home care services and who need to reside in skilled nursing facilities.

Americans with special needs and their families face as many worries, including concerns about possible reductions in protections and services.

TPAG believes that planning will increasingly involve multiple generations to enhance quality of life, quality of care, and asset protection.

3. Protection of Family Assets: Focus on Protecting the Family Residence

The vast majority of older homeowners will view protection of the residence as a core value, a legacy for future generations. Appropriate legislation must be preserved. Appropriate planning steps must be taken, particularly in light of possible changes in Medicaid, the only federal program that can subsidize or pay for the cost of skilled nursing care. No specific proposals to threaten existing tax and Medicaid protections for the residents have yet emerged.


1. Gift and Estate Tax

President-elect Trump calls for the elimination of gift and estate tax, perhaps replaced by a “mark to market” tax of capital gains at death. Perhaps a compromise package will not eliminate the tax but will significantly increase the level of estate and gift tax protection. Note that the current level of federal protection is historically high at $5,450,000 per person. If any estate tax remains, it would likely be reduced from the current 40% tax rate.

2. Capital Gains Tax

Different proposals have been proffered by President-Elect Trump, Speaker Ryan and others regarding limitations on “stepped up basis” upon an individual’s passing. For some families, this could result in net tax increases.

For high-end practitioners, those who focus on avoiding estate tax, the challenges are obvious. The number of individuals requiring such sophisticated planning will, at best, dramatically diminish. For most older Americans, the avoidance of estate taxes will have little or no impact from a tax planning perspective and the focus will shift to income taxation. Further, the impacts on entitlements and family financial security could be profound.

3. Corporate and Individual Income Tax

Corporate and individual tax rates for higher earners, in particular, would be substantially reduced. The long-term impact – beyond the obvious increase in after tax income, is impossible to predict. As with most modeling and forecasting, projected outcomes depend on presumptions.


No proposals have yet been made that would directly affect services for special needs children and adults.  Medicaid block grants could adversely affect special needs residents of states that decide – at the state level – to reallocate or otherwise restrict funding for both governmental and non-governmental providers. The reach of Medicaid block grants could significantly reduce or even eliminate the benefit of special needs trusts which maximize assets for the person with a disability.

Additionally, it is possible that support for expanded charter schools and school choice could expand options. This has become more probable than just possible what with Trump’s appointment of Betsy DeVos, as Secretary of Education, an outspoken advocate for charter schools and the dismantling of publicly funded schools. Many special education advocates fear these expanded options could come at a price of diminishing procedural and substantive protections of the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and even reduce or remove the funding formula that follows eligible individual students with special needs under IDEA).


President-elect Trump is presumably supportive of maintaining and perhaps expanding services for veterans. At the same time, proposals that predate the election have been introduced that could restrict access to needed programs, such as Aid and Attendance, which provides financial assistance for veterans and spouses of veterans who need higher levels of home care assistance. While new legislative and perhaps regulatory restrictions could make it more difficult for veterans and their spouses to obtain benefits, proactive planning will be an inevitable need across the nation.


President-elect Trump has said that he accepts the United States Supreme Court decision effectively legalizing gay marriage. (His Vice President, Mike Pence, may have a different viewpoint.) The Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right for same-sex couples to marry in all 50 states creating uniformity across the nation in recognition of the rights of same-sex couples.


A core conclusion of TPAG is that families will become more insular, more protective of themselves, their assets, and future generations. They will be more focused on what they can control and truly value – their families – and less on public policies that are difficult to influence. This has myriad implications for attorneys, financial planners, and other professionals who work directly with America’s elders, those with special needs and their families. A premium will be placed on advance planning. Inevitably, this will increase involvement of younger generations.  The demand for multi-generational planning – planning that involves and relies on involvement of children and grandchildren – will expand dramatically.


TPAG thoroughly understands that most Americans, and older Americans in particular, are fearful at this point in time. Above all, do not panic. The stock market panicked at the end of Election Day but soon resolved and moved higher than ever. TPAG believes that the stock market’s response to the election is a lesson for everyone: Learn, watch, be advised, and protect yourself and your family. The changes in store will take time.

TPAG’s goal and its purpose is to turn fear into hope. This is what good planning does.

TPAG will continue to be a source of balanced, objective information about developments at the national level. TPAG is working hard to track initiatives by President-elect Trump, Republicans and responsive proposals of Democrats.

TPAG will work hard to be “one step ahead.”

**Members of the TPAG group include Michael Gilfix of Palo Alto, California, Vincent J. Russo of Garden City, New York, Harry S. Margolis of Boston, Massachusetts, Frank Johns of Greensboro, North Carolina, and Tim Nay of Portland, Oregon.

mike gilfix vincent russo harry margolis
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Gilfix & La Poll attorneys speak at NAELA Summit

Attorneys Michael Gilfix and Mark R. Gilfix of Gilfix & La Poll Associates appeared as featured speakers at two sessions during the 2016 National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys Summit in Newport Beach, California, on January 28 and 29. Michael Gilfix is one of NAELA’s original founding members.

They addressed audiences of more than 100 elder law attorneys from around the country. Each three-hour Immersion Session demonstrated their leadership in the field of elder law. The subject of their presentations was “Advanced Elder Law, Tax and Estate Planning from Start to Finish.”

The session was designed to train and educate participants to more effectively advise their client communities. It taught them to develop sophisticated estate plans to coordinate tax and long-term care objectives along with retirement and financial planning. In addition, building on the Gilfix attorneys’ skills in identifying personality types, attendees learned how to utilize a variety of tools such as spreadsheets, flowcharts, software and written proposals to effectively communicate the plan to the client.

Michael Gilfix and Mark Gilfix engaged summit participants through the use of peer instruction in their sessions. In contrast to traditional lectures, peer instruction is an interactive, student-centric approach to teaching that focuses on the application of learning.

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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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A Party to Thank our “Peace of Mind” Program Members

Gilfix & La Poll associates recently hosted a thank-you party in Palo Alto for members of our very popular trust maintenance program that we call "Peace of Mind." Several hundred of our clients are members of the program, which makes it easy for them to stay in touch with us, to attend free seminars (and parties!), and to keep their estate plans up-to-date in a cost-effective way.

As the program has grown, we wanted to thank our members with a celebration. Shanna Gilfix, a professional musician (see one of her original songs, with over 500,000 views, here) and administrator of the Peace of Mind program, and Myra Gerson Gilfix performed live music. Wine and cheese were also served at a wonderful event. Many of our clients sang along to classic tunes, and we are hopeful that all attendees had a fantastic time. We certainly did!

The "Peace of Mind" program has been extraordinarily popular, and it is exclusively available to our trust clients. A 2 year membership includes annual 1 hour free consultations with our attorneys, exclusive free seminars on topics related to estate, long term care, and tax planning, and discounted legal services. If you would like to learn more, please visit

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Wealthy American Parents Face Inheritance Dilemma

Can a large inheritance do more harm than good? According to a new article from the American Association of Retired People (AARP), many wealthy parents still struggle with decisions about how much money should be left to their children, and how that inheritance should be structured.

Wealthy parents from Bill Gates to Sting have publicly declared that their children will have to make their own money. And according to a recent article in CNBC, a number of Bay Area parents are following suit, fearing the implications of handing down too much money.

But increasingly, a number of private individuals and wealth advisors are expressing more nuanced views.

Wealthy parents have a unique opportunity to raise their children to be responsible and principled wealth managers, regardless of the size of their inheritance. Parents with the opportunity to engage in significant charitable giving can and should involve children in the process of examining opportunities and deciding how to give. In addition, many experts recommend that parents engage teens in setting up and managing retirement funds.

On the flip side, some parents must face the reality of a child or family member with personal problems, such as addiction or frequent legal trouble, that cause irresponsible financial decision-making. Wealth experts point out that in these cases, when an inheritance really can do more harm than good, parents now have a host of options for trusts that support their child in meaningful and structured ways.

For most experts, the consensus seems to be that it is not the inheritance that will make or break the child, but rather the understanding of how to use and manage wealth. Regardless of the choices that parents make about the size and distribution of an inheritance, experts agree that clear and open communication with one's children about the what and the why of inheritance decisions is crucial.

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Michael Gilfix discusses Medi-Cal asset seizure in Mercury News

A growing number of older Californians are concerned about Medi-Cal asset seizure, according to a new article from the San Jose Mercury News.

The California State Assembly recently passed a new bill designed to limit Medi-Cal’s ability to recover assets from the estates of deceased Medi-Cal beneficiaries. As the law stands currently, Medi-Cal can seize a substantial portion of an estate -- including a residence -- to recover the benefits used to cover medical care through Medi-Cal.

But Governor Jerry Brown’s advisors are encouraging a veto of the bill in order to avoid revenue losses that would hurt the state’s budget, as reported by the Mercury News.  

Even if Governor Brown does sign the bill, the new law would limit but not entirely prohibit Medi-Cal asset recovery.

The Mercury News turned to Michael Gilfix for comment on the growing concerns surrounding Medi-Cal asset seizure.

Gilfix pointed out that whether or not the bill is vetoed, Californians can take steps to protect their estates from Medi-Cal recovery. In the article, he commented that assets, and residences in particular, can be protected through proactive estate planning.

According to the Mercury News, many older Californians who already benefit from Medi-Cal are surprised to learn that their estates, which they hoped to pass down to their heirs, are at risk.

Gilfix & La Poll helps clients plan for Medi-Cal eligibility in a way that legally protects assets to the greatest extent possible and minimizes the impact of taxes on the estate.

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Gilfix discusses Medi-Cal planning in the San Francisco Chronicle

Michael Gilfix In the August 24, 2014 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle, reporter Kathleen Pender wrote about Medi-Cal reimbursement or “estate claims” that are imposed on a person’s estate if they receive Medi-Cal and after they pass. The article makes the point that the state could seek “an unlimited amount” from an individual’s estate when “Medi-Cal pays all the person’s health care costs.” This claim applies to all benefits received from age 55.

A major concern is that such claims blindside tens of thousands of older Californians who are receiving “expanded Medi-Cal” under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. They are shocked to learn that their estate, most typically consisting of their residence, will be essentially attacked upon their passing.

Michael Gilfix points out in the article that assets could be protected from such Medi-Cal recovery claims. “There are certain ways to transfer a home out of an estate, although this can raise tax issues,” Michael Gilfix is quoted in the article.

Clients of Gilfix & La Poll understand that the residence can be protected and that many potential tax traps can be avoided with careful planning.

Learn more by contacting Gilfix & La Poll Associates LLP at